My dad was a recruited catcher in high school. He was good enough to be cocky and that cockiness led to an irrecoverable mistake: He chose to smoke cigarettes which led to his getting booted from the team when his coach found out, effectively ending his shot at pro baseball.
My father then went into the Air Force where he was a weather man. While in service he had the opportunity to wave at the President of the United States from an overpass. Much to his surprise, the president saw him on that overpass in Dallas, in uniform, and waved back. A few short hours later the nation was stunned. The president lay motionless, his wife and the country grieving his death.
My father, on completing his service just months before the Vietnam war ramped up and finishing his work on his degree, he took a data entry position at a budding computer company – and let me tell you, if you think data entry is boring today, try the early 70’s… My father met my mother while he was her patient in the hospital. Yes, it was cliched. Then I was born, nine months and 1 day after the honeymoon. We lived in a decent duplex in Roxborough, Pennsylvania and my fondest memory from that time was eating cheese steaks and watching boxing on a tiny black and white TV that my dad would set on the dining room table. From there my dad got a call from my grandfather (mom’s side) who asked my dad to move to Michigan to help him run the family business. In ’75 pops packed us up and we moved. My grandfather died of a massive heart attack while my father was still training. It took a while but he learned the business and grew that company into a very lucrative business.
My pops taught me to play baseball when I was just a pup, knee-high to a grasshopper. He took us sledding, trick-or-treating, taught us to hit a golf ball and did all of the things dads do with their little boys – including teaching my brothers and I to be good men.
My dad has a dark side though. He is a raging alcoholic, and this has much to do with why I’m writing this post on a Friday night as all of the good things my dad did for us. He also taught us how not to be a responsible fathers and good husbands. Rather than drag him through the mud with details though, I’ll simply say that his faults are a good part of why I am a great father, dad, pops and husband. Even his failings eventually provided happiness to my family and wife, and to my brother’s families and their wives.
Sadly, it was his love for the libation that turned on his Alzheimer’s disease much earlier than anyone should have to live through it. Alcohol was the death of him; he gave up a lot for a drink.
I saw my dad this afternoon. I can’t imagine it will be long before before Alzheimer’s takes him. He sleeps most of the time, he’s barely able to eat, he’s lost a lot of weight and he’s starting to get that skeletal look to him. He can no longer speak more than one or two intelligible words. My pops is done, pooped out. And I am most definitely not ready for what’s coming.
I’ve missed my dad for a long time but all of the troubles caring for him now seem like the selfish whining of a punk kid who simply didn’t get it. I’ll pay for that some day, probably in the not too distant future.
On the bright side of that though, I have my wife who consistently shows me how it’s supposed to be done. The way she handles my dad’s slipping amazes me on a weekly basis. She loves my old man likes he’s her own simply because she loves me. While I will lose my greatest example of how to be a good man and a great father, I have plenty of other opportunities, if I pay attention.
Now, this relates to fitness in one simple way: Alzheimer’s is one of the few diseases one can outrun (or out-cycle in my case). I’m doing my darnedest to make sure I do, whether it skips a generation or not, whether it is hereditary or not. I realize that what I do can be considered extreme by some – an hour almost every day of the week and 2-3 hours on Saturday and Sunday. I’m okay with the label, I have an abundance of angst to get rid of lately.
Thank you for sharing. I read it while I wait for my lunch at the gym cafe. From here I am going to visit my mother – at the cemetery. Monday will be her birthday. Cherish every minute, no matter how out of it he is.
I will. Thanks Elisa.