In 1991 at age 61 my father suffered a stroke which left him with impaired speech, paralysis on the left side of his body, and a generally less than sunny disposition. My father had always been an intensely proud man and an exceptionally hard worker, often working two or three jobs in order to provide for our family, this left little time for something as self-indulgent as “exercise”.
My father’s poor health did not start with his stroke, but the stroke did contribute to accelerated atrophy of his muscle tissue and a long, slow decline. No, my father’s poor health was a work in progress his entire adult life. Although he did not smoke cigarettes, take drugs, or drink alcohol, there were other factors at play. He had a hearty appetite, a hereditary predisposition to diabetes and heart disease, and an absence of meaningful exercise.
After twenty-two years of being confined to a wheelchair, this once giant of a man was reduced to mere skin and bones. After enduring years of what he felt were the personal indignities of needing help with bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming, and eating, he had enough. In September 2013, on his last trip to the emergency room, he reminded the staff that a signed ‘DNR’ was on file with the hospital.
Sadly, my dad’s story is not unique. And while I have the ultimate respect for my father and the sacrifices he made to provide for my family’s welfare, the cost was too high! When it comes to my health, I have no desire and no intention of following in his footsteps. I want to be active and fully engaged with life and family for all the years of my life. I watch what I eat, and I exercise a few minutes each week to gain strength and preserve muscle.