Pictured above is my wife’s Mamaw, one of the most resilient people we know. When she was born, Calvin Coolidge reigned as the 30th President of the United States of America. Her husband, who served as an ambulance driver in WWII and refused to discuss the experience with the grandkids, passed away in 1996. To this day she lives in the two-story house he built for them decades ago, with assistance from family as needed for transportation, errands, groundskeeping, major repairs, and her biennial special outings — the Indiana Flower & Patio Show and the Indiana Christmas Gift & Hobby Show. Each year they’re her World Series and Super Bowl.
Mamaw has her long list of medical issues, and she’ll tell you about any and all of them at length if you ask or if the mood strikes her. She can walk around the house, but we take her out in the wheelchair for her big shows, where I play chauffeur and sometimes drive her up or down an incline at an extra mile-per-hour for a sort of roller coaster thrill to her laughing approval. When she’s saved up cash gifts for modest shopping sprees, she’s prone to make us stop every 5-10 feet for dark chocolate, Christmas sweaters, pretty purses, Tupperware, and the one jewelry salesman in the world she trusts to change her watch battery.
Mamaw lost her conversational filter years ago and is at that state when she’ll respond in TMI paragraphs to any friendly salesman who says hi, she’ll pet every dog in sight, she’ll reach out to any baby in her path, and she’ll be blunt about her refusal to let any cashier under age 50 ring up her groceries because they’re bound to bag everything incorrectly. Woe betide anyone who tries to correct her on anything or tell her “no”. Sometimes we have to anyway, but thankfully the woe fades quickly. She has her long-standing grudges but is slow to form new ones.
My wife can tell stories and more stories about how Mamaw and Papaw were always there for her, whether in happiest holidays or in the darkest of family struggles. Once upon a time she was the one who helped you with everything. Today she needs an occasional helping hand in return, but she’s not ready to settle for invalid life at the local evil nursing home just yet.
And now we’ve survived to see another new year. I’m less than half Mamaw’s age, but wading deeper into the throes of middle age and waiting any second for a surge of male stupidity to flood my brain and send me grasping at every possible youth-recapture method that comes to mind even at the risk of ruining everything. If and when that day comes, hopefully not in 2017 and preferably never, I pray I can withstand those wretched temptations and the continual physical challenges of human aging with one-tenth of her nerve, her resilience, and her sheer force of will. Now if I can just skip the impromptu TMI dissertations, that’d also be great.