Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Last Birthday

Kiddie Park with Mom
Her birthday. The first one she missed was the hardest. The first time I couldn’t sing to her, take her to lunch, buy her a gift she didn’t need. I knew it would be hard. I braced myself, preparing for it months ahead. I had it all figured out. I set the day she would've been 73 aside. I thought of how we'd spent her last birthday. Her 72nd. Lunch at the Bel Air Hotel with her best friend, also named Gloria. She could barely eat. She was just happy to be with us. Nancy Reagan showed up in red. Secret Service agents everywhere. We had a good laugh over that.

I thought about all the questions I'd managed to squeeze in toward the end. About her childhood and the day her father died.  About the time she saw Frank Sinatra and her first apartment with Dad and that ugly wallpaper she hated so much. The wallpaper that showed up again in New York, in their next apartment, the one Dad picked out. What did she do when she saw it?  Laugh, cry, scream? About the day I was born. In an Oldsmobile. In the parking lot of County General. How exactly did that happen? And did it explain my own tendency to be overly-dramatic at times? I asked, she answered. The closer she got, the more I wanted to know. She didn’t mind. She sat there, smiling through her pain. No question was too personal. Nothing was off-limits. My whole life, she told me whatever I needed to know.

After she was gone she kept telling me, in my dreams. I asked, she answered. In her own way. Sometimes wordless. I summoned her forth. I begged for a visit. A sign. Anything.  A peaceful smile. Otherworldly. Pain-free. It's been a while since she's made a guest appearance.

Each birthday got a little easier. Eventually, I'm not sure when, exactly, I stopped keeping track of how old she would've been. An age she never attained took on less importance. It seemed neither here nor there. And no matter which birthday today would've been, I still miss her just the same.

(I wrote this in 2000 and continue to tweak it every year.)


  1. The sweetest grandmother ever! She is up there with Sinatra enjoying herself

  2. I'm thinking the way u were born must have something to do with your personality. I was born on Labor Day but via c section. Defiant from the womb

  3. We both needed out and took the quickest way!

  4. One of my favorite classic Carol Start Schneider heartfelt blogaroos.
    Missing our darling Gloria June Kaplan Starr too...

  5. You do spell "Starr" with two 'T's, right?

    Oops regarding typo above...

  6. Typos are God's way of telling us we're human.

  7. Autocorrect is not a typo nor a gift from God. It's God's way of insisting that we proof before we post. I can still see Professor Coonradt with that pencil stub above his ear looking up from the copy and asking, "Did you really mean to type that? One letter grade lower for each uncorrected typographical or grammatical mistake. You don't need to know how to type, you just need to know how to efficiently communicate correctly." He instilled the FEAR OF GOD... and was brilliant copyediting class instructor who hated elipses and considered them a sloppy short cut...

  8. I still do the math in bdays and anniversaries. All the events they should have been at, and the ones I'm glad they missed (e.g. this election). Holes in our hearts will always be there. xo

    1. So true. It's too sad to think of her never living past 72. But today she would've been 89, a very stylish gal at that.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I love that post. Thank you for sharing. To Gloria-- xxoo!!!