Travels with a Ninety Year Old

You know, I’ve learned a lesson this past week, folks, while I’ve been home with my mum. If you want great service everywhere you go, and for everyone you meet to smile at you and try to be helpful. If you want traffic to stop in all four directions when you attempt to cross a parking lot. If you want people to listen attentively, and laugh at your jokes, and give you a big hug when you leave. Then always, always travel with a ninety year old. Preferably one with a walker, who chats with all and sundry, and doesn’t mind using the odd profanity. A smattering of profanity seems to go over really well.
green and white farmhouse in winter
The old farmhouse looks a bit lonely against that grey sky.

As you may have guessed, I’m home in New Brunswick this week. And Mum and I have been busy, out and about a lot, which is why I haven’t posted for a while. We’ve had appointments. Been to the bank, and shopping for glasses, and for books, and for a new chair for mum. One of those electric powered recliners which will also help her to get to her feet. We’ve had people at the house to help us arrange some home help. She’s had her hair done, and a massage, and the neighbours have stopped by, and family has come for tea. I’ve been busy on the phone as well, calling agencies, and waiting for call backs, and generally trying to nail down some arrangements for Mum before I fly back to Ottawa in a day or two.
And I will say that, when we’ve been out and about, everyone everywhere we’ve been has been wonderful. At Mum’s bank, the manager came out of her office to greet us, and shepherd us into our appointment. The young man who has handled her financial affairs for a few years now is always lovely to her. He smiles and chuckles a lot when we’re there. Last summer when we were in his office on Mum’s ninetieth birthday, he surreptitiously texted his manager, and she arrived at his door a few minutes later with a birthday card and a huge cupcake.
The new young eye doctor Mum saw this week was patient, and thorough, and jovial. The girls who helped her pick out her new glasses were equally kind. Even the ones who were helping other customers joined in our laughter as we left. And book shopping at Gus’s store was lovely, as it always is. With Gus helping us choose books, he and mum insulting each other, lovingly of course, then his escorting us to the car carrying Mum’s book bag. Mum’s not getting around as good this year as she was last, and maneuvering her and her walker down the step from Gus’s door to the parking lot is a feat of engineering, and good humour. Me on the front, Gus on the back, suggesting that it might be easier if he just pushed Mum into the open car door, and all of us laughing.
Mum and I have marvelled this week at how kind and patient and cheerful everyone has been. It’s as if the whole world is ready to chat, and share a smile, or a laugh. Why is that, do you think? Is it her age? Or is it because Mum talks to everyone, and I do mean everyone? Or is it that she doesn’t mind using the odd expletive in the face of minor adversity, like not being able to maneuver her walker around something? I’m not talking about angry invective here. More a rueful muttering, a verbal rolling of the eyes, laughing at herself, “what the heck am I doing that for?” kind of expostulation. Yep. It seems to me that everyone, but everyone, loves to hear a ninety year old woman say “shit” when she bangs her walker into a door frame.
tiny snowman on the railing of a deck with snowy fields behind
My snowy friend
We haven’t been running the roads the entire week. That’s my attempt at building a mini-snowman, above. I was supposed to be shovelling the deck. We had quite a bit of snow one day, which was good because on that day we just stayed at home. Read our books. Made a big pot of chili, and a pan of homemade biscuits. And watched Death Comes to Pemberly for maybe the fifth time.
But when we’ve been out and about, whether in stores, or banks, or doctor’s offices, or just walking across the parking lot, we’ve been treated royally. In fact when cars stopped in all four directions as we left the mall and headed to the car one day, I suggested Mum might want to attempt the royal wave. But instead we just smiled and nodded. And kept moving.
I will say that all this royal treatment has restored my faith in people … at least a little.
And made me a bit regretful that I don’t get to travel with a ninety year old all the time.
How about you folks? What have you been up to in your travels lately? I know that some of you will have been bracing yourselves for major weather events. So, do tell.


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36 thoughts on “Travels with a Ninety Year Old”

  1. It’s so nice to hear that your mum is still out & about even in snow , gives us hope for the future . I can see I’m going to have to practice my swearing . We are having snow problems in the far, far , north of Scotland in our cosy , little holiday cottage surrounded by deep snow – deeper than has been seen here for twenty years with massive drifts . No 4 WD so we have been marooned for five days at the end of a hilly farm track with bare rations & frozen WiFi ! It is all amazingly beautiful & the kindness of the handful of locals we have become friends with has been very heartwarming . Offers of hot stews , a trip to the local shop in their 4WD , beds for us if we couldn’t stay in the cottage & even treats for our dogs . Yesterday an old man nearby brought me a tube of mints . You can’t believe all you read in the media , there are good people out there caring about each other . We are going to try get home now , so I must be off . Hope your journey home goes well too Sue .
    Wendy heading back to York

    1. The snow ploughs had worked very hard & we drove through ‘ corridors ‘ of snow at times but the roads were pretty clear . So no stop overnight . It would be nothing to the conditions you get but quite exciting for us .

  2. Like Wendy, I have been spending most of my time indoors this past week due to heavy snow and very cold weather. But the mood here has been very cheerful – lots of children sledging with parents who can't get into work, people enjoying chilly walks, well wrapped up. But the thaw has begun now and I can see my car again for the first time in days. Glad you enjoyed your time with your mum and that people were kind and helpful. They mostly are, but that never makes the tabloids or popular imagination. Which rather begs the question why we want to imagine misery and cruelty instead. Humans are odd.

