Never Too Late

On a recent shopping expedition, my 80 year old mother tried on a beautiful, mauve wool sweater. With her silver hair and bright eyes she looked adorable. Not quite taking my word for it, she insisted on finding a mirror.

When she found one, she gazed intently, adjusted the collar, and sniffed, “It looks like an old lady sweater”. To this I responded, “Mom, just for my own frame of reference, how old does one have to before they’re considered an old lady? I’m not sure but I think at 80 you might just qualify?” 

Not considering herself old is just one of the many things I love about my mother. I especially love that she’s a living breathing example of the adage, “It’s never too late to change”.

I am most proud of the fact that some twelve years ago, my mother made the incredibly painful but oh so courageous decision to walk out on a 47 year marriage. While there are many who will never understand, my siblings and I are not among them. 

After she left my dad, my mother initially lived on her own in a little cottage in Port Dalhousie, taking courses, babysitting her grandchildren, building a network of friends, taking in music and theatre, and volunteering for a number of organizations including Palliative Care.

And then, after being on her own for three years, my mother reconnected with an old family friend whose wife had died. Truly compatible, she and Joe have lived together ever since, enjoying one another’s company and a very active social life. This past week she and Joe flew across the country to visit us here in Edmonton. They still hold hands. 

What she’s taught me is that it is never too late to fulfill your dreams or to unleash your potential. 

For sure being old is different than being young. But the only difference that I can see is that you’ve got more life experiences. And, you might need to move faster. The rest of your life is shorter than what has passed but you still have time to do what you love and leave a legacy.

Think of it. You really only have two choices. You can sit with your regrets or you can go after your passion and dreams. You still have a chance to make your third act the most magnificent. As long as you’re still breathing, you have a chance to succeed and live the life you were born to live.

What have you got to lose?

Make new friends. Start a new business. Join a club. Get fit and healthy. Get involved in activities that feed your soul and charge your spirit. If my mother can leave an unhappy marriage after 47 years, you can stop smoking even if you’ve been smoking for years. If you’ve accepted mediocrity all your life, you can turn it around. If you are lonely and want a partner, you can work on yourself and start dating again. Even if you’re now suffering from an illness, you can take constructive action to add more meaning to your life.

Will it be easy? Probably not. There will be challenges and obstacles. After years of habit, routines and thought patterns, it’s not going to be easy but it is attainable.

Some of it will be mean forgetting about what you’ve been told or believed and unlearning and relearning new things. Once my mother accepted that divorce could be a good thing and learned to ignore the friends and relatives who disapproved, there was no stopping her. It also helps to hang around positive people and to work at gathering new knowledge.

As long as there is more out there that can be done, my loving mother will never be one of those who ends her life too early. In January she and Joe are off to visit my brother in California. She plans, as everyone should, to enjoy every moment of her life.  After all, as George Eliot once said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Posted on 10-11-09

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