From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

Phone Friend

The family is the essential presence—the thing that never leaves you, even if you find you have to leave it.

Bill Buford

It’s too early, too cold, too hot, I’m too tired, the wind is blowing in the wrong direction . . . whatever the excuse, I’d try anything to get out of exercising! But my daughter Kate wouldn’t fall for any of that. “C’mon, Mom,” she’d say. “You’ll feel better after you get out there and move.”

Sometimes we’d go to the gym together. It was always so much easier to pound that treadmill when I saw she was sweating right beside me. Sometimes we’d play tennis. I wasn’t any good, but she kept hitting those balls to me, never losing patience. And at least I’d get a lot of exercise chasing the ones that went over the fence or into the woods. “Good job,” Kate would say. “Wasn’t that fun?” And you know, it was when we did it together.

Last fall, though, it was time for Kate to go away to college. I was happy for her to have such an exciting opportunity, but I missed having her around. At least now I won’t have to worry about anyone dragging me out there to exercise, I thought. But do you know what? I missed that, too.

At home, things just weren’t the same. My husband worked hard at the office all day, and when he came home, he wanted to relax and unwind. The last thing he wanted to do was run off to the gym. And my fifteen-year-old son was active with soccer, basketball, and baseball practices and games. There was no one left at home to force me to push my body in ways I naturally tended to avoid.

Since I wasn’t sure how to motivate myself, I ended up doing nothing. I worked from home, and pretty soon my only exercise was rolling my office chair from my desk to my computer screen and tossing wads of paper into the trash can. I did dive for the phone when it rang, though. That was when Kate would call from college.

“It’s a long way to classes from my dorm,” she said, “but the walking is great!” She referred to the expected weight gain for new college students. “The freshman fifteen? Not for me!”

Soon Kate called me whenever she was making that long walk to campus. She filled me in on all the exciting details of her life: inspiring courses, new friends, interesting clubs and activities. I really looked forward to her calls and connecting to her life. I cradled the phone, cozied up on the couch and settled in for a nice chat.

“You’re lucky,” I said one day. “I wish you were here to walk with me. You’re off at school while I’m sitting here on the couch!”

“I don’t think anyone’s forcing you to sit around!” Kate joked.

Ouch! Of course, I knew she was right. No one was forcing me to do anything. It was a matter of choice. Maybe I just needed to choose something different.

The next day when my cell rang, I didn’t plop right down on the couch. Instead, I laced up my sneakers and headed for the front door.

“Mom, you sound a little out of breath,” said Kate as we chatted. “What are you doing?”

“I’m walking, too!” I said. “I decided whenever you called, I’d get up and go around the block.”

“That’s great!” she replied.We talked all the way around the block three times!

Even though we were hundreds of miles apart, thanks to our cell phones we were still able to walk together. Distracted by good conversation, I didn’t feel like exercise was such a task. I began to look forward to the phone ringing, reminding me to get up and move. As Kate kept fit, I did, too. And as always, the exercise felt better when we were doing it together.

Peggy Frezon

“Will you look at that! My freshman 15 has finally caught up with me . . . 20 years later!”

Reprinted with permission of Stephanie Piro.

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