As many of you are well-aware, my Father died of lung cancer on April 6th, 1995. I was his primary caregiver for 18 months before then and, as anyone who has lost a loved-one in such a way knows, it's a life-changing experience - on many levels.
Anyway, since my Dad's passing, it's been a rough road for my Mother, emotionally. They were very close, and she was very dependent on him, she's doesn't drive, etc. So I've tried to do the best I can for her, even once attempting to move her to LA with me (to disastrous results).
So now, she's 84, and having memory issues.
However, for as long as I can remember, she's always prayed for everyone. And she still does, especially children. In fact, whenever she sees a child, she takes out her rosary beads and says a prayer, right there, at that moment, wherever she is, asking the accompanying parent if it's okay for her to bless their child. "Of course," they say.
Then, every Monday-Friday, my Mom goes to the Senior Center, which costs her about $6.00 a day; a price that includes lunch and service for the van (that picks her up and takes her home). Thirty bucks a week for a senior's regular activities? Not bad at all.
At this simple-treasured Center, she also plays cards, goes on picnics, and plays bingo. She especially loves the bingo. A whole lot.
I never realized how much really.
Until, one day, a few weeks ago, when I started giving her "extra" quarters with which to play the game. Not a lot of quarters. Just seven dollars worth. Not ten. Not nine.
Every other day, I walk into her apartment, and interrupt her daily viewing of Seinfeld or The Golden Girls, walk over to her, kiss her, and ask her to open up her hand.
At that moment, I pour out the seven dollars in quarters, 28 in all.
As I'm doing this, her reaction is one of astonishment. She looks as if she's winning the lottery or the mega-jackpot in Vegas. "Oh, Herbie J," she'll say with so much joy, "...what a great son you are! I have to pay you back! I have to pay you back!!"
"Ma," I reply, "You just go have fun at the Center."
And she does, all the more...with that mere extra seven dollars. Not a million. Not a thousand. Not even ten. But seven.