I like to plan. I even created my own daily planner. My favorite was the day timer. I wanted more balance, so on mine, I have a spot on my planning calendar to record all the "spokes on the wheel." I want to be sure my 90-year-old body is in good shape – but that my brain is also hanging around.
My lifelong caretaker, Clara, died recently at 96. I spoke to her the week before she passed. She asked about my daughter's engagement, cheering for her in that gruff, happy, coughing laugh. She asked about my son by name.
Clara would greet us after we arrived off the bus from elementary school, cigarette hanging from her lip. “How was school?" she'd ask, as she caught the final 10 minutes of her show. Then, while the credits rolled for Guiding Light, she'd make us a grilled cheese sandwich, or give us a big hug if we needed one.
I loved Clara. She was the only person who ever spanked me. She didn't hurt me as much as I had hurt her. She made me pick my own switch. The spanking was nothing compared to all the thoughts I had about what I’d done – as I looked for the perfect switch that might not hurt so much. She barely tapped me, and then sent me on my way. I still remember where that bush was that I stood in front of so long ago.
On Mother’s Day, I talked to my dad, Tom. He’s another story. His body was great until 72. Alcohol corrupted his brain, and after a series of health issues, he now lives in a nursing home a few hours away. Yes, the man who was to die 10 years ago of liver failure is on autopilot, and he will outlive us all.
I was surprised when he called. I made small talk. I told him about his grandson who was following in his musical footsteps. And in his non-delicate way, he interrupted. “Yeah, baby, I need to stay on course or I’ll forget why I called. Happy Mother’s Day. Now, do you still have my mother’s number? I seem to have forgotten it.”
His mother is 103 and lives in Rhode Island. I spoke to her on her birthday in March. She is still an amazingly clear-headed and kind-hearted woman.
Clara was my rock. Tom was just living the rock-and-roll lifestyle until everything ran out on him. Two people who lived their moments and took their steps in remarkably opposite ways.
This is your day. Make your steps count for yourself, and nurture those around you. Remember that they, too, are deciding how best to use their steps.