Today I spent the day with my mom. I know I spend every day with my mom; she’s lived with us for a few years.
However, most of the time she stays in her room and watches EWTN on cable. (You can hear the Gregorian chanting and rosary responses blaring past her closed door because she’s fairly hard of hearing). So today, I decided to see if she’d go with me to the mall; I told her she could look for a new dress for an upcoming wedding as well as one for the holidays.
I was thrilled that she was amenable. It’s difficult to get her to agree to go out because she thinks she can’t get around very well when what she needs is practice. Her doctors have told my sister Tina that there is nothing wrong with my mom and that she needs to get more active. She has bad arthritis, but even my arthritis improves when I exercise! I figured some slow-paced mall-walking and shopping would be a good way to get her moving, so we headed down the highway to the local mall.
Of course we had to eat. We stopped at a Japanese sushi/seafood buffet that also had a number of Asian dishes– Thai, Chinese, Korean. We sampled a lot of seafood, particularly mussels, which are my mom’s favorite. She ate well and remarked that she’d want to go back with all of us one weekend so she’d have more time to sample more dishes! So that will definitely go on my list of “get-Mom-out-of-the-house-enticements.”
As we walked toward Macy’s, I realized how tiny she’s become– barely five feet to my 5′ 8″– and I could see how she’d have difficulty maneuvering in areas with lots of people. Kurt has often said we need to get my mom to build up her strength and stamina and after seeing her shuffle along the passageways, I knew he was right. There was no reason for her to be this frail when she is basically healthy. Motivating her out of her bed would be our family’s challenge in 2013…
We found the dress department at Macy’s and I was worried she would not like anything there– very modern, very young. She used to shop at Lord & Taylor, which is more conservative. I told her to look around for something she liked and that I would see what I could find a few racks away. She came back empty-handed, but I had found a couple of dresses that I knew would look good on her if she’d try them. She liked them so we went in search of the fitting rooms.
I sat in the dressing room with her; I never realized how difficult it was for her to do simple things like unbutton a blouse or reach down to take off her shoes. In my mind’s eye, I always see her as she was at my age– running around, seeing her patients, always dressed to the nines under her white lab coat and full of energy. For the first time, I think I REALLY SAW HER as an elderly person. It made me a little sad because I began to wonder how long we would have her. Would she make it another 5, 10, 20 years? Would she see Ken graduate from high school and college? She and I have already often discussed how we’d plant a big garden for flowers and vegetables when Kurt and I finally purchase that farm in Charlottesville– she’s made herself part of that plan, yet what if she didn’t get there with us?
Then she tried on the first dress– and my fears dissipated when she turned around for me to see. She was lovely, elegant and beautiful, no longer the frail little lady shuffling down the corridors in an over-sized trench coat. The dress fit her perfectly– a pearly gray-lavender sheath with horizontal pleating that shimmered gently under the lights. She loved it, too. “Black shoes?” she said. “Yes,” I replied, “even if you don’t like high heels anymore, we can find a little kitten heel or slingback that will work for you. You cannot wear flats!” She smiled and played with the collar of the dress, murmuring about what jewelry she’d wear. “Oh, and you still have the jeweled Judith Leiber I gave you?” “Of course, Mom, it’s in my closet with all the other designer purses I never wear.”
The second dress I picked out was red– our favorite color. I was surprised she was attracted to it because it was a jersey knit which would be clingy. “I love the bias cut along the front,” she said. Bias cut? She hasn’t sewn in SEVERAL decades. “There’s no zipper!” “No, mom, you just pull it over your head.” Score– another direct hit! (I should be a stylist in my next life). I’m not sure if it was the color red or the bias cut, but the close fit of the jersey didn’t bother her at all– and at 80 years old, she cuts a cute silhouette in a form-fitting dress. “I think you should wear that on Christmas,” I said. “Yes, I think it would be very festive.” She was beaming, “I really look good.” “Yes, you do.”
It was a good day. I didn’t do a lick of holiday baking, but I learned more about my mom’s aging and how it affects her. She’s out of shape, but still strong enough to walk around the mall and shop for two and half hours (more than my 40 year old husband’s feet can manage). I also sense that my mom needs a little push every now and then to get back into the real world and out of her contemplative (and possibly depressed) state. It was stimulating for her to get out and around people, even if it’s just for a walk around the mall. Like her daughters, she’s a people-watcher. So that’s my plan for next year– and what could be more fun than shopping with your mom?
May you live long and thrive, Mom!