For Mom, another birthday means another chance to reinvent herself. For some people, that means claiming to be younger than they are. For Mom, it means the opposite. She began making such claims five years ago, about a month before her birthday.
“What do you want to do to celebrate turning 91?” I asked.
“I’ll be 95,” she replied.
“What year were you born?”
“1928,” she replied correctly without missing a beat.
“If that’s the case, you’re going to be 91.”
Faced with the math, which she could still compute at that time, she conceded the point. But not any more. For 2 years now, her insistence that she is 5 years older than her birth certificate claims has been remarkably consistent. I’ve been equally consistent about seeing if she’ll slip up.
“You’re going to be 94 on September 3,” I told her in late August. “What do you want to do to celebrate?”
“Nothing. And I’m going to be 99,” she shot back.
“Nothing at all? Not even cake and ice cream.”
“I could do that.”
“What kind of cake?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe homemade German Chocolate Cake?” I mentioned her favorite.
“That would be okay.”
The morning of her birthday, my brother and I served up cake and ice cream in her room at the care facility where she lives. My sister who lives out of state called and chatted with her.
After we sang Happy Birthday to her, I asked, “What’s it feel like to be 94?”
“I’m 99.” She handed my brother her half-eaten cake and ice cream. “I can’t eat any more.”
Soon after, my sister said good-bye, and Mom fell asleep. My brother and I packed up the food and went on our way.
“The only question now,” my brother said as we walked down the hall, “is whether she’ll be with us on her next birthday.”
“And if she is,” I added with her twinkle in my eye, “whether she’ll be 99 again or 100.”