Today the mystery I'll write about is my mom. Her name was Nora Shaw. I was fortunate enough to have been her daughter, and everyone who knew or met her said I needed to write a book about her. I started it when she was alive. I named it NORA 102 1/2: A Lesson on Aging Well.
Here's the opening scene:
“Did you hear that?” my mom asked me.”I heard them say they want all single women to go up. The bride is about to throw her bouquet.”
I glanced at Bob. He and I weren’t married. We didn’t even live together but had been a couple for years. Mom loved him, but I didn’t believe she’d want us to get married. He and I had both been married before, and we had grown children. I was certain she figured remarriage might complicate things.
Mom grabbed my hand. “Come on, June. Get me up there.”
Grinning, I guided her to a group of teenage girls and some in their twenties and thirties. The bride, Mom’s lovely great-niece, stood with her back to this bubbly gathering. I stopped Mom behind the half-circle of females and waited near so no one would accidently back up and knock her over.
The bride lifted her bouquet and tossed.
The bridesmaid in front of Mom caught it.
Mom reached above the girl’s head and yanked the flowers out of her hands.
My mouth fell open.
All of the young women looked at Mom, who'd just celebrated her ninety-sixth birthday. I tried to judge their reactions but couldn’t.
The bride turned. “Oh, Aunt Nora, you caught my flowers. That’s fantastic!”
I watched in disbelief as my mother, in her turquoise dress and black pumps, posed with the thrilled bride while holding the bouquet of jumbo white roses she stole and said nothing of her guilt while the photographer snapped their picture.
The bride gave Mom a kiss and moved off to her new husband.
“Mom,” I said, “you know that picture will go in the bride’s album to show who caught her bouquet, right?”
“I know.” She grabbed my fingers. “We’d better go find out who really caught these flowers so we can give them back.”
Oh, good grief.
I easily located a bridesmaid who showed me who’d caught the flowers my mother stole. We walked up to the young woman, and Mom held out the bouquet. “This is yours.”
I wore an apologetic face.
My mother did not.
Relief sank into my chest when the girl’s boyfriend held up his hand. “No, you keep them. We don’t want them.”
My mother showed off her stolen bouquet for days afterward to everyone who visited her home.
She had been saying her vision was getting worse. Months after the wedding where she snitched the bouquet, we heard of a vision specialist with a new procedure in Baton Rouge. Mom had seen a specialist a year before who told her nothing could improve her vision. Here was new hope, I suggested. She was an optimist but also a realist and said he couldn’t help. We would try anyway. Bob drove us there. When they called for Nora Shaw, I walked to the back with her.
In a room with a wall chart topped with the huge E, a young woman stood five feet in front of Mom. “Can you tell how many fingers I’m holding up?”
Mom, a bright woman with steel gray hair, tightened her lips and stared at the hand. I couldn’t believe she looked ready to flunk a test most kindergarteners could pass. The majority of them could tell that they saw two fingers. Was my mother’s vision that poor? I had tried to comprehend how little she could see, but until now couldn’t imagine how difficult her everyday life was. What kind of daughter was I?
Say two! I wanted to yell from my chair backed into the corner. Mom, she’s holding up two fingers.
The woman took three steps closer to the examining chair. “Miss Nora, can you tell me how many fingers I have up now?”
Mom sucked in a breath. “Two?”
Relief washed through me.
“Good,” the woman told her, although I almost said no, my mother’s reply was great. But I knew it wasn’t. What I witnessed let me know for certain how much of her vision macular degeneration had snatched during these last few years.
The doctor couldn’t help her. She accepted his response as though she wasn’t surprised. I, on the other hand, needed to deal with knowing my mother had become almost totally blind. Visually impaired. Handicapped.
She didn’t seem that way.
The loss of most of her vision seldom stopped her from enjoying life. She might have hired a young buck of fifty or so to go over and read to her at home—but she didn’t stay home long enough.
One thing most experts on aging agree on is that to age well, people must have adaptive coping skills. Most people encounter many problems, but instead of letting them overtake us, we need to adjust and go on.
One thing that made Nora Shaw so special is that as long as she was alive, she lived.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!!! I love you!