I have developed the little-known Mom-on-the-brain syndrome. Perhaps it’s because her birthday is in a few days, signaling the passing of time. The reality that she joined the company of heaven 10 years ago is incomprehensible.
During this season of Corona, I have become more introspective and at long last, I get her. Funny, I wish I could commiserate with Mom on matters, that back then, I thought were ridiculous and quite frankly, selfish.
Mom was of Italian heritage but it stopped there. Although she had six kids to feed, she was not one to be tethered to the stove in a housedress. Don’t get me wrong, she did feed us. However, for a woman of her generation, she was unique.
She loved music and sang in the choir and community theater. She learned to play the piano later in life. This baby step took Mom closer to her dream of pursuing a career in music. But that’s as far as it went.
Mom looked younger than her stated years—a fact she was well-aware of. Her vanity struck me as ludicrous. She was a fashionista, vibrant, fun, funny, quirky and quite opinionated.
She abhorred red nail polish, deeming that it looked tacky. She could debate her point, until one cried “uncle.” You didn’t want to cross her — and I did many times, red nail polish, plus. Hence I was the rebellious daughter.
After Dad died, she met a man 16 years her junior. After the initial shock of our church-going, choir-singing, rosary-saying mom becoming a cougar, we grew to love Mr. Irv. Mom in her usual fashion, ]dismissed the cougar moniker.
She stated: “So ridiculous. Why is it ok for men to date younger women? I loathe the double standard.”
Mom and Mr. Irv enjoyed dinners, plays and concerts together. Mr. Irv being able to drive was a must! A little aside: I set her up on a blind date — I know, I know — but what I didn’t know was the “set up” included Mom driving. That was the end of that—and I never heard the end of it.
She walked a mile to the club house in her development, bypassed the card room, got on the treadmill for a half-hour, and then walked home.
After Mr. Irv’s health forced him to move to another state where he subsequently died, Mom grew lonely, restless and began to isolate. At the time I thought she was being snobby and standoffish.
We had a telephone conversation that is seared in my memory.
Me: “Mom why don’t you go down to the pool and mingle with other people?”
Mom: “Because they are old.”
Me: “They are your age.”
Mom: “I am not old like them. Good Lord, Celia! They drive their cars or golf carts to the club. I want to go out to dinner; I want to dance and have fun. I need some adventure. I get bored sitting by the pool listening to those people complain of their aches and pains. And, Celia, don’t do me any favors and fix me up with another one of your friends’ fathers!”
And there you have it: full-on Mom.
I lost patience and in essence told her to “suck it up.” I regret my smug answer. Little did I know that one day …
After some starts and stops, Mom eventually found her way. She joined some focus groups that consisted of younger folks. She became an advocate for social justice — and not surprisingly very vocal.
At her funeral, her new-found friends were astounded that she was in her 90s. I wonder if we did her an injustice by publishing her age in her obituary. She loved the mystique of her agelessness.
Nowadays, having endured the end of a six-year relationship, I am walking a “mile in Mom’s” shoes. Geez! I don’t know what a gal a certain age is supposed to feel like. I feel pretty much the same as always; my guess is Mom did too.
I am not ready to settle into a comfortable predictable life. There is more to me than sitting home watching Judge Judy on television. I love partying but with whom?
My adventurous spirit is still intact; but lately my adventures consist of solo walks on obscure beaches. My friends, whom I treasure, don’t consider walking the beach in frigid temperatures an adventure — and I respect that.
The Apostle Paul writes: ”For now we see through a glass darkly.” Which is to say I had a murky vision of reality; but now I see Mom clearly.
Mom-on-the-brain syndrome has its perks. Her clever platitudes have floated to my consciousness: Age is a number not an attitude. Growing older with grace is a gift denied to many. For the unlearned, aging is a winter; for the learned it is a season of harvest.
Funny, if I listen with my heart I can almost hear Mom’s admonishment:
“Celia, now that you finally get me, take a page from my playbook. Be willing to shed what is safe and predictable in order to embrace new experiences, places, pleasures, and passions. But really, you should lose the red nail polish, It looks tacky!”
And now I know.
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