My mom just turned 84.
Beginning when I was a very little girl, I remember my mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day being very close together. I remember picking out birthday gifts… and already thinking ahead to that first Sunday in May, often going with a gift theme. Like a summer ensemble or travel items or an outdoor activity choice.
My mom was always an in-the-know fashionista. (Yes, Audrey inherited this gene!) And my mom was the picture of health. She exercised when no-one else did… well, except for Jack LaLanne. She hula-hooped and did cart wheels and jump-roped and bicycled and figured out the benefits of walking way before someone else discovered it. Because of her activities, my mom maintained a beautiful, fit figure and she loved to wear pretty things.
She still loves to wear pretty things. But because of arthritis and spinal stenosis, my mom’s physical activity is greatly limited. She has a walker… but she hates to use it.
Yesterday, I got a mom-lesson from my mom. And I realized that we’re never too old to learn from our mothers, especially on Mother’s Day.
The plan was for 15 of us to head to Newport, RI for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Salas. We’ve been going there for decades… and everyone in my family loves the family atmosphere. Then, of course, there’s the food. Pasta like you can’t believe. Seafood from heaven above. Pitchers of beer. A view of Newport’s famous Thames Street at one end and the harbor at the other. Kids can talk (and even cry when one doesn’t get to use his own Parmesan cheese!) and move about and no-one cares.
The only drawback is that Salas is on the second story of a great big building and the climb is about 20 steps. There was a time when my mom could bound up those stairs. Not anymore. And there was a time that we could park in Timbuktu and my mom could walk those centenarian walkways for miles. Not anymore. I also knew that we would be heading to Ben & Jerry’s after our feast… tradition…
So I suggested that my mom bring her walker.
My mom said, “No. No. No.”
I said, “Yes. Yes. Yes.” I actually insisted. When I picked her up at her senior apartment complex, I could tell her reluctance at rolling that walker. But, being the careful and dutiful daughter and all, I was happy to see it. I quickly folded up the walker (it is a high-tech one) and put it in the cargo section of my car. We had a wonderful drive to Newport on a gloriously sunny Mother’s Day.
As we were nearing the restaurant, my mom again insisted that she did not need her walker. But this time I listened to her. I heard her. She wasn’t saying that she didn’t need it… she was remembering Mothers’ Day past, when she could walk for miles and bound up those stairs. I knew that these memories were bigger than me and my care and dutifulness.
I almost cried as I looked at the handles of that shiny blue walker laying in the back of my car. It represented the present and future for my mom. And she was remembering her other 58 years of Mothers’ Days. Days when she pushed strollers, ran in the park, threw baseballs, did cartwheels, bicycled and golfed and walked for miles and miles in high heels (yes, I got my spike-heels gene from my mom!)… when stairs and bumpy sidewalks weren’t a daughter’s fear.
I got it. So I helped my mom out of the car while Barry and Jane headed off to Timbuktu with the walker still in the cargo bin. We stood outside in the cool afternoon air. My mom, all 4′ 7″ of her, was tall and strong and happy. Soon, Audrey and Matt and their 4 little guys arrived. My mom beamed as she leaned in for the giant hugs. The boys call her Grandma Rita, which has been abbreviated to “Rita.” She loves this. Then Adam and his family arrived and we all headed up those stairs.
Ah, the stairs. But yesterday I appreciated the stairs. They stood as a symbol of what my mom can do because she wants to. They are important. They are hope. They are beautiful.
When all 15 of us were seated, I helped my mom take off her little fleece jacket (I insisted on fleece!). Underneath was the cutest soft-rose colored blouse with little cap sleeves. She was radiant. She was dazzling. She had the greatest time watching over me, her daughter, and my family.
Then down the stairs… spry, easy-does-it, perfection. And the walk to Ben & Jerry’s for the continued tradition, with 2 new babies this year, Henry and Dylan.
My mom beamed with joy all day. So did I. And I learned my lesson. I learned to give joy and hope, not fear and accountability. Yes, those things are important, but not on Mother’s Day. Not on my mom’s day.
And not on my watch… ever again!