Fairbanks, Saturday, October 13
If I were to ask my mother to what she owes her longevity, I think she would be hard put to identify one or two specific things. She says that she never thought she would live to see ninety years of age and that she isn’t really sure if it’s a trick or treat that nature has played on her letting her reach this age. I like to think that much of her longevity is due to good genes (of course, that is hopeful projection on my part) but I know that part of it is due to pure stubbornness and toughness.
One quick example (from a lifetime full of them) will suffice to make my point. On Monday, two days before her daughters were to descend upon her in anticipation of her birthday on Friday, October 12, mom stumbled while getting up from her chair and fell, twisting her ankle. Apparently, as she was heading down, she was thinking, “oh, crap, I hope I haven’t screwed myself up for my party.” When I called her on Tuesday afternoon, I asked how her ankle was doing and she told me it seemed to be okay, a little tender, but not too bad. I asked if there was any significant bruising or swelling and she replied, “well, I’m not sure. There may be a little bruising but it’s hard to tell because of the iodex I have been rubbing on it.” For those of you who grew up in iodex-less homes, iodex is a product that looks like black sludge. It comes in a small, white, glass jar and is iodine suspended in petroleum jelly or some such thing. It has a distinctive smell and goes on black as oil. It was our cure all for bumps and bruises. Photo above shows mom’s “little” bruising. I think anyone else would have been in the emergency room. (Of course, at 82 she took off for three weeks in Italy having just broken her right arm; on that occasion, as she was heading down, she was thinking, “dammit! if I break something Ginny is going to give me a ration of crap.”)
But, all of this is just a prelude to a report of the great 90th birthday celebration. It was sensational: Lots of people, lively conversation, reminiscences, and plenty of cake and ice cream. John and Max had sent one lovely white mum and 90 gorgeous red carnations, which formed the basis of our decorations. Margaret, Cathy’s elder daughter, brought up party supplies from Seattle; the Fairbanks party stores’ age specific decorations age out at 85!! When Margaret told Cathy that there were birthday crowns, Cathy told her to get the biggest, flashiest one. Then, when we were setting things up for the party, and we actually saw the crown, we all thought it might be difficult getting mom to wear it long enough for even a photo opportunity. Man, oh, man, were we ever wrong. Once she had it on, it wasn’t coming off. In fact, long after the party was over, the guests were gone, the dishes done, and the girls were all washed up and ready for bed, mom was out in her living room in her nightgown and sleep t-shirt with the crown on her head!
Many of mom’s new neighbors were there and it was great to have a chance to visit with them. And, as it turns out, to learn some new, but not surprising, things about mom. One friend related the following: A number of the residents were sitting around after a meal and were chatting about this, that and the other. One of the ladies told the group, “if you see me kissing the delivery boy, I want you to know that he is my grandson.” At which point, mom said, “If you see me kissing somebody, I want you to know that it’s none of your damned business!” Yep, that’s the mom we know and love.
As a little aside, just before we left mom’s apartment to go down to the common room where the party was being held, I noticed that mom and Cathy were dressed almost identically from the waist down. I’m not certain what that means: Does mom dress as a youthful 62 or does Cathy dress as if she were 90? You tell me from the photo to the right which one is which . . . the answer will be divulged in the attached gallery.