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My Mother, My Inspiration

At 95, the author's mom models a positive outlook on life


(This article previously appeared on New Age Aging.)

You remember the phrase our parents used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do?” Here are some “Do as I say” edicts spoken by my mother:

  • Sit up straight.
  • Walk looking up, not down at your feet. (My sister Linda stepped on a nail when she tried that!)
  • Your face is going to freeze like that.
  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Yes, you are going with me to so and so’s house. Why? Because I said so.
  • Go to school. If you still feel sick in a few hours, call me.
  • Play nice with others. Treat them as you want to be treated.
  • Put on lipstick. You never know who you are going to meet.

‘Do As She Does’

There were 25 people at Mom’s 95th birthday, which was Feb. 2. It was a joyous, energized and eclectic occasion filled with relatives and friends, old and young, gay and straight, black and white. People couldn’t wait to hug and kiss her and tell stories about where they met and how she inspires them.

Linda and I are in the most enviable position of being able to focus and change the second half of the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” We now tell ourselves, as we navigate through our lives, “Do as she does.”

Dancing in the Rain

I bet some people look at Mom’s wonderful smile and her in-the-moment energy and think, “Wow, this woman has had an easy, happy life.” But from losing both her parents by the age of 12, raising three children with no child support and the loss of one of her daughters, how wrong they would be.

Author Vivian Greene wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

This is how Mom chooses to dance:

  • By not putting herself down, beating herself up or saying negative things that demean who she is.
  • By never saying, “Why me?”
  • By accepting that “this is the way life is.”
  • By recognizing the good in others and treating everyone as an individual. She still tells Linda and me not to speak to strangers, but she never meets a stranger. It doesn’t matter if it is a clerk in a store or the person in the auto detailing shop, the first thing she’ll ask is their name.
  • By never forgetting about the little girl who lives within her. She brings her out to play. When I called the other night, she told me she was watching a ‘penguin movie’ and could not talk. She failed to hang up the phone properly so I was able to listen to her laugh, all by herself, while watching Happy Feet on TV.
  • By repeating daily, “Some one up there is watching out for us and I’m so GRATEFUL.” Grateful being the optimum word.
  • By getting out of her house and engaging in life. “I have to see people every day.”
  • By saying, “Exercise. I notice one of the first things to go are your legs.” Mom rides a stationary bike at a gym almost every day.
  • By carrying herself with dignity and grace with her head held high. And I don’t remember her ever stepping on a nail!
  • By putting her lipstick on before she walks out of the house!

Do what she does? You bet. I’m learning how to dance in the rain.

One of my goals is to celebrate my 95th birthday, happy and healthy, with family and a group of eclectic friends, while wearing a brilliant shade of red lipstick.

How about you?

Pamela Zitron
By Pamela Zitron
Pamela Zitron is a writer, a rower and in her late 60s. She is currently working on a book inspiring agelessness using her 95-year-old mother as her role model. Like her Facebook page here.

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