Mom's name is Lea Dévorah. As a child I liked to play with her name: send her to read (Leah, Dévorah!) and criticize her omnipresence (Lea devora). It must be said, my mom was always a devourer, eater of cakes and frozen desserts, and avalanche of one meter seventy-five in any human situation in which it arose. That is, she would take me to school, to birthdays, to English, to do the shopping in her red Granada, with her blond hair bulging, and people followed her with their eyes, or asked for autographs when they confused her with Moria or Valeria Lynch. In Almagro's business, everyone knew her, and I was dying of shame. Now, at my age, which was his, in my neighborhood that borders Belgrano and Coghlan, everyone greets me.
Old age is a gift, not a condemnation
Mom lives and that's why I'm writing this note, so you can read it with your newly operated eyes. He is seventy-nine years old, the same seventy-five meter, although perhaps only one centimeter less because of the logical curvature that forms in the back with the passage of time.
My sister Maru made a whatsapp group called "daughters of a hot mommy", because, despite the almost eighty years, she continues to captivate looks and hearts. She is dating a man who fell in love with her at first sight, the instant she got into his taxi. "Can I ask for your phone?" he said, or something like that. She gave it to him. They went to dinner and nothing else happened. Mom clarified that she just wanted to be her friend. The friendship happened and grew stronger over time; His persistence, his care, company and good times were conquering her. In fact, their relationship took hold during the peak of the pandemic. Not because they had decided to share a common space, but because, at a distance and through video calls, they kept each other company night after night.
Janice Winkler's mother and three daughters (the author on the right) in Punta Mogotes.
Mom, who, like so many other people, did not dare to go out or to the corner, knew that at twenty hours she would "meet" with that friend who, although he returned late and tired of working all day in the taxi, with the plastic division and the mask always stuck to his mouth and nose, he was interested in knowing how she was and what she had done, despite the routine of confinement; Thus, the mood was growing. I like to see her happy, to smile, to tell me what she bought Leo for his birthday, what pasta from La Juvenil he chose and the caveat she made for the occasion when eating something salty, that "once nothing happens".
Mom lives in her own apartment. Leo lives in his. I just realized: they are Leo and Leah, and they read each other: it is seen in the complicit looks they exchange. There is infatuation. They get together on weekends, or if there is a football game on a Wednesday, for example, because the pack is at mom's house. He pays for it. They are, at seventy-nine and eighty-two, true bride and groom, who share, but also retain their independence.
1993. Janice Winkler and her parents on the day of their bat mitzvah in Buenos Aires.
When I tell me that my mom is dating (for the second time since she was widowed), my friends are surprised. What a genius, they tell me. They and also people I know less and who don't know her. How incredible! When I tell them that Leo met him in his taxi, they express even more surprise. His story is novel, not in the literary sense but on television. Everything is crazy, unthinkable. A lady who spent almost all her life with a single man who for forty years held a managerial position; a woman who summered in Punta del Este and had a house in a country and, above all, who is almost 80 years old!, now enjoys a new love, different from everything she knew before. He dared to give his phone, he dared to cheer up. That is, to open your heart. There are, on the one hand, prejudices, but also ignorance. People, let's know, older adults still feel. Do you notice that the years go by and, despite the physical ailments, we always cling to youth?
When my grandmother was even older than my mother, she had been living in Israel for as many years. She and most of my extended family emigrated with the crisis of 2001. My grandmother had had only one love in her life, which led to violence and, far ahead of her time, high forehead and separation. But I go back to the last years of her life, in the tiny country of the Middle East, when she became engaged to David, an "asshole" of seventy-something that she met in the geriatric hotel. She once told me on the phone that he had accompanied her to the doctor and she had given him the gift of showing him in a bodice. That relationship did not prosper because he believed so much in God and she was an atheist Jew.
Mom and Leo, the brave and persistent 82-year-old taxi driver, share much more than she and anyone would have imagined. Memories of their mothers and grandmothers speaking Yiddish. The taste for cinema and question and answer programs; by Scrabble. Sometimes Mom sends me messages to ask me if this or that word is correct and to find out if Leo cheated.
Before Leo she had another boyfriend, a man who I did not like very well, but I did not express my distrust to her. What to do with his life was and is his right. We are not going to go into that relationship, but what I do want to tell you is that she met him through Tinder. My sister Maru had opened an account for him to at least start giving himself the chance. At first, as she says, "he sent everyone to the chop", until he got bored of not understanding how the app worked and deleted it from his cell phone; but when Maru visited her again and found out, she said no way. He reinstalled it and taught him how to use it. I, who have been married for many years, also did not know how this swipe and match thing worked. Who showed me? My hot mommy.
One night, he went to dinner at my sister Vane's and she acted as "curator." He went through the photos of the possible candidates, until he arrived at one that he found interesting, in appearance and description. He enjoyed music and traveling, but lived far away. Vane matched on Mom's side. You're crazy, or something like that, she will have told her (I imagine her laughing). He reciprocated and spoke to her instantly, and instantly mom clarified that the thing was not going to work because of the distance.
