Letter from Mom

Yesterday I posed the question to you all, “As you get older is it better to set goals or just see what life brings?” I heard from several of you and roughly half responded to relax and be present with life every day and the other half stated that they liked to operate with some plan, but modified to accommodate a more relaxed approach to life.  Here is what I believe my mother would say to me if I asked her this question:

Dear Len,

First, let me say that I know you’re tired.  You’ve had this beautiful little grandson, Nico, arrive and that event plus working hard during the college essay season has worn you down a bit.  I know that you are rejuvenating even as I write this since you now can relax knowing that Sarah and Nico are healthy and safe, and your work is lessening as deadlines are met.  All of this is well and good.

Second, let me say that as your mother, I have a few biases that are based on knowing you and your personality.  I have watched you all your life move at a quick pace and juggle lots of projects at once and I’ve come to accept you are happier when you are busy.  That said, let’s dig in.

I know that turning sixty-three feels like a milestone.  As if at sixty-two you weren’t that old, but now at sixty-three you are only two short years away from that dreaded 65, which signals official retirement age. I’m aware that shift surprised you and has thrown you off. You aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last to get smacked with the fear of getting old and have that apprehension send you stumbling back a bit.

But now let’s discuss the question you posed: Relax and see what life brings or develop a new plan and move forward to implement it?

I am going to strike a balance here.  Of course, it is indisputable that life will be bringing all sorts of unexpected joys and sorrows in the upcoming years.  You don’t have to wonder about that.  New babies will be born and old friends and family will die.  This is simply a reality.  Also, you will find opportunities to be excited about and face challenges that require more personal strength than you’ll imagine you possess.  You will find that strength, however, because that is simply what we all do when no other good choice presents itself.  Again, this just comes with living.  But let’s talk about goal setting.

You are a healthy woman, knock on wood, and we have longevity in our family.  Winnie Waugh lived well into her 90’s and I might have done the same if I had given up smoking and drinking sooner than I did.  Your habits, on the other hand, have been healthy for your entire adult life.  I have always marvelled at your restraint.  Given that, I think it is safe to conclude that barring accidents, you might very well have another thirty good years left.  How you choose to live those years will determine just how “good” they are.

With that in mind, here is some advice from your dear ole mother, who admittedly was never very good at following advice, particularly when it came to healthy choices. However, you tend to be a bit more compliant that I ever was and that is meant as a compliment, my dear, not as an insult.  I sometimes erred on the side of stubbornness, which cut my years short. I am sorry to have missed the chance to enjoy your beautiful daughters and my other beloved grandchildren.  So, with that in mind, allow me to tell you exactly what I think.

  1. Rest and relax for a bit and then begin noticing what makes you happy.  You are filled with passions and it is important to follow them in order to live a more satisfying life.  In other words, follow your heart.
  2. Keep your mind challenged by trying new things.  Take a course, travel, force yourself to learn a new skill that is not one of your strengths.  Your brain (and family) will thank you.
  3. Forget your age.  People are going to start suggesting that you are too old to do this or that and your job is to ignore that bad advice and do exactly what you like.  Do not limit your plans because of fear.  That’s just dumb.
  4. Set some big goals – ones that scare you.  Proceed with making those goals a reality.   You will be forced to grow and you’ll feel proud of what you have accomplished.
  5.  Love hard; laugh a lot.  No way to go wrong with that advice.
  6. Trust your gut.  It knows.
  7. Always remember you are loved.  I am here to remind you of that one.
  8. Get plenty of sleep. You’ll need it for your pursuits.
  9. Remember that you are as smart as you need to be to do whatever you want.
  10. Read, read read.
  11. Go to church.
  12. Never worry about what others think.  No need.

Off I go, my child.  Remember, I am always with you.  Now go to sleep.  You need your rest.

I love you very much,

Your mother.







6 thoughts on “Letter from Mom”

  1. That was heavy. What a gem. I nearly cried. I could hear your mom speaking to you, speaking thru you as if she were being channeled. And good advice it was….causing my mind to pause and go off tangentially considering this and that. Thanks Len, this was a keeper to be reread. Now you listen to Mama and get that rest and I’ll try to do the same.

  2. You are so blessed to have this woman for your Mom, Len. She is so wise and I suspect you share many genes. I didn’t respond yesterday, yet as my 74th is just days away, I found since retiring, I’ve done what your Mom suggests – half and half, though I do wish many times I had a little more free space. A lovely post today. Thanks so much! Mary Jo

  3. My dear Len, what a beautiful way to give tender insight not only into two very different women but also the mother-daughter give-and-take relationship the two shared together. As you often said in your critiques as my teacher, “STRONG.” I loved loved loved it and think you may have hit on a dynamite memoir collection idea: letters to and from all those people with whom you were closely connected through your life and those with whom you still are connected — your sister, brothers, grandparents, daughters, grandchildren, husband, your pets. You’ve a colorful family. I believe people will like getting to know them.

    And I didn’t realize you were only 63! Just a puppy still.

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