What I Wish I'd Known About Nagging My Parents to Exercise: Author Bob Morris

The author of Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating With My Dad learned that sometimes father (or mother) really does know best.

When his parents aged and slowed down, Bob Morris took it upon himself to get them back up and moving. After all, this is the "walk for the cure" era, and Morris is a member of a generation that, he writes, "has more faith in exercise than God." Walking would improve his parents' health and their odds of living longer, he reasoned, so he became a kind of drill sergeant, cracking the just do it whip whenever he visited them.

"Here's what I wish I had known," Morris says now. "Nagging somebody about exercise because you think it's going to keep them healthier actually may end up being detrimental to their emotional health.

"I was never quite happy enough just to be at my ailing mother's side," he recalls of his visits with Ethel Morris, who was sick for ten years with a rare, debilitating blood disease before her death. "I always tried to get her up to move around: 'Let's just go out for a minute and walk to the corner. Please, I know you can do that.' She'd say, 'No, I'm tired, I can't.' Well, when she finally passed away, lo and behold, we discovered she had a collapsed lung. It was something we didn't know about because we were so focused on her blood ailment. So she had due cause for not wanting to move anymore."

He met the same resistance from his father, Joe, he writes in Assisted Loving: True Tales of Double Dating With My Dad, a humorous and heartwarming account of his unexpected role as matchmaker for his dad after Ethel's death. Morris wanted Joe to walk off his edema, a common ailment among the elderly that's caused by a buildup of excess fluid. "Again, I was convinced that the answer was to move around so you get more circulation, because you just assume people get these blisters because they don't move around a lot. In his case, he had a weak heart and was tired, and again, he had every reason to be tired."

If he had it to do over again, Morris says he wouldn't have pushed his own agenda on his parents. Their bodies were understandably worn out after a good life. What they really needed, he believes, was more affection, not exercise. "Maybe we should be a little bit more yielding at a time when people are so compromised and so weak," he says. "Maybe we don't know best."

Read the full interview with Bob Morris.

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