She’s truly the epitome of one who’s ageless as she ages. My mom turns 89 today, and still ranks me in most things about which I should be better.
My mom, Leona Fulks, was born on this day, 89 years ago – February 10, 1928.
That’s a kick, ain’t it…especially if you know her? Because if you do, and you have the privilege to spend an afternoon canning peaches with her, you’ll swear time will forever be on her side.
I’ve made it a habit to write something about Mom every year on this day, for someday to look back on as a comparison to my own aging process. I’d like to think that in 25 years I’ll be in as good a shape as she is, but as she reminded me at lunch today…that’s doubtful.
Too much on my head, she says. Too many irons in the fire. And my favorite of all. “If you’d taken better care of your money and your time all these years you wouldn’t have to go at the pace you do now.”
We do lunch every year, of course. That is, if the weather suits her. And it’s always the same routine…Frisch’s for a fish sandwich on a rye bun.
“Quick in and quick out,” she’ll say. No one to come by, pull up a chair, and tell you their life story. Be back home in an hour and out of the cold February wind.
That pretty much sums her up. Efficiency of time and effort has always been her mantra…that and just plain old hard work. Mom makes literal that phrase from the Bible that declares, “If a man wants to eat, then he’d better be willing to work.”
I must admit that the apple, in my case, has not fallen from that tree. It’s all I ever knew growing up…watching mom come home after teaching bookkeeping and typing all day, change clothes, and work ‘til bedtime cooking, canning, freezing, knitting, or quilting, in later years. Idle time is wasted time, and at 89 why take the risk?
Sitting across the booth from her today, she asked, “When did you get so much gray hair? Lord, I was 75 before I had as much gray as you have.”
“You always told me stuff like that doesn’t matter,” I said. “So what’s your point?”
She smiled, the wry grin that defines and says so much about her needlesome personality.
“I’m just saying…you’re not as young as you once were. Time’s catching up with you, too.”
What she was really saying was that for all the years, the work, and her sacrifice, it’s her way of telling me how much she appreciates her family being along for the ride. Mom, you see, expresses herself in parables, sometimes. It’s up to you to figure it out.
And a lot of people have figured it out, years after she taught them in school…at Fairland High School (Proctorville, Oh), Symmes Valley High School (Willow Wood, Oh), and Covington. Her former students routinely make it a point of calling, or writing, or occasionally showing up to check on her…probably to see if anything’s changed.
I’m happy to say that for the most part it’s just like it was a year ago – like it’s always been. What I love about Mom the most is that look of independence she carries after 89 years, still proud of her will to live and live on her terms.
“I can’t remember as much as I used to,” she lamented as we finished lunch and headed home.
“Well hey, Mom,” I assured. “Neither can I. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.”
“You know where we get that, don’t you?” and she takes off with her ubiquitous speech on family genetics.
I smile, because I’ve heard it all before, at least for the last fifty years. I pretty much know by now…what I have to look forward to. It could be the best thing she’s ever given me.
Happy birthday Mom; and many returns of this day.