My 84-year-old mother, Suzy, is getting a basketball hoop put in her driveway. Not for the grandkids, not for her neighbors, but for herself.
She came to this decision in therapy last week when she figured out why she’d been so blue this past year.
“I need to find my spirit,” she wrote in an email to me and my sibs.
If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ve heard me talk about Suzy, before. She’s a badass, a notorious Dodger fan who brings her mitt to the game in the hopes of catching a ball. She’s broken her nose three times, once when she was playing catcher at a temple picnic, another when she was climbing a tree to pick an apple which fell directly onto her nose. At the gym, she rents the batting cage, getting ball after ball thrown at her. “Come on, gal,” she yells when she misses.
We were able to talk her out of getting a motorcycle at 70, after she took that fall in the motorcycle training class, but the basketball hoop may work out.
Apparently, my younger brother, who is mostly full of good ideas, tried to talk her out of it, telling her to get in her car and drive to the park if she wants to shoot some hoops. But I disagree. I think she needs to keep the ball right by the front door so she can pick it up and walk outside when inspiration hits.
The feel of the ball in her hand, the sound of the bounce in the driveway, and then the crouch and the lift to get it into the net will make her happy. Not to mention the thrill of showing off to her young neighbors.
“I was the OLDEST woman on the AIDS Ride,” she loves reminding us.
My mom is a bit of a performer. She also has a sailor’s mouth. Once she jumped out of a cake dressed as a Beatles groupie on my father’s 35th birthday. When I look at those pictures, I always forget it was my dad’s day because all the light seems to be shining on mom.
It’s been a life like that – lots of activity, lots of light, lots of fun. She went to three colleges to find a husband, and loves telling the story of throwing J.W.’s engagement ring off the bridge at the University of Colorado in her Sophomore year, as if the world were made of engagement rings, as if there were more rings right around the corner – and there were.
She was married to my dad for 50-years, and after he died she took a lover at 73. There is nothing more stunning than the story she recounts of one of their first dates, slow dancing with him in his living room and how their clothes magically fell to the floor like leaves blowing off a tree in a warm wind.
Pre-pandemic, my mom was impossible to get on the phone. Busy lady. Meetings all over town, appointments and dinners with friends. Her voicemail box was often full, so unless you sent a pigeon to her house, she might not get your message for days.
But in the last 17 months it’s been a lot quieter. It’s like the wheels came off of her car, and she’s spent more time alone than she has her whole life. She has plenty of friends, but instead of tooling around town, stopping at temple to gather with her pals on the elder committee, then meeting a friend for lunch, then off to the market, or to the bank or to any number of things that we used to call our life – and which brought us out into the world and into the company of others – she sits most days in front of her computer talking to the world from her screen.
Her dining room table is always set for two – almost like she’s waiting for someone to drop by – complete with dinner plates, salad and dessert plates, water glasses, crystal wine goblets, four forks, two knives, and two spoons. And though friends do drop by, she eats most nights alone with her dog, Jack.
“I’ve been depressed,” she tells us.
I get it.
And while there’s plenty to be depressed about; the state of the world, a pandemic that has lasted 17 months, climate change – I wonder if my mom’s depression has something to do with slowing down, and how silence can give rise to all the feels – like what it’s like to be 84 and alone, and to have all this quiet time to reflect on your life, the way you loved, what you did and did not do, what you’ll never do again.
If you’ve lived your life in a swirl of activity, too busy to return phone calls because you’ve got a calendar loaded with dates. If you’ve been a woman who has popped out of cakes and slow danced in the nude at 73, if your busyness has kept you from feeling alone, if it’s kept you feeling worthy – as it has for my mom and certainly for me – then this year and a half of deep quiet and reclusiveness might have been a little uncomfortable for you, too.
Interestingly, mom’s been telling us that this has been a homecoming of sorts. And that as uncomfortable as it’s been to learn to be with herself without all the hustle and the noise of life, she respects it. Understands its power. Knows that maybe this quiet time is a prequel of sorts. A chance to practice a little inner peace.
On the other hand, basketball. My mom’s therapist told her: “You have a choice. You can move toward life, or you can move toward death.” So by the end of this week, she’ll be bouncing the ball, making her shots, aiming to get her spirit back. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. Come on, gal. You got this.
Listen to Laurie read this post …
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I love this, Laurie. Getting older, I find myself watching series (like Grace & Frankie) and reading stories like your mom’s, to find the faith that there’s a way of living a good life in old age. “Moving towards life or moving towards death”… inspiring. Thank you.
