In The Beginning
My mother was thirty-seven when I was born in 1946, which for the time was unusually late for a first child. It was years before I knew her true age: when I was in elementary school she took ten years off her age. She later claimed it was because she was afraid my sister and I would be nervous, as the (much younger) parents of a couple of our friends had died unexpectedly. When I asked one of my cousins about this years later she admitted that they had known and had kept the secret. I was bummed. I was also mad at myself for not figuring the whole thing out. I’d had all the data: my grandmother’s age, the age my grandmother was when my mother was born, and my mother’s age. They didn’t add up. I figured that much out, but was unable to come to the now obvious conclusion: my mother had lied about her age.
She carried it off well, as in fact she looked younger than her actual age. Late gray hair runs in the family: by the time she died at 75 her hair was gray (not white) but it was still dark right up through my teen years.
We learned the truth when my sister when for working papers. She had to bring in her birth certificate; my mother didn’t want to hand it over. I still wonder if Shelley would have looked the certificate over so carefully if my mother had played it cool. But she didn’t, so Shelley took a very close look at it when she finally got hold of it. She confronted my mother that evening. I remember finding the whole thing for some odd reason very funny, as did my sister.
My mother had been married for four years by the time I was born. My father had enlisted in the army after Pearl Harbor. My parents were married by this time and my mother followed him around from base to base in the US, including, as I remember it, a number of cities in the Midwest that my mother and father, both born and raised in Manhattan, would have had otherwise no interest in visiting and some that, due to dreary weather, she was happy never to have to see again. Then he was sent overseas and she moved back to New York. He was overseas for about a year; I was conceived after he returned home. My sister was born two years later.
I don’t remember, if I ever knew, the whole list of just what was preventing my mother from conceiving in the first years of her marriage. I do know that they finally discovered that her thyroid too low, and that it took them a while to figure this out because she was thin and active. She also had uterine fibroids, and by the time she wanted to try for a second child she had been told by at least one doctor that she needed an immediate hysterectomy.
My mother, however, was nothing if not determined: she doctor shopped, finally turning up one, renowned obstetrician Dr. William Hellmann, who was willing to give it a shot. As my mother told it, he warned her that she might lose the baby, but that if she was willing to take that chance, then he certainly was. She ended up on bed rest for the last six weeks of her pregnancy. By this time she was 39, almost 40 in fact, with a child (me) who wouldn’t turn two until a week before the birth of the second child, my sister. Six weeks later she had a hysterectomy.
All Age is Relative
My father was an attorney in private practice. When he joined the firm, which consisted of R. and her father B, they specialized in Wills and Estates.
One day my father and R. went to visit Mrs. X, who was getting on in years, in order to have her sign her will.
A little old lady answered the door:
R: “Hello, dear, how are you?”
Dad: (silent, and glad he is because…)
R: “Where’s your mother, dear? She asked us to bring her will over so she could sign it”
Dad figured that LOL’s mother must have been close to 100!
On The Road
I seem to find activities such as driving or shoveling snow particularly condusive to generating idea. If I’m shoveling snow, all I need to do is go inside, but driving presents more of a problem.
At such times I have discovered I have three options:
(1)Balance a sheet of paper on the steering while I attempt to continue driving and at the same time write whatever it is down (dangerous)
(2) Find a spot to pull over and write it down (diffucult) or
(3) Try to remember whatever it is by repeating it to myself over and over as I drive (distracting).
It was therefore no surprise that having chosen option(3) (Distracting) on a recent foggy night that I took a wrong turn and ended up driving down an unfamiliar road in the dark.
I want my next car to have GPS. In the mean time, perhaps a tape recorder isn’t a bad idea…