If I had to choose one sport over any other, it would be swimming. You don’t need an exercise buddy, it is gentle on your limbs and knowing how to float on water is handy in an emergency. If you get the pool to yourself, there is a lot of thinking that can be had without any distractions.
What I am thinking of a lot these days is how to get my mother to do more exercising, whether she is standing up, sitting down or even whilst lying flat on the bed. One morning as I was leaving the pool, I thought the handrails looked like the bars of a walking frame. I wandered over to try some leg stretches using the handles for support.
When my mother was hospitalised she lost a lot of muscle strength due to the long days spent immobile in bed. Recovery has been slow, not helped by a lack of enthusiasm on my mother’s part. It’s understandable, but frustrating. My low point was during my previous trip when, together with KL Sister and a maid, we had to carry my mother in a wheelchair down two flights of stairs to the car for a hospital appointment.
Everyone has a different way of tackling problems. I decide to make things a bit fun for my mother, to relieve the boredom of having to exercise with me daily. I can tell from her face that she finds these sessions quite taxing.
It did occur to me at one point that I should walk away with the cardboard cut-outs of my favourite Korean actors Hyun Bin and Lee Min-ho, from the OSIM and CUCKOO shops. Placed at strategic points throughout the house, my mother would surely be motivated to walk (with the help of the walking frame) to the models.
Sadly though, my mother really only has me to work with. I have a lot of patience and imagination with the simple exercise props available, including a child’s stepping stool, a small Pilates ball, the walking frame, water bottle and massage roller (in lieu of weights which my mother finds too heavy), spiky massage and tennis balls and exercise bands.
One afternoon I promoted my mother from Incy Wincy Spider to Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again. I need to demonstrate this one day, it’s that good, and my mother loved it.
Despite cheering my mother on daily, every bit of enthusiasm eventually fizzled out until I had my best idea.
Like many people born in the war years, and having lived through hard times, my mother is really interested in all things money-related. When I felt my mother’s spirit was flagging, I thought of reviving her interest by challenging her financially. When playing Catch the Ball, I told her that every time she dropped the ball, she would have to give me one dollar. If she could make me drop the ball, I would give her one dollar. There were similar challenges using the other props.
My mother really engaged when challenged like this. It was the only time I saw a bit of the old competitive spirit of hers. She also did not change much in her attitude to money. When she won 10 dollars from me, after much hard work, I asked what she was going to spend it on. She said she was not going to spend it, but to save it instead.
I have written down many pages of exercises, since I invent something new almost every day. But there always needs to be a money element in order to pique my mother’s interest. One day I hope she will want to play a board game with me, instead of just bored games. I have the perfect challenge lined up in these Chinese New Year Monopoly sets.