Of all the things I expected my mother to become in her old age, a female Dirty Harry did not even make the Top 10. And yet, this 83 year old Italian lady has taken to chasing intruders out of her house with telephones and colanders and then going back to bed without giving it another thought.
The first time this happened, the family was more than a little amazed but felt that since it happened in broad daylight, she was probably feeling braver than she would have otherwise. Someone had climbed into her kitchen window as she watched her soap opera in the living room. I don’t remember all the details, but I do know she chased him down the stairs while throwing a metal colander at him. We have the dented colander as proof she hit him.
This incident occasioned probably the most prolonged family discussion to date on whether or not mom should still be living in an apartment over the store in the middle of a city that has changed dramatically since the days of my childhood. What had at one time been a dynamic, vital immigrant neighborhood now is a deserted street with only a church and bakery anchoring what is left. But this has been her home for 53 years and she has made it clear she doesn’t plan to leave. She didn’t when the roof blew off or the floor fell in. She didn’t when it became a high crime neighborhood and she didn’t when crime left along with everyone else.
The discussions about forcibly moving her out died down as the memory of the intruder faded. Until this week. This week I found out that in her old age, my mother’s motto has become “Make my day!”
The church next door is renovating its exterior. It put up scaffolding that spanned the alley separating the rectory from my family home. Mom forgot to lock the windows that this scaffolding abutted. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that about 4:30 AM one morning she heard someone in my sister’s old room. Mom sleeps with a phone under her pillow. My sister and I bought her a new one this Christmas with numbers that light up. We did that so she could see to dial in the dark in case of emergency. She chose not to do that.
Instead, she got up, went into my sister’s old room and ask the man she found there what he thought he was doing. I’m not sure what kind of an answer she expected. Luckily, he was not violent, gave her some mumbled explanation about being the superintendent of the building and said he had to find someone. She escorted him down the stairs and out the door. Then she locked up and went back to bed. She didn’t tell anyone in the family cause she didn’t want to start the discussion about her living arrangements again.
She did tell Fr. Michael who insisted on nailing all the windows shut for her. He also insisted she call the police. She told me she was glad he did because the detective who came was the son of one of our old neighbors and she hadn’t seen him in a while. It gave her a chance to catch up on how his family was doing. She was also thrilled that they dusted for fingerprints. She said it was just like on TV.
My sister Judy has shipped my mother off to her brother’s house in Philly. Meanwhile, Judy is having an alarm system installed. I guess that will help. Though I don’t think any alarm system in the world will work as well as one crazed old Italian guarding her home and hearth with nothing more than a colander and attitude. Go ahead. Make her day.