Visit to parents brings back memories

Updated 6/3/2011 11:33 AM

Amid the many events that marked last month, I most enjoyed Mother's Day and my dad's 88th birthday May 18.

For years, I've celebrated both occasions during a family getaway to Muncie, Ind., my childhood hometown.

This year, the timing of those events conflicted with Cornerstone Days at Naperville's North Central College, as the 150-year-old school kicked off its year of sesquicentennial events.

A public open house sponsored by the Riverwalk Foundation, in collaboration with the college, rolled out plans for North Central's southwest gateway to the Riverwalk. The new landscaped area will be adjoined to Fredenhagen Park and the brick path as it winds along the DuPage River behind Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium.

When I sent my regrets to Riverwalk Foundation President Karen Solomon, it occurred to me the open house was the first event associated with Riverwalk plans I've missed since the mid-1990s.

My thoughts flashed back to an organizational "Riverwalk Renaissance" meeting coordinated by Al Rubin to attract public interest. Out of that meeting came a fundraising campaign called "Riverwalk 2000" that led to the extension of the brick path from the Washington Street Bridge to Hillside Road.

Furthermore, since 1993, the winding path has provided much personal recreation during brisk 3-mile walks as I've tried to keep in shape every season of the year.

Fond memories aside, I always look forward to visiting my folks.

Plus, my dad's birthday and the holidays in May rank right up there with ones in November as family favorites. Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving -- they're all holidays when little is asked of us other than to take time to show gratitude.

And so it was again on Mother's Day that I began to ponder the joys of reading that my mother passed on to me. Not only did she read to me, she always was in the middle of a book (or two or three!), setting the example that reading for pleasure yields lifelong learning.

The first thing every day, I would see my mother reading the newspaper with her morning coffee. Even today she sends clippings from the Muncie Star-Press.

Moving right along, when I read that an Illinois lawmaker recently created a stir after he commented that parents with obese children should have their $2,000 standard tax deduction withheld, I was reminded of my experience as a chunky teen going through puberty.

Most of my girlfriends were thin. They could eat anything -- even individual 1-pound bags of french fries from a local burger joint -- without showing a bulge. I was different.

As the pounds rolled on, I energetically rode my bike with little success. Though I was motivated, I couldn't seem to find the balance between eating and exercise.

My mother knew I was unhappy. Rather than nag about my in-between-meal choices, my mother -- who still serves three balanced meals to my dad every day -- bought me a little book about nutrition. I learned about proteins, carbohydrates and fats and counting calories.

The book provided a nonthreatening, reasonable approach to healthful diets, espousing a balance between decreasing food intake by counting calories and portion control, as well as increasing energy expenditure.

Becoming aware of caloric values in food and the action it takes to burn them off, I enjoyed eating my way to fitness. And during occasional weigh-ins with Martha, the nurse at our family physician's office, we kept track of my success.

One exercise that helped was becoming mindful of 100-calorie portions.

For instance, an average-sized apple, 30 spears of fresh asparagus, one-half cantaloupe, one medium baked potato or 8 large potato chips, one 2-ounce slice of roast beef and 20 roasted peanuts all have the same number of calories -- 100.

Creating new laws to punish families for child obesity is not education. Yet, that Illinois lawmaker was correct about one thing: We parents are responsible for our children.

Here's to a well-rounded education and good health. On so many levels, it's a constant battle.