It's my birthday, and I'm spending it with Mother Mary, which I know is a gift.
But unfortunately, you can't return it.
I've said that aging isn't for the faint-hearted, but I was talking about turning 55. Now that I'm 56, I realize how right I was.
Older and wiser, that's me.
And living with Mother Mary, who's 87, I'm beginning to see what strength is all about.
Strength is trying to walk forward when you can barely see.
Strength is trying to change a channel when you can't find a button on the remote.
Strength is trying to open a jar when you can't grasp it properly.
Strength is trying to speak when you've been robbed of your abilities.
Strength is remembering how things used to be, but knowing they aren't that way anymore. And going ahead anyway.
She is strongest, though her body is weakest.
I'm not trying to be a downer. I know many older people lead full, active lives, and I hope to be one of them. But I'm living with one older person in particular, who has survived two strokes, throat cancer, and the cancellation of Law & Order.
Being with Mother Mary has opened my eyes to the fact that life isn't easy if you're a senior, especially a senior senior.
Microwave buttons are hard to read. The stairs in a movie theater are tough in dim light. Large-print books are hard to find. Menus, cans, and bottles are unreadable.
Why can't there be an earphone on a TV, so we don't have to TURN UP THE VOLUME?
And there are salespeople in the world who are patient with older people, but some who aren't. If anybody's going to be nasty to my mother, it better be me.
Can we accommodate seniors better? I'm not the only baby boomer to be asking this question, and I bet we all become very interested in the issue, the older we get. Or as more of us take in our relatives and see how very strong they have to be, in their own special way.
Because that really is my point.
Living with her makes me realize that we worry about all the wrong things. I see women every day on TV, and in the market, whose lips look suspiciously plump, and I wish them luck. But when I see what Mother Mary is worrying about, it isn't her looks. I know this because I just replaced her 30-year-old bra and had to wrestle her into a new one. Two women and four breasts, flailing about in a dressing room. It gives new meaning to girl-on-girl action.
It's not about her wrinkles, it's about the very senses that enrich our lives and keep us in contact with the world around us. We discuss this over lunch, which she agrees to have outside because it's my birthday.
"Happy birthday, honey!" she says, with a smile. Then, "Wanna see the scar?"
I laugh, though I've heard it before. I was delivered by cesarean section, and for a joke, she would flash me her scar. That's the walking lesson that is Mother Mary.
She gave birth, and it left a mark.
She bears the marks of all of her days, good and bad, and so do we all, ultimately. We go forward with our failing eyes and ears, our steps slowed and speech sometimes a little funky. But if we're lucky, we go on, knowing that life isn't what it was, but it's something new, and after all, it's life.
That alone is precious, and enough.
In the end, she's the Birthday Girl.
Lisa Scottoline's new novel,
"Save Me," is on
sale now. Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's essays have been published in
"My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space" and "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." Visit Lis
a at www.scottoline.com.