Retiring mama


I have a lot of heroes, but the one that ranks right up at the top is my mother. She’ll probably snort with laughter when she sees that, but it’s true. After all, how many 87-year-olds still work at two different retail stores several times a month, teach piano lessons, walk a half mile or ride a stationary bike most days, drive themselves most places, act as chauffeur to their non-driving friends, serve as an officer in her quilt club,  make quilts for their grandchildren, take courses through ILR, sing in the Messiah every year and sing in the church choir?

Seems like a lot to me, or as my daughter puts it, “Grandma has a busier social calendar than I do.”  So it came as a bit of a surprise when Mother announced recently that she was “retiring” from the church choir. At first, I didn’t believe her because she’s threatened this before. But when she declared her intentions to the choir director, I began to think she was serious. Her reason was simple enough… she just “doesn’t like going out at night anymore…in the dark…cold.”

Still, I waited for her to change her mind. Instead, she repeated this to my daughter no. 2, her partner in musical pursuits. Anne returned from an afternoon chat with Grandma, announcing somewhat dubiously that Grandma plans to drop out of choir. For many, this may not seem like a big thing. But you have to understand my mother. She’s been singing since the day she was born.

She’s sung in choirs her whole life, including primary and high school, college, and post college. Despite having five children at home, she found time to direct our youth church choirs. She’s sung in the Messiah so many times, she’s lost track of the years.

So daughter number 2 suggested this called for a corsage for Grandma to wear in her last performance with the church choir on Christmas Eve. I delivered it to her a bit unceremoniously as she was preparing dinner for her older sister, sister-in-law, and nephew. I could tell from the look in her eyes that she thought it was a nice gesture, but unnecessary.

Even as I wondered whether some choral protocol would prevent her from wearing it on the outside of her robe, I watched her walk in to the sanctuary. There was the corsage. Apparently, the director, Mark Suderman didn’t share one of my former choir director’s belief that nothing could sully the sanctity of a choral robe, or he simply didn’t have the nerve to tell an 87-year-old musician what she could or couldn’t do.

She told us later that Mark had announced to the choir that this was to be her last choir performance. Dick Boehr, another long-time choir member and probably her successor to the “longest standing throne”, added that she’d directed his own junior high church choir.

And so she sang with her usual serious gusto. I watched, but didn’t see any tears. Of course, the sanctuary was a bit dark and she was really too far away for me to see. My guess is that she felt some relief knowing that she can actually stay for her entire Sunday school hour and stay at home on Wednesday nights.

Of course, if you remember from the beginning of this blog, choir is only one of her current obligations. There is still a hefty list, and I don’t imagine she’ll be dropping many of them in the immediate future. But if she does? Fine. She’ll still be my hero. After all, who else will bring me whatever food I’m hungry for when I’m under the weather?

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