Aging, Losing Patience and Barrelling Through Life (2/40)
When you are aging, there is a point when the body stops focusing on firmly grounding your feet and instead practices turning into a ball to protect your head and neck when you inevitably start falling more often.
I have witnessed this evolutionary mechanism firsthand.
Once, my wife and I were walking in Petaluma downtown when a woman crossing the street at the intersection of 4th and B fell on her back.
I chuckled. That fall could’ve easily been in the rejects of American Funniest Videos.
My wife, who is a better human being, did not and commanded me to go over and help the woman.
From the moment the woman fell in the middle of the crosswalk to when I got to her, she kept shuffling her legs, which made her look like a turtle on her back.
I stood her up and asked her if she was okay. But she did not answer. She just scuttled away. She must have been no less than nine hundred and fifty-five years old.
She didn’t say thanks nor confirm she didn’t have a concussion.
She just kept on shuffling.
I didn’t take offense to it. I understand that when you are that old, you have places to be — not many, but you want to get to them.
My mom is not quite there yet, but she is at a point where, now and then, she decides to stop taking steps and turn into a ball — kinda like an armadillo who, when it feels threatened, turns into a soccer ball.
This past New Year’s Day, our family went for a walk from the hotel we were staying at in Cancun to the end of the property, where there was a sign that read, “Riviera Maya.”
This kind of sign is not needed for the people who live there, know where they are, or even those visiting. But the type of sign that is Instagrammable, that lets your social media network know where you are while they are shoveling snow or taking a picture with a similar sign in a different hot weather city.
“Oh, yeah? You think you are somewhere cool? Wait until you see my sign.”
We took our spots next to a letter. Instead of sitting next to her letter, my mom decided to climb the two-foot concrete wall and stand next to it. None of it was a problem for the photo, which was taken to great success.
The problem only came when my mom climbed down the two feet altitude and, after putting one foot down, decided that putting the next one firmly next to the first would be too hard, so instead, she rolled all the way down, not before turning into the aforementioned armadillo and expertly protecting her head and neck.
She rocked back and forth until she lost momentum, and we were able to help her.
My mom, a good sport, quickly bounced up like an acrobatic gymnast who does not land the fall but still offers a huge grin because being graceful is just as important. Besides, the move was perfectly executed, so much so that the white cap on her head didn’t move a millimeter.
We decided to walk to the end of the dock next to the sign.
We make it to the end, and the water looks inviting.
My niece and nephew jump off the dock, and when I look up, I see my mom pushing people out of the way so she can get on the ladder that leads to the water.
She starts climbing down.
This is uncharacteristic for my mom.
She is a fearless woman in many aspects of her life. She raised my sister and me by herself, she moved to the US in her late forties, and she eats dairy even when it’s very clear she is lactose intolerant.
But she doesn’t bring that fearlessness to activities.
This was out of character.
In Colombia, we have a saying, “Año nuevo. Vida Nueva.”” (New year. New life)
Since it was the new year, maybe my mom decided to adopt this YOLO, adrenaline-junkie style of living.
The ladder had three rungs, and once she was done with one, she decided that one was enough; she rolled up again into an armadillo shape and barreled her way into the ocean.
My mom landed in the water and struggled to hold on to something in the middle of the choppy waters.
I quickly jumped in, not before calmly making sure my cell phone and wallet were somewhere dry, taking my shirt off so it wouldn’t be wet when I came back, and scouting somewhere safe to land on the water.
So, I guess I calmly jumped in.
Everyone thought of me as a hero.
They looked at what I did as a selfless act of humanity. A son helping his mom.
And I was.
But not in the way that everyone thought.
When my mom fell, I saw she lost her white cap to the choppy waters, to the point that it was out of reach of my mom, niece, and nephew.
I jumped in to save my mom’s hat.
I joked that I did it because it was probably the only thing I would get in the inheritance, but I did it because I didn’t want my mom to climb up the ladder with the shame of armadillo-barrelling into the ocean to find out she was also hatless.
It wouldn’t prevent her from feeling silly, but at least she would feel silly while protecting her scalp from a sunburn.
When I asked her what inspired this youthful act of invincibility, she whispered, “I had to pee.”
If she had just told me, I could’ve told her there were several bathrooms to the side of this very short dock.
But I know that it would’ve not made a difference.
She is at the age when you can no longer wait, an age when you have to do things as soon as possible, and that’s why she HAS to armadillo-barrelled into the ocean.