Mother’s Day is coming up and I’ve been thinking about my mom. She is eighty-six years old and living in a memory care facility. Old age is an enigma. In our youth-centric society we are ill-prepared for the changes brought on by age. And yet, aging is a natural phenomenon–if we are lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, we will experience it.
The most surprising thing or me about my mother’s decline is her reticence. When I was growing up–she was formidable. As Queen of the household she ruled my siblings as her minions. Since she worked full time, we were responsible for the chores; cleaning, laundry, ironing (don’t get me started here, to this day I can’t look at an iron), and we cooked every dinner. By the time I was eight, I could run a household. But that was then and this is now; now she’s a quiet, amiable little old lady. Maybe this is nature’s way of passing the torch, or maybe it was all too exhausting to keep up. Whatever the reason for her shift, I’m still caught off guard when I visit her.
When I was writing my first book, Magel’s Daughter, I worried my mother would think she was the model for Magel. The truth is my mother’s issues aren’t nearly as entertaining as Magel’s. Of course writers draw from experience; my mother did keep jars of tonsils and adenoids in the fridge, but they weren’t too shocking stocked next to the jars of pickled herring and chicken livers. Magel’s freezer was also very similar to my mother’s; the top tier of wedding cakes, boxes of teeth, rulepolse, sylte, blood sausage, lutefisk, lefse, Christmas cookies (just in case), enough food to feed the family for a year (you never know). And her closets were overflowing with used bags, wrapping paper, bows, every card ever written to her (eighty-six years of cards!) Christmas decorations dating back to her childhood. When we moved her out of the house it took three months to clean it out. She was not happy about losing her treasure; she knew where it all was and exactly how much of it she had.
Needless to say, it was hard to see this Queen and her treasure reduced to a space the size of a dorm room. There’s a life lesson in there for all of us. For myself, I am not a hoarder like my mother, but I do have a penchant for little dogs. How many could I fit onto a 10X12 space? Ooooo…that’s going to be ruff.