They care for you and then, later on, if you are lucky enough to have a Mother Who Grows Old, you return the favour. This is how it is beginning for me.

My mother finally took her doctor’s advice and got a shiny new metal hip. This after years of “I’m fine!” but the thin mouth and grey face underscored a different reality. Thank you Government Health Care, thanks brusque and skilled Dr. Werle. Thank you amazing sister in law for coming that first week.

So yes, she’s done it. In addition to the super hip she also received a cane to use for free. Not a Dick Van Dyke “Step in Time” kind of cane…THIS cane has four big prongs…the Hugo adjustable quad cane. It looks like it should have an IV bag or ten hanging off it. Definitely not the fiddle-dee-dee cane of a cape wearing theatre goer. This cane is completely humourless. I know she doesn’t like it either; still she gives me the stink eye whenever I mention that, perhaps, she might consider getting a lighter lady-cane.

Our government also covers post hip replacement physiotherapy, and I take my mom to each appointment.  85 and fierce, she resents any fuss and dislikes being told what to do. Of course, physiotherapy is all about telling you what to do. At the end of the third session, the therapist hands me a questionnaire and a pen and asks my mom and I to fill it out. It’s been a tough hour of bending and stretching. My mom is lying on a massage table, a cold pack on her new hip. It’s past dinner time. We’re both hangry, and I can see she is not liking that I have the pen and the power.

And maybe for good reason…I’m the kind of person who feels filled with purpose when holding a clipboard.  It’s a questionnaire designed to gauge the patient’s level of activity. I read the directions out loud in my newsreader voice: she’s to mark her answers on a scale of one to ten, one being “I cannot do this activity” and ten being “I can easily do this.”. I will be the one actually marking and I feel a bit superior, as I have been nagging her about exercise for years. She knows this and clenches her jaw. I read out the first activity on the list.

“Light housekeeping?” I look at her in the eye. “Oh for goodness sakes, TEN!” my mom barks. A little hip replacement is not going to keep her from light housework.

“Walking a mile?” I look up from the clipboard, pen poised. She purses her lips, mulls it over and finally mouths “zero.”

“Running full speed on even surfaces?’ I am at a loss to remember my mother ever having run full speed, at anytime.

A pause. Then, “zero”.

“Running at full speed on uneven surfaces?” I am starting to get a bit giddy, and make a zero with my hands. She smiles and nods.

“Making sharp turns while running full speed on uneven surfaces?”

I look up and meet her tear filled gaze. There is a pause.

And we both start laughing so hard I think I am going to pee my pants.

Joni Mitchell was right. “laughing and crying, you know it’s the same release.”

True, growing old is not for the faint of heart. There will be tears and hopefully lots of  outrageous, face hurting, bladder bending laughter.  (Note to laughers: in 20 years peeing pants is a distinct possibility).

My mom is a fierce 86 now, still with her sensible cane, still driving the “older ladies” around to cribbage and darts. Still doing light housework and avoiding any uneven surfaces. She’s raised four kids, outlived a troubled marriage and is a vicious Scrabble player. A contradiction: tough love meets hold-you-tight-when-you-cry. Prickly and smooth. Savory-sweet, like ketchup. Umami. My mommy.


Sophie’s Secret: The Figgy Fountain of Youth

My mother swears by these and would always gift friends and family a jar for holidays or birthdays. You will need:

One clean jam sized jar

One package Mission Figs

Dark Rum

And now:

Pack as many Mission figs as you can into the jar. Pour in Dark Rum to the top. Cover. Let sit for about a month (no need to refrigerate).

Take one fig and one teaspoon of the “juice” once a day.

To your health!