Mom in Curacao

It’s never too late to start

Today would have been my mother’s 59th birthday. That means tonight I do my annual pilgrimage to the Bingo Hall to play in her honor. Last year I won for the first time since her death (I only go once a year, so 1 win in 8 times). And at the moment I won, the main bingo computer actually broke, it just went silent (ghost in the machine anyone?) and they had to check my numbers by hand (the old fashioned way). Since other folks have connected bingo machines they all started beeping because they couldn’t connect so it was this bizarre moment of quiet and beeping right after I called Bingo.

Before I get to to the fun of playing bingo though, I had to travel down to the condo where my mother used to live to deal with some ongoing ceiling leaks. Since I overslept, I got to drive down to Boston in full rush hour traffic (oh joy). As part of the issues I’m having, I got into a heated discussion with the woman who owns the unit above mine about responsibility for damages related to her broken air conditioning unit. She suddenly stops and says to me, “You look so much like your mother.” I tell her about it being her birthday today. I start to tear up a bit and she hugs me (a real genuine hug). A minute later she tells me that her husband Bob just died this past December. Now I hug her and we keep hugging for a minute, and we’re both crying. At this point the repairman returns and is slightly uncomfortable as he waits to discuss the bill with me. But he’s saved by the bell since the handyman of the woman upstairs shows up to look at the ceiling damage. This is the damage which she has just told me she will not pay to repair (even though she caused it and I offered to split the cost). She had been upset because I had the ceiling cut open to try and find the source of the leak (since no one from the office thought to tell me that the source of the leak was already known). I finish up with my repair guy to find that her handyman has said it will only be $75 – $100 to fix the ceiling. So she agrees to split the cost with me and all’s well that ends well. I love how a little humanity and compassion can take the edge off of a situation and bring us back to our higher selves.

My work day already disrupted, I stopped at a dance store on my way north to see about buying tap shoes. I always wanted to tap as a kid, but it never happened and I never thought to pursue it as an adult. Perhaps I’ve been lazy or busy, or maybe it’s just easier to blame one’s mother for not giving you something than to face the hard work of going out and doing it yourself. In any case, I came across a beginner tap class locally and I decided to go last night to the class. The woman who teaches the class is very nice and enthusiastic and only started tapping herself at 39 years old. As I just turned 40 myself, I find this very comforting. Although I had to practice last night without taps, I liked it enough that I bought myself some shoes today at the store.

One of the reasons I never felt like my mother’s death was the tragedy it could have been is that my mother was all about living and enjoying your life. You think everyone should be into this, but surprisingly not everyone is. When September 11 happened my mother was deeply affected even though she didn’t have any personal connection to any of the victims. She took it as a big wake up call to not wait to live your life. She started traveling heavily and learned to scuba dive at age 47 as a result. It was only 3 short years later on the eve of her 50th birthday that she was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer. She would not make it to see her 51st birthday. She had logged plenty of airline miles and plenty of dives in this short time though. If she found a place where she could scuba dive, shop, and play Bingo, she was in heaven. In fact, she managed to take 4 more trips just in the 10 months between her initial diagnosis and her passing despite going through multiple rounds of aggressive chemo.

Mom in CuracaoNow I’m not suggesting that you should take up scuba diving and Bingo to make your life complete. I do encourage you to think about what is missing in your life though. What is your heart’s desire? What is it you want to do before your time here is done? Maybe for you it’s a trip you’ve want to take, or there’s someone you need to forgive, maybe you want to learn a new skill or finally jump out of a plane. It’s never too late to start. If the thing takes money, then start saving your pennies today. Look at where those pennies are currently going that may not be as important. You never know which day will be your last – so don’t wait! I’ve always been incredibly grateful knowing that my mother lived, truly lived, and that she was happy because she did things she loved. So although her death at 50 could be seen as a tragedy, I don’t think it was because it was a life well lived.

As for me, I’m going to finally start tapping… just as soon as I’m done playing Bingo tonight. Happy Birthday, Mom!

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