Wow, I needed this TODAY. As my 80 year old mom (Suzanne, sometimes Suzie) gets out of rehab tomorrow. It’s been a very tough year, from knee replacement, to covid, to ICU for low sodium. Who she is now is different. I hope Suzanne makes a come back. I’ll hold the vision of Suzy for Suzanne. Thanks Laurie, from deep in my heart.
I love this so much, particularly the detail of, “Come on, gal.” What an inspiriting spirit. Hope the hoop gets her back on the court.
This is beautiful. Your mom sounds like such a wonderfully unique individual and a life-lover. What a wonderful spirit!!
hell yes to the ball right by the door, the sound of the bounce, the crouch and the lift…
You and Suzy are both inspirations! I’m gonna try to get my back, too. Now, if I could just remember where I hid it….
You go, Suzy! When I grow up, I wanna be just like you!
Loved this one buddy! Of course totally connected to all of it, especially the slowing down paragraph, the discomfort, the quiet, the looking back at your life, whether, 84, 53 or 61. Now….go get that basketball mom (if you’re reading this), I know you’ve got this!!! XO
I wish I’d known her better, Laurie. We coulda gotten in some good trouble together;-)
Loved reading this. What a lovely gift to your mom.
Beautiful. She sounds like an amazing spirit.
And this is exactly why I love your mom so much.
And because there is so much of her in you.
And because because your insights and turn of phrase are killer.
Lovely! Go Blue. Go Suzy. Guard your nose.
I love this Laurie. Your mom is her own fabulous force, and you capture her perfectly here — and the whole human experience.
So beautifully written. The busyness/stillness component speaks to me so much and I sit on the floor typing this write now with a sleeping pup… 180 on life has me ALL in the feels. Cheers to moving TOWARD life!!!! Thank you for being a light, Laurie. Sending so much love. -Kimmy
Looks like the basketball, backboard and net serve as a nice metaphor for getting back into the game of living, yes? Kudos to your Mom! We all fall down our dark holes now and then, but it’s important to brush ourselves off, and jump back into the “game.” I loved her doctor’s inspiring words…think I’ll go and write about them, as I often have written off of many of your golden words of wisdom, Laurie! Thanks for turning around my Covid-thinking and making my day! BJ
Love this, Lolo. You got this, too. xo
Love this story about your mom. What a role model you have!. We should all be so lucky to be as engaged in life as she has been.. Thanks for sharing this
Meeting your mom always stays with me. The light in her eyes. Her generous way of greeting new people. She pulled me aside and asked me to follow her. She says “ I hope you’re not offended but this painting reminds me of you.” The painting was a native woman, round and voluptuous. I was humbled and honored. In minutes Suzi saw who I am, where I come from. She saw more in me than I did. I treasure that moment. So happy to hear she’s finding new ways to move. Sending you and Suzi lots of love and light. Always, Alice
“What you did and did not do, what you’ll never do again.”
Some of those considerations have been up for me also lately as I head toward the latter part of my mid-60s.
Until the pandemic, I was playing weekly basketball with some work colleagues; it was SO much fun and how I miss it! I’ll think, “Will I still be playing basketball at 70?” Your mom gives me some inspiration!
My best to both of you.
I love your mom, Laurie. Thanks for writing and sharing this. Hello to Suzy! She’s a role model. <3
Wow, you knock me flat with the beauty of your words.
An inspirational story!
Thanks for sharing more of your mom Laurie.
What would we do without our mothers? Love this piece, especially: “You have a choice. You can move toward life, or you can move toward death.”
Oh, Laurie, your storytelling, startlingly stunning; your mom, outrageously inspirational; you, a miraculous gift. 💜
“If we know Suzy like you know Suzy, Oh, Oh, Oh what a gal!”
Having had the privilege of experiencing Suzy on more than one occasion I continue to be impressed with the spirit that is in her. May she enjoy her hoops anytime the spirit moves. This piece is inspiring me to get my old body up and moving more. It’s been a rough year and a half but one thing this pandemic has brought front and center is how precious time is. Now I want to use the rest of my time to move toward life. Thank you Laurie and Suzy!
A mitt wouldn’t have done Suzy any good on this one; you hit it out of the park. Your best blog ever. But of course, they all are.
Love this so much!
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Thank you for this. Besides all the good things people have already noted, a reminder to all of us to walk toward life – so easy to forget that these days. And, as a Giant’s fan, I can’t imagine a more time than to go to a game with your mom.
what an amazing mother to learn how to tell stories from and about. what a complicated set of love stories she’s woven with her commitment to life. what a daughter she has given us all. so grateful to you and to her and for this written portrait of a force of nature so powerfully alive, still, in the stillness of the basketball waiting without waiting outside the front door.