Lois, my mother-in-law, turns 79 today and I Don’t Know How She Does It.
She still walks five miles a day; has thick and gorgeous auburn hair and wears a size four. She is almost Nancy Reaganesque in her petite glamour — only far more liberal, earthier and Jewish.
On the occasion of her birthday I looked through some old photos of Lois and she always looked younger than her age. A 30-year-old photo of her with my stepdaughter – her first grandchild — shows a radiantly smiling blonde whose skin even looked dewy. She was pushing 50 then and still looked like she was in her late 20s.
“Who’s your plastic surgeon?” asked one of her friends not too long ago.
No plastic surgeon here; just lots of discipline, great genes and most importantly, a determination to celebrate every day.
When she learned she was diabetic a few years ago, Lois gave up white bread and desserts and shaved even more weight off her already-petite frame. Now she weighs about what she did when she was a harried young mom with four rambunctious boys.
She’s a great walking partner (when I can keep up with her) who shares gossip and stories nonstop as we briskly clock the miles, turning a workout into a girls’ night out at a Nancy Meyers movie. She talks about people I’ll never meet but somehow I’m enthralled.
She also has boundless energy and is one of those people who constantly has to be doing something. Even when she is watching television her knitting needles are clicking furiously, creating the latest of dozens of afghans she has made for people she loves. Sometimes when I watch her I feel so tired that I have to lie down. Maybe I’m eating too many carbs.
When she took my 29-year-old stepson to Europe a few years ago, some of his friends assumed he was accompanying his doddering grandma on the trip.
“I’ll be lucky if I can keep up with her,” was Jesse’s response. And he was right. She matched him step by step around the Swiss Alps and Barcelona.
She loves so much to organize and re-organize things, in her own home and wherever she visits. Even her refrigerator shelves look like a display in a Michael Kors boutique, while mine look and smell like a crypt.
I’ve learned to relax and enjoy her efforts to organize me. In fact, I have now outsourced this job completely to her.
“Lois, I’m saving some closets just for you!” I tell her before she visits, and I can sense her gleeful anticipation over the phone.
Lois’s own closets are bursting with élan. I have never seen her wear sweats, except for our walks. Soon after we’ve arrived home, sweaty and dusty, she is showered and tastefully coifed and made up, wearing a pair of curvy jeans and turquoise jewelry.
And I guess what’s most inspiring about Lois is her loyalty and protectiveness of the people she loves. She can be headstrong and opinionated, and isn’t afraid to go to bat against anybody, whether it’s her husband’s oncologists or the host at the El Torito restaurant, who wouldn’t give us the table we wanted by the window. My father-in-law, who battled cancer more than a decade ago, is alive because she was a pit bull with the doctors. She knew his charts even better than they did, and never hesitated to point out things they might have overlooked.
So happy birthday to a woman who’s a great role model in how to age gracefully!