Today is my mother Min Shapiro’s birthday. If she were celebrating at an earthly venue, she’d be 102. But since Mom is in her heavenly high rise, with ocean views on all sides, she has elected to be 65.
“Any age?” I asked as we Face Time-ed on our iPads. (I have the 2. She has 3. They get them first up there.) “If you get to choose any age, why 65? Why not some time in your 20’s when you were a hot chick?”
Mother frowned; I had erred for I knew she had always considered herself a glamour girl. A Dorothy Lamour look-alike I had written in my memoir.
“I didn’t mean that, Mom,” I said quickly. “You were gorgeous your whole life, and, um, afterlife. I’m just wondering what was so special about that age.”
With that, she held a photo up to the screen. “Remember?” she asked. “The 40th birthday party I threw for you? I was so proud I could pay for it myself. You were skinny then. Your hair was long. A beauty.”
“So you loved 65 because I looked good?” I asked. Another familiar theme: Mom concerned that pudginess could thwart chances at my happiness. I changed the subject. “What about you, Mom? Other than the party, was that a good year for you?”
“Well, your father had been dead -- by the way, he says ‘hello’ -- for 20 years so I was free of worrying about his health and when he would drop dead and make me a widow. And to be honest, widowhood wasn’t so bad. I should have stuck to it rather than...”
“Oh yes, your awful second marriage.”
“That’s been deleted from my file,” she said. “Like it never happened.”
“Boy, you’ve got it good up there,” I said. “You get to choose your age, erase bad experiences, not so bad. Of course, there’s the part about missing us down here on earth, and not being in on the good things that happen here.”
“What are you talking?” she asked. “I’ve got a ringside seat. Nothing gets by me. I’ve seen every show my granddaughters put on. And, you can tell them for me, I’d prefer a little more decent language. I see my great grandchildren. In fact, I keep an eye on them when your girls turn their backs. If I see something important, I give Faith and Jill a knock in the head that makes them turn around.”
“Wow, thanks, Mom! So, I don’t have to worry about them every minute of the day?”
“I’ve got you covered,” she said. She laughed; the iPad shook. It was great to see her happy.
“So, listen Mom, I called to wish you a Happy Birthday -- 65, 102, whatever...”
“Shush,” she said. “102, never. That’s for very, very, old people.”
“Oh yes, I remember your telling me you would never want to grow old. Couldn’t stand seeing people in walkers, shrinking, wrinkles. You said it wasn’t for you. And when you did, um, die at 68, you had none of those infirmities. You went out gorgeous as ever.”
I continued. “Before I hang up, I need to know what you’d like as a present. It’ll be virtual, but I want it to be something you’d enjoy.”
“Hmm, I’m thinking,” she said. She closed her eyes, put her manicured fingernail to her red lips, and continued with “hmm.”
“I’ve got it,” she said. “An Apple gift card. Steve gave me a tip that the iPhone6 is coming out soon, and I can use it for that.”
“Steve? Jobs? You’re friends with him?” I asked.
“I’ve still got the looks,” she said. She was offended again. But then she waved a hand to dismiss my question. “Steve’s impressed I know the lingo.”
“OK, Mom, no problem. In a few minutes look in your iCloud, and the gift card will be there,” I said. “Happy Birthday! Love you!”
“Love you, too!” she said. Then our screens went dark.