How I Walk a Mile Before I Put my Shoes on Every Morning

A Cousins’ Corner
Cousin Grace (Hill) TeSelle
Posted in honor of her 96th birthday
(born 2/10/1928 – Write a wish below)
Grace’s quote of the day:
“I don’t know how I got so old. I guess by putting one foot in front of the other.”
Edited by Cousin Larry Pearce 1/15/24

Grace Hill
c. 1936

I grew up on a farm, and when I was age five or six or maybe a little older, I would go outside in the early morning of a summer’s day, head for the cows that were in the pasture, down one hill and up a steeper one, in order to get them turned around and headed toward the barn. They were eager to get there because their udders were full and needed be relieved of their loads. I sometimes brought the cows to the barn in the late afternoon too, but I liked the early morning when the sun was up, the birds were chirping, and the world was beginning to awaken. Occasionally, a couple of cows got in each other’s way and a little scuffle would send them heading back toward me. I was a little scared, but they always seemed to straighten up, probably because I was shaking a stick at them.

My shoes and socks would be soaked from the morning dew. But I was proud to be doing work, like everyone else who lived there. In case you are worried I might have gotten hurt, that I might have been in danger, I was completely visible from our house, except when I hit the bottom of the first hill and headed up the second, then I was in sight again. Daddy had a heart attack when I was about ten and he had to sell his cows and switch to less vigorous work.

Moving ahead to when I was 15 or 16, and my Dad had acquired an egg route in the North Side, Pittsburgh, my high school job on Saturdays was to ride along in his truck to deliver eggs to homes there. That part of the North Side was spread around another hill. Almost every stop required climbing steps to the front door. I am guessing that there were cellars in all those houses and the living quarters went up from there. I developed strong legs from that job. I have always walked, run some, and used my legs. From cows to egg customers, it seemed I was always on my feet.Every winter Daddy developed bronchitis and he would have to be in bed for a month or so. He got his nephew Howard Pearce (1914-1990) to drive me as I knew the route. As with Daddy, we always stopped for lunch at a Pittsburgh favorite like Isaly’s or some other small eatery or maybe a tavern. I’m not sure if Howard’s brother Ralph Pearce (1917-2002) drove me sometimes too. My sister Mary’s boyfriend and later husband, Woody Wilson, drove one time and he took me to a restaurant where we had something I had never tasted before. It was a Chinese restaurant, and it hit the spot on that cold weather day.

End of the corn harvest (c. 1880)
The Hill farm

As most kids, we played softball before school in the fall and spring. We would get a game going in Grandpap’s large lawn, or in front and to the side of the barn when cousins visited anytime. We also kicked the ball. Was it kickball or soccer? One morning, before school I think the ball or kicker kicked me, and I still have a scar on my knee to prove it. That broke the skin and it became infected. I soon learned about sour milk poultices to draw out the pus. My legs only became stronger.

My grandmother Fisher was a community mid-wife. I remember that she always made sure she had a clean apron ready if called upon to help a delivery with not much notice. She passed her home healing on to my mother, who had many home remedies for most every misfortune. Also her oldest daughter, my aunt, became a nurse at the Bashline Osteopathic Hospital in Grove City.

All of this and more is to illustrate how important my legs have been to me over the years. As I developed Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), I realize that my balance is now involved, along with the position of my head, my brain, and inner ear. A couple of times I fell when simply standing on turf. I bent over to clip a weed, but lost my balance. Fortunately I always landed on my butt so never really got hurt. Now, with as time passes, I cannot even bend over to pick something up, wherever I am. In the house, though, if I drop something, I simply grab a chair and hold on it with one hand while bending over. No incident and no accident; the plan seems to work.

However, this past summer, I was in charge of Riley, my daughter Luanne’s dog, a chipoo cutie, while she swam laps in our pool. Riley keeps track of his leash and looks for it if he needs to go out. I think if he could, he would hook it up himself. But, I found it and, not thinking, bent over to hook him up. Bad move. As if in slow motion, but unable to make corrections, I had a flash of color in my head on the left side (my AMD side), and I knew I was in trouble. My knees buckled and all I could do was sit down. Riley was so excited; I was down on his level. He thought it was great. I was laughing while trying to figure out how to get up. Luanne soon arrived on the scene and called my neighbor Nancy, a physical therapist, who gave us all a lesson on the best way to get me up. I made someone else take Riley out as that was the whole idea in the first place.

I am lucky. I have lots of friends and still strong legs. I have been concerned about how to keep them strong when is is dangerous for me to exercise with my balance problems. My friend was telling me that her husband could not stand, but his PT suggested that he move his legs while lying in bed, by bending his feet at ankles as if walking. I started that by moving my ankles for ten minutes every morning before I get up and while getting the radio news, and saying my prayers before getting up for the day. In just a few weeks, there was no longer any swelling at my ankles, which encouraged me to continue and improve. Presto, no more neuropathy. I picked ten minutes as being easy to figure out when I can stop. That’s also a brief time to exercise before I get bored. Now, I am aggressive with my entire legs, stretching ham strings from hips downward, while swinging my legs so they cross the center of my body – one leg and then another. I have heard that crossing them helps with balance.

I like to listen to the radio when it comes on at 6 am. I once heard that band and orchestra leaders live long lives because they are using their arms to direct, which gives them stronger lungs. My station plays the “Star Spangled Banner” every morning. I have a good excuse not to stand, but I stretch my arms aggressively in time to the music, again crossing my arms as the music leads me.

The lotus flower

After the music is finished, I bring my legs to my chest, rotate them, and then point my toes straight up, stretching aggressively. While my legs are in the air, I press and pull on them to get blood to move back up to abdomen. Then, I lower my legs in lotus position,  trying to stretch my thighs, which can be very tight.

The rest is mostly massaging my thighs while across my abdomen, holding my tummy button against them. Then I pull a finger upward, midway between my center and side. This is supposed to put the innards back in place, whatever that means. I massage my ribs, giving attention to any sore spots. Then, stretching my arms straight up again, I massage the sides of my rib cage. When I massage an elbow that hurts down to the bone tissues, I always feel the pain. Finally, I cross my arms in a hug to reach my shoulder muscles and neck that always seem to need rubbing. Sometimes I message my head, checking under and to the sides of my chin in case there are some tissues that need rubbing.

Grace (Hill) TeSelle

Sometimes I do ten minutes more with my legs before I settle back down to sleep. So, that’s a total of twenty minutes of leg work. I used to be able to walk a mile in twenty minutes, so this is now my mile. I can’t walk that fast any more, but in bed I can move that fast. Sometime in the morning, I ride my exercise bike for ten minutes. Any longer than that and I get bored and tired. I work faster for a few seconds then slow back down as I get short of breath for longer times. I have a ten minute timer for my bike, but I watch the clock for leg work away from the bike. I know I can never run again, but I want to keep walking as long as I can. I often think of those full-of-milk cows and how, as a child, I hiked up the hill to get them to walk to the barn for milking. Sometimes they were so full, they dripped as did my dewy shoes when I got back to the house to change them for school

Last revised 1/17/24