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My Mother’s First Love at Age 93, by Caroline Leavitt

My mother falls in love for the first time at 93.

She is not a woman who believes in love. Jilted at 19, she marries my father on the rebound, quickly realizing her error. He’s a man who can sulk for days, who yells at her because she has forgotten to compliment his mother on dinner, or because she spends too much money. They rarely touch or speak, and I grow up wanting to be as far away from my father (who yells at me, too) as I possibly can be. I know I don’t want a life like my mother’s, with twin beds separated by a nightstand, with a home fueled by arguments and silence and a cloud of misery. When my mother tries to give me advice about dating, I shut her out. What does she know about love?

When my father has a stroke, at 50, my mother cries. In love myself, I urge her to date. “Now you can find the right person,” I tell her but she shakes her head. “Men, who needs them?” she says. She refuses the men who want to date her (she is still beautiful, and funny and smart, still working as an elementary school teacher), and she doesn’t much care for any of my boyfriends, taking her time warming to them, telling me when my relationships break up, that “that’s the way men are. They never stay. It’s better not to trust them.” For her birthday, I get her a personal ad in Boston Magazine, and the letters fly in from professors and businessmen, all wanting to meet her. “You’re a catch!” I tell her, and she puts all the responses in the trash. “This is very nice of you to do, but I prefer to travel,” she tells me. When I marry, she takes me aside and warns me to always have my own money. “So you can leave,” she says, and when I tell her I never want to leave my new husband Jeff, she smiles knowingly. “You think that now,” she tells me.

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