Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

We came home this weekend to be with Mommie on Mother’s Day.  Mommie has an iron will and she wanted me here this weekend and she wanted me to go with her to her church this special Sunday.  When your mother is 91, disobedience is not an option.

Mommie’s birthday is always the week that Mother’s Day is celebrated.  She feels a bit cheated sometimes, with the Happy Birthday and Happy Mother’s Day single gift.  We have learned to be careful about this.

Mommie became 91 years old on Thursday, May 6th.  Her morning was filled with gifts and flowers, visits and phone calls from her family and friends.  There was a large birthday cake for the staff and residents of Summit Manor where mother lives, in honor of her special day.

The annual mother-daughter celebration at her church was held on her birthday night. This is an event where the men of the church prepare dinner, serve, and clean up to honor the mothers of their church community.   My two sisters were with her at this annual fete and she was thrilled to be with them.

We had a family dinner on Saturday night.  Mommie rested on the sofa intermittently while her daughters cooked the foods she had taught us to prepare.  The truth is that we will never reach her standards at their peak.  She was a natural in the kitchen, a woman who cooked with intuition and experience.  She knew when the dough would rise by how it looked and by touch, she knew when the vegetables were ready just from looking at them steaming in the pot.  She knew when the fried chicken was just right by looking at its color and how it responded to the gentle probing of the meat with the tines of a fork.  It was always effortless and creative and always an obvious gift to those she cooked for. The menu was the same and she was delighted to have her favorite food with her children.

She woke me with a phone call at 7 a.m. today.  She had been tired at the end of our time together after dinner last night. I had urged her not to over-exert by going to church the next morning if she felt at all unwell.  Her heart is frail now and she was breathing with some difficulty with only mild exertion.  But awake before we were, she admonished us to not be late to pick her up for the church service. She assured me that she was cleariy feeling well because she was up and preparing to dress.

We did not disappoint her; we arrived in time, so that we were not late for the service at her Columbia Christian Church.  She was delighted to have her oldest child present with her during this celebration of Mother’s Day during the church service and introduced me to friends and the members of her church family with great joy.  She is clearly loved there as she is everywhere she is known.

All the mothers in the church were asked to stand for accolades and a small gift from the church community to each of us.  Then the oldest mothers in the congregation were recognized.  There were many present who were 80, quite a few at 85. Three over 88.  Ah, but only one at 91.  Mommie loves winning any competition.  This was not a small competition after all.  Being the oldest woman standing in this kind of longetvity crowd was a grand accomplishment.

On this Mother’s Day I write with great joy that I had this special day with the mother who taught me all the important things I ever learned.  Show up on time, with the certainty that you have the intelligence and creativity to make the day turn out well.  Work hard and be grateful that you have work to do.  Love others more than yourself, but find time for self care. Make a life where fun and joy are always possible even when circumstances are not easy.  Demonstrate your values and your faith by example.  Mommie has lived a life that I can never match, but the template is one that I hold myself to every day.

I am filled with gratitude today to be the daughter of the winner of yet another competition.  Mommie pulled off the victory by living longer than all the others in her community.  Knowing her determination, I expect her to remain the annual winner for years to come.

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  • Kathy Rogers May 10, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Dear Pat,
    What a gift to have such an inspirational mom, still vital and active. But, just as important, what a gift that you see how lucky you are.

  • Liza Near May 10, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Pat – I love hearing about your Mom! Happy belated Mothers day to you too – those cute boys had better taken care of you too!!!!