Yesterday my life loving Mom-in-Law turned 94 on a good day. Mom/Judy stepped into my life 23 years ago. Actually she two stepped in. My first recall of meeting Punch and Judy was on their way to the Elks club Western theme party. They were dressed full out in their Stetsons, bolero ties, cowboy boots and scarves. I knew my now husband "McGyver" had a fun loving Mom, as was Clara, the Mom I lost too early in 1979. Judy has been a Mom and friend to me since long before my husband figured out we were together to stay. Yes, it is unusual to feel blessed by a great Mother-in-law relationship. It is actually not even socially acceptable, so we speak in hushed voices when I find others who are so lucky.
Perhaps this mention will thin the crowds on Florida's roads: On her 94th, Mom renewed her drivers license with nothing but a vision test. The reality is that she is still a good driver - particularly as compared to the distracted majority who are dialing, selecting music or, does anyone still do this - texting? The unfortunate aspect is that she will be the first to be blamed in the event of a fender bender. Age discrimination is rampant. We judge so easily based on appearances, without fact checking. Then again, she hardly looks 80, let alone 94. I'm equally guilty, and don't know anyone else 90+ that I want to share the roads with, though I would love to hear their life lessons while I drive them places.
How does one arrive at 94, mostly unscathed, with the energy and health to walk miles every morning, go to her volunteer jobs with Hospice and Options for Women, socialize nearly every evening? She still reads the morning paper daily - so we cannot credit absence of energy depleting news stories. She credits attitude - let nothing and nobody steal your good mood. I detect a good dose of denial - which seems a powerful solution to many of life's un-fortunate events and annoyances.
Denial is evident when her pain is high and she answers "I'm fine, I'm fine". Neuroscience supports that this works, providing attention is moved to a distraction. So, as in the movie "Yes Man", her policy is yes to everything. Accept every invitation, "or they may not invite you again." Stay very busy. She intentionally stays surrounded by young friends, and adores the children next door. Often she is forced to deal with an "old person", though they may be 30 years younger than her. She hands that title to those with sour demeanors.
One distinction that surprises her Medical providers is that she takes no prescription drugs, other than at surgeries. She breezed through two mastectomies. The first was at age 87 and the second at 93. I blocked my calendar for a month to take care of her, but 24 hours out she wanted escort to a Christmas party. I was only needed to keep her company. After the first round with Stage I Estrogen positive Breast Cancer, Doctors prescribed Irimidex. The painful side effects impacting her bones led to a prescription for Fosomax. For five years she experienced the aches and pains most of us suffer at a much younger age. Thankfully she is off of the drugs now. She will never know if the Irimidex did in fact delay the 2nd recurrence. Our over medicated society has lost site of the importance of drugs, used sparingly. How much dementia is from drug interactions and dehydration, not Alzheimers? Check out Dr. Daniel Amen books for ways to reverse dementia. Mom's walking, water, crosswords and active lifestyle are all in his prescription.
She eats everything we are warned about, from steaks and butter to desserts, but balanced with veggies, nuts, fruits and plenty of water. She never touched coffee and very little liquor. Her claim to fame as the beautiful young blonde at the pub was the server carrying a tray with her tall glass of ice cold milk. Sure, most of that milk was before the era of hormone loading the cows. Having grown up with the Dairy Council ads, she undoubtedly still trusts the half gallons from her grocery today. Best to believe that - as often the minds power is stronger than the additives. I'll stick with organic milk, if any, because that is where my beliefs have been led. This is one of many areas where Mom and I disagree. The fact that we are ok in disagreement is likely a contributor to our open honest relationship. When she expresses concern about being a burden, I hand her a basket of laundry to fold. Problem solved for both of us. Being useful and needed are so important to being alive.
My own family growing up was limited by physical issues for both parents, so it was not until I became part of the family trips that the dynamics of too much togetherness on the road became apparent. For Mom there is no such thing as too much family. For my borderline introvert nature, hyperventilation is a reality after 2 days crowded under one roof talking over each other at the holidays. They have learned to accept my need for solitary walks. I even hid in the dressing room Christmas shopping one year to get myself back together. Then a page calling my name disrupted the peace. I still laugh remembering the Autumn road trip thru Maine. With 7 of us in a van, I was the only one capable of driving for a variety of health reasons at the time. All of them had seen the terrain many times, so it was non-stop "Pam do you see the lake we are passing now"? "Remember when"...as they shared memories. I was so focused on the slippery leaf covered roads there was no looking at the sites - but nobody really knew. I do plan to return one October with someone else to drive.
Last week, our new Pope handed out gift boxes at the Vatican implying they contained medication. In fact, each visitor received a rosary - proven to reduce heart disease, blood pressure, and a number of ailments, when used with great faith. This has been Mom's drug of choice for a lifetime. She keeps a glow in the dark rosary beside her bed or under the pillow at all times, and goes to sleep saying her rosary. Beyond the prayers, there is a tactile benefit to the beads used in world religions, as well as the palms together in prayer, which emotionally bypasses despondency. The act of repeating the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers keeps the mind focused and connected, away from the distracting thoughts of life - and I truly believe has the power to heal wherever the intention is being sent.
What better way to wrap up each day of our life, than to know we have no regrets and are sending our good intentions and prayers to others?
Writing to you, knowing how unique our viewpoints may be. When resisting, ask yourself "What Else is Possible?". My experience and personal truth in any moment is just that - mine for you to consider. All Things are Possible - ATAP