Aging Parents and Alcohol: A Lady’s 100th Birthday Lunch–at a Bar


I’ve written before about Mrs. M, who died at 104. From the “old school,” she was a lady of standards and protocol.  Each time she went to the hospital due to another emergency, for example, her son insisted that they call her “Mrs. M” (no “honey” or “sweetie” for her).

For countless decades drinks at “cocktail hour” were part of the routine and in old age she still liked a “little drink”–whether or not her doctors approved. Indeed she threatened to stop all medication and suffer the consequences if she couldn’t have this little bit of enjoyment now and then.

Her son, after trying unsuccessfully to fight the cocktail routine when she entered her late 90’s, wisely I think, decided that it was better for everyone if she had one drink, was happy and lived less long– as opposed to enduring the misery and arguments that accompanied a complete ban on alcohol and living longer. (The primary concern was her falling with such old, fragile bones.)

And so it was on a lovely April day that the two of us went to JB’s, an upscale restaurant-bar, for a prearranged birthday lunch. “Prearranged” translates: spoke with her son to make certain he had no objections, made a reservation and asked for a certain table so Mrs. M wouldn’t need to walk too far once inside the restaurant, and the last arrangement was with God. I prayed for a parking space close to the restaurant.

Mrs. M was dressed and ready, with cane in hand, when I arrived. She’d told a caregiver/companion, who usually came late morning and went home after doing the dinner dishes, that she was going out to lunch with me–not to come until later.

We got in the car for a 5-minute drive to the restaurant.  Right in front was an empty parking space. So far, so good. As we were ushered to our table, chatting about being 100, I noticed some much younger men sitting on high stools at a high round table having drinks and lunch. We sat down and Mrs. M ordered one of the specialty drinks–a pear “concoction” with a sliver of a dried pear floating on top of the liquor, ice and whatever else there was. “Wonderful,” I recall her saying after the first sip.

Suddenly I panicked. I wondered if Mrs. M had eaten any breakfast. How does one ask the question without sounding demeaning, insulting or at best nosey? (In critical situations I realize I instinctively react by “kidding on the square.” It’s something I learned early on; it works for me; it had become a conditioned reaction.) I said something like “I hope you’ve had breakfast otherwise your son will kill me if something happens to you and we’ll probably both be dead–plus we’ll ruin a good friendship.”

She assured me she’d had breakfast and I assured myself she would have a substantial lunch. As the waiter came over to take our orders, he informed us that the men at the high round table had bought our drinks in celebration of Mrs. M’s 100th birthday. She was thrilled–hadn’t had a young man buy her a drink in a long while, she said. She smiled and waved at them. Her delight was worth $1,000,000!

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

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