Shift Happens

Musings on the mind and the perennial capacity for change

On Turning 85

Is 85 the new 65? If you met my Mom, you would certainly think so.

Swinging her tennis racket – yes, complaining about her replaced knee, but out on the court stands my Mom. 85 and still kicking it. Whether it’s a tennis racket or her golf clubs or driving at lightning speed (she will never give up driving). We refer to my Mom as “the deer hunter.” Who hits a deer in Center City Philadelphia? The phone call goes like this:

 Hi honey, how are you? Um I think I hit a deer?

 You think? You either did or didn’t? Are you OK?

 I’m fine. The deer – not so hot!

 Mom, I’m 3000 miles away. Why call me when you should call the police?

 I don’t want them to take my license away for reckless driving. They are ruthless with we slightly older people.

 Mom, It’s hunting season. They should put the head in your dining room.

 You don’t get to be the deer hunter with just one deer. Once while driving to upstate NY to visit us, she nailed another one. NOW you earn the title.

My Mom, at 85 is as funny and active as ever. If you are of a certain political party, DO NOT engage in any political discussion. You will not survive. She has answers for everything, quotes from everyone. She will have you second-guessing yourself and your political position by the end of the conversation- which may never end because truly she does know everything about every decision and politician out there and believe me, she has an opinion about it all as well.

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If her beloved Phillies are on TV, DO NOT CALL. She will not take your phone call. Later she will call my brother and curse out the manager and a particular player she despises.

We have an annual award in our family called the Beaujolais award for reasons too embarrassing to share. My Mom is often the winner. Her best was the episode of the burning boots. Finally buying the Uggs she wanted, the salesman told her to get waterproofing and spray them., and put them in the sink to dry. Mom lives in an apartment where the kitchen is less than large. Like a good foot soldier, she sprayed the boots and put them in the sink to dry. About 5 minutes later she hears a whoosh and comes in to find her new beloved boots on fire. It seems as though the waterproofing spray remnants connected with the stove pilot light and emulation began. Alarms sounded, people were running from the building, including my Mom holding her now charred Uggs. Beaujolais for sure.

Fires were big in our family; mostly food. Mom was not Julia Child in the kitchen. Bless her; she would try new things only to be met with disaster. The one cake she made for my birthday exploded and ended up on the kitchen floor. Her egg salad, usually a great treat (we were easy) turned into a sulfur surprise when she forgot she was boiling the eggs and they exploded sending the stench throughout the house. Absolutely everything had to be cleaned.

My Mom has this thing about trying everything new in the market. We have been met with some outrageous frozen foods that had better use as Frisbees. We do have the largest collection of salad dressing in the world. There is not a salad dressing Mom has not tried. She was serious about our health and we did always have very healthy meals – pedestrian but healthy. Then why did she have a bowl of fake fruit in the house? We used to hide the fruit or throw it off the terrace five stories high just to make her crazy. She got so angry as it was the only decorative non-useful item in the apartment. We did not have a lot of money for useless stuff. But wouldn’t you know it. When I arrived at college and opened my trunk – sitting in there was all the fake fruit.

Mom was and is colorful and energetic. I remember the time she decided we all had to go waterskiing in March (in Philadelphia). No matter that it was freezing. It was an adventure. When I had mononucleosis and had been housebound and bed-ridden for six weeks she got me up on New Year’s Eve to take me skiing only to lose me in a tremendous fog that settled over the slopes that caused her to wait hours for my rescue. Celebrating with ice cream sundaes, I crawled back in bed to then continue my convalescence. But I had a great New Years – the best ever.

So is 85 the new 65? If you saw my Mom you would think so. She is beautiful and trim, smart and sassy. And I’m serious; don’t mess with her, as you can’t win.

I love my Mom so much. For so many years she was both mother and father to my brother and me. Divorced and single at a time when no one else was and the stigma was so great, my Mom weathered all and never let us know of her sadness or anger or true feelings. Mom, we knew. We just gave you the dignity of hiding the mess and being our mother. And you are the best. I’m counting on your next 85. I mean I have to figure out how to beat you at tennis at least once in m y life.

Happy birthday, Mom.  See you next week when I hate to think of the fire caused by 85 candles.

Susan Winston, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a television producer and writer in Los Angeles.

 

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