I’m running the Jingle Bell 5K for the Arthritis Foundation on December 10. Most of the races I run support a charitable cause, and while I can’t inundate my friends with that many constant funding requests, I’m fundraising for this one in particular.


Since I was a kid and my mom was only in her thirties, she has had arthritis in her knees and other joints. I would watch this woman who loves to play sports wince when jumping for the volleyball at our family picnics or running the bases on the St. Jude ladies’ softball team, or even just going downstairs to do the laundry. She’d try heat, ice, wraps, orthotics, exercises, painkillers, supplements, creams, and nothing really helped. Only painful cortisone shots deep into her knee joint provide some relief.

She stayed active around the pain. She worked jobs requiring strength and movement, catering and managing the educational materials at St. Jude School. She was my catcher teaching me to slow-pitch softball in the backyard, and she had Dad dig post holes for a regulation volleyball net for us when I outgrew bumping the ball back to her over our fence. (Dad was the handyman around the house, but had little interest in sports himself.) For hours in the evening, Mom patiently practiced each team skill with me — soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball — the seasons of each rolling into the next. She swam with my brother and me at the Y and took exercise classes there. I later became interested in endurance sports, but all the skills that still come back so easily now started with her.

Dad and Mom, 1957

She was a leader of my Girl Scout troop, and half the reason (with Dad being the other half!) that every weekend of my childhood was spent at some campground. She took us on Girl Scout hikes to identify trees. She taught me to row a boat and cast a line accurately and silently to the spots where the fish hung out, and to clean a fish.

Carol Sue Welling was born in 1938, a Depression baby, third of four children. She was the daughter of a truck driver in a family full of farm people we visited even in my childhood. She grew up climbing trees. She went to St. Ursula High School, a Catholic girls academy in Cincinnati, with the rich girls, on an academic scholarship she claims she didn’t deserve. In high school, she played every sport they made available to girls. They had to wear knickers under their skirts.

She couldn’t run for exercise, not even to join me when I started at sixteen. But she managed the pain in her knees and walked for exercise for years. She recently told me she used to walk a 10-minute mile, even in her fifties and sixties! I know lots of runners who don’t run a 10-minute mile. I was impressed with myself when I walked a 15-minute mile in a 5K last year!

Since Dad retired, I’ve taken Mom and Dad on trips to places like Mesa Verde in Colorado, where they had to descend stone steps into a canyon, crawl through tight clay structures, and climb back up 40 feet of ladders. She’s hung in on many walking trips and tours. She had her left knee joint replaced last summer. Now she needs the other one replaced. I’m grateful this surgery is even available.

Mom is turning seventy-three in December. The other day she said: They still don’t know what arthritis really is or what causes it.

Please give if you can.