Glitter & Grease - "Too Old For That"
My mother broke her hip last Thursday. She's eighty-two. After she fell, she got up and pulled the remaining weeds out of her garden, then waited on customers at our farm stand for the rest of the day. Next morning the pain was bad. She went to the hospital. The doctor put in a pin.
Shortly after the operation, a friend of my mother's called. "I hear your mother fell down the steps and lay in the basement for hours—couldn't get up."
"No, no. She tripped over something on the basement floor. But she didn't lie there at all. She got up, went outside, and weeded her garden. Then she ran our farm stand."
"Well, people at church said she lay there for hours."
I visited Mom a few hours after the operation. The nurse came in and asked her how she was.
"I've had a good day—a lot of nice company."
"What do you mean a good day? Don't you know you had an operation today?"
"Yeah, but that was for just a little while."
On Sunday, three days after the fall, Katherine and I asked the nurse how Anna was doing.
"Doing? She races up and down the hallway."
"Races? Doesn't she use a walker?"
"Yeah. She has to use a walker. Well, she carries it in front of her, while she races."
On Monday she included the hospital stairs in her walking tour.
"The doctor said I shouldn't go into that physical therapy program," she said. "He said I'd be bored silly—everybody moves so slow—and I should just go home soon. I told him if he comes to the stand I'll give him a big pumpkin for free."
I thought of hospitalized farmers I'd known over the years, some chained to their beds, screaming to go home and grind feed or pick corn before they were "well."

My mother is legendary for scampering around and getting things done. That's probably why this farm is as nice as it is. She collected the eggs, washed the milking equipment, fed the cows, made the meals, shoveled oats, taught school full time, raised us kids. Perhaps that zest was once seen as youthful exuberance. Now she's in her eighties, and her springiness seems more a challenge to her peers than an inspiration.

I hear it often: "Your mother's going to finally learn that she can't keep up this pace—you know, we're all getting old;" "This will teach her;" "It'll catch up to her."

Last spring, she fell and broke two ribs. Then she went out and hilled her potatoes. When she finally got x-rayed, the doctor told her she'd be laid up for six weeks. After a few days' recovery, she was full steam in her garden again.

I don't know what causes some people to `ignore' the aging process. My mother has never drank alcohol or smoked, but then, we have a neighbor in his eighties who has drank and chewed his whole life. You can see him in early spring at dawn, out planting oats. He races his tractor across his fields, standing up, hunched forward a little, like that might make his tractor go faster. He's the first one around here to plant his oats, and has been since he was a teenager.
The last time I saw him, he said, "You know why I'm still alive, huh?"
"Why?" I asked.
"My daughter took me to the doctor. She said I had to go to the doctor, and he gave me some medicine to take. You know why I'm still alive?" He was screaming at me by now.
"Why?" I giggled. I always giggle when he screams.
"Because I came home and flushed that gol'darned medicine down the toilet, that's why I'm alive, by golly. Right down the toilet. That medicine would've killed me, sure as anything," he hollered.
He put his wizened face close to mine. He opened his eyes wide. He spoke very softly. "You know why I'm alive?"
"Why?" I asked quietly.
He yelled mightily, "Tobacco. Chewin' tobacco. Keeps me going. That's why I'm alive. It ain't that medicine—it's chewin' tobacco."
His eyes twinkled. Tobacco juice streamed down his chin.
"Come on, Ma," he shouted to his wife. "We gotta go milk."
I guess he didn't know that tobacco could kill him. That's the danger of not reading the paper or not listening to the news. You won't find out what to succumb to.

And then we've got that apple tree that fell over twelve years ago. It blooms. It makes apples. It doesn't know what happens to trees when they fall.

"I came home and flushed that gol'darned medicine down the toilet, that's why I'm alive, by golly."
 
 


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