My mother obviously has some extraordinary genetics going on, not to mention a joie de vivre that just won’t quit. But the good health and the good attitude are just the power source; I believe the propulsion behind my mother’s ability to continue living an independent, enjoyable and productive life comes from the support system she’s got going on.
There’s my brother Jim and his wife Theresa who live close by and are always calling, stopping over, checking on my mother and having her over for dinner.
Then there are her neighbors, friends, and people from her church who are also always calling, stopping over, checking on her and bringing her food.
“Everybody‘s always coming around and doing everything for me like I’m some old lady,” she jokingly complains.
"Milk it,” I tell her.
Then she has her list of dependable service people to take care of things like the yard work, the snow shoveling, the routine home maintenance and repair work, her finances. She’s got a mechanic who fixes her car and a caterer who fixes the food for her parties.
But of all the invaluable support people in my mother’s life, the one who truly makes it all happen for my mom these days is her housekeeper/companion/friend/guardian angel, Fran.
Fran is the wind beneath my mother’s wings. She’s also a very funny lady. Which is what makes her so great with my mom, who is likewise a very funny lady.
On this past visit when I asked my mom how she and Fran first linked up she told me that Fran just sort of walked into her life. Literally.
My mom recalled that one day about six or seven years ago she received a call from a woman from her church whom my mother didn’t know but who appeared to know her. The lady said she’d be over that afternoon to cook my mom a meal. And sure enough that afternoon a lady did breeze in through my mother’s back door, took over her kitchen, whipped together a great meal then cleaned up the whole kitchen like a whirlwind, cracking wise the whole time.
My mother, herself a first-rate cook, human cleaning tornado and connoisseur of reasonably irreverent humor, liked Fran’s style.
It turned out that Fran, who does volunteer work ministering to the elderly, had seen this sweet-looking, frail-looking little old lady at church and decided to find out who she was then visit her with a nice home-cooked meal.
And what she found beneath this aged, fragile-looking exterior was a kindred spirit, saucy, bossy, hard-working and young at heart. Fran liked my mom’s style, too.
So, despite their 24-year age difference, Fran and my mom took an immediate liking to each other.
It happened that my mom was at that time looking for some household help. At that time my mother was still taking care of her mentally disabled younger sister, my Aunt Mary, whom she’d been caring for ever since their father died forty years earlier.
My Aunt Mary
And most important, best friend. I believe the spine that runs through Fran and my mom's friendship is their shared sense of humor. They keep each other laughing, and Fran always threatens to kick my mother's a** whenever my mother neglects to do her exercises, follow her doctor's orders, drink enough water, or whatever it is she's supposed to be doing.
Sometimes the two are partners in mischief of the sort that only two ladies of a certain age can get away with.
My mother recounted to me the time when she and Fran went to church together to go to confession. They walked up to the priest who was waiting outside the confessional, then as my mother and the priest were entering the confessional Fran called, "You be sure and kick her a** in there, Father".
Father just shook his head.