Today is my mom’s birthday, and she is 83. You would never know to look at her that such a well-dressed, stylish, intelligent, witty and downright pretty woman could possibly be in her early 80s, but there it is. The years simply do not show on her. The impression you get upon meeting her is that this is an extraordinary woman; one of many interests, passions, ambitions and with a white-hot personality. You can’t tell from looking at her, but she is also a fierce survivor. She has battled and beaten two bouts of breast cancer, and technically is surviving lung cancer–I say ‘technically’ because many of her symptoms have virtually disappeared. This is greatly due to the *whole food, plant-based diet that she and my dad follow.
Each week she exercises faithfully with her Stretch and Tone class, is an active member of her local PEO chapter, she belongs to a book club, and she is a jewelry designer with her beautiful work in several shops in NH and ME. She is a superb and wily Scrabble player, and I can count on one hand the times I’ve beaten her score. She is also the queen bee at the local bookstore after exercise class where she and her friends enjoy coffee and conversation. Mom is the vibrant glue that holds all the ‘girls’ together.
Due to a degenerative bone issue in one foot, she and Dad had to stop ballroom dancing (after 50 years!) two years ago. Of course she misses it, but she doesn’t let it slow her down. When she decided she needed a cane for occasional use (that is, when Dad’s arm isn’t available), she bought a gorgeously-flowered metal one and named it “Vivacious.” Aptly named as it supports an extremely vivacious woman.
Mom and I have enjoyed a close and loving relationship all my life. Mom firmly believes that a mother is a mother, not a best friend; and brought me up with a sound work ethic, good values and even better examples. (It is a happy coincidence that we also are best friends.) Even during the most obnoxious period of my life as a teenager, she managed to keep her temper, humor, patience and strong ideals. They are part of who I am, to my great and everlasting gratitude.
One of the only times I’ve heard her complain about age and the inevitable ‘**ills that all flesh is heir to’ was when she began losing some of her hair. This was not due to chemo; she never needed it, but simply to the natural aging process. Every woman in our family tree has gorgeous thick and coarse hair, and Mom is no exception. In her case, ‘thinning hair’ still means that she still has more hair than a 20-year old rock star. She only notices it because it’s on her head; I’ve told her many times that the rest of us just don’t see it–all we see is a beautiful woman with fabulous hair.
Mom has always reminded me that I come from a long line of resourceful, enterprising and strong women. Years ago she and a distant cousin worked together for several months to put our genealogy down on paper. Mind you, this was way before computer and Internet use was commonplace; they traveled and trudged through towns, libraries, cemeteries and private homes to gather information. They spoke to countless relatives and tracked down the oldest ones in nursing homes and listened to their stories and remembrances. Mom put my elderly Aunt Ruby to work; she happily called many relatives and took down their information to give to Mom. I believe to this day that those hours Aunt Ruby spent on the phone were some of the happiest of her life, and I know she was thrilled to be able to help her darling “Gloria.”
I have alluded to this wonderful self-published work my mom put together in last year’s birthday tribute. It is from this genealogy that I lived vicariously with all those strong and resourceful forebears of mine–I truly know who I came from and how their determination and strength helped me be the person I am now.
But the majority of my growing up and training is all Mom. A true mother mothers. That term includes both love and discipline, praise and teaching, being consistent, knowing when to lean in and help and when to back off, when to speak and when to listen. Mom never minced words with me; truly, I knew exactly what my boundaries were and knew when I stepped over the line. I always knew where I stood with her–I knew without question that I was loved deeply, but that there was no pulling the wool over her eyes!
There is an unbreakable bond between mother and daughter that is so strong it cannot be broken. That bond may stretch and bend, but it never breaks. The bond between my amazing and incredible mother and me is as light as a moonbeam, and is as everlasting as the mountains. The love I have for her and she for me is a connection beyond space, time and even death. I believe with all my heart that love is a never-ending source, it never ends and its influence is always felt. This influence has motivated and strengthened me all my life.
On this day marking mom’s birth 83 years ago, I celebrate the fact that Mom and I call each other once or twice a week to chat and laugh. When I read a great book, I want to share it with her. When I try out a new recipe, I want to tell her all about it. If I hear a good joke, I want to tell it to her and hear her laugh. My dad always says that the sweetest sound in the world to him is when I am visiting, and Mom and I talk and laugh together.
Happy birthday, my wonderful and incomparable mom!
*This is based on the Cancer Diet; the main diet is organic vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and small amounts of organic poultry, some fish, and rarely, beef. They do not use sugar in any form, using instead agave (which is actually sweeter than sugar, so you use less, plus there is no addiction with it as is with refined sugar).
** From “To be, or not to be…” the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the “Nunnery Scene” of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.