He did not agree and, soon after, landed at Aeroparque. They met in the café of the Athenaeum, one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It seemed like the perfect scenario to me. Go tell me where you are, I asked him, but he did not speak to me all night. I exchanged messages with my sisters, worried, just as I worry if a friend does not tell me that she arrived at her house after having said goodbye at dawn.
Not to mention that the story of Tinder brought even more surprise and sighs (or to the most old-fashioned, consternation) than the story of the taxi. To the ignorance that grandfathers and grandmothers also have sex, there was added the amazement for the use of technology and for the possibility of creating a bond with someone you met through a screen. "Not even me!" some friends told me. The thing with that man worked for a while and then it did not work, as it happens so many times, but mom lived good times and even dared to travel by plane to the city of the lord. She met her family and, in fact, I know that they greet her on special dates and wish her well. I'm not surprised, that's mom, conqueror.
I don't know if it's okay for me to tell this, but yesterday, at a dinner party, I learned that, in the eighties, when my older sister took out the driving record, she passed the practical, but disapproved the theoretical. The man who had taken the test agreed to pass it if Mom went to have coffee with him. She said yes and gave him a fake phone number. She was also invited out by an important politician who reached one of the highest positions, but she said no. Always in love with Dad, always faithful.
Last year I had a coffee shop in Belgrano. Among the habitués, he always received the visit of Ricardo, a neighbor of the neighborhood who, when he is not driving his taxi, likes to go to cafecitos and socialize. In my cafeteria there was a large library with books available, and Ricardo, during the year that the project lasted, came every day, ordered a double espresso and read little by little a book on the history of libraries. When, together with the publishing house "Azul Francia", I presented my novel "I, Buddy", my gentle habitué was among the audience; He bought the book, read it that same night and, when he returned to the bar to give me his return, he clarified: the first thing I want to tell you has nothing to do with the story you wrote; I want to tell you, Janice, that your mom dazzled me, what an imposing woman!
Of course, I sent a message to Mom, not because I wanted her to act in relation to Ricardo, but to send him the dazzle; It never goes too much to know or, rather in this case, confirm, captivating. We also carried it a little with my husband, we told him that now his target was taxi drivers. A turkey joke that was taken with humor, although she clarified that she is not interested in anyone but Leo.
In my childhood, mom made the decisions. Mom was blamed. Mom was thanked little because she took it for granted that taking care of me and bringing me and helping me do homework, and enduring my teenage outbursts, were her sole responsibility. Mom chose Daddy's clothes, cut his hair, made him eat, took care of him, took care of him until the end.
An end so painful and exhausting that he thought he was not going to get over it. He lost desire, weight, direction. She was left alone in a huge, cold house. In three months he had lost his only love, with whom he had shared life for more than fifty years. However, and it is not cliché, opportunities must be seen and taken. Mom, over time, accepted that she could fall in love again, want to be different, know another type of relationship; He knew how to say no when it was necessary and he knew how to separate, for the first time in his life: to separate! And then, despite having felt the frustration of a breakup, the opportunity to try a new relationship was given again; This time yes, in which she feels safe and healthy.
Many times they asked me what I thought, if I supported my mother (I imagine that my sisters also received that question). What question is that? Why should we not support it? Why do so many people think that life ends with widowhood? There is pain, infinite sadness and mourning. But there is also life, which is appreciated and, who can, embraces it.
The only one who, perhaps, had a hard time accepting the relationship is my daughter. At the age of six, unable to explain why, she felt "ashamed," as she called it. She wanted nothing to do with eating with Abu Devy and her boyfriend. The first, Tinder, met him on a mother's birthday. It was celebration and formal presentation. And when we entered the apartment, he asked him: Are you Albert? Albert was my dad.
I think she is very attached to the idea of her grandfather and the beautiful things we tell her about him, so it is difficult for her to accept that grandmother has another partner. But a few weeks ago, after a family reunion, I asked her if she felt more comfortable in the presence of Leo, Grandma's boyfriend, and she said yes, everything was fine with him. I am glad that this is the case. I feel, lately, that everything falls into place; There is something that runs through every generation of this family: the strength of love and companionship.
Janice Winkler has an English name and maybe that has marked the way for her to work with that beautiful and musical language. She teaches, translates, coordinates Jan's Book Club and works in a secondary school. In 2013 and 2014, she coordinated the writing workshop in the area of Mental Health/Adolescence of the Ricardo Gutiérrez Children's Hospital. He translated into Spanish the screenplay adaptation of the novel "In the country of last things·, by Paul Auster. As an author she published the books of poems "Un Sánguche de Amor" (Sacate el Saquito Ediciones, 2013) and Burbuja negra (Modesto Rimba, 2016). He selected and translated the poems of De los rayos del sol como sogas, the first title of our collection "Maras en la barda", and wrote "Para tomar un buen té." In 2022 he published "Yo, Buddy", his first novel, by the publishing house Azul Francia.