Most weekends, my family drives out to the Valley to visit my parents. Both in their 80’s and unable to drive, my parents don’t get out as much as they used to.
Last weekend, I was working, so my husband Jordan and my son Colin went out to visit them without me. “What should I do with them?” Jordan asked. I suggested he take them to the park and let them watch Colin and him play baseball.
Two hours later, Jordan texted me a photo, not of him and Colin batting a ball around, but of all of them playing baseball. Apparently, my 81-year-old mother and 84-year-old father can still hit! And they had the time of their lives.
The thing is, I never would have even thought of putting a bat in either of my parent’s hands. I was looking at my folks through Western lenses: Old People Don’t Play Baseball. But Jordan was looking at them through Eastern lenses – Old People Represent Every Age They Have Lived. Therefore, for a short time, those two senior citizens were two kids, playing stickball in the street just as they had so many years before.
And they were moving. In Chinese Medicine, we talk about Qi, or life force. If we don’t move our Qi, it won’t move us. Stagnant Qi can lead to everything from fatigue, to constipation, to serious diseases like hypertension or congestive heart failure. Of course, we don’t want to push it - my folks are not ready for a little league game, let alone the World Series - but a nice walk around the block, some tai qi in the park, or even a few minutes in the batting cage will do the trick.
There is no such thing as anti-aging, but there is such a thing as healthful aging. Yes, genes play a strong part in our process, but much of how we age is up to us. The Chinese talk about “Jing” or essence. We come into this world with a certain amount of Jing, and, like our genes, we can’t barter for something different. So, we must take care of what we’ve got. And the more we enjoy the ride, the better.
To honor the elderly is to look at them along the complete timeline of their lives instead of only seeing them as they are now. Aging is inevitable, but it can also be beautiful. And sometimes, it can even be a ball.
Bone Marrow Broth, which my friend Millie calls a “Cup of Jing” is an amazingly restorative elixir for any age. Here’s a great recipe from Epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com//recipes/food/views/beef-bone-broth-51260700