Though you're tied up with someone else
And I'm all tied up, too
As you regular readers of 2 or 3 lines already know, last spring I moved my recently widowed 91-year-old mother from her home in Joplin, Missouri to an assisted living facility near my home in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.
The good thing about this arrangement is that I live only a few miles away from her apartment, so I can easily visit her every day.
The bad thing about this arrangement is that I live only a few miles away from her apartment, so I have no excuse for not visiting her every day.
Let’s call a spade a spade, boys and girls. My mother fell off a cliff psychologically when my father died just over a year ago. She is not the same person she was before that happened, and she never will be – she’s lonely and querulous and pathologically anxious about even trivial things.
My sense of duty is strong enough that I go visit her every day. But I get no pleasure from those visits. She’s miserable, which is making me miserable.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:00 am, her assisted living facility offers a 30-minute group exercise class that’s led by one of the resident physical therapists. My mother is in reasonably good physical condition given that she’s 91, has had three joint replacements, and fell eight months ago and broke her C2 vertebra. So I encourage her to go to those exercise sessions – in part because it’s good for her body and in part to get her to do something other than sit in her room and stare at the wall (or the Weather Channel, which quickly becomes less interesting to watch than that wall).
In fact, I do more than encourage her – I walk with her to the exercise classes and then exercise with her and the other residents who attend. (Sometimes, I do leave before the class is over. But most of the time I stick it out for the entire class.)
There are about a dozen residents – almost all are women – who regularly attend. One or two of them are quite a bit younger than my mother, and seem pretty capable physically. (It’s not clear why they are in assisted living.)
A few are closer to my mother’s age and somewhat limited physically, but can do most of the exercises.
The remainder of the class members are people who are confined to wheelchairs, and who may or may not have cognitive issues – some of those women attempt to follow along, while others mostly just sit and stare.
The Monday and Wednesday sessions are led by a middle-aged African-American women who in very good shape. She always wears serious exercise tops – colorful spandex tops and pants and shiny new Nike shoes – and plays seventies and eighties pop and R&B. If you listened to her with your eyes closed, you would think she was a personal trainer leading twenty-somethings in an exercise class at a gym.
Her workouts – which emphasize core strength – are done while seated in a chair, and the movements are appropriate for physically limited seniors. (I like this instructor a lot, and I’ve arranged for her to do an individual exercise session with my mother one day a week so we have someone who is regularly monitoring her strength and flexibility.)
The Friday workouts – also done while seated – are led a young male who’s more of a rehab type than a personal-trainer type. He wears khakis and a polo shirt with an embroidered logo, and the movements he usually does seem aimed more at maintaining joint flexibility and function.
The Friday guy is very cheery – a little too cheery for my taste. Of course, I’m not exactly in a good mood when I’m attending his class with my mother – I would rather be just about anywhere else than there.
One of motions he regularly has the class do involves rotating the upper body and moving the arms in a circular fashion like you are stirring a big pot of something. As we do that movement, he says things like “Stir a pot of chili!” or “Stir some butternut squash soup!”
He also incorporates a seated rowing motion into his routine, singing “Row, row, row your boat” as he does so.
I don’t really enjoy a minute of the time I spend at my mother’s assisted living place, but the minutes I enjoy the very least are the minutes when I am doing the seated rowing and listening to a dozen or so women – all of whom are elderly, and most of whom are mentally and physically infirm – singing “Row, row, row your boat.”
The one small blessing is that everyone sings the song in unison – thankfully no one attempts to sing it as a round.
The Friday exercise leader used to play fairly contemporary pop at his classes – songs that were popular on the radio when he was in high school or college, I’m guessing.
But recently, he’s been playing a CD consisting of hits from the mid-forties – “Swinging on a Star” by Bing Crosby, “On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” by Judy Garland, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” by Tex Williams, and “Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)” by Peggy Lee, to name just a few.
My mother was about 20 when those songs were popular, so the CD is probably a good choice for her. Or it would be if her hearing was good enough for her to enjoy music . . . or if her state of mind was such that she enjoyed anything.
Actually, she does enjoy spending time with her six-month-old great-grandson Jack. But even his visits have become a source of anxiety for her. If I bring him to her apartment, she’s afraid that we’re breaking the rules. And when I bring her to my house for some family time, she is convinced that they will kick her out of her apartment while she’s gone.
(Note: I had originally planned to discreetly take a few photos of the exercise class, but that wouldn't have been right. So you're going to have to use your imagination.)
* * * * *
I don’t remember hearing “Slippin’ Around” before this morning’s exercise class.
The song was written and recorded by Floyd Tillman in 1949. But the version on the CD that the class leader played today was the cover released later that year by Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely. (Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Dave Dudley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and several other recording artists covered “Slippin’ Around” as well.)
On paper, it makes a lot of sense to perform the song as a female-male duet than as a solo because that brings home the fact that each of the two lovers is cheating on his or her spouse. But the Whiting-Wakely duet we're featuring today sounds a bit more happy-go-lucky that it should. (The singers frankly don't sound all that guilty about what they are doing.)
Here’s “Slippin’ Around”:
Click here to buy the song from Amazon: