What To Do On Days You Feel Old . . . And Other Wisdom from My Mom

I spent a day and a night in an emergency room chair. My ninety-three-year-old mother had fallen and her brain scan showed a small bleed. So a steady stream of nurses and doctors kept checking on her.

“Grip my hands,” they’d say to her.

Without fail, their faces registered surprise at the strength of her clutch. But she hadn’t hand-milked cows before and after school all through her childhood for nothing.

“What’s your secret,” they kept asking, “for staying so young?”

And so she told them that on the days she felt old she walked the fastest.

And she gave credit for this to a teacher.

“When I was in sixth grade,” she said, “our teacher taught us that to stay healthy, we should keep our spines straight when we sat at our desks. And we should move.”

This teacher showed them how to move. She told them to put books on their heads. And they marched around the room keeping those books balanced.

“March faster,” the teacher would say. And then, “Still faster.”

“Well,” the nurse said, “I do believe in mobility as medicine.”

That phrase had a nice ring to it, so I looked it up. And I discovered it’s a campaign to help people in healthcare facilities move safely and more.

After the nurse heard that my mom climbs stairs every day—to the basement for laundry, to the second story to visit my dad in his office, and to the attic to sort through relics of her past—she was convinced my mom didn’t need to move more.

This still left some questions about safety, as her raised eyebrow showed.

But what impressed the nurse most was the teacher.

“Imagine,” she said, “teaching a thirteen-year-old something she will remember 80 years later.”

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