Y Young at Heart
My mother has always been young at heart. People have always been surprised to learn how old she was, and that hasn’t changed now that she’s ninety-nine. She doesn’t look like a ninety-nine-year-old, and if she hadn’t contracted dementia, I’d bet she wouldn’t be acting like one, either.
My mom was thirty-eight when I was born, and she had my brother sixteen months later. I like to think that we kept her young. My parents, even though older, always did plenty of “kid” things with us, like amusement parks and picnics and playing games. I didn’t even realize my parents were older than most kids’ parents until around high school, and it never mattered to me.
My father passed away when he was only sixty-eight. I was twenty-eight, younger than most children are when they lose a parent, yet I had still grown to adulthood. I worried a lot about my mother after he died, afraid that she would give up on life. If I had known then that she would survive to be ninety-nine, I would have been overjoyed—and would not have suspected that a brain disorder would take most of her away from me before her physical body gave out. Nevertheless, I’m very grateful to have had her as well and young-spirited as she was until her mid-nineties.
She would read the paper every day and watch the news at night and kept up with what was going on in the world and in our state. She loved going out with us for car rides on a Sunday or shopping or to dinner. We would take her to Narragansett or Newport to enjoy the water views. Once in a while we’d drive to one of the casinos in Connecticut—not really to gamble but just for the ambiance, to enjoy the lights and colors and watching the people and looking through the shops and having dinner at the buffet. She was as excited as I was the day I won $100 on a slot machine, which I celebrated by treating us all to dinner. And she once bought me a gift in one of the shops there—a pair of Chinese figurines that I had been looking at and debating whether to buy; she decided they’d be my birthday gift from her. I treasure them.