I’ve written before about my childhood. As far as I’m concerned it was quite awesome, there were a lot of really good times, great vacations and my parents raised us well. With almost every great personal story there’s a dark side though. I spent yesterday afternoon and evening in just about the last place you want to spend time when you’ve got a great afternoon ride planned… In the hospital with my dad. It’s a general rule that one shouldn’t get too personal on a blog, but you can see how that works with me, so let’s swing for the fences shall we? Please keep in mind, my heart is a little broken right now, so this may come of as harsh – sometimes reality is like that.
My dad smoked like a chimney from high school, where he was recruited by the major colleges (and the major league teams) as a catcher. When his coach caught him smoking he gave him an ultimatum; quit or you’re off the team. He told the coach to jump the lake and flushed a shot at the big leagues down the toilet. To smoke cigarettes.
It get’s better, though my dad did make it through college, he did so as a party animal. Think Animal House, but not stupid. Marriage didn’t settle him down, and it took him till he was 52 to quit drinking…two years after I did. Prior to that, we always knew when he’d been drinking because he’d come home chewing Dentyne Cinnamon gum (my mom hated that gum). He turned into Ward Cleaver over night after quitting and drove my mom up a wall – they were divorced shortly thereafter.
My dad, after a couple of years, put his life back together and managed to put on a happy face. He was married again, to a beautiful woman with teenaged boys. Let me ask you fellas, after you’ve just raised three teenaged boys of your own, what’s the last thing you want to do? Right, raise two more, of someone else’s whom you cannot control or make rules to govern. That marriage ended in divorce too.
My dear old dad retired to Florida shortly thereafter, joined a nice country club, and get this, took a part time job tending the bar! His weekly exercise regimen (since I was a kid) consisted of getting in and out of a golf cart. Now he’s my dad, and Alzheimer’s has taken his ability to read at this point, so I only have to worry about offending a few younger siblings when I write; of all of the dim witted, stupid, things to do… He was back on the booze shortly thereafter. This should not be surprising. I visited him a time or two in Florida and he’d come home shellacked after “work”. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Georgia to be closer to my youngest brother and his family and continued with the same lifestyle. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
So now that my pops is older, on top of Alzheimer’s, he has a mild dose of wet brain from the drinking and COPD from smoking. Whenever he catches a cold, his COPD kicks in and it turns that little cold into full blown pneumonia because he doesn’t know how to expel phlegm by coughing any longer – he just lets that junk sit in his lungs, and that ratchets up his Alzheimer’s, turning him into a cucumber…maybe pickle would be more apt. So Sunday when I picked him up for dinner at my mom’s, he was fine. He could walk and talk, mostly gibberish – but that’s about as good as it gets at this stage. Today, he couldn’t figure out how to back up, walk more than 20′, sit down, hold his head up…it’s like he’d turned 105 overnight. The best part is that if any of these colds aren’t dealt with in the emergency room, he can stay like that until he dies.
My dad is 70 years-old.
If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’ve got a continuing series that details the results of combating everyday maladies with exercise. If you’ve paid attention, this post ties many of them into a nice little bow. When I started running ten or eleven years ago, I did so only to keep from succumbing to a fat lifestyle, but things have changed as time has gone on. As more layers of the onion are peeled back, my exercise habit becomes ever more important. That said, if you ever wonder how a kid can quit drinking, as a full blown drunk at 22 and stay quit, if you want to know why I ride like there’s no tomorrow – it’s not because there’s no tomorrow… It’s because I don’t want my tomorrow to look like that.
Now, what was that excuse again?