I wish I’d followed her examples for living well.

She doesn’t look or act like a 90-year-old woman.

My mother turns 90 tomorrow. We’re throwing her a big birthday party, just like we did when she turned 80, and like someone will do for her when she’s 100. It may not be me or my sister. We’ll probably be too old and feeble. Or maybe not even around for it. I’m sure she’ll outlive me.

I may be one of those fortunate ones who will have my mother all my life. Not many people are blessed like that. Most of my generation lost both their parents years ago.

I am blessed and I enjoy my mother almost daily. Every Sunday we go out to dinner. She’s good company like she’s always been — sharp and spunky.

But I’m a little jealous, too.

Because no way will I live to be 90. Admittedly, that’s largely because of choices I’ve made throughout my life. But I’m jealous nonetheless.

Did I mention she still drives? She lives alone and does just as she pleases. She cooks and keeps her own house. Sometimes she surprises us with a fresh baked pie or cake that she’s “whipped up” in her kitchen.

Her house is far cleaner and better organized than mine. She never lets her laundry pile up or leaves her sheets on too long.

And she certainly doesn’t take any “bossing” from me or my sister. She’s very much still independent and in possession of all her faculties. She’s a gracious lady in every way.

She has some occasional mild gastrointestinal issues but nothing life threatening. Usually it’s brought on by one of her favorite activities; eating chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

The last time she was hospitalized was when she fell and broke her pelvis a few years ago. She fully recovered from that, but now she uses a cane or her walker, because her balance isn’t so good. She complains about her sight and hearing and wants both to be as good as they’ve always been. I don’t think she wore glasses until she was in her late 60s. She still reads the newspaper and does crossword puzzles too difficult for me. She has good hearing aids that help a lot. She still eats whatever she wants. She plays solitaire on her Kindle a lot, and easily uses Facebook and email.

She has no dementia, although she is beginning — just beginning — to notice some forgetfulness about recent events. Not a lot, though.

Born during The Depression and a member of the Greatest Generation, she’s worked hard all her life. She had her first job at 13-years-old cleaning other people’s homes, going on to working at a movie theater where she was promoted to running the projector. That was all before she finished high school.

I think she retired three or four times before she finally quit for good. She kept going back to work.

Then it took her a while to get used to not getting up and going to work every day. In mom’s book, if you aren’t up and dressed with your living room curtains open by 7 a.m., you’re a “layabout”.

After a lifetime of having at least one job and sometimes a side job bookkeeping for small businesses, mom had no intentions of sitting on the sofa watching TV soap operas after retirement.

I don’t think mom ever watches TV except for the news, which she religiously watches every evening. We know not to call her while the news is on.

She may be 90 but that doesn’t mean she’s not well-read and aware of what’s happening in the world. She remembers a lot of great presidents and great moments in our history. She saw the troop trains coming through town loaded with the triumphant returning soldiers of WWII and remembers the celebrations in the streets and the vets waving out the train windows. She married a Navy veteran of that war — my dad.

She can’t stand Donald Trump, and recently said she doesn’t think she’s ever wished ill on anyone like she does him. He’s an insult to her memories.

After her retirement from paid jobs she volunteered for a while at a Christian clinic and a thrift store. She gardened, canned, and sewed. She’s always made most of her own clothes and mine and my sister’s as we were growing up. Retired, she sewed more and created a beautiful wardrobe for herself.

She planted and tended her flower gardens so she always had one of the prettiest lawns in town.

My dad was totally in love with her for 58 years until he passed away at 79. She was 75. After more than a year of mourning she met and married another man who doted on her as well.

Her second husband died about five years ago leaving her not rich, but comfortable.

She’s lived alone since. Except for her big spoiled tomcat named Bertram. She likes “Bert” as well as anyone and better than a lot of people. It’s a rare day when she doesn’t tell me something Bertram has done to prove how smart he is.

So, I’m very proud of and in awe of my mother. I’m blessed my mother has lived to be 90 when so few people my age (68) still have their mothers. She’s my best friend and her house is where I go for recharging and the best company.

As for being a little jealous, it’s only because I’m sure I won’t live to be her age. It’s my fault. I often made poor choices that caused me to be stressed and heartbroken for much of my life. I wish I had been as level-headed and wise as mom.

While she has no health problems to speak of, I have several. She never smoked, but I did for most of my life. She and my dad had some lean times while we were growing up but they had each other. I spent a good part of my life as a single mother and had a hard lonely life for several years.

My mother has no mental health problems. She’s solid and the same every day. I’ve struggled with depression most of my life.

Mom never leaves the house without putting on her lipstick and she enjoys meeting people. She has a naturally friendly disposition. I go around bare-faced and ill-dressed and sometimes won’t come out of my house. There are times when I see someone I know in the grocery store and go to another aisle to avoid talking to them. I’m just not in the mood or I’m so raggedy I hate to be seen. Mom is never like that.

No man ever left my beautiful, strong-willed, and mostly Irish mother.

One husband left me without warning for another woman— and totally abandoned the kids as well. I was left with a broken heart, kids who needed counseling, half our income, and the same bills.

Another great choice was marrying a wildly irresponsible but brilliant man in my youth who wouldn’t keep a job. We had adventures for five years. But after our baby was born I knew I was going to have to be a responsible adult instead of his playmate. I had to get a good job, a decent place to live, and leave with my two-year-old daughter.

A good husband found me and I’ve been in love with him for 22 years. I’ve never had to “do without” since we married. I appreciate it more because I did have to “do without,” many times. He may have added a few years to my life span.

But my mom? No one would have cheated on her. Both men she married were totally in love with her. Both were more than willing to work and sacrifice for her.

Mom has not had it easy all her life. She grew up very poor. But she’s made from strong stuff. I seem not to be as resilient. I’ve always envied her energy and her work ethic. I’ve known of few times when my mother ever took off work because she was sick, or for any other reason. The woman is tough and reliable.

She’s very popular and has been since she a kid. She was elected president of the student body at her high school; that was some feat for a female back then. Acquaintance’s in our small town seldom fail to ask after my mother. She’s the only person I know who gets about 50 birthday cards.

All my life people have told me she is gracious and pretty. Now they tell me I look like her. I don’t think so, but I say thanks because that’s a big compliment.

Although my sister and I gave mother a lot of grief growing up, we didn’t get into drugs or get arrested or anything like that. One of my children is currently incarcerated and an addict. That’s a situation I’m pretty sure will shorten my years. I’ve even been told it has taken its toll on me. It left me still raising (grand) children at a time I thought my husband and I would be free as birds. Our dream of traveling full-time in our Motorhome bit the dust. And that’s not to say our grandson isn’t a blessing. He is my heart.

But Mom never had to raise any grandkids, or see a child go to prison, or worry that a drug-addicted child — homeless on the streets — would die of an overdose or violence. I have.

I don’t blame my mother in any way for the choices I’ve made and the calamities that befell me. That was none of her doing and has nothing to do with me being jealous. Although I’m jealous she had more sense. I wish I’d followed her example more closely. I often didn’t use the good sense God gave me to live my life and protect my health.

I am jealous that she’s been able to live to be 90 , it’s true— but I’m joyous and grateful as well. I want her to live to be 100 as long as she can still enjoy life. I just wish I, too, could last that long and still be as vibrant as she is. In fact, I’d like her to live to be at least 112, and me to live to be 90, too. I’d hope we’ll not be drooling on ourselves by then.

But, oh! My dear Mom. She’s always been the greatest lady I know and I’m so fortunate I still have her.

Photo by Sue Hughes on Unsplash

Happy birthday, Momma. And many, many more. I love you.

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store