Loading Grandma's iPod

Lotti_2 What do you get the girl who has everything, when that girl is your mother and she’s turning 80?

Apparently not Rick James singing "Super Freak."

"Too much hard rock and people of color talking about some kinky girl," Mom said from Florida after listening to the second batch of songs I’d loaded onto her iPod.

It is not easy making a running mix for your mother, when she’s so fussy about what revs her engine.

I thought I had nailed it the first time. That one had too much rap, she said.

What was I thinking?

I’d paid too much attention to studies that say the way to move that body is to build a soundtrack with tempos of 120 to 140 beats per minute, roughly the same as those of a well-exercised heart.

So there were lots of raucous grooves by Outkast ("Ms. Jackson") and Nelly ("Hot in Herre") and Black Eyed Peas ("My Humps") — light on the bad words because while my mom is proudly liberal, she is also a lady.

Turns out my mother runs on hope.

"I like that ‘She drove a Plymouth Satellite’ song," she said, picking up a lyric from the B-52’s "Planet Claire." "And that ‘Mr. Jones is back in town’ has a good beat. I like that." That was Talking Heads.

"But what I really liked was that song, ‘Stay Positive.’"

That one’s a gritty, mid-tempo number by a young British bloke known as The Streets.

"It was sort of inspirational," she said. "He sings about people who have a lot of problems, but it had a good message. It’s so hard to relate to some of these people — people in desperate straits, street people, junkies. I have empathy for people who try hard and can’t make it. It’s hard to relate to those who live on the street and smoke crack."

Mom plays her iPod Shuffle as she runs along a manicured lakeside path, well-watered palm trees sheltering her from the baking sun. She does a mile one way, then a mile back, moving so slowly that she keeps pace with her walking partner, Selma, who is 84.

The last time I ran with my mother, I had to do a bee dance next to her, continually circling so I wouldn’t lose her. A social creature, she nods to every soul she passes.

When the weather’s foul, my mom’s still at it, relentlessly rounding her condo’s hallway.

When my folks first started flying south, about 20 years ago, her new neighbors were not sure what to make of her.

"I had a woman who was in her late 80s. One day she opened her door and said, ‘You know, you’re going to wear out the carpet.’"

"I told her, ‘But I’m only here six months of the year so I’ll only wear it out halfway.’"

Mom said she’s starting to ease up. She used to run three miles. Now she does two. But she doesn’t miss a day. Her energy, she said, comes from her father, who played softball deep into his 60s.

"I don’t feel old," she said, pans clattering in the background. "That’s because I have a lot of discipline. I think that’s the secret. If you don’t have discipline, everything slips through your fingers. You’ve got to have a plan."

Her problem, she said, is that she has too many things to think about with the birthday approaching — menus, weather forecasts, travel arrangements, the health of friends, the health of the country. It keeps her up some nights.

"All right, dear, do you have enough? I’ve got to make dinner for your father."

Yeah, just one more thing, Ma. Happy birthday and thanks. I’ll be bringing down a real gift from your children and grandchildren when I visit for the weekend.

It’s a tiered necklace by some fancy New York designer, something pretty to wear because it’s important to look good while you’re running in paradise. Don’t worry. Nothing could slow you down.

Posted 02/10/2008 08:09:16 PM

Cool woman you wrote about. I am glad it is me.

daniel rubin
Posted 02/10/2008 08:43:54 PM

ok, mom. bedtime!

Sally Swift
Posted 02/12/2008 01:31:45 PM

I am determined to be as cool as your mom and mine. With role models like those, how could I fail? Happy Birthday, Mrs. Mom Rubin!

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments