It hadn’t happened before, but Eddie was late today. He was late getting out of the locker room. Dick, at the front desk, said “This is not like Eddie.” So I waited…
Eddie visits his favorite gym twice a week, like clockwork, from 6:30-8am. He constitutes the morning welcoming committee there at the gym. He knows names and faces and greets everyone, just as he did years ago as the elevator operator at the state capitol building. Except this time he’s standing in a large basketball court, waving his arms like a helicopter, to enhance circulation.
Today he was lingering in the locker room for a particular reason. He was showing off the book in which he is highlighted. He was talking up his celebrity status. He was pointing out the picture of himself doing circulation exercises. And all of this was interspersed with lots of humor, knowing Eddie.
His friends emerged smiling, and one asked, “Are you the author of that book? You’ve made Eddie into a monster.” And then, finally, Eddie was there, with his wide grin, holding the book, thanking me, and calling me Marilyn Monroe. After a few pictures and a few more jokes, he was off, to take his sister to the beauty parlor.
To me, Eddie brings home the importance of a routine, and this goes beyond exercise. A recent NYTimes article emphasizes the importance of exercise across the lifecourse; reminding readers that any activity is better than none. But like most articles focusing on exercise, it doesn’t take into account all of the benefits involved. Eddie’s exercise routine is crucial for muscle strength and circulation, but also for social connectivity.
Eddie’s Tuesdays and Fridays begin with an early morning breakfast in front of the TV, and then a visit to the gym, and then a whole constellation of errands followed with a hot meal at Applebees. He designed this routine so that the evening is open for relaxation.
This routine allows Eddie to care for others, to nourish himself in a variety of ways, and also to feel like a part of something bigger. Perhaps most importantly, Eddie is able to achieve continuity in his life; to continue the greeter role he has always enjoyed.
Eddie has also taught me how flexibility in routines is a good thing. Being late, once in a while, to celebrate something exciting, is a plus. Not long ago, Eddie quit smoking and started eating cinnamon rolls for breakfast. He also started reading in the evenings, an activity he says he hasn’t done in any major way since he dropped out of school in 8th grade.
Come to think of it, maybe I’ll send a print copy of this along to him, for a little light reading.