|Who said the pyramid can't be fun??|
Twenty years ago, we put together a nutrition/exercise production, sponsored by the Dairy Council. Called The Marvelous Machine, it was pretty zany (as is typical of our shows), yet grounded in solid science. It included the fanciful “Dance of the Food Pyramid,” a cautionary tale of poor eater Matilda facing the rigors of gym class, and a skit featuring a couch potato watching his favorite TV programs (Steve’s Julia Child impersonation was a riot). It was a fun show to perform, yet a tad ironic since I am a chronic meal skipper, and my version of the food pyramid skews largely in the direction of caffeine and sweets. But I never missed a performance, and I hope I helped inspire elementary school students throughout the tri-state area to do as I said, if not as I did.
Turning 60 next month, I am acutely aware of MY marvelous machine and its slow, but inexorable breakdown. I have been very healthy to date, with my illnesses few and far between. In sixth grade I contracted scarlet fever, and was really sick for several weeks. I recall reading The Agony and The Ecstasy in bed, and finally returning to school wearing white gloves over my peeling hands (from the high fever). I had a couple of stomach bugs here and there, strep throat once in a while, pneumonia after a stressful working summer. But by and large, my bill of health has been clean and remains so to this day.
I submit to the typical battery of tests (mammogram, blood work, colonoscopy). My results are always fine. Clearly my so-so diet and non-existent exercise regimen are paying big dividends! However, I know as time passes that will change. Even if I am lucky enough not to face a serious illness, aging will bring its own issues. I can forestall some of the problems by taking better care of myself of course, but a lot is out of my control.
So the question becomes, what kind of old person do I want to be? I read about 90 year old yoga instructors and marathon runners, and while I salute them, there is no way I can emulate them. But I truly don’t want to become dependent on my family because I didn’t try hard enough to stay healthy. While I am heartened by my gene pool (Grandma Berrigan lived to 99), I want quality of life, not only quantity.
In recent years, I have had the privilege of visiting dear friends in hospice the day they died, and while I fight it, I think God may be calling me to be a hospice volunteer. My fear of aging and dying is not great, as I have so many loved ones waiting for me on the other side (my parents, my sister). My faith sustains me on those sleepless nights when I ponder eternity. But for now, my spirit is housed in my “marvelous machine.” I need to get, and keep, that house in order.