The best fight my parents ever had was the day my father tried to outrun my mom in their own house.
Before I get into the story, there’s something I should share about Annie, my mom. She’s slow to anger and she’s not a yeller. In truth, my mom’s as placid as a petunia, and people gravitate to her, gather around her.
A caretaker, never the center of attention, she’s had the same best friends for 60 years. She was an orthopedic nurse and started her career in her 40s.
So, when we three daughters heard about this squabble, we were aghast. We wanted details.
How it started wasn’t clear. Mom said my dad was working on something around the house. She didn’t like the way he was handling it and gave him further instructions. He said he knew what he was doing. The thing was, my mom used tools as well as my father.
My dad turned his back and left the room.
“Don’t walk away from me,” she said. My father walked faster and so did my mom. “I’m coming after you,” mom yelled. My father sprinted into the bedroom and locked the door.
“Come out,” said my mother. No sound from within. “Come out or I’ll break down this door.” Still no sound.
My mom lifted her foot and drove it into the door, splintering it. The door gave way and my father ran giggling into the bathroom and slammed that door.
My mom hulked outside the bathroom. “Better come out or I’ll break this one, too.” A moment passed. “I’m not kidding.”
After another moment, the door opened, and my father came out. “I knew you weren’t kidding,” he said, hugging her. “I can afford to fix one door only.”
There are fights in the best relationships, but I always knew my parents loved each other. My father, a yeller when I was growing up, never yelled at my mom.
My father died when my mom was only 64, but she was never interested in dating.
“I had a good marriage. I enjoyed my children,” I remember her saying. “I’m not interested in another relationship.”
These days, when relationships come and go like so many tweets, I think of what made my parents so good together. I realize it’s my mom’s attitude – as well as my dad’s, back in the day.
Plus, relationships come in all forms, and my mom has maintained 60+ years of friendship with her two dear friends, Hilda and Florence.
At 95, my mom’s flexible and optimistic, open to learning. Despite poor eyesight from macular degeneration (which I have inherited) and lordosis, an excessive inward curvature of the spine, she greets each day with 45 minutes on her bike, a freshly-brewed cup of coffee, and a shower.
She lives alone with help twice a week but prepares her own meals.
Which reminds me. A few weeks ago, a friend told me her husband refuses to text. “He says he’s too old for that silly texting stuff. It’s frustrating when he calls and I’m in the middle of something at work.”
My friend’s husband is 65.
“My mom texts,” I say. “Tell your husband to grow up,” I tease, knowing he’ll laugh at this.
It’s true. My sister showed Mom how to use the microphone function on her phone, and she’s never looked back. Of course, she has some difficulty reading small print on the phone, but she persists.
Mom listens to audiobooks on her Kindle, now that reading has become difficult. She loves J.D. Robb, Lee Child, and is open to new authors as long as they write page-turners.
She never complains. Never did. She accepted my father for who he was – the key to any successful relationship, really.
And couples have disagreements.
The thing is, my parents never held a grudge against one another, and my mom didn’t believe in the silent treatment. These days, I brag about her. If she can’t sleep at four in the morning, she’ll get up and ride her stationary bike.
Me – I turn on the television if I can’t sleep.
Last September, when I visited with her, we were saying our good nights at around 9 pm when she announced, “I’m going to ride my bike.”
“Now? You’re riding your bike now?”
“Sometimes I ride my bike at night. It helps me sleep better,” and off she went.
Not only does my mom set an example when it comes to a strong primary relationship, she sets the standard for aging gracefully. Without a partner.
Don’t forget, relationships include the one you have with yourself. As we age, it becomes a struggle to accept the changes to our body, and our physical limitations loom greater. Maintaining relationships in spite of a loss of independence becomes crucial.
“That’s really important,” Mom said when I mentioned this. “That’s why I take the special senior bus.” When she and her friends could no longer drive, they had to find ways to visit one another, a real challenge.
Mom recently lost a childhood friend, Florence, whom she’d known since they were kids, and I’m sure she thinks of her every day.
My mom has nurtured her relationship with my cousin, Dusty, who comes over every couple of weeks and has a tuna sandwich with my mom. He stays a couple of hours or takes her on an outing.
This past fall he took her to the beach, and they strolled the boardwalk together; she with her walker, a bent-over, tiny silver-haired lady and my six-foot cousin in his customary jeans and T-shirt.
When she told me the story, I imagined them, pictured the stir they made. “A lot of people said hello,” my mom said, and I could feel her pride in knowing she board-walked along with a much younger crowd.
Older people, meaning those significantly older than I am, interest me these days. Perhaps it comes from living in an area with an older population. A daily reminder not to take anything for granted.
I need to gather together the old family recipes for coleslaw and potato salad, and the prune hamantaschen from my grandmother. Even if I never make them. Part of cherishing our relationships is having them live on after we’re gone.
Living a long life is not easy. I’m inspired that my mom finds the best, not only in each day, but in all of us.
Excuse me, please, dear reader. My mom just texted.
Which relationships do you find easiest to maintain? What do you do to show your loved ones you appreciate them? Please share your thoughts.