Sunday, April 27, 2014
In my mother's house
While Mom’s love for social engagements and constant preparation of meals is foreign to me, it’s been quite interesting to see all of it in action after moving in on our return from Honduras. A lot of the guests are seriously old – last week, a 94-year-old drove over with his 96-year-old friend for tea – but every one of them challenge that stereotype of creaky, bent-back oldsters with nothing to say. They are a saucy, styling, joke-telling, life-appreciating bunch, Mom and all her buddies.
Soon to be 89, my mother has suffered many blows to her mobility ever since she was hit by a car in a crosswalk 12 years ago. But between her pathological sociability and drive to work harder, harder, harder as if you just might beat that whole aging thing down forever with enough focus, she has figured out how to stay in the game by bringing people to her. She can’t comfortably get out of the apartment as easily as she once did, but no matter because the people now come filing in, carrying their meatloaf and their baked treats and their bottles of wine for sharing.
Schooled by my mother’s regular declarations of how much she hates gifts of flowers or plants, they now come with pounds of butter, big cans of nuts, boxes of chocolate. Living here these past three weeks has been like constant Christmas, what with all the good food always lying around.
In return, Mom makes everybody a darn fine meal, typically in the classic meat-potatoes-and-dessert style that those of her age are accustomed to, but with a lot of variety. She knows a thousand ways to serve leftovers. She can stretch a turkey like you can’t believe. A stickler for a good deal, my mother prides herself on managing all this sociability on a mere $6 a day, although she mentioned the other day that she’s soon going to have to adjust that limit higher. Having friends who are constantly coming through the door with something yummy in their hands certainly helps.
Even as I write this, I've got my laptop squeezed into a corner of the huge dining room table my mother has set for tonight’s 9-person dinner party, and she will soon be nagging me into the TV room so she can adjust the place setting I have pushed into the centre of the table. On Tuesday, she’s having another dinner party for 11. Then there’s the regular Wednesday lunch gig with neighbours she used to live with back at her former apartment, and the regular Thursday night gig with “my boydies,” as she calls the four men who play crib with her regularly.
I think she’s crazy to be doing it all. But hey, it keeps her happy. It keeps her busy. It keeps her gossiping and telling jokes and having a lot of remember-the-time-when conversations with people she has known for a very long time. Meanwhile, the friends are keeping busy too, having to get into their own kitchens to make something to share at the next gathering and then out the door to eat it. They come carefully through Mom’s apartment door with their walkers and their canes and their crutches, but pretty soon they’re all laughing and maybe forgetting for a little while about that aging body that doesn’t get them around like it used to.
I think I’m too much of an introvert to be able to follow Mom’s path into healthy aging. But I admire her style. I admire her ability to create a full, rich life in one of the most isolation-prone life stages. I admire her commitment to exhausting herself as testament that she can still kick out the jams.
And the food’s good.