Mom’s gait has grown increasingly halting and unsteady, and she digs into the floor with each step to assure herself of not falling. At choir practice, she leans hard on my arm to ascend the single step into the host’s house. When I asked her if it were becoming harder to walk, she confessed that “my knees hurt.” Three years ago, she had cortisone shots in her knees, which reduced arthritic swelling and pain. But now the pain was back, especially when enduring the stairs in her house. One day she declared, “I’m not going to the gym anymore, and I’m done riding the bike at home, too—my knees hurt too much.” She asked if I would get the mail for her, and I said “nope” full of cheek, explaining gently (I did not want to seem rude and hurt her feelings) that if she could not go to the gym or ride her stationary bike, she would have to walk to the mailbox, and invited her to keep on going to the street corner. So she walked to the mailbox. Tough Mom. Movement was important for her heart and her general strength. Mom often tells me, “I’m so happy every day when you walk through the door from work.” Sweet Mom. I was not so sure she would still feel that way after I made her walk to the mailbox on her old knees. But she loves me still. I “broke” my knee in high school, bending it sideways in a basketball game and severing the anterior cruciate ligament, the infamous ACL. The non-invasive MRI machine was not widely available in 1982, and to diagnose my injury the doctor shoved a 10-penny needle into my knee, injected contrast, and manipulated the wounded joint under live x-ray trying to discern soft tissue tears—what agony. So, when Mom made an appointment to get shots in her knees, I cringed. She reported later that the doctor numbed her skin with spray, inserted the needles under her knee caps, and injected a syringe-full of liquid—but she felt no pain. Brave Mom. “Come back in six months, not three years,” the doctor instructed. Mom is already walking better, and we will see about the stationary bicycle. That night Mom and I delivered the results of my latest baking adventures—pains au chocolate (chocolate croissant rolls) and bacon fougasses (flat bread shaped like a leaf)—to several neighbors. She was happy to be my delivery buddy and to get out of the house for even the humblest of adventures. Fun Mom. Back home in her recliner, it was time for her favorite daily ritual: a bowl of Farr chocolate ice cream, which, of course, I cannot resist either, though I add milk for a thick chocolate shake.
(Pictured above: leaf-shaped Fougasses–the French answer to Italian Focaccia–with bacon and onions.)