Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When A Parent Has Nine Lives

Something occurred to me after writing the last post about my mother’s 93rd birthday. I recalled a conversation she and I had when she was in her late 70’s and the signs of her early dementia were barely noticeable. At least, I hadn’t yet noticed them. Whenever I expressed worry about her health, the conversation would go like this:

“Don’t worry about me, Bob. I have longevity.”

“What do you mean, ‘longevity,’ Mom?”

“I mean, like a cat—I have nine lives.”

Since Mom had a lifelong aversion to cats, this struck me as an unusual comment for her. Also, my wife’s parents and my Dad had already died, and all three passed away at the same age: 83. Of course, I hoped Mom would get past that number, but I had no reason to really think she had “longevity.” So I asked:

“Ma? Like a cat?”

“That’s right—nine lives...just like a cat.”

“OK,” I bit, “so you have nine lives. How many have you used up?”

“Don’t worry, I have plenty left.”

“How do you know?” I asked, realizing that she was serious.

“I just know. You watch. I have longevity.”

So I watched...and watched...and watched...and watched. 83 passed...and 85...and 90...and, finally, 93. She was right. She did have longevity. Oh how I wish she was able to enjoy it!

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