And so I faced a dilemma: Wear my last fresh pair to visit my mother on her birthday? Or save it for the day after, when I'd be flying home to San Francisco? (Wearing dirty underwear, in my opinion, is never a viable option.)
Ultimately, the fear of my airplane dropping from the sky, and my improperly attired body plunging with it, was the deciding factor. The thought of showing my crack in someone's driveway, even posthumously, was just too much. Besides, I reasoned, my mother lives in an Alzheimer's facility. She'll never notice.
When I arrived, my mother, Ruth, was surrounded by two of my sisters, Nancy and Julia. I was wearing a pair of baggy shorts, and I took the chair opposite Ruth. It didn't take long before Ruth grabbed one of my pant legs, peeked up it, and asked me something along the lines of "What are you wearing under there?" Stunned at first by the question, I admitted I was "going commando," and we all had a hearty laugh about the fact that my 93-year-old mother had just busted me for not wearing underwear.
Later, Ruth turned to Julia and asked "Do you bleach your hair?" My mother was particularly fascinated with my shirt, a red Polo shirt with a large exotic bird on it, and with Nancy's Paul Frank monkey-face watch. She looked at us and suddenly said, "I can't believe I gave birth to all y'all." Then she paused and added: "And I kept you, too."
In other words, Ruth was more observant, engaged, and upbeat than I'd seen her in a long, long time.
The afternoon wasn't without its bittersweet moments. Repeatedly, Ruth asked my sisters and me to call our father, who died in 1993. We'd explain that we'd called him just now and gotten a busy signal, or that he was working, or that we'd call him in a minute. Even though the excuses grew easier to make, each one stung just a little.
And then, Ruth announced that this was "the happiest day of my life." That was why it was so important for us to call her husband. She was having so much fun, she didn't want him to miss any of it.
|Nancy, Ruth (in Piggly Wiggly T-shirt), and Julia|