When my dad was my age (44), I was 17. Things were a lot less happy than I knew but I lived in a nice little cocoon of awesomeness that my parents spun around me.
My dad was relatively healthy back then, except for the fact that he still smoked like a chimney (2 packs a day, sometimes 3 – I quit more than twelve years ago now, I think). My dad was fairly active (if active is considered getting in and out of a golf cart), more than average and in spite of his numerous imperfections, did a great job of raising me. My mom played a bigger, better role in my upbringing but in the end, my pops taught me to be a man (my mom taught me how to properly treat a woman – something my dad didn’t do so well).
As I watch friends and family contract ugly illnesses and the pace of deaths has hit a fever-pitch, I can’t help but think back on how grateful I am to have the past that I do and that I responded to external stimuli as I did.
My dad died of a combination of Alzheimer’s and alcohol induced “wet brain” (dementia brought about by excessive alcohol consumption). Also had a nice case of COPD, obviously a result of smoking. He drank well into his sixties even though he’d sworn off of it dozens of times.
Unlike my dad, I’d had enough of the drinking at 22, quit smoking before I was 35 and maintained a level of fitness my dad never had the stomach (or made the time) for. In fact, now that I think of it, neither of my folks did anything to stay in shape. No jogging, no biking, not even walking.
This year I’m staring at the mid-point between 40 and 50. That wonderful age when so many people slow down. I’m entirely mood and mind altering substance-fee, tobacco free (more on that at a later date) and I’m still getting faster. In addition to cycling, I’m getting back into swimming, cranking out intervals and hanging with an incredibly fit crowd. I am the opposite of my dad’s example for my kids. I am Ward Cleaver, only funnier, happier, sexier and faster.
I don’t claim to have the market cornered on happiness, sobriety or fitness – I have my struggles just like anyone else but the truth is, I do lead a life I can be happy with. I chose the words in that last sentence carefully. One would normally use “proud” in place of “happy” but I have to be very mindful when it comes to pride.
There are two things I don’t do well, and a fella needs to know his limitations as they say…I don’t do righteous indignation or pride (unless it’s a self-mocking, tongue in cheek, pride – that, I rock at). When it comes to righteous indignation, I’m rash, harsh and often say (or write) things without first thinking them through. This, almost always, leads to misunderstanding and me eating some form of crow (warm or cold).
Pride is trickier, more insidious, dangerous. Everything I’ve said or written over the last 22 years was said or written before. On the other hand I have done some pretty cool things with what I’ve had and that’s where it gets messy. Without taking up another thousand words trying to explain this, I’ll limit it to just a few:
There is a fine line between pride and false pride. In my case, I have absolutely no idea where that line is or even what it looks like. Far better for me is to leave figuring that one out to others. Instead I choose to be thankful, simply that I was able to pay attention and pick up what I needed, that I could lead a reasonably happy life.
One thing is for sure… My dad never looked like this at my age: