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What Happened To Mom?

Story ID:620
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Raleigh NC USA
Person:My Mother
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What Happened To Mom?

What Happened To Mom?

What Happened to Mom?

Mom clutched the sides of the walker with hands mapped in wrinkles. Shoulders sagged and body bent, while her feet shuffled across the soft carpet. A lump rose to my throat, and I blinked rapidly to stem the threatening tears as I witnessed the aging that had occurred since the last time I'd seen my mother, nine months earlier. She stopped in front of me and raised her head. A smile crossed her face, but her eyes appeared dull and lifeless.

Is this old woman the same one whose eyes sparkled when she was happy during my growing up years? Can this be the same person with the hearty laugh that infected others? Was it so long ago that she's forgotten what joy is? I've always thought that ailing and aging take a toll on the human body and psyche, and here was living proof. No forty year study was needed to convince me. I lay awake a long time that night wondering if my mother's lifestyle had hastened the aging process.

My mother dealt with myriad physical problems throughout her life. In earlier years they were aggravations for the most part, and she gave them scant attention in the little free time that raising four children in a third floor apartment afforded. A demanding husband and a growing family left her no time to dwell on her own infirmities, so she ignored whatever advice a doctor may have given. Time and money were both enemies in those years, and might have been the beginning of her decline.

Today we're urged to exercise in our younger years if we want to stay mobile as we age. Mom never learned to drive, so she walked to the store several times a week and carried home heavy sacks of groceries, then carted them up three flights of stairs. We children were enlisted as helpers, too. Long walks with a brown paper bag in our arms were the norm in our family. Mom carried baskets of laundry down those three flights of stairs twice a week and brought the clean clothes back up again. Today athletes rate stair climbing high on the list of endurance and fitness exercises. They don expensive fitness clothing to do basically the same thing my mother did week in and week out. Adding weights gives even more benefits, or so say the health magazine articles. Bags of groceries and heavy laundry baskets surely qualify as added weight, so Mom was ahead of her time in that respect. But once her nest was empty, her forced exercise program slowed considerably. She moved to a house with no stairs with a retired husband who drove her to the grocery store. She spent more time sitting in a chair watching television or with a book. When my father passed away, Mom's exercise program was almost nonexistent. After a lengthy hospital stay a few years ago, Home Health Care sent a therapist to Mom's house to teach her a series of exercises to help her gain back the strength she'd lost. Mom enjoyed working with the therapist, but when the program ended, so did her exercises. No amount of cajoling or pleading on my part convinced her she needed to do the exercises forever.

Diet plays a big part in our overall health. We're urged to cut the fat and cholesterol and increase our intake of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Here's an area where Mom rated a big fat zero. She was raised by a mother who believed heavy cream and real butter created the best food. To add to that, she fried the vast majority of every meal. Mom liked vegetables and always provided at least one at our dinner table, but her menus were heavy on fats, starches, and sweets. Meat with gravy, potatoes and pasta, and desserts of all kinds graced our table. A cardiologist would cringe if assessing the meals she fed us on a regular basis. Years ago I realized that some dietary changes were in order for my husband and me, and I urged my mother to work on doing the same. She would listen politely, nod her head in agreement, and keep right on putting the same kind of meal on the table as she'd been doing all her married life. Will the changes I've made in my diet be of benefit to me in old age? I'd like to think so, but I have no way of proving it even if I live to be ninety-five and am still hale and hearty.

As I tossed and turned that night, I faced another question. It's only twenty-one years down the road before I am my mother's age. Witnessing the aging of my mother set off alarm bells in my head. Will I, too, be shuffling across a room with a walker when I'm eighty-five? If continual exercise and a proper diet are keys to keeping fit, I won't have to worry since I've worked hard at doing both for many years. I'll keep up the program I'm on, for I don't want my own daughter to visit me and have to fight back tears when she sees how I've declined. Meanwhile, I'll give my mother a lot of love and support, and
I'll hope for an occasional twinkle in her eye. Even though buried deep within, it might surface when I least expect it. And Iíll go over my checklist each day to see if Iíve done my exercises and tried to eat right.