by Sherry Gott

             “Energy begets energy,” Mom's physical therapist would tell her, and, “If you don't use it, you'll lose what little muscle tone you have left. You don't want to get so weak you can't take yourself to the bathroom, do you?” This mild bullying would eventually get Mom out of the house and walking twice a week, to be followed by a session of very light weight-lifting. The physical therapist got more exercise than Mom during these sessions.

             The house was in my price range, and was perfect only because it didn't have a front doorstep - none. I had seen it while driving down West Temple Street. “For Sale by Owner,” and the price. Note to self: check it out on the way home. Did. It wasn't my favorite part of the valley, but it was closer to work, and to Amy's school. And it didn't have a front doorstep.

             “You're going to do what?” I asked my daughter. “What” was a Tough Mudder event: 12.5 kilometers of obstacle courses covered in mud, with an ice pool and electric eels, just for fun. Amy was not an especially athletic person, but had started running to help improve her fitness level; why anyone who chased three little boys around all day needed to run to do this was beyond me.

             Mom and my sisters came with me to walk through the house before it closed. “We can convert the garage into a bedroom for you, Mom, and you won't have to deal with stairs anymore,” I told her. Mom's knees were arthritic in the extreme, and she lived in a split-entry home which required her to either go up eight steps or down eight steps anytime she wanted to enter or leave the house.

             Mom had never been especially athletic, either. I cannot remember even one time she voluntarily went walking. She would visit grocery stores late at night and push a cart up and down the aisles: hardly aerobic.

             “Aerobic exercise is one of the best ways to prevent dementia and Alzheimer's,” Dr. Henry tells me, pointing to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease: “Exercising for 150 minutes each week may be the best treatment for Alzheimer's.” Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Public Health conducted the study, which reveals that exercise could improve cognitive function in people at risk of Alzheimer's by improving the efficiency of brain activity. And: “No study has shown that a drug can do what we showed is possible with exercise."

             OK, I'll work on it. Temporarily. Occasionally. Kathy has early-onset Alzheimer's, and for several months we have been walking together. We know every dip and rough patch in the neighborhood sidewalks. We enjoy the changing blooms as the forsythia bushes burst out in yellow, followed by the tulips and daffodils. The globe willows and Lombardy poplars grace the area with green. Kathy isn't available on weekends. My brother-in-law keeps her too busy. He has difficulty with the concept that she can't drive anymore, leaving him to grocery shop, and run other errands she used to help with.

             It takes four months and fifteen thousand dollars to convert the garage, and change the downstairs bathroom from a half bath to a full bath, complete with wheelchair access and security bars. Now all we have to do is sell Mom's house and move her in, effectively eliminating the only exercise she had.

             Amy's mud run boosted her self-esteem. Training for it helped her lose weight and get toned in areas she hasn't worked on since George was born. I have to admit it has been good for her.

             Mom lasted four years after moving into my home. She became more and more chair and bed bound, and resisted every effort to get her to participate in life. In trying to help her avoid arthritis pain, I enabled her in becoming an invalid. Hindsight is 20/20; if I had realized what it would do to her to eliminate the need to use stairs, I would have moved into her home instead of moving her into mine.

             Amy is signed up for another Tough Mudder next May. She wants me to join her.