Saturday, December 20, 2008

A growing awareness

I'm in Indiana this week, visiting my family and of the many thoughts this invokes, the one I'd like to explore right now if that of Health and Health Consciousness.
My divorced father lives alone just a block away from his widowed sister. They are very close, best friends. My father is 63, retired and in very poor health. What strikes me about his health is that I believe most of his problems are somewhat self-inflicted and probably could have been prevented had he taken better care of himself when he was younger. Now, he's too damn stubborn to do anything. His day consists of reading in the morning, playing guitar in the afternoon and watching tv at night. He goes for days at a time without leaving the house. He eats at his sister's most nights. She's a great cook, but a vegetable is an afterthought with dinner and usually consists of canned greenbeans or creamed corn or canned asparagus loaded with mayonnaise. In fact, mayonnaise is a major ingredient in most of her cooking, along with butter and cheese. Don't get me wrong, I devour everything she makes. I'm talking about some real, serious, old-fashioned comfort food. But it's no wonder she's seriously obese. It's no wonder her knees hurt. It's no wonder that my Dad has a huge gut, gets heartburn almost every night, and suffers from irritable bowl syndrome so badly he can't travel to see his daughters or grandson.
Good grief, look at how they live!

(God, grant me the serenity...)

Now my mother just ran a 10k for her 60th birthday. She is extremely active--swimming, walking, canoing, etc... Frankly, I think she's in better shape than I am. She eats extremely well; lots of salads, fruit every morning, whole grain breads, minimal butter. She's happy and healthy and will probably live decades more to watch her grandchildren grow up. I recently encouraged her to try accupuncture.

From AlAnon, I know that I cannot change my father. I cannot make him healthy. I cannot make him change his lifestyle, improve his mood or make him a happy person. I'm starting to accept that. And I can learn from him and his sister. It's very important to take care of myself. I want to make the effort to eat right and exercise, because I don't want to be old when I'm 60. I want to by spry and able to enjoy that chapter of life.

There is also the geographical element to Health and Health Consciousness. My father and aunt do not have much money and in Indiana in December fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive. I think that in Massachusetts there may be more access to this type of food. I certainly haven't seen a Whole Foods in Indiana. The consciousness perhaps hasn't made it to Indiana yet. Isn't that typical of the coasts and larger urban areas to be more progressive? I hope I'm not insulting anyone, and I know it's not always true. My mom lives in Vermont which is extremely rural, yet also quite progressive in many ways. And I'm sure there are people in Indiana who don't purchase farm raised shrimp from Thailand, even though they're a bargain at Wal-Mart. But sometimes that's what's affordable when one plans a celebration with the family.

Enough for now. This rambling train of thought needs to ramble over to my aunt's for some cheese bombs and heart-attack dip. YUM!


Anonymous said...

I can relate to so many of the things you have posted about.

Sarah said...

Hi there! I enjoy reading your blog, thought I'd stop by to say so.

Anyways, it sounds like your father is at least happy and living a peaceful life, if mostly unhealthy. Just a thought.

Shadow said...

mmmm, how differently people age. and it's all about taking it in, choosing which one you'd prefer and then doing it. enjoy your holidays!

cedrorum said...

You seem to be learning a lot from Al-Anon. I am going through the same thing with my mother-in-law. She is always complaining about her health. Although, she does nothing to improve it. She is retired and could be eating better, exercising, etc.. but doesn't. All I can do is plant the seed about these things and hope she sees the light. She is only 65 and my 95 year old grandfather and 70 year old dad are in much better shape than her. Why? partly because they stay active and eat well.

Lou said...

I see the epidemic of self induced health problems from obesity, smoking & lack of exercise.
I work for orthopedic surgeons, and 60year old, overweight, sedentary people come in all time for knee pain, back pain, etc. The doctor will tell they can lose 30 (or 40 or 50 pounds) or get a total knee replacement. Eighty percent say I'll take the surgery. I see the under 50 generation taking a lot more responsibility for their health though.

Syd said...

I want to be a spry 60 year old too. Heck, I want to be a spry 90 year old. Taking care of myself is a priority of mine. I can't make someone else do that for themselves. I hope that you dad gets lots of vegetables for Christmas. Tell him that if he eats collards he'll have money for the New Year.

Cat said...

I think in some 200 years from now a system of health care will be put in place that encourage prevention and healthy habits and who knows maybe tax write offs would be given for staying within some guidelines of health!

Have a happy holiday!

Addicted Rantings said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours. ~AR