I visited Mother Mary, but it wasn't all laughs.
I had a night free on book tour in Naples, Fla., so I made the trip to Miami to take her out to dinner for Mother's Day. I arrived to pick her up, but she wasn't dressed, because she had decided she didn't want to go.
"We should stay home and order Papa John," she said, frowning.
"Ma, you can't have Papa John's on Mother's Day."
"Let me take you out."
"Please. It's my Mother's Day, too."
"Hmph." So Mother Mary went into her bedroom to change her clothes. She emerged in a nice black top and long skirt, but something was missing.
"Ma, you're not wearing a bra?"
"Why should I?"
I paused. "I'll give you two reasons. Right and left."
"No. No more bras."
"Ma, you have to."
"No I don't. I'm 89."
"Yes, you do. You're 89."
"Yes." We reach impasse, which she breaks.
"I'll wear something over the top. It's the same thing."
"OK, good idea," I say, relieved. Any women over 50 knows camouflage trumps support.
But Mother Mary comes put of her bedroom in her lab coat. She's only 4-foot-11, so it reaches to her ankles, and with her snowy white hair, she looks like a superannuated Doogie Howser.
"Ma. No lab coat. It's too nice a restaurant."
"Please, Doc. You're not on call tonight."
"I need the pockets."
"You have a purse." I form praying hands. "I'm begging you."
Mother Mary rolls her eyes. "Fine."
I hurry into her bedroom, grab an embroidered jacket I got her from Chico's, and dress her as if she were a stubborn child. "There."
"Now will you shut up?"
I can't, yet. "What about your hearing aids?"
"Ma, please wear them. I'll have to shout at you."
"No, you won't. I'm fine."
"OK," I say, after a moment. I won on the pizza, and I know when to fold 'em, but I want to cheer her up. I reach for my phone. "Let me take a picture of you. You look so cute."
She rolls her eyes again. "Come on. Always with that stupid camera."
"Please, we can send it to Francesca."
Later at the restaurant, I'm about to ask for a quiet table when I see that the place is completely empty because we've arrived at 6 o'clock, which is too early for dinner in South Beach. We sit down, I order a margarita, and Mother Mary orders a Bud Light, but they only have Amstel Light, so she sniffs. "Fine."
She's saying "Fine" so often that I know nothing is fine. "Ma, are you OK?"
"I had a talk with God about when I was going to die."
Bam. "OK." I try not to look surprised, and I shouldn't be. The Flying Scottolines have a history of bringing up personal subjects in public. For example, Mother Mary told me she wanted a mausoleum while we were in the produce aisle at Whole Foods. My brother told me he was gay when we were standing on a city street. I told you in the newspaper that I have diaper rash.
See what I mean?
We lack boundaries. The Western Hemisphere is our living room.
Mother Mary frowns. "God told me I have to live until I'm 110."
My chest feels tight, and I wish my margarita would come. "OK, so that's good news, right?"
At this point a different waiter comes over, and he's tall, young, and handsome. Like everybody in this town, he looks like a model. He sets a beer in front of my mother, flashing her a dazzling smile. "Why, you look lovely tonight, young lady."
"Thank you." Mother Mary brightens. "What's your name?"
"I'm Mary. This is my daughter. She has a camera. She's crazy with that camera." She gestures at me. "Get your camera, honey. Take a picture of me and Luis."
Luis snuggles my mother while I grab my phone and take a picture. They both look adorable.
Mother Mary smiles up at Luis. "Thanks, doll."
"No problem, Mary," he answers, then leaves.
Mother Mary looks flushed. "He has bedroom eyes," she says, then laughs.
I laugh with her. "Hubba hubba."
"So I was telling you about God. He said, 110. Maybe 112, tops."
"And that's fine with you, right?"
Mother Mary grins. "Absolutely fine."