My mom made her first visit to our new home in Tennessee this week. When I told the girls she was coming down, they bounced around the house on what appeared to be invisible pogo sticks, yelling “Grandma is coming! Grandma is coming!” My five-year-old also offered this observation: “I know who she is! She’s the lady with the wrinkles and the sweet voice!”
The lady with the wrinkles and the sweet voice turned 74 yesterday. In my humble but biased opinion, she looks great for her age. I’m sure some of that is due to her sense of humor and her natural optimism, which she’s maintained despite years of dealing with my dad’s Alzheimer’s.
While witnessing his decline, she’s managed to improve her own health recently. Her fasting glucose began creeping up towards the diabetic level during the past year, so of course her doctor sent her to a nutritionist, who of course preached the wonders of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. So of course, I told her to ignore everything the nutritionist said. She did.
She finally read The 6-Week Cure for the Middle Aged Middle a month ago and was inspired to switch to a low-carb diet. (Now, you might think watching Fat Head would’ve served as inspiration, but what can I say … Drs. Eades & Eades are more convincing than I am.) She’s lost eight pounds, which is an accomplishment for a 5’2″ woman, but more importantly, she feels healthier and her blood pressure has dropped by 20 points.
(My older brother also began reading the book while visiting Mom one afternoon and was similarly inspired. He’s lost 13 pounds already and told her he hasn’t felt this energetic in years.)
Mom has always loved to cook — she’s very good at it — but thanks to some low-carb cookbooks, she’s learned that eating well doesn’t have to mean taste-bud deprivation. To underscore the point, I spent Sunday afternoon making a huge pan of low-carb moussaka (you can find the recipe in the Carb Wars cookbook), which I served for dinner when my sister and my mom arrived later that evening. Nobody missed the potatoes or fried batter that would be included a traditional moussaka recipe. The stuff was delicious, if I do say so myself.
Mom told me yesterday she hopes she’s around to see what my girls are like in their twenties. I believe she’ll be here, especially now that she’s bringing her blood pressure and blood sugar under control. Genetics are certainly on her side. Her grandmother lived to be 96. Her mother is still alive at 93 — which, now that I think about it, may prove that optimism is overrated. For the 51 years I’ve been alive, my grandma has been complaining about her health, imagining non-existent ailments, and predicting her own demise.
Or she may just be a late-life optimist. My grandma currently lives in a facility near my mom’s sister, who is only 65. Mom and her sister floated the idea recently of moving grandma to the same facility where my dad now lives. Grandma thought about it, then said to my aunt, “But Shirley is nine years older than you are. If I move over by her and she dies before you, who’s going to look after me?” When you’re worried about the consequences of outliving your senior-citizen children, I guess that’s a form of optimism.
Happy Birthday, Mom. Here’s to 25 more.