I don’t feel like a senior. My hair isn’t gray, at least it’s not supposed to be, given my monthly investment at the salon. I’m usually pretty active, but there I was, pushing a metal shopping cart around Walgreens on Seniors Day, the first Tuesday of the month.
I AM a Senior Citizen by most accounts. And that triggered Seniors Day thoughts.
As I perused the aisles an image from my past came up. It was maybe, 1998. I was in my hometown of Rochester, NY at a drugstore with my mother. She was pushing her cart just like I was pushing mine, scanning for what she needed and hoping for an unexpected bargain. It was early evening and chilly outside. She leaned on the cart to support herself a little because her sciatica was acting up. A hat covered her thinning red hair. She wore her usual comfy clodhoppers, the replacement for the stilettos she’d worn as a stylish young woman. I could see the look on her face, hear the cigarette-rasp in her voice. The scene was so vivid I could put myself back in it instantly.
Of all the memories I could have about my mother, this is one of the ones that stuck. I have no idea why. Maybe because going to the drugstore together was so commonplace, because I lived thousands of miles away, and we rarely shared mundane moments.
Earlier that day – the one that found me in the drug store alone – I’d seen an Antiques Road Show look-back episode set in 1998 in my hometown. As I looked at Rochesterians clutching their antiques, I thought, “When this show was taped, my mother was alive. It was her last relatively healthy year.” I wondered how many of those who appeared on the show were still living all these years later.
That day in the drugstore with my mother wasn’t anything special. There was no reason to think I’d remember it 16 years later. But watching that TV program from my mother’s last year alive called up that mundane moment in time. That’s the thing about video: it freeze frames moments in time and allows us to view them from a new perspective. When I lived that moment I was watching on video, my mother was alive and vibrant. Her vibe was youthful and I guess I always thought she’d be that way. It never occurred to me that she would die in her early 70s, even though I had every reason to believe her lifestyle would kill her young.
My mother touched many lives in a positive way, although she was far from perfect. In that way, we’re alike: flawed human beings who do their best to reach out with kindness. This didn’t always work out for her, just as it hasn’t always worked out for me.
Still, I like the ways I’m like her, even the ways that aren’t all that positive, simply because being like her reminds me that mothers have a legacy. Even if they don’t know what it is. Or intend some of it.
Today, my mother would have been 89-years-old. I can’t fathom that. Eighty-nine. For sure she would have been in a nursing home, something else I can’t fathom. To see my mother’s big personality tamped down in an institution might well have killed me. Almost, anyway.
So, Mom, happy birthday. I like to think you drop in on us from time to time to see how we’re doing, now that you’ve gotten your way and we’re back together. I hope you know how often and lovingly that your grandson, daughter-in-law, your once and current son-in-law and I talk about you. How big an impact you had on our lives.
And also, how much we miss you.
I wonder what you’re up to out there in the afterlife. Because I know you’re up to something.
And I hope you’ll continue to drop by and make your presence known.
So I wonder, do you have your own Seniors Day thoughts when you see a sign like that?
Carol A. Cassara is a writer who blogs daily on creating our best lives at www.carolcassara.com. Her essays have appeared in Skirt!, the Christian Science Monitor, Blood and Thunder literary magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, on KQED public radio, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books and other publications and anthologies. When she’s not at the keyboard, she’s traveling the world with her awesome husband or playing with her adorable, but bratty, maltipoo.