Sixty-nine years old is a line of demarcation for me. In 1999, my mother, a widow, was sixty-nine years old when she eloped and moved from Western Massachusetts to Cape Cod with her new husband Ted, himself a widower. A new life with this new start.
My mother began her day, at dawn, with a 1.4 mile walk from her house on Paddocks Path to the Sesuit Harbor Café where she sat and watched the boats in the harbor before returning to her home. Then she showered and dressed and…
“Erline, Volunteer” Read the badge on the ID lanyard she wore around her neck, most weekdays, at the Dennis Senior Center. “I help serve lunch to the old people,” she told me when she spoke of this job she began very soon after she had moved. Continuing to volunteer all through her 70s and 80s, though her clients were elderly, she never grew old.
On the cul-de-sac that formed their neighborhood, there were only three houses, including theirs. In the other homes were: John and June. Michael and Ellie. “Your mother fits right in,”Ellie told me when I joined them at one of their dinner parties. “It’s like she’s always lived here.” At the Our Lady-The Cape Thrift Shop, Mom donated many items that she found in the large barn attached to her house. On weekends, bringing coffee and sandwiches, she’d sit and visit with the church volunteers who worked in the store.
“I had at least ten, fifteen good years,” she said when, years later, we spoke of that time.
When I think of how my mother, at sixty-nine, was still young enough, vital enough, healthy enough to not only embark on a new adventure, but to flourish, it spurs me on. Yet didn’t I return to school, and being older than all of my professors, earn a Masters in English at the age of fifty-two? And didn’t I, after my retirement, begin, at the age of sixty-two, an intense study of French, with, again, all of my teachers being younger than me? Je parle Français maintenant. Perhaps…like mother, like daughter…
In November, for almost two weeks, my husband and I will be in Old Québec City, where, I will speak only French. And, during that time, I will celebrate my birthday, mon anniversaire. I will be turning sixty-nine years old.
Barbara A. Rouillard is a retired special education teacher and is currently at work on a book-length memoir entitled I Laugh Because I Do Not Want to Cry.