Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Growing Old

Bunionella called this morning. We spent as much time talking about our mothers as we did about our daughters.  Our stories are different and the same, our reactions equally confused.  There's no Dr. Spock for us.  We're on our own, muddling through the best we can.

She's coming to terms with making some demands of her own. Making decisions for another, making choices for another, directing the life of another takes its toll.  If we don't look out for ourselves along the way, who will be there for her when we are lying, helpless, on the couch, unable even to think about the situation let alone do something to make it better?

"God help me if...." and I finished her sentence with my own worst nightmare.  Our conversation took a turn to the bizarre, the what-would-be-worse scenarios filling my ears. Until bullets interrupted the reverie, it never occurred to me that I would be anything other than a spry 102 year old, bending and stretching and moving and thinking with the best of them.  Now that I am more grounded in reality, the what-if's feel much closer.

I'm sure my mother never imagined that she'd be this infirm. She has her moments of disgust with the whole situation, but she's never really asked for much along the way, and this time of her life is no different, it seems.

She was born 90 years ago today, February 19, 1923.  As I recall, it was a snowy day in Brooklyn, and my grandparents took the trolley or the bus or the train to the hospital and there's no one left to ask which one it was.  There's only G'ma, with her blunt cut and her sparkling blue eyes and the knowledge that she doesn't remember anything, doesn't know where she lives, has no notion of what-to-do-next.  She also has the certainty that none of that matters.

She has her chocolate and sole possession of the remote control.  Someone does her laundry and cooks her meals and does the dishes afterwards. She is happy to see me and tells me she is happy where she is living.  I could ask for more, but I'm not sure where to direct the request.

I know many 80 and 90 year olds who outdo me in logic and reason.  The Iron Duke, Aged Parm, Mrs. K, Miss Jane... they read and write and think all day, every day. That was my mom, too.  The woman who'll be cutting the cake and wearing the tiara as we pop champagne and drown in chocolate may not remember the party by the time she goes to bed, but, in the moment, she'll be having the time of her life.

I'm not sure I really ought to ask for more.

Happy Birthday, Mommy 


  1. Happy Birthday G'ma! She's so lucky to have you. I don't know if I could handle seeing my parents not as I imagine them--always young.

    Sending hugs.

    Megan xxx

    1. And when you have no choice, you do it, Megan. Getting shot, watching Mom vanish, ..... we have no choice but to make the best of it and to massage it around the edges. We do what we can, and make our peace with what we can't.

  2. Best wishes to your mother. Ninety is quite the achievement. Living in the moment is another.

  3. I can't imagine the special heart break that it is to watch someone you love disappear so slowly. Enjoy the champagne and chocolate ... and G'ma enjoying it in the moment!


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