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Why I'm Here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

There is no easy way to introduce this subject, so here it goes. I spent nineteen years watching my dad suffer from obesity-related illness. From the time he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes when I was eight years old, he struggled with the concept of his own mortality, weighing his desire to continue the lifestyle he enjoyed against the lifestyle that would keep him alive. More often he chose the former, and his health suffered dearly for it. Within six years, his kidneys began to fail, and he was placed on a transplant list while enduring dialysis four nights a week.

The transplant came in 2004, but he never seemed to fully recover. His diabetes was out of control. Three years later, his vision was so bad he couldn't pass a sight test to renew his CDL, so he was forced to take a medical retirement from work - something about which he remained angry and ashamed until the day he died. When his driver's license expired, the same thing happened; another indignity leveled against a man who had already suffered so much. A few months later, even he was forced to admit that his eyesight was too poor to operate a vehicle, and his illicit driving stopped. I think this was the point where he truly gave up.

With nowhere to go and no way to get there, he became sedentary. He gained more weight. His knees, already in poor shape due to his youthful escapades in football and the military, began to go. He was in and out of the hospital for the next several years, and eventually, I moved back home - partially out of necessity, but also because I was worried about him. From there on out - nearly three years - I was his caretaker.

The last two years of Dad's life were spent sleeping in an automatic recliner in our living room because his gout and arthritis were so bad that he couldn't get out of bed. His heart, which had been giving him trouble since 1998, began to fail in earnest. In 2012, he went into the hospital for a nosebleed...and never came home. A massive heart attack in the early hours of Christmas Eve saw him admitted to the cardiac ICU in an induced coma to spare him further suffering. He was taken off of life support twenty-four hours later, and passed away, surrounded by family, at 4:05 in the morning on Christmas Day.

I lost it, at that point. Any modicum of sense that I'd managed to retain through those last twenty-four hours - and, admittedly, it wasn't much - went right out the window. I refused to leave Dad's bedside until my mother and my cousin quite literally pried my hand from that of his corpse and dragged me from the room. I was devastated. My dad was my hero and my best friend; he was truly the most incredible man I had ever met. Gruff, and tough, and wild-looking, but truly goodhearted beneath it all. He had beaten death so many times that I thought he would live forever. Not only is his absence devastating, but the realization that I might not be long in joining him is, in itself, a life-changer.

I know why Dad stopped trying. He thought he was too old to change; that it wouldn't make much of a difference either way, whether he had two years left, or five. He figured that if he was going to live at all, he may as well enjoy it. Maybe that makes him a braver person than I am; I don't know. At the same time, though, I know he realized that I had drawn the short straw when it came to his genetics, and that he worried about me. We shared the same metabolism, the same habits, the same risk for disease. While he did as he pleased, he always encouraged me in my attempts to get healthy.

When I became a vegetarian in January of 2012, Dad stood by me (though, as an avowed carnivore, he teased me about the decision). When I stuck with it and began to lose weight, you could tell he was proud. He bragged over the phone to our relatives; he went out of his way to budget my Tofurky and vegetables into our groceries. He gave me cooking tips, since I'm atrocious in the kitchen. Eventually, I even got him to try a few of the things I cooked.

I just wish I'd been able to get through to him sooner.

That, I guess, is why I'm here. If I couldn't save my dad, at least I can save myself. All I want is to make my dad proud. I don't give a damn about bikinis, or celebrity style, or my sex life, or any of the other reasons women in their twenties want to slim down. I want to do right by my father and honor his memory. So, here it goes...from 230 pounds to 135 in a year, starting now.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    And remember, you do not have to choose between a lifestyle you "love" and a lifestyle of good health. You may discover that your good health lifestyle offers so many great options that you will love that one even more.
    1757 days ago
    Kudos to you for taking charge of your health. I know you've always made your dad proud. Being true to yourself and achieving your goals is a great way to honor him.
    1757 days ago
    emoticon So glad you are taking control of your health now
    1757 days ago
    *applauds* ..... Such a touching story and a brave decision to share it! I myself have health issues which I believe to have been caused by my weight, so I know where you're coming from there. I cannot, however, imagine what it is like to lose a parent and find it hard to make a worthy comment on that.

    We have a similar amount of weight to lose so if you ever need an unassuming "ear", feel free to message me! Good luck on your journey :) E_F x

    1757 days ago
    You do your Dad proud just by being you. You are who you are in part because of him (and I'm not just talking genetics), and that part of him in you will always be there.

    You honour him and his memory by taking the best possible care of yourself, your health, and your life. From what you've written, joy was a huge part of your Dad's life, so don't get so caught up in the "I want to lose so many pounds by such-and-such a date" that you forget to enjoy the journey.

    Condolences on your loss, and kudos to you for embracing the changes to honour your Dad with your own healthy and happy life.

    1757 days ago
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