“Are you telling me I’m a bobble-head?” asks my mom.

When my father died recently, just shy of what would be their 65th wedding anniversary, I had the good fortune to spend two weeks alone with my mother to help her transition into widowhood, a term we both decide—instantly—we do not like. Amidst the piles of paperwork requiring attention are her medical records.

“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about,” I tell my 85-year-old mother. “You’ve been doing it for years.”

“You’re kidding me!” she says with a horrified expression, looking at me as if my head, too, were not completely secured on my neck.

It strikes me as peculiar that my father, my four sisters, and mom’s lifelong friends would not have mentioned the “familial tremor” that has been obvious to us all for so many years. It’s a slight jiggle, and it’s more pronounced when mom is looking down, but it’s certainly apparent. I am just as guilty as them all, however, in assuming that someone had surely mentioned it before.

“You might want to talk with your doctor about it when you see him next, but really, if it’s not bothering you, then I don’t think it’s a big deal,” I tell her, hoping to make her feel better.

But now I can tell that she is going to be very aware of this new revelation, and I feel a little bad that I am the one to spill the beans. Still, I believe it’s something she deserves to know.

“I’ve always felt so sorry for those little old ladies in church who do that,” she tells me, and then starts to laugh. Perhaps she is considering that at age 85, all 102 pounds of her, she is now one of those little old ladies.

I remind her of a statistic she once quoted, erroneously, years ago. We had been discussing percentages during a family trip, and mom told us all, with great authority, that the human head weighed 80 pounds. After a short silence in the car, someone was brave enough to say, “Um . . . I really don’t think that’s true,” and when we all stopped laughing—miles down the road—we realized that she had meant to teach us that when drawing the human figure, the head is 1/8th the height of the entire body. Mom is an artist, not a scientist.

She chuckles with the memory.

“But that would certainly explain why I can’t hold my head still on my skinny neck,” she says, and when the two of us stop laughing, I know that Mom will be just fine, 80-pound bobble-head and all.