My mother Clara, was an Olympian in spirit and potentially in reality. Her achievements in swimming and diving were noticed by her teachers early in high school. She was asked to assist the teacher with class swimming lessons and invited to train for the Olympic diving team.  Unfortunately, it required travel that was too costly for the family at that time.

Her physical activity continued throughout her life, including calisthenics with the grandkids, cartwheeling across the front lawn, bike riding and yoga. My daughter and I signed up for a yoga class and Mom was happy to try it. She was the most limber of the three of us and she had to be in her 70’s at the time.

Mom said she felt like an eternal 18-year-old in her mind and that parlayed into a youthful outlook on life and no limitations as to what she would do and try. One time, her young friends from work invited her to vacation with them in Cancun, even though she was several decades older than most of them. They promised to keep what happened in Mexico private, but later pictures emerged. Apparently, an exotic drink induced her to silliness that she swore she doesn’t remember to this day.

My brother’s friend, who was about 18-years-old at the time, ate dinner with us every night for at least a year after his parents suddenly passed away. Not only was her table always filled, so were her beds. She invited family members and friends alike to stay, even when there was only room in the basement. My friend stayed with Mom and Dad for months after her own mother died. She needed some love and time to readjust.  A cousin also lived with them for quite a while until he was able to find work and his own apartment. Grandma also came for extended visits, as she moved about the family. No wonder my father drank…

The most interesting boarder came after Dad passed away and Mom was living in an apartment complex. Her neighbor’s husband frequently traveled and his wife was afraid to stay by herself. They were from India and the husband asked Mom if his wife could sleep at her apartment while he was away. The problem was, Mom didn’t know her other than to wave and say hello and the woman didn’t speak English.  Of course, Mom said yes and the woman would show up with her pillow and blanket. They would have tea together and Mom would try to teach her English. Eventually, they moved but would still bring presents for Mom from their travels.

This youthful, loving spirit is alive and well to this day. Her fellow assisted living residents, marvel at her physical and mental condition. She is intent on becoming a centenarian and has only two years to go! I believe her attitude, good nutrition, exercise and her vinegar tonics have brought her this far and will keep her chugging along.



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