Simple Instructions

A friend recently encouraged me to subscribe to an online newsletter titled The Writer’s Almanac ( featuring a daily dose of poetry, quotes, and other musings posted by none other than Garrison Keillor. At the end of all his posts the ever affable Keillor signs off with, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch ®.” Yes, it seems he registered that line, and I agree it “has legs” as they say! Today I saw it as a better than average set of simple instructions for Baby Boomers with parents in assisted living or nursing home facilities.

Be well. After dealing with runny noses, middle of the night flu bugs and a hodgepodge of other illnesses and wounds over the years, it’s hard for seniors to stop hoping their kids are well, even if the “kids” are in their fifties or sixties. My mom would always notice if it sounded like I had a cold when we talked long distance, and a couple of days later I would be treated to another call just to see if I was feeling better. I knew she was concerned because she never made long distance phone calls capriciously. They cost money, you know! Take your vitamins, eat healthy food, and get some exercise. Be well.

Do good work. One of the things I’ve missed most now that my mom is with Jesus is that she was my most loyal reader, my most enthusiastic audience member, my biggest fan. She would carry the latest copies of my newspaper column crumpled up in her purse to share with anyone who would sit still long enough to look at them. And although she found a couple of the books I wrote to be much too transparent by the standards of Southern propriety, she was thrilled to receive the first copies and would sit down and read them as soon as she could. Then I would get the congratulatory call. The parents who drove us to school all those years and paid for our lessons and college tuitions did so to invest in our futures. They are interested in our work and want to hear about it, and will help us keep a healthy perspective on the definition of success. Do good work.

Keep in touch. My husband and I were both blessed in that neither of our mothers was a guilt inducer. No matter how long it was between phone calls, they were just happy to hear our voices on the other end of the line and never said, “Well, it’s about time you called. I thought you were dead,” as I understand some parents are wont to do! Yet because they didn’t complain, we may not have called and visited as much as we could have. Now we’d love to be able to do both, but they are gone. How long does it really take to make a phone call, write a note, send a photo, or drop by for a hug? Keep in touch.

So with apologies to Mr. Keillor, I’ll close as he does. Be well, do good work, keep in touch®.


  1. Elizabeth Van Liere says:

    Yes, I love it when my three sons call each week. (My daughter lives with me). I admit, I am spoiled. Since my parents and in-law parents have long gone on ahead I get the full treatment.
    As to the rest of your message: Be well (I’m trying), do good work (I’m trying), keep in touch (I am)
    In His love and with mine,, Betty.

  2. Jan Keller says:

    Thanks for this morning’s ‘Back Porch Break!’ Like your mom, I relished those Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper articles. How happy and honored I am to be able to include your column in my paper for readers of The Country Register!

  3. alice scott-ferguson says:

    Wonderfully worded and applied as always dear friend…words worth heeding, As my dear mom used to say, “a word to the wise is sufficient”…sufficient to heed and haste to execute!

  4. Another wonderful post, Nancy. Beautifully written. If we all could be well, do good, and keep in touch in family and friends, how much better it would be.
    Hope you’re back to perfect health for Thanksgiving!

  5. Thanks, Marylin. Hopefully Mr, Keillor won’t mind my taking liberties with his slogan. Happy Thanksgiving!

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