GOLDEN YEARS
Reader's Digest Canada|June 2021
My mom’s 80th birthday tattoo is just the latest example of her wild, newfound independence
Mark Angus Hamlin

WHEN YOUR MOTHER enters her ninth decade, you make a point of being a little extra vigilant for any signs of decline—memory loss, bouts of repetition, a general acceleration of age-related deterioration.

Thankfully, my mother has been blessed with good health, and although she now needs to take someone’s arm while walking slowly up and down the hill to the family cottage in Gatineau, her mental faculties seem to have remained largely intact. But when she got inked after turning 80 last September, I had to wonder.

To celebrate Mom’s landmark birthday, we were planning a large party, but then, of course, everything had to be cancelled because of COVID-19. After all, her entire social circle is high risk, composed as it is of septuagenarian and octogenarian friends from her book (wine) club, her garden (wine) club and her church.

Instead, we arranged a small outdoor family lunch on the deck at the lake.

My mother looks just like many grandmothers. She is short, plump and white-haired. She’s rosy-cheeked and jolly, and when she laughs her eyes almost seem to disappear behind those chubby cheeks. She comes from an old, traditional Catholic family in Ottawa, where she currently lives. She was a career civil servant, first in England and then in Canada. In short, she didn’t do crazy stuff.

That all changed a few years ago. She began to surprise my older brother and me with bouts of what she described as “independence.” At the time, we merely saw them as examples of irresponsibility and possibly age-related questionable judgment.

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