At 5'6", she used to be an inch taller than I am. Or--full disclosure--an inch taller than I was, since I, too, have lost stature. Yet despite her hunch from scoliosis, she has the wrinkle-free skin and pretty, youthful face of someone much younger than her 87+ years. When asked her secret, she says, in her best what's-the-big-deal-I-don't-deserve-any-credit-for-this tone: "soap and water and a rough wash cloth."
Members of my family do tend to look young for their age--on the outside, that is. My dermatologist dad whom I always felt I resembled, only made it to 63--a sobering thought as I approached 63, especially since the day my mom and my 12-year-old self came back from a happy outing to find him saying to the ambulance personnel who were working on him, "this is the day my father died and I'm going to die on the same day." He didn't, but what's an impressionable pre-teenager supposed to take away from this out-of-the-blue experience of hearing a shocking statement like that? She might think, "Gee, it's really dangerous to ever have a good time because you never know when death is heading your way." She might also breathe a sigh of relief at having made it past her own 63rd birthday to become an official Senior Citizen entitled to half fare on the bus. When complimented for looking young for her age, she might reply that it runs in the family to look good on the outside but be messed up on the inside. But maybe that particular world view needs some adjustment.
I do do a lot more to take care of my skin than my lovely mom ever did. And in part motivated by what happened to her, I do yoga to stay upright and keep from losing any more inches. Although I can see where her 6 inches went, it seemed to me that she, at 59, became hunched over the day my dad actually did die.
Last night we went to the Yale tap dance show. I still take tap lessons (having started with tap, ballet, and baton twirling at age 4) and my mom and I are true dance groupies. When I was still in junior high doing other things, I recall her being glued to her favorite TV program, Dick Clark's American Bandstand, so her love of watching dancers is of long standing. She moves with difficulty now, but if I call to ask if she wants to go to a dance show, she perks right up with "what time will you pick me up?"
Because of her extremely bent posture, when walking, she seems focused only on the small patch of ground in front of her. When I try to point out something more interesting that's going on above sidewalk level, she brushes it off, since it takes all the effort she can muster just to keep moving forward. She probably doesn't need her 65-year-old daughter bugging her to look up and to remind her that there are more interesting things going on than the view at her feet. She remembers her own mom always yelling at her, "Edith! Stand up straight!"
Yet when I see her delight at watching the astonishing way these Yale dancers can move, I realize that her world view is more than meets the eye, and that--just maybe--I take after her.