My Blessing

My Blessing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

My Blessing

Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

“97, 98, 99, 100...”

I count while Mom, lying on the floor in front of the TV, does her Marine Corps crunches. With a baby pillow under her head, she performs this nightly ritual designed to allow her to sleep a full six or seven hours before she wakes up between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. At that time, she will lace up her walking shoes and go for her daily five-mile walk.

In the snows of winter, a mailman asked her if she wanted a job.

I don’t go with her at that hour. I have learned that I can’t keep up. She is eighty-one. I am sixty-two. She walks fast. Too fast for me.

“178, 179, 180...”

She is a marvel, this mother of mine. Her shapely tan legs are in shorts. She has no extra fat on her body. Her fitness routine has been her job for the last forty years. Many high school girls would kill for her shape. Wrinkles she has. Fat she doesn’t.

She has four children, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Few can keep up with her. My sister and I took her to Hawaii. It was a good thing we both went, because we took turns resting. She wore us out.

We never saw her sleep. She said she could sleep when she got home. When she’s in Hawaii, she wants to take it all in. We rested when we got home. Mom was busy looking at all the pictures, putting them into collage frames for her wall and telling everyone about her trip—the water ballet, the luau and the flowers.

“249, 250, 251...” Her crunches continue.

Mother finishes her daily walk and follows it up with an exercise routine done in the clubhouse of the senior mobile home park in Bend, Oregon. That starts at 9:00 AM, and she is never late.

Everyone knows not to telephone during her exercise times.

Later in the morning, she will go to Curves. Her photo is pinned on the wall there as the winner of the hula-hoop contest. She kept the hoop going longer than anyone else. The photo is frayed but she isn’t. She will wear her “Curves-600 sessions” T-shirt.

“323, 324, 325...”

She works crosswords puzzles at night to keep her mind sharp. She has won 987 games of Yahtzee against me in the last three weeks. We have also played Skip-Bo and cards. Unless I am lucky, she slaughters me.

The only area of loss might be her short-term memory. New words that she doesn’t use every day escape her. Computer terms? She has no need of those. ATM machines? She doesn’t use those either.

iPods and Nintendos? Forget it.

“363, 364, 365...”

I took her to Costco today and as we were standing in line, I asked her if she wanted an iced mocha or a freeze. She didn’t. She watches what she eats. I opened my wallet and gave her two dollars and asked her to go get me an iced mocha. The line was long and I knew that she would want to pay if she stood there with me. Her income is minimal but she knows how to stretch it. This trip is my treat.

Everyone in line was watching her. She was all color-coordinated in pink earrings and size six shorts. She returned too soon and asked me the name of “that thing” I wanted again.

“An ICED MOCHA.”

The lady behind us in line smiled.

I was next in line for the cashier. When she came back again... what was that name? ICED MOCHA... “Mom,” I said, pointing to the huge sign with the foot long hot dog.

“See the hot dog, well, on the left of the hot dog is an iced mocha. That’s what I want.”

“Okay,” she says, “but that line is awful long.”

The cashier interrupted saying that it moved really fast.

She left and the cashier laughingly asked me, “Do you really think you will get your iced mocha, or do you think she will come back with a hot dog?”

“You know what, she’s eighty-one years old, and I’m just so glad to have her that I really don’t care what she brings back.”

I heard the lady behind me in line gasp. The stooped little old man in front of me turned around and said, “How old did you say she was?”

“Eighty-one.”

“She sure doesn’t look eighty-one.”

“397, 398, 399, 400.”

She is finished. She does not look eighty-one. She does not act eighty-one. And she can’t stand to be around old people who constantly talk about their aches and pains. “Take vitamins and exercise,” she tells them.

When I count my blessings, my mother’s good health and zest for life top the list. She cleans her floors on her hands and knees and defrosts her freezer and plays Bunko. She loves to bake and always takes treats to pinochle on Tuesdays and bingo on Fridays.

That’s why I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Thank you, dear God, for giving me the best role model. She is truly a blessing.

~Linda Burks Lohman

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