On Wednesday my mother celebrated 81 years of age. I was happy to spend the day with her and am grateful that she was healthy, since she was very ill over the Christmas and was hospitalized for five days.
She wanted to spend day at the beach so we went about 10 a.m in the morning and stayed for almost two hours. The waves were big, and when she waded in beyond her waist, one tossed her over, and I had to help her clamor back to shore and steady herself. It was great to see her so much like a child, laughing, hands outstretched. I could not help but wonder if one of my children will take me to the beach when I am 81 , if that is how I decide I want to spend the day. While I went for a swim, I glanced at my mother strolling along the beach collecting shells for her great grandchildren. She was so intense, so absorbed in her task, only collecting the pretty ones, she insisted. I too enjoy collecting shells so after a while joined her in the task.
I observed her and tried to see myself, tried to imagine myself at 81, what will I fancy? How will I want to spend the day.
Then there is just joy and gratitude that I have this opportunity to spend time with my mother, to watch how effortlessly she handles aging, how she talks to her pains, how she insists on keeping busy, doing a little a gardening, even though I implore her not to, still an avid reader, crocheting, doing her cross-roads puzzle, talking to one of three friends from school that she has known for over seventy years. I cant imagine seventy years of friendship? Who will I know that long? Will I be so mindful to keep in contact?
We left left the beach, returned home to shower, then went off to lunch. At the restaurant, when she learned that they did not have the fish she wanted, I saw the frown of disappointment knit her brow and her mouth pouted slightly. I smiled at her girlish disappointment, and felt keenly responsible that here on her birthday she wasn't going to get exactly what she wanted. But then the universe must have heard and felt our joint disappointment because soon the waitress came and announced that there was one more King fish, if she still wanted it. I was a delight to observe her glee and and I was so grateful.
I am walking in rhythm with me mother, which means I am slowing down. I am listening more keenly to her stories, what she remembers about growing up. I am allowing her to be whatever she wants to be at this time, and allowing myself to dance in tune with her remarkable faith and optimism.
My mother assures me she has another twenty years to live, and I look forward to growing older with her.
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California Poets in the Schools
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