This photo was taken in the library of Mom's retirement community, where she was the volunteer librarian. She was very well liked there - everyone wanted to be her friend, sit at her dinner table, and sit next to her in the bus. She had several close friends, and some dates with nice gentlemen too, although she always said she was finished with romance - no one would ever measure up to my Dad.
Mom was very careful never to be a "burden", or impose on my time, or ask me to do things for her. She was independent right up to the end, and remained healthy to the age of 93. So how did she age so gracefully?
Most important was her attitude - you accept what happens in your life and keep moving forward. She was raised with her sister in Connecticut, by their widowed mother who was often ill. Mom would have loved to study library science in college, but instead took a job as a library clerk until she met and married my dad. Theirs was a romantic marriage, and it was a terrible blow to her when he died in 1985, leaving her to live their retirement years alone. She moved to a retirement community, volunteered in the local grade school helping kids read, and started organizing the community library.
Mom was always a modest eater. She felt it was good to eat everything, but in moderation, and scoffed at special "health food" diets. She had disliked milk since childhood - I wonder if she was lactose intolerant - and she loved coffee and chocolate, calling herself a chocoholic. She liked fresh fruit and vegetables, too. When I was growing up our family rarely had Coke and no freezer full of ice cream, as some of my friends had. Now I'm grateful, as I was slim and had pretty good eating habits by the time I went off on my own.
She also exercised regularly. Our family had only the one car that Dad drove to work every day, and Mom walked everywhere. Our town had sidewalks under big leafy trees, and we could walk to the stores, the schools and pretty much anywhere we needed to go. In her retirement community there was an exercise session several times a week, and Mom was the substitute leader when the employee responsible wasn't available. She said "oh those exercises aren't much", and also lifted hand weights in her apartment. I joined in the exercise session once when I was staying with her for a visit, and they seemed pretty vigorous to me!
In her 80's and 90's, when many folks opt for comfort over style, Mom still cared about how she looked. She dressed for dinner in the common dining room every evening, and despaired over the clothing that she ordered from catalogs that didn't always fit and look exactly as she had hoped. She got her hair done every week and "put her face on" every day, even when she didn't have any special plans. She always looked lovely.
Mom kept her brain active, too. In her 50's with us kids nearly grown up, she enrolled in Charter Oak State College for the college degree she had always wanted. At Charter Oak, you study on your own and take exams in your major and minor fields. Mom majored in English Literature, spent a happy year reading, and easily passed that exam. Then she tackled European History; not so easy. She spent another year reading, and had index cards with names and dates stuck up all around the house. She passed that exam too, and it was a proud day for her when she received her diploma. Later she got involved with a company that did proofreading, and spent many hours working until her eyesight was no longer good enough.
And she was a kind person - always thinking of others before herself. She hated to think someone was unhappy, and spent time helping out some of the folks around her in the retirement community who were slipping mentally and having a difficult time. After her death I had notes from her very loyal group of friends saying how much they would miss her.
|My friend Mary, Mom and myself|
|At Melanie's wedding|
|Grandson Christopher presents a gift made by his mom Jennifer|
How I hope I can be as kind and gracious a "lady" as my Mom, as I get old! She always said getting old isn't for sissies, and she was a great role model for me in how to age gracefully.
Don't Mom and Dad look happy?