Saturday, July 18, 2015

Keys to the Kingdom

I have to apologize to my mom.

Not that I mind. It's my bad, and I have long been one to stand up and take the heat when I am on the wrong side of right. But like most people, I try not to put myself in that position. I'd rather be a paragon of truth and virtue, or at the very least, less a complete ass who says he's right when he's wrong.

It started simply enough. I had a project in her neck of the woods that ended early, so I swung by her place to take her out to lunch. We went out for a sandwich, talked about odds and ends, then drove back to her place. As it was a rainy day, I suggested she get ready to open the door to her house so we didn't get too wet going inside. She reached into her pocketbook and took out her keys, then rifled through them, looking for the appropriate one. But I noticed she got to the end and stopped, then started again, only this time more deliberately.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Well," she started slowly, I don't see my house key." She started again, examining each one carefully before going on to the next. "It doesn't seem to be here," she said hesitatingly. To be fair, my mom is in her eighties. And she has been on statins for cholesterol a long time, which some studies have linked to memory loss. Still, she is in reasonably good health, lives alone in an adult community in her own townhouse, and still drives and makes her own meals. But not being able to remember a key you use every day would, at the very least, be a troubling sign.

She suddenly stopped and looked at me sheepishly. "I know where it is," she said. She had been having some balance issues recently, and as a precaution, my sister had arranged for a person nearby to come and walk her dog. To make life easier, she had taken her house key and given it to the woman. The lady had given it back that morning, but my mom hadn't put it back on her keychain. And since I had come and taken her out, as opposed to her locking up on her own, she hadn't noticed it on the counter as we walked out.

The good news was that she lived where she did. A number of years ago she moved to this community which had the very support she needed, be it routine maintenance, on-site health care, and indeed, security. She knocked on her neighbor's door, called the main office for some help, then got back into the car. As we waited, I chided her gently. "Hate to break it to you, mom," I said, "but you're no spring chicken." "I'm not!?" she said with mock indignation. I suggested that she should never take her key off her chain, and if she needed an extra, get one made. She agreed, and said she would put it on her to-do list. A few moments later a bored security guard ambled over and unlocked the place. I doubt it was the first time this type of call type had come in, nor would it be the last. And indeed, when we entered, there was her house key right where she said it would be. We laughed about it, I kissed her goodbye, and headed for home.

When I got there, my wife asked how my visit went. I told her fine, then proceeded to relate the story of the key. As I did, I reached into my pocket for my own keys to demonstrate my mother's actions. I flipped one, then another. But as I flipped the third, I halted in mid-sentence. "What's up?" my wife asked. "Why did you stop?" I stopped because the third key on my own keychain was the one to the front door of my mother's house. While we had sat outside waiting for the security guard, with me acting the parent to her child, turns out I had the answer to the question all along, but was too smug to remember it.  

Sorry, mom. I'd like to say it's because I take statins as well. More correctly, though, I'm afraid I ain't no spring chicken either.


Marc Wollin of Bedford takes Mom out to lunch whenever he can. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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