in that order.
She's ninety eight years old today. It's her ... ninety
... eighth ... birthday! She's all there. She's all
present. She's lucid. Clear. Witty. Erudite. Intelligent. Bright.
I ask her if she ever thought this day would come when she was a little
girl five years old. She ponders the question for a moment, then
answers "No I didn't.". Then she adds, almost as an afterthought,
"Besides which, I still don't know how old I am.".
It's a sentiment she's echoed before. It's how she be's
about her age, how she alwaysbe's about her age.
Given it's her ninety eighth birthday, it's a remarkable statement,
just as remarkable as any time she's uttered it on previous birthdays.
At ninety eight years old, it's expected she'd have one or maybe three
things going on about her body. But your compassionate,
sympathy / empathy heroic listening mode
isn't required around this spring chicken. She never talks
about anything she's got going on with her body at all - unless you ask
her. And if you do ask her if she's got anything going on with her
body, she simply states what it is, then moves on to the next topic of
conversation. There's not one iota of complaint.
Whatever's going on with her body is simply
For her, it's completely ordinary - like the weather, or the result of
the Raiders game, or driving directions into the city.
I want to know if she's got a secret. Her alacrity
exceeds that of people people a quarter of her age. So I ask her what's
kept her alive for so long. I don't actually like the way that sounds,
but it's the best way I can think of to ask her what's her secret for
her extraordinary longevity and unflagging aliveness.
She says "I'm interested in Life. I'm always finding something new in
Life that's interesting to me, a new flower blooming, a tree, a
flying backwards (how do they do that?) ..."
"... and you're interested in them, so they keep your
aliveness out here in Life. They keep you out
here in Life ..." I complete the sentence for her, with her, smiling,
nodding, totally getting it, being amazed with her, by her.
She's interesting to me. What I get is she's
interested. That's why she's so alive. I don't get this in the
part of my awareness I call my cliché closet. This isn't
merely bon mots, pithy feel good couplets of
syllables adorning the scrolls inside Chinese fortune cookies. Quite to
the contrary, there's real profundity and power in what she's saying.
What she's saying is it's her keeping her awareness out here in Life
which keeps her out here in Life.
Given she's a ninety eight year old spring chicken postulating this
way of being, who's to argue with her? How do you spell
l i v i n g
p r o o f ?
Quad Erat Demonstrandum.
We start into a loosely knit, spontaneous conversation about mothers. I
share with her how my relationship with
my own mother
has been totally transformed out of my friendship with her. She shares
with me how her mother is her inspiration for her great
independence, for her ability to stand alone yet
not in isolation. We soon get to talking about
and eventually the conversation turns, inevitably, to Mary, Mother of
I say to her "I know exactly what you've given the world. I'm very
clear what you've given the world.". In honor of all mothers,
in honor of
and specifically in honor of her as a mother, I say to her "You do get,
don't you, that it's really
You who's the Mother of
It's dangerous talk. It completely violates widely held cherished
belief systems. She gets it. Or rather, spoken with
she acknowledges she already got it. I'm not coming up with
anything new. I'm not coming up with anything she doesn't
She smiles a sweet smile, a beautiful smile, a smile from a distant
faraway place where great wisdom is born, a smile from right up
close, from right out here in the world to where her interests have
kept her coming back for nearly ten decades and counting.
We embrace. I hug her - very carefully. Indeed, it's possible to hug a
ninety eight year old lady too tight.
"Happy Birthday My Friend. I Love You!" I say to an interesting