I have about 400 friends on Facebook. One of them is my mother. Right now, her status is, “another CrossFit torture awaits tomorrow.”
If you don’t know what CrossFit is, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I don’t know what it is, either. I mean, I can guess that it’s some kind of a workout method, and based on what Mom told me, it’s really good. Weights, and balance, and stretching, and more balance. Agility, too. All great things for anyone, but as Mom told me, “important stuff as you get older.”
It’s no surprise that I didn’t know what CrossFit was, or is. I’m the guy who still has the exact same workout regime he had 15 years ago. It’s actually true. When I do go to the gym, Friday is still my leg day, and I do the same exercises I’ve always done.
It’s also no surprise that Mom is doing CrossFit. Not that she’s the fittest person in the world. In fact, she’s not. She’s most likely below average fitness, being short and stocky – the only thing in this family that’s running – although, that’s hard for me to estimate, if I really start to think about global fitness levels.
Mom’s also no spring chicken anymore, having reached the official retirement age of Finland.
But there she goes, doing CrossFit? Why the hell not, she would probably say, except that she probably wouldn’t because she doesn’t swear all that much. This is the woman who learned to swim in her latish-20s, got her driver’s license at 40, left Finland for Vietnam in her 50s, came back, then left for China in her early 60s, came back, and is in her third or fourth career, having been a teacher, a coach, an office manager, and a consultant, with new business ideas cooking all the time.
Her hobbies include rearranging living room furniture. She does it a lot. A few times a month.
Once, in her early 40s, she ran a half marathon with no training at all. She just registered, and ran. Dad and I followed her in a car, and with us cheering her on, she just gritted her teeth and put her best foot forward, then the not-so-good, then her best again, one after the other, and finished the race.
A couple of weeks ago, we were at the Helsinki Linnanmäki amusement park with her. While Son and Daughter and Wife and I all got our all-inclusive ride passes, Mom turned up with two boxes of strawberries, and sat down at one of the benches, looking at people, waiting for us.
“No, I don’t need any tickets, I’ll just sit here,” she said.
And then Son and Wife rode the roller coaster. And then another time, and then I rode it with Son. I’m not much of a rider, but the Helsinki one is one of those classic wooden roller coasters, from 1951, with guys standing in the back, working the brakes. A lot of fun.
Then Daughter wanted to ride the monorail, so I ran to the box office to get Mom a couple of tickets as well. One for the monorail, and one for later, in case she wanted to ride something.
“The roller coaster is from 1951, so it must have been here when you were here to see Paul Anka,” I said, jokingly.
Paul Anka’s visit in 1959 was such a huge success, that when Conan O’Brien visited Finland in 2005, one police officer was quoted as saying, “There hasn’t been anything like this seen at the airport since Paul Anka was at Linnanmäki.”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t here to see him,” Mom said.
“It’s a good roller coaster. A lot of fun, and the view from up there…? Fantastic,” I said.
“Sure,” said Mom, and looked up to one of the red trains doing the rounds.
“I’ve never been on it,” she added, after a pause.
We all had sat down in the monorail car, it moved forward a little, and we got a tour of the whole park. I asked Mom if she wanted to ride the roller coaster, because, after all, I did have that ticket for her.
“I think this is just about high enough for me,” she said, peeking down from the car.
“Come on, it’ll be fun. You can go with Son,” I said. “He’d love it.”
Just as the monorail came back to where we had got on, she said, “OK, I’ll do it.”
And off they went, her and Son. Son running in front of her, Mom walking as fast as she could, Hercule Poirot -style, up the ramp, and sitting down in the car, excited, but nervous.
She survived, and afterwards, both her and Son were happy.
“Grandma was screaming the whole time,” said Son.
Her first roller coaster ride behind her, Mom sat down and said, “You were right. The view is fantastic from up there.”