It’s funny how you think you know what life is supposed to be like and how it is supposed to turn out. Maybe some people have a more realistic outlook on life than I do, but I am amazed at how it changes. I am sitting in a hospital room with my 68 year old mother who has recently had surgery on her spine to remove a 2 inch by 7 inch pocket of infection that took up residence between her spinal cord and her vertebrae. She has never been in the hospital before this year other than to have 3 babies and have her gallbladder removed. She has no history of any chronic medical conditions and doesn’t take any medication, other than an occasional papaya enzyme or ibuprofen. This has been her third stay in the hospital this year and we’re not talking a couple nights at a time. Over the course of those three visits she has spent over 6 weeks in the Not-So-Holiday Inn. I guess part of me knows that my parents will get old, but it still is quite life-changing when it happens.
The rest of the story is that mom quit being active quite a long time ago. My mom and I used to work out together – we started going to a womens only health club together when I was 14. I started teaching aerobics classes – we knew all the moves – the cricket, grapevine, fire hydrants, donkey kicks and buttock tucks – and mom was one of my best students. But aerobics classes faded away and I moved away and life happens and time passes and today I watched my mom fight to stand up and get to the restroom by herself. I celebrated with the physical therapist that mom made it to the nurses station and back with the walker. I counted to 10 over and over as I coached mom through her chair exercises the physical therapist showed us. I don’t know how much she will recover. I don’t know if she will ever be able to do her grocery shopping or drive her own car again. I don’t know if she will bounce back and surprise the hell out of everybody. I don’t know.
But what I do know is this. I know that just because I am active today doesn’t guarantee that I will be active in 20 years. I know that a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. I know that if I quit moving and being active, I will lose the ability to move and be active. I don’t know how my mom got a bacterial infection in her blood and her spinal cord. I don’t know how she lost the ability to take care of herself. I do know that this is not what she planned or what she wanted to happen. I know that she is confused by how she got so sick so quickly. I know that it didn’t happen nearly as quickly as she thinks. I know that none of us know how long we have on this earth and I know that none of us probably appreciate each day and each other nearly as much as we should. I know that I love my daughters more than I love myself and that one day I will get old and they will be amazed at how fast life changes.