How does she do it?
How does she lose her partner of nearly 60 years and still have the strength to not only carry on and survive … but thrive.
How does she find the desire to call a friend in need who is hurting and comfort her?
How does she change all her bedsheets, comforter, towels, and bathroom fixtures from winter to summer colors, while I need a nap halfway through the process just to keep up with her?
How does she continue to have goals of what she’d like to do this coming winter?
How does she …?
The questions are too many to even consider. But she carries on.
On the almost eve of my 60th birthday, I am grateful to have spent this last week with my amazing mother, learning from her how to live … how to go on giving thanks for every day, no matter how hard, because if we’re still here, we’re still not done with what we came here to do.
Before this week, I thought that if I lost the partner with whom I’d spent the majority of my life, I would have grabbed my PJs, found the nearest couch, and spent the rest of my “life” waiting to die.
But things have changed for me this week. Thanks to my amazing mom.
As I write this, she’s on the phone with who knows who … one of her dozens of friends or relatives who has been touched by her magic.
And my mom is magic.
This morning, a dear friend from High School suggested my mom should have her own blog.
Yeah, well, that would mean I would have to write and maintain it. And I still have my own life and partner with whom I have responsibilities, so maintaining what I anticipate my mom’s thousands of social media followers would require is a bit exhausting. (Remember, I had a hard time keeping up with the sheets and comforter change. This would be monumentally more exhausting.)
This last week with mom has taught me to appreciate the little things … because when you’re at the sunset of your life (and that could be at any time, because none of us know how much time we have left) it’s the little things that matter… like making sure the stray cats who have adopted her are fed three times a day.
I used to call the way she did things picky. Now I give thanks for them. Like the way I made the bed yesterday, and she remade it the way she wanted because … well, I have to admit, Macy’s, JC Penney’s, and any store that sells bedding could quadruple their profits if they hired my mom.
Like the way she follows her simple routine and notices everything. Like the time she spends every night writing in her diary … a diary she’s kept for so many years, in so much detail, it would put historians to shame.
But there’s more.
My dad used to be the one who played the traditional role in our Cuban family. Mom was the homemaker. Dad was the keeper of all things breadwinner.
And that’s why I’m so proud of mom now when she does “simple” things, like hiring someone to have a new bathroom installed, makes her own doctors’ appointments, finds a handyman to fix the bazillion things that a home needs fixing …. and does so many things that would overwhelm someone half her age.
And while it’s tempting to assume those responsibilities for her, I know that letting her make those decisions for herself is something we both need. I’m always here to give her guidance and support, as she has always been here for me, but as long as she’s making the decisions that will make her happy, I will not stand in her way.
As far as I can tell, my mom’s secret to thriving when most others would have given up, is to find purpose in her routine, and to share her love and friendship with everyone, from those she has known all her life, to the bag boy at Publix who knows her by name and considers it an honor to carry her grocery bags to my car in the pouring rain as if he didn’t even notice I was there to do it for her.
As I write this, I hear my mom on the phone in the other room. And nothing else matters. I love hearing her voice.
And then she comes into the room while I am writing this, and in the midst of my Muse’s inspiration, begins a conversation with me … but not before she reprimands me for walking on her tile floor barefoot.
And I tell her I love walking barefoot. And she responds … “So, walk barefoot.”
And then … she says something that will be a memory I will carry with me until she’s there to grab my hand and guide me from this life to the next, as she was there to welcome me into this one… Something for which I will forever be grateful.
She says … “Bueno, mi hija, me voy antes que la Musa se te vaya.” (My daughter, I’ll leave you now before the Muse leaves you.”)
I stare at her dumbfounded as she walks out of the room to go about her business.
“Tu sabes lo que es la Musa?” (You know what the Muse is?) she asks.
I suddenly can’t speak. Because mom and I have never spoken of the Muse.
But she knows. She knows my life’s purpose is to listen to the Muse and to write.
And that’s my mom. And that’s our connection.
Happy almost 60th birthday to me. I could not have asked for a greater gift.