|Mom and Me|
This past week, I moved my mom into an independent living facility. It’s a lovely place, full of well-earned luxuries and friends she already knows. And I feel better knowing she’s in an apartment with a daily check-in and health facilities directly on campus.
After our big moving day, we enjoyed dinner in the company of two of her friends, Anne and Harold Hall. Harold is 90-years-old and Anne wouldn't elaborate beyond telling me she’s in her 80's. It is a woman’s prerogative, after all. With a cozy knit hat pulled over her head and a warm coat and thick sweater on, even in the warmth of the restaurant, she cut quite a figure.
Clusters of four to five people sat at the various tables, each dressed up, some more than others, the ladies' hair fully coiffed. Some were quite able-bodied; others were stooped or used a cane or walker to help them negotiate. But as they sat at the tables, they were just friends. Laughter and soft talking settled on the air adding to the dining ambiance. Scattered here and there were a few of us “young folks”—visiting family. When you eat with people in their 80's and 90's, 48 gets to be young!
Anne sat next to me, never removing her coat, picking over the roll and butter, dubious of how everything was cooked. Harold and Anne have been married for over 60 years. He is hard of hearing, but he didn’t need to hear his wife’s words. They communicated through looks and smiles.“She doesn’t like anything on the menu,” he says with a small smile. “They don’t quite cook anything to her liking. I think it’s all right, though.”
She rolls her eyes, a tip of her tongue darting out and makes a face at him. She turns to me. “We used to live in Denver, you know. When was that, Harold?” she asks.
He looks up, calculating the years and decades that have gone by. “Well, it was shortly after we were married.”
“I was pregnant and had one child already. We had six kids, you know.”
“That was over 60 years ago,” he finishes. “We lived out where that theater shooting occurred.”
“Aurora,” I complete for him, remembering the tragedy that has forever changed so many lives.
“Right,” he says. “Of course, at the time, there was nothing out there. We were the first development. I think our house is still there. We built it ourselves.” It’s hard to imagine that area of Denver ever being remote or undeveloped.
Anne moves on to another topic. “Harold flew cargo planes in WWII,” she tells me. “He flew from Washington to Alaska to deliver supplies. We were lucky. He never saw any combat. But he wasn't allowed to talk to the Russians stationed there. They could never talk to them.”
I try to pry for more information. This is a part of our history almost completely gone. But Anne has moved on to poking at her pork loin. “They didn't bring me the gravy I asked for."
I look around at the balding and gray heads, the lines finely etched in their faces, and envy the easy friendships they share with each other. As people pass by, Harold or Anne grab and arm or a hand and introduce my mom, the new kid on the block.
I wonder what I’ll be like should I be fortunate to live into my 80's or even, like Harold, to be 90. He still goes to the business he started and owned, the one his sons now continue. Every morning Anne gets him up, feeds him breakfast, and someone comes by to pick him up so he can put in a day at the office. Maybe this sense of having to be somewhere, watching his sons carry on the family business, gives him a reason to keep smiling.
“Are you going to get the ice cream?” Anne asks me. “It’s Hershey’s – the very best.” She launches into a story about, Mildred, her best friend for over 60 years, who recently passed away, and their youthful adventures of going to Isaly's, a Pittsburgh institution, for ice cream sundaes. “We’d get every topping they had—caramel, chocolate, marshmallow.” She smiles, and I can almost see the kid in her again. But her eyes flicker briefly with sadness. It must be difficult to lose life-long friends. The hazard of living long enough.
I hope as I age, my stories aren't lost. I hope I find myself among fine company and mostly, I hope my kids tolerate my quirks and oddities. I might just wear my winter coat and hat to the dinner table too.