Let’s face it. The thought of getting older is scary. Being in my sixties feels surreal, especially since I was thirty last week. But there’s one person that always inspires me, leading the way through the dense, thorny thicket of the later years. And that’s my 80-something year old mom, Marilyn.
Here are 5 ways she’s surprised me lately…
She’s game – Since she was widowed two years ago, Mom and I have travelled many places – including Ireland, Florida, Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA and recently, Amherst, to see the Emily Dickinson museum. As I’ve learned, you don’t really know people (yes, even parents) till you travel with them.
And during these trips, I see how game and adventurous my fit, silver-haired mother is. She’s up for any trek, whether walking the cobbled streets of Dublin or attending a new-age lecture in the Berkshires.
She’s feisty – Last summer, we flew to Ireland. My mother, like many of us, doesn’t like long, overseas flights. That didn’t stop her. Once there, we took a one-week bus tour around the country. The mornings started early. There were three different motels in six days.
I was proud of Mom, up bright and early for breakfast each morning. We took a horse-drawn carriage through Killarney, a boat trip off the Dingle Peninsula, and walked the Cliffs of Moher. The pace was fast, but she kept up.
Our last day, we ended up in a Galway pub. Its there we had our first Irish coffees together, a habit we brought back to the states. “I’ll have mine with Jamieson whiskey,” she told the waiter. I looked at her, eyebrows raised. I had no idea my mother got this specific about her Irish coffee. I realized then people never stop surprising us.
She’s enlightened – There we were this spring, lying on our mats in the famous Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA. New age music lilted from speakers in this huge, sun-filled room. An older woman in a long flowing dress walked among us like a high priestess, calling out moves. “Breathe and be present,” she intoned.
And there among the bodies was my Mom, performing downward dog and spinal twist. She’s been doing yoga a long time and it shows in her toned, shapely body. Damn, I thought to myself as I watched her settle into cobra pose, my mother’s cool.
She’s still good company – In Vero Beach, Florida this past spring, we visited my aunt Ann. It was lovely to spend time with two of my favorite women. Each morning we’d do our own thing. Mine was reading. Ann would catch up on her favorite television shows. My mother loved poring over her I-Pad, getting all the news of the world. Unlike many people of her generation, she has no fear of technology.
One night Mom, Ann, and I sat in a seaside restaurant, looking out at palm trees and blue-green ocean. As they talked, I watched them both, thinking what wonderful role models they are. My mother and aunt are still curious about the world. They have huge groups of friends. They’re kind and open and engaged. They’re youthful. I couldn’t help think how lucky I am to have them. How lucky I am to share these times with my mother.
She’s still fun – In Amherst, Massachusetts last weekend, we visited the original home of 19th century poet Emily Dickinson. (Its now a museum and highly recommended for you literary types). That evening, Mom and I went out for dinner. She’s now got me drinking beer, something I never did before since I’m a wine girl.
As always, we talk about everything. She’s deeply involved with her children, grandchildren, and extended family. I look at her and can’t help think how the later years are what we make of them. And yes, genes and health play a huge factor, but so does attitude.
Since my beloved dad passed two years ago, my mother’s had to reinvent herself. She’s had to navigate life on her own terms, for the first time after a very close 60-year marriage.
I cherish the time I spend travelling with her. I know women who have had abusive or neglectful mothers. I know other women who were close to their moms and have lost them.
As we sat together our last night in Amherst, I realized how nice it is to have a mom you not only love, but like. I thought of how my own journey has always been made easier by her example…yes, even in the thorny thicket of later years.
I raised my beer. “Cheers.”
She raised hers in return and smiled. “Here’s to our next adventure.”
Have you travelled with your mother in your later years? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share. Thank you!