On my way home from work today, my mother told me that her friend, Rita, was in the hospital. (Yes, I talk to my mom during my drive home from work every day and yes, I use a bluetooth so it’s all hands free.) Anyway, she was pretty upset because Rita has been her buddy ever since my stepdad, Al, passed away. They go to the senior center where all the old guys hoot and holler at them. (That’s because they’re the hotties of the geriatric group.) The go to the casinos. They go shopping. They have dinner together. And now that is all in jeopardy.
My mother is not sure but Rita is probably in her late 70’s early 80’s, although she looks much younger. Unfortunately, the rest of her knows how old she really is. And today, her heart was beating too fast and they took her to the hospital. The doctors say she has a very weak heart. My mother has her own aches and pain, but at least her heart is strong. She’s 73.
My mom has had her share of watching friends pass away. Al was almost 20 years older than her. They retired to Florida in 1979 and lived there for over 26 years. Most of their friends were closer to Al’s age – couples who they went out with, a group of guys who played the band at the local watering hole on the beach, and the couples from the “lodge”. One by one, they all passed away. One of their friends died right on their front law. He fell over, turned blue and despite his wife’s efforts to resuscitate him, he died – just a few steps from my mom.
She now lives in NJ and has one friend in Florida she still keeps in touch with, a widow. The lone survivor of a big group of friends. It’s sad to watch your friends and family pass away. And now that she’s finally found a friend to help keep each other company, that friend has become ill. And my mother is confronted once again with death. But this time, it’s much closer. Not in feet or yards or miles, but in age. Unfortunately, this makes my mother think of her own mortality.
While I was driving along and she was telling me how sad she felt for Rita and her family, she suddenly blurted out, “I’m not ready to die. There’s so much more I want to do.” She then went on to tell me that Rita was in that dying age range, the ages when older people are most likely to pass away. And she was heading straight on for that range. I don’t know where she got her facts or if even they are facts. But it’s how she feels and I think it scares her just a little. I know it scares me and I’m only 50.
I sure do hope Rita gets better. Not just for Rita’s sake or for her family, but for selfish reasons: My mother needs her friend. She’s lonely and family just can’t fill all the little holes that a friend around the corner can do. Whether they’re turning heads at the Senior Center or munching at the buffet at Trump Plaza, I know that my mom is not thinking about death and dying. She’s smiling and thinking about what a great friend she has. Hang in there, Rita! We need you more than you know.