Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for One Hundred

O   One Hundred

My mother will be one hundred years old this year.

It’s hard for me to get my mind around that. I’ve always thought of her as so young in spirit. This is a woman who, in her eighties, was still taking care of her own house, gardening, and doing her own yard work. At ninety she was still driving. At ninety-one she bought a new house right next to my brother’s, sold the house she’d been living in for forty years, and packed up and moved. And she still drove for another couple of years--her almost-daily trips to the supermarket--and kept up her house well until dementia stole in on her.

She was a child during World War I and a young working woman during the Depression. She lived through the deprivations and anxieties of World War II, staying with her mother while my father was in the army in Europe. She had several miscarriages before I was born, when she was thirty-eight, and my brother a year and a half later. When my father passed away in 1979 at the age of sixty-eight, I worried that she, like some other widows, might deteriorate without him; but she showed me her strength. She has lived through the losses of all of her siblings and lifelong friends. And, like others of the “greatest generation,” she lived through technological and societal changes that were unimaginable when she was born.

I always hoped, even believed at times, that she would make it to one hundred. I imagined her as being the same as I always knew her, mentally sharp, funny, a wonderful storyteller, independent. By the time she made it to her mid-nineties, I thought she had outlived dementia; I believed erroneously that if it was going to come, it would have come earlier, when she was in her seventies or eighties. I still don’t know whether my brother’s sudden death had anything to do with it, but I know now that the risk only increases with age.

I’ve always hoped too that I’d live as long as she has. Now I’m not sure I want to. Don’t we all hope to live to be old but still have our health and, especially, our mental faculties?

I belong to the generation that doesn’t want to grow old (or sometimes even up). We think we’ll be magically protected as long as we keep wearing jeans and listening to rock ‘n’ roll. And there is something to be said for maintaining a youthful attitude and frame of mind, for continuing to do and learn new things. Science tells us to keep our bodies and minds active as a possible way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but as yet no one really knows what, if anything, is effective in warding off this disease. Yet being an active learner and doer and staying connected socially surely can only be good for us. Maybe for us “boomers” blogging is one way we’ve found to keep our minds active.

My mother will be one hundred in August, and I’m planning a special birthday party for her. We’ll hold it in her facility, and I’m hopeful that all or most of our family will be able to make it. There aren’t many of us left. She has one remaining sister-in-law; the rest will be first- and second-generation nieces and nephews, as well as her daughter-in-law and grandchildren. We’ll come together from New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island to pay respects to the matriarch of the family and to express love for her. I don’t know how much she’ll understand of what’s going on. Every so often she asks me, “How old am I now?”, and when I tell her she makes a face and says, “Wow, that’s old.” Yes, it is, Mom, and you’ve made it with grace and strength. When I tell other people how old she is, they say, “God bless her.” He has, and I pray that He will continue to do so.


  1. She is amazing, what an amazing age! And a lovely post today!

  2. She sure is amazing! Thank you Elaine!

  3. My mother will be 94 in September. She still lives in her own house, alone, with various people coming in here and there; meals are the hardest, and her balance isn't good. But she has been driving up until a few months ago when she mistook the gas pedal for the brake. Her driving was sited and license suspended. She is devastated, and cannot get ler license back without showing up next week at DMV for a "talk" medical papers and possible road test. She actually passed on all the mediical forms! I can't be the one to take away her keys. It has to be DMV. She feels imprisoned as it is, in isolation and loneliness, except for her, her only daughter. I too do not think I want to live to be so old. My mother is weakening, no dimentia, but shorter short term memory and really, her days are about getting from one task to another. I too only think of her as young. She had me at 45 and I am 49. She is my young mother who would take me clothes shopping when I was 16. That is who she still is.

  4. Wow, that is amazing! She looks awesome! This is a beautiful post about a great lady.

    Lisa, Random Ramblings

  5. sitting up and drinking tea.... spendid indeed.

  6. Your love just shines in these posts and I love getting to know you mom the way she was and trying to understand how she is now.
    hugs to you and thanks again for sharing.

  7. Your mom is beautiful! And she is lucky to have such a loving and creative daughter. Your posts are so wonderful I went back and read them all. You have such a gift and a great spirit of sharing. I admire that and I will be back. I am adding you to my blog roll I want to find out how the party goes and check in on you and your mom.

  8. Grace and strength. What a beautiful way to sum up a life that has spanned nearly a full century. Sadly, so often as we age, our life value seems (visually on the outside) to go down. We’ve passed the hurdle of growing up, married or found a life mate, gotten an education, raised children, worked, maintained households, volunteered, etc. This glimpse of your mom’s life has not only shown us the milestones and remarkable history she has lived through, but you show her strength, grace and daily life value stretching into her Alzheimer’s years with the celebration of her being the matriarch of your family and all that encompasses. I too pray for God’s blessing to be with her every day, especially the celebration of her 100 years on this earth in August.

  9. It's nice to honor your mother in this post. 100, wow! What a milestone!


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