Some things are funny, and some things are, well, just not.…
It’s very funny when my 91 year old mother fumes with frustration at me and, in heated seriousness, snaps “FECK OFF.” When it happened, I burst into laughter, which – of course – made her laugh too. It’s not like that particular moment didn’t call for a well-placed cuss word… and I certainly knew the intent of her statement… but it’s not really Mom’s jam to be all pissy and swear. Her comment hit the same part of my funny bone that ached years ago when my then-toddler daughter offered her first aptly timed “bad word“… You don’t want to laugh, but in the moment, you kind of respect their interpretation of the situation.
Mom and I were in one of our “I’m-more-right-than-you” moments, wrangling to see who could win, when her little outburst occurred. As is often the case, there was more to the incident than the specific moments it encompassed. We each had our personal “baggage” all ready to unpack, but our flight plan changed with the simplest shift in altitude attitude. It became clear that being right wasn’t half as important as sharing a good guffaw.
My girlfriend recently shared a similar situation… She was at CVS, waiting for a prescription, when her sweet, CCD-teaching, God-loving, church-going mother started banging her walker in frustration and yelled, “What the hell is taking that bastard so long back there?!” How can you NOT LOL at that?
What’s not funny is to see fear in my mother’s face or to hear it in her quivering voice. She’s a Damn Yankee, and proud of it, but she’s also 91 and human. It takes a lot to push her into the fear zone, but non-elective surgery involving injections directly into the eyeball (!) can do it. After a recent spate of doctor appointments, she learned she would have to have multiple “procedures,” for a variety of maladies, all being particularly close to, or within her eyes. It was just too much for her.
“Pre-op” appointments are ordinarily something Mom looks forward to… a time when she can share her vast medical knowledge with a like-minded individual (ie: a doctor), and experience that intensely focused, one-on-one attention she so covets. But this time was different. Mom was uncharacteristically quiet. The night before her surgery, she called me (for the umpteenth time…) to confirm the appointment time, the pre-op instructions, and the directions to the surgicenter.
Typically, I’d rush her off the phone in full exasperation at her lack of trust in me to “get it all right.” But something was different. I walked over to her house (Right.Next.Door.) and found my brave 91 year old Yankee mother brimming with fear. All these doctor appointments had finally pushed her to the edge. A little comforting and reassurance got her back on track, and I reminded her that we were a “team”…that I’d be there for her… as she had surely done for me in my youth.
The one hour surgery (which took five effing hours in the waiting room), was a huge success and Mom was the star patient of the day. I felt like a proud mother who’s child had just just experienced their first round of immunizations without freaking out… I felt like I should take Mom out for ice cream and buy her a toy for being such a “good girl.” She was absolutely unfazed with the whole ordeal, and back to being her brave Damn Yankee self…Ho Hum… just another day at the surgicenter….
The before and after of this surgical event caught me off guard. I though post-op would present an opportunity to assuage her pre-op fears. But Mom didn’t need assuaging. On the ride home, I told her how much I admired her calm….how I don’t know what I’ll do someday if I have to have the same thing done. I asked her if she’d been afraid in the operating room, with all those needles, IV’s, and nurses in scrubs and all…Her response? “Emily, at 91, you’ve been through pretty much everything there is to go through in life at least once. Nothing is really scary.”
Whaaat?! There are still so many things I watch my mother go through that invoke gobs of fear in me, but I can see her point… I don’t get half as frightened by root canals as I did before I had my first one. But injections directly into the eyeball?.., while you’re awake? I’m banking on Mom being fully correct about the fear thing, because one word I’ve never heard used to describe me is “brave,” and I never stake claim to being a proud Damn Yankee.
(This post originally appeared on 50 Shades of Aging)
About the author: Emily Gaffney is a post-menopausal, Baby Booming, empty nester who’s not sad at all that her 2-5 kids have flown the coop. She’s currently living life-on-hold, while her 91 year old mother (Right.Next.Door.) decides her next act. Emily’s days are filled with retail therapy, peddling real estate, and watching her friends on Bravo TV. She’s committed to throwing in the towel at 60, at which time she will joyfully end hair dying, weight watching and, working out. Find her (and Mom) at 50 Shades of Aging and on Facebook.