Putting One’s Best Foot Forward In a Different Way

From the time my sister and I were very little, mother taught us by word and deed about the need to “put our best foot forward” when we had guests or were guests (though she didn’t use those words). We were taught how to use eating utensils, table manners, greet people and manners in general. As I look back on it, I remember our home as usually neat and clean, but it needed to be especially so when guests were invited. Mother was a good Swedish cook and knew how to prepare a delicious, attractive meal and serve it well. As my sister and I grew up and started families of our own, we tended to continue what we had been taught and enjoyed doing it. It all was unquestionably friendly, but had a certain degree of formality to it.

Fast forward to the present. Aging has not only moved in, but has gradually taken over my capacities to put my best foot forward. My standards and efforts are the same. The friendliness is as present as ever, but formality and execution have flown out the window. I still can set a table, have everything set up and arrange for beverages, but prepare and serve a meal? No way! So guests tend to come bearing food. Once here, everyone pitches in, chaos occasionally reigns.   Service may be buffet style with guests serving themselves from a counter in the kitchen and returning there for “seconds”. And they usually want to help with the cleanup, though I’m still capable of doing the dishes. The casual comradery seems to feel as good to everyone as the genteel service of earlier years.

I don’t go out much for meals, but even at home I may need assistance in serving myself and cutting things into bite size pieces. Once I got over my shyness about this and could accept it neutrally as “this is what it is”, no one else seems to mind at all. As someone once told me, “No use getting your knickers in a knot over it.” So I’m learning to accept who and what I am on any given day, and others do too, thank goodness!

I also look back on my days as a nursing student in a hospital based program where much of our learning took place as we cared for patients for hours each day, and later when I worked as a nurse and head nurse on hospital wards. It seemed to me that patients perked up and tended to want to put their best foot forward when the doctors were making their rounds. And I too on my infrequent doctor visits find myself wanting to do the same.

Still, what’s important for both doctor and patient, or any other care provider and recipient is an honest encounter where accurate data on the actual status becomes available. Putting our best foot forward in this situation now would seem to be preparing ourselves (as our capacities permit) to provide/communicate accurate data on our status in relevant areas rather than try to be seen “at our best”.

In my last checkup visit with the doctor, I had written out a list of my current ARCs so I could quickly, sharply present them (and, in case my short term memory lapses kicked in). After he had asked his questions and done his inspection, I asked if he was interested in the status of my age related changes. He was. I brought out my list, explained why I had one, provided data on each ARC’s status. He asked questions and made notations. He had important data he would not have had if I had not prepared and taken the initiative. I felt I’d put my best foot forward in a new way.

So, I’m learning new best-foot-forward lessons. It’s still fine to try to be the best I can be, but it’s in a new way where it’s truly important to be who and what I currently am, warts and all.


8 thoughts on “Putting One’s Best Foot Forward In a Different Way

  1. I recognize it all, Doris. Our Norwegian heritage, coupled with the culture as it was back when we were growing up, was part and parcel of how we brought people into our lives, if only for a few hours. I upheld the best-foot-forward mantra for many years: my first husband was a doctor, and entertaining was frequent and always done just so. But I sorely missed being in on the conversations as I worked in the kitchen to making everything “just right.” In my older years now, laid back is welcome, and soon I shall need someone to help cutting up some things as my arthritis gets more in the way. Thank you for taking us back to good times and for re-naming how we still “put our best foot forward.”


    • Thank goodness times have changed in my world at least so that the men in our lives (the ones under 55 in my case) do heaps of cooking and we women are not ghettoed in the kitchen. Also, kitchens and dining rooms are merged so thar guests and hosts are all together. Aging enforces those changes. Thanks for your thoughts, Martha.


  2. I so appreciate your blog. Thank you for taking the time to observe and write about your experiences. We’re all either “there,” or right behind you.


  3. Dear Doris – What wonderful memories to have of your first family; and how beautifully you have transitioned into the necessary changes. As my condition progresses I am learing how to ask for, and accept, much more help than I ever envisioned needing.

    Truly, we are all Interdependent!



  4. As my son says (sounds sarcastic, but meant in a loving, humorous way), “Adapt or die, old woman”. Just because we need to adapt, as uncomfortable as it may seem at first, doesn’t mean we aren’t still vital. We need to adapt psychologically as well as physically.

    Liked by 3 people

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