To Mothers Everywhere

April 2008

It’s muffled at first but the sound of shuffling feet and humming motors grows as the crowd of Senior Citizens makes their way to the great room. As though a secret bell clangs inside their permed to death, over bleached, or bald heads, here they come. BINGO! Yep, I’m excited. Motorized chairs with ribbons, metal walkers with tennis balls for rollers, and wooden canes with rubber stoppers on the bottom bump and bang toward the room. Pushing and shoving is allowed. I move out of the way. Quickly. They pause in the entry and look for the placard with their name before moving forward. This small courtesy, if actually there, would need to be the size of a billboard because most of these good-hearted folks can’t see well. Moreover, most wouldn’t remember who they were if they could see.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and the great gathering place is crammed with long tables. A rectangular cardboard card and a paper cup filled with colorful discs are evenly spaced on a green plastic tablecloth. At one end of the room, another table perpendicular to the others, is crowded with the little worker bees. A big red plastic tote laden with prizes is hoisted onto the table. Looks as though someone has cleaned out a utility closet or kitchen junk drawer.

Carefully, each item is removed from the box and placed in full view of the anticipated guests. Finger sandwiches arrive on metal trays and lemonade from the dining room dispenser is placed on the counter. White plastic plates are stacked. A tub of ice with a large scoop is condensating. The melted water is creeping toward the sandwiches.

I have no placard, nor do I have a chair. Those are secretly assigned. I walk behind my mother, smile, and assure everyone that I’m neither a new resident, nor the kitchen help, but a visitor. I get the once over. My mother introduces me for the hundred and seventy-third time that day. She rolls her eyes.

After getting run over by a scooter, banged with a walker, and sticky with spilled lemonade, I sit. I get a card. I get my own cup of chips to hold between my legs.

“They’re late,” my 82 year old mother says looking at her over-sized watch. “I told you I didn’t want to come. It’s for the old people!”

I suck in as the sandwiches are distributed. Thirty minutes later, it’s finally announced. The first game will be straight Bingo.  A huge photo of the bingo board is raised and Vanna White points to the many combinations.

Up, down, across, horizontal, vertical. Everyone nods. And it begins. The ball machine rattles to life. “B-12,” the caller says, holding a tiny white ball confirming and reaffirming. “BINGO!” a raspy voice declares.

“No, that’s not a bingo, Mr. Farley, you need more than one number.” Mr. Farley sits down, pouting. The number is repeated.

“O-72”. I have O-72 so I put a chip on my card plus three neighbors’. “I-16”. I leave my chair, and card, to get the four ladies at the end of the table who’ve missed B-12, and O-72. Play stops while everyone catches up. Twenty-five minutes later and about fifteen numbers someone finally Bingos.

“Don’t clear your cards,” one of the little helpers shouts over the groans. “Don’t clear your cards.”     All cards are cleared before the sentence is finished.

“Leomonade anyone?” “ Lenny did what?” someone yells from across the room. “Get my mail, too, if you’re going over there.” “Did she say she got her hair done today?” “No, dear. She said she didn’t care what we were having for dinner.” “Bingo,” someone yells. “I’ll take one,” said Mr. Farley.

By the third game, Mother and I have moved to the hard stuff. “Bourbon and coke,” my mother yells out over the noise, like I’m deaf, sitting right next to her. Eyes turn, cards are lifted, hands are raised, and I head to her room for the beverage. “I could use a beer,” Mr. Farley says, raising his hand like I’m a waitress. “He can’t hear?” “What’s not fair?” “What did she say?” “She wants to smoke?” “Is someone choking?” “My granddaughter swallowed a quarter last week.” “She swallowed a quart of what?”

By the fifth game, with all the best prizes gone, Mom’s beginning to enjoy herself. I have figured out that no one needs to really have Bingo to say “Bingo”. I shrug my shoulders and prod my mom, pointing to her card. “Bingo,” she says, proudly. The unheeded reminder of not to clear your cards is sounded. I get a suspicious glance from one of the little helpers. The prize is a four pack, a four pack of toilet paper.    I can see the envy of everyone. “What in the hell is this?” mom asks. “It’s useful.” I whisper.

“Oh, can I trade you?” the white haired lady two tables over asks. “What ya’ got?” I ask back. We trade for a book of stamps. “Can I trade?” someone else asks. “I’ve got note cards.” The motors start up and two race with their treasurers in hand. “Does anyone have a beer? I’ll trade my key chain,” “Bingo,” the lady with one chip stands up excitedly.

It’s beginning to look like a two dollar sale at Macy’s so mom and I decide to take our book of stamps and go. I can hear the groans as we race out of reach. With their hands extended, prizes waving, motors revving, you’d think we were in a zombie movie. Eeks! Back in the safety of her room with our third drink in hand, we smile as I lock the door. I’m smiling because I’m with my mother. She’s smiling because she doesn’t have to buy stamps. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Written by Judy Lee  Copyright ©2017 Judy Lee

2 responses to “BINGO WITH MOM”

  1. Susie says:

    Ahhhhh so cute Jude! Happy Mother’s Day sisters!

  2. linda reeves says:

    Oh, Judy….that was soooo great reading that……as tears roll down my cheeks. How we all loved Mom and the happy hilarious times we would have in her presence……in her retirement community…….you captured the event so well, and the tears remind me how much I miss her and how I love your story!!! Thank you for this touching and funny story…..I was laughing as I read it, and now that my reading is over, I am sad but happy that we were sooo very very lucky to have her as a Mother!! And how lucky I am to have you and my other sister’s still here to enjoy and grow old with too!! All my love! Linda

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