by Frances Edstrom
I got a cold for Christmas. And, traveling all the way from Providence, Rhode Island, so did my sister-in-law and my niece. This, along with news of a national flu epidemic, prompted a discussion about what exactly the "flu" is, and which of us had gotten a flu shot.
As always when we talk about such things, my mother-in-law reminds us that she never gets sick. This leads me to reminisce about the only time in my memory that she actually admitted to not feeling well, and appeared in her red plaid bathrobe to let us know she was going to stay in bed. It was such an unusual thing for her to do it was actually frightening. But the next day she was up and bouncing around as usual.
In her nineties now (just barely), she has finally decided to stop pretending to eat healthful things she doesn't like. So, skip the salad and the green beans, please. It is my theory, from observing her, that the key to a long, healthy life is to eat hot dogs (no bun) or Vienna sausages out of the can. And, to keep moving.
One day I went to visit her, and when I walked into the house, she literally leapt out of her chair. "Wow!" I said, "you're peppy today." She had read somewhere that people gauged how old you were by how agilely you got out of a chair, so she was practicing looking young.
The only trouble with that was that she is also the sort of person who has to do everything herself. So, for instance, if you were in the kitchen and called to her in the sitting room to ask where you could find the sugar, she didn't simply call back to you, but leapt out of her chair and charged into the kitchen to get the sugar for you. It was like living with Wonder Woman if there was a big family gathering.
Another of her stay young practices was to walk home after going out to dinner with my father-in-law, or to walk to church and meet him there. Once she took a tumble on the tracks, and came away with some bruises, but she continued on undeterred.
A constant argument between us was her habit of not wearing gloves in the winter time, even in frigid weather. She just put her hands in her pockets. I pointed out to her a hundred or so times over the course of our relationship that if she fell, she wouldn't be able to catch herself with her hands in her pockets. She would always vow that from that moment on she would wear gloves, and would even go so far as to wave her gloves at me, saying, "See, I have gloves!" She just never put them on, keeping them in her pockets along with her hands.
When she had a stroke, she was absolutely dumbfounded and actually felt insulted. "I wasn't supposed to have a stroke," she told everyone. When it was suggested by the medical authorities that she should use a walker, she scoffed at the idea. She finally agreed, saying that the only reason she was getting a walker was so that I would be able to use it if something went wrong with my hip replacement. We could keep it in the garage, she said.
So, when you plan your New Year's resolutions, keep Jo Edstrom in mind before you sign up for the newest diet fad and expensive health spa. Just get yourself some hot dogs (no bun, and did I mention that apparently they must be eaten while standing up at the kitchen sink to get the full health benefit), Vienna sausages, and say no way to all those crazy green things people say are so good for you!
Then leap out of your chair, walk to church, and you'll have a nice, long life and look thirty years younger than you really are.