Olympian Principles for Everyday Life

Written by Bette Dewing on . Posted in Dewing Things Better, Opinion and Column, Opinion Our Town, Opinion West Side Spirit, Our Town, Our Town Downtown, West Side Spirit.


Bette Dewing

A smile can make everything better 

“I could show the world how to smile, I could be glad all of the while…” Well, there’d be infinitely more to smile about if songs like that again topped the charts.

Ah, but the physical act of smiling does makes us feel better. Supportive research must get out there! Smiling makes daunting tasks easier, like getting six burning topics into a 600-word column.

More critical is how smiling makes my walking without tripping on a bumpy crosswalk less likely—and even standing without tipping over when stone cold sober.

Another burning topic: Joe Califano’s Daily News op-ed “Bloomberg’s Blind Spot for Beer” (July 19) should be universally heeded.

But no smiling at bicyclists running lights or riding the wrong way, or drivers who don’t yield turning into our crosswalks—the foremost danger to walkers—or kamikaze walkers. Yell, instead, and also for lower speed limits! It can be done if enough of us try.

As for the , it sweetens relationship and social climates, deters meanness and violence and even lowers medical visit stress. Mt. Sinai’s pulmonary department nurse Teo smiled approvingly at the “Smile” embroidered on my shirt pocket and began to sing—beautifully—“Smile, though your heart is breaking…” And while I don’t buy smiling when hearts are breaking, singing like Teo’s sure makes me smile—and sing along, too. Singing beneficent songs, along with smiling, should be a universal health care mandate.

So should X-ray technician Sal’s greeting: “How are you doing, darlin’”? It’s Southern parlance the North should adopt. I use terms of endearment a lot now, not due to memory loss so much as it just seems a humane way to speak. So was the patience shown by breathing test technician Kesmil when I had trouble exhaling strongly enough.

So let’s smile and sing when alone and walking around, maybe using a walker or in a wheelchair, riding the subway or bus, wherever. The best things are often free—like the third annual Swingtime Big Band concert in Carl Schurz Park with music to get the pre-rock generation especially smiling. Thank you, Sylvia Slavin and son Ira, for alerting me to this terrific band’s live performance of the incomparable arrangements of Basie, Dorsey, Miller etc.

Two vocalists did justice to classic ballads like “Our Love is Here to Stay,” which too few know was written by Ira Gershwin in memory of his late beloved brother George. How we need family and friendship love songs and to get everyone singing along! Bring back those park pop-up pianos already!

But nobody needs smiling, music, endearing words and patience as much as frail elders do. Their concurrent, often incurable and distressing ailments need equal time concern and attention. And at life’s end, their obituaries must not merely say, “Cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease.”

Except that’s how we learned that the “Queen of Soul Food,” Sylvia Woods, proprietor of the world renowned Sylvia’s Harlem restaurant, had contracted this dread brain disease.

Ann Curtis, barrier-breaking star swimmer and winner of two 1948 Olympic gold medals, was also a victim. But the extensive New York Times obituaries of these extraordinarily accomplished women said nothing about their awful late years’ struggle with this mind-failure scourge that afflicts countless thousands.

Surely this literal untold and unseen suffering relates to the relatively low funding of Alzheimer’s disease research, with the Alzheimer’s Association now reporting further federal cuts, even for research.

How long, dear Lord, how long?

dewingbetter@aol.com

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