Tomorrow morning at 7:05 a.m. — or close to that time — marks the thirtieth anniversary of my mother’s death. I turn 60 on September 5th. Do the math: My mother has been dead for half my life.
Last Friday, a nationally acclaimed spasticity specialist looked me straight in the eyes and said, There is absolutely NO medical justification for you still being able to walk. He held his face stern and rigid, just to be sure that I understood the impact of his pronouncement. I did. A few moments of silence lingered between us and then I told him, as I tell everyone, the reason I am still walking.
When I was a little girl, (and I swear this is true and not just a story that I fabricated to justify a position), my mother said to me time and time again: If you walk every day of your life, you will walk every day of your life. So keep walking.
I understood what she meant. On a practical level, she intended to urge me to stay out of a wheelchair as long as possible. On a more metaphorical note, her message encouraged me to persevere. And so I have.
Dr. Lopez settled his face into a look of resignation. He told me, So, just in order to be sure you are clear: I want you to see a good physical therapist well-versed in currently available ambulatory assistive devices and mechanized mobility devices.
“Ambulatory assistive devices” — doctor-speak for canes and walkers.
“Mechanized mobility devices” — doctor-speak for wheelchairs.
Yes, I have a physical therapist who has that knowledge and discussed those very subjects with me, I assured him. But I continued. Know this, I told him. When my son was five and I was forty, I promised my son that I would live to be 103. I intend to honor that commitment, and, frankly, the first sixty years has gone by pretty quickly. I intend to live to be 103 and to walk every day of my life, so anything you can do to aid me in both goals will be greatly appreciated.
My mother died six years before an OB GYN in Fayetteville, Arkansas lifted my son into the chilly air of a sterile delivery room. Now my son lives far away from me, though he checks on me every day by phone or text. But though my mother lies long in her grave, I owe her no less allegiance than my living, breathing offspring. So, I intend to keep walking every day, and to do so for another forty-three years.
And I intend to do so voicing as nearly as possible to zero complaints about the arduousness of each step, or the limited remedies for the ailments which plague me. I think my mother would want me to insure not only that I kept walking, but that I did so with grace, and hope, and joy in every step.
LUCILLE JOHANNA LYONS CORLEY
10 September 1926 – 21 August 1985
GONE TOO SOON. DEARLY LOVED.