    1. I gather from your comment that you didn't have to use the car until the snow covering it melted. Cleaning cars of snow and ice is one of the worst parts of winter, especially when I was still working. Coming out of wrok at 5:00, in the dark, and starting the car, then brushing and scraping, and scraping and brushing, then trying NOT to get stuck in the unplowed lot. Sometimes staff members would have to push each other up the small hill between out parking lot and the street. Oh… happy days!

  3. I've been using the word 'shit' for years…. without a walker. I love the expletive. LOL Also love that your mom is moving around somewhat well at her age. We should all be so lucky to have genes with good longevity as well as a great sense of humor to go along, especially during the winter months that can be so depressing to many people.

    1. Well.. you'll be all prepared for your own old age. My mum has very bad arthritis. But she doesn't believe in sitting around. The next step, when the snow is gone, is to take her walker out on the deck and go up and down her ramp hoping to improve her mobility

  4. So glad you had a good visit with your mom. My mom passed away 5 years ago tomorrow and I miss her so much. Now my travels are with a 90 year old man, my dad. He doesn't get quite as good a reception as your mom and I chalk that up to his slightly grumpy old man persona! Smiles and kind words cross generations, I think.

  5. When I used to go about with my parents I was always struck by the unfailing kindness offered to them in public places. That this kindness was offered only a few miles from New York City, notorious for rudeness and shoving, was all the more remarkable.

  6. Hi Sue
    Your Mom sounds lovely! If you share a smile, a kind word and are thoughtful…it all comes back to you.
    I do believe a "smattering of profanity" has its place. It's a release. It can quickly sum up a situation. It gets to the point and it can be darn funny. That's what I tell myself!! Ha!
    Mother, daughter time…..nothing better!

  7. Winnipeg is in the middle of a Colorado low which means snow and blowing snow…schools are cancelled in outlying districts and school busses within the city and some areas are dealing with prolonged power outages. However, as a city we are remarkably well equipped to cope and snow plows have been out for hours trying to keep pace with the falling snow. It makes me think with concern of the many individuals living in areas not so well equipped to cope with snow and cold temperatures (like my cousins living in various parts of the United Kingdom). Hope all is well there and spring is truly just around the corner! My mother is 82 years old and we have experienced many kindnesses while out and about…she walks slowly now and swings her purse to and fro to help with her balance. People are aware of her and make allowances for her slower gait….a smile and a kind word do wonders when people help. I believe kindness and thoughtfulness are catching and if we do our part others will pick up on it…at least that is my fervent hope! Cheers, Alayne

    1. I agree, Alayne. I just stroll by my mother's side, smiling at everyone who stops, trying to say without words, "You might as well slow down too."

  8. What a lovely post. The kindness of strangers is so re affirming. We really do need each other. My mother used to talk to everyone also. I remember when I was young being so embarrassed, now I chat to strangers all the time. I wonder if age makes us more comfortable in our own skin and to realize that we are all the same.

  9. Your Mother sounds wonderful and quite independent. Unfortunately my mom died four years ago. My 91 year old Dad is living in a retirement home but he is a grumpy Gus that is mad at the world and he is quite healthy. I wonder why my fun loving, caring mother had to go first!

  10. Love your post. I was reminded yet again of my own mother’s lovely personality and the friendship she showed to everyone as she went about her day. Wishing you each other’s company for as long as possible.

  11. Your mother is a darling,isn't she? Such a warm and lovely personality ( "a smattering of profanity" included :-).) I love Robin's "It can quickly sum up a situation" comment-completely agree
    Enjoy your stay
    The kindness of the strangers- yes,there is still a hope in this world 🙂
    "….the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see" (sorry,I couldn't resist to quote M.Twain)

  12. Absolutely lovely! Your mom sounds like a peach! What good fortune for you. And what good fortune she has that her daughter inherited her wonderfully positive nature.

    Ann in Missouri

  13. What a wonderfully rewarding, if very busy, week. As I was walking home from the dentist's today, digesting news about gums and recession and thinking ahead to tomorrow's hour-long crown-prep appointment. . . I couldn't help thinking ahead to when I'm much older and perhaps much more sensitive to dental treatment, fearful of extractions and fillings, etc. — and I decided I was going to work hard on being a "sweet old dear" that dentists and doctors and hygienists and various other caregivers would want to treat well. Not sure how good I'll be at that, so I'm very encouraged to know that my slight (or more!) propensity to profane language might amuse and even endear. My "sweet old dear" persona can have a bit of an edge with the occasional "Oh, shit!" allowed. Thank you for sharing your mother with us, and for giving me hope in the future 😉

  14. Your little snowman and your mother are adorable. She couldn’t be more different from my mother who died two years ago at 92. My mother’s crusty personality wasn’t helped by the fact she had dementia. When I’d take her out in public she’d always comment on the people around us. “Why would that woman let herself get so fat?” Mother made no attempt to whisper things like that and often I just wanted the floor to open and swallow us both… especially when she forgot she’d already said it once so she’d say it again.

  15. Lovely to hear that you and your mum had such enjoyable outings and met up with some really lovely people. My mum and I would always have interesting chats with complete strangers whenever we were out and about. In fact I still do! I miss my times with mum but I'll always treasure the memories.

  16. Not one photo of your beautiful mother? People are also awfully nice when you have to get around in crutches. I've been the recipient of lovely treatment. Makes me feel good that it seems like everyone has their own crutches story. I'm not as daring as your mother about swearing. at least in company. But give me a few years and I'm sure I won't care. Cheers to your mom!

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