My mom called on Saturday to tell me she’d found a digital picture frame I gave her 10 years ago.  You know, the kind that displays a slide show of pictures, dissolving from one to the next. She told me she both laughed and cried.

She laughed at the pictures of my girls as toddlers – they were quite expressive back then. She cried because some of the pictures were of my dad with the girls. He was so tickled by them, even though his memory was already starting to fade. I know he’d enjoy them immensely today if he were alive and coherent.

Today would have been my dad’s 83rd birthday. I thought about that while looking at my favorite picture of him, the one I keep in my office at home. He’s 57 years old in the picture, and the traits that most defined his personality – the intelligence and the wit – are obvious in the eyes.

I’ll give you just one example of his sense of humor: many years ago, during a conversation about burial vs. cremation, Dad said, “When I die, dump my ashes in the water hazard on the 17th hole at Lincoln Greens. I’d like to spend eternity with my golf balls.”

Dang, what I wouldn’t give for one more conversation with the man.

When his birthday comes around each year, I take it as a reminder of This Is Why We Do What We Do. When I was born, Dad was only 24. He began fading noticeably around age 70, when I was 46. It was painful to witness, but I was approaching middle age or already in middle age, depending on how you define it.

By contrast, I turned 45 the week after my daughter Sara was born. I was 46 when Alana came along 18 months later. If I fade at age 70, they’ll only be in their twenties. I like to think they’re going to want my fatherly advice for many more years beyond that. And even if they don’t, it’s like I said in Fat Head: I want to dance at their weddings. I want to play with my grandkids.

Chareva’s dad turned 75 on Saturday – in a hospital. He was hobbled by a stroke more than a year ago, and a few weeks ago, he fell and broke his hip while attempting to limp to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Fixing the hip required surgery. He ended up with blood clots in his legs, so he needed another surgery to implant a mesh designed to keep the clots from reaching his brain. Not exactly a happy birthday for him.

My dad smoked until he was 58, he drank too much, he didn’t exercise, and he paid little attention to his diet. Chareva’s dad did exercise and was a lean-mean-dancin-machine well into his sixties, but he kept eating his bagels and chocolate candies even after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  I think it’s a fair bet the ever-worsening diabetes led to the stroke.

I’m not criticizing them; I’m just pointing out that the lifestyle decisions we make have consequences.

We’ve both seen our dads lose their quality of life by age 74. I’ll be that age in 15 years, and when I think about what our dads went through, I say to myself, No way in hell. In my nineties, maybe, but not in my seventies.

This Is Why We Do What We Do. It’s nice when people express genuine surprise that I’m pushing 60 (as happened at the office last week), it’s great to be able to do physical farm work on Sunday morning and still hit the gym for a workout on Sunday afternoon (as happened yesterday), and it’s satisfying to wear smaller pants now than I did 20 years ago.

But that’s not really what this is all about. It’s about feeling confident that if I avoid stepping in front of the proverbial bus, I’ll be dancing at my daughters’ weddings … and perhaps watching their daughters graduate from high school.

Share
35 Responses to “A Few Thoughts On My Dad’s Birthday”
  1. Phillis Hammond says:

    Such a bittersweet commentary on your dad. He sounds like he was quite a character. I can understand how you miss him. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss both my parents and wish I could have another conversation with them. So much knowledge is lost by death sadly. That is why I too want to keep my health so that I can keep on learning and keep on teaching when I can. As for you aging? You look great to be pushing 60! If you hadn’t said that I would never have known you were even close to that number! Taking your own health advice is working so keep it up! Not flattering you. Just statin’ the truth.

  2. mabelle says:

    I am actually surprised u said u are turning 60. If you dont mind me asking, what did your dad pass away from? “She cried because some of the pictures were of my dad with the girls. He was so tickled by them, even though his memory was already starting to fade” – that instantly welled my eyes up.

  3. Firebird7478 says:

    The line about cremation gave me a nice chuckle this morning. It is clear where you and the Older Brother got your senses of humor.

    I’ve seen the same thing in my dad…deteriorating health. At age 80 he’s got Parkinson’s and requires a walker complete with tennis balls. He never smoked or was much of a drinker, but he ate crap and never picked up a weight or rode a bike. I tried telling him year ago but he wouldn’t listen (Imagine my shock).

    • Tom Naughton says:

      All we can do at this point is avoid making the same mistakes.

      • Firebird7478 says:

        I started weightlifting at 14 to strengthen a bad lower back but I seem to have fought an uphill battle. That area has degenerated some and now I have issues with balance and pain elsewhere in the body. No diet can fix that. I worry that I may be heading down that same path, though the orthopedic doctor and my osteopathic physician don’t see it.

      • Facebook just reminded me that I published “on my year of living less dangerously” FOUR years ago. 5 years of my life healthier, thanks to you and Andy Lopez, and everyone else slowly turning the tide towards actual health through good sound nutrition instead of common non-sense.

  4. Janknitz says:

    My mother had a harrowing course of mixed dementia (Alzheimer’s and multi-infarct dementia). She spent the last 9 months of her life screaming at the top of her lungs every waking moment with no awareness she was doing it.

    I’m doing this in hope of sparing my daughters watching me die that way. I thank people like you who help spread the word.

    BTW, I’m reading Dr. Dale Bredesen’s book, _The End of Alzheimers_. His approach indicates we are are on the right path.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      That had to be painful for you to witness. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that when my dad went into a nursing home for Alzheimer’s patients, he thought it was his office and all those people running around were his employees.

  5. Dianne says:

    This beautiful post made my eyes fill with tears, but it made me smile, too. Your dad’s crack about the golf balls was just the sort of thing my own dad would have said. (I hope they have golf in heaven — otherwise, Dad may have refused to go in.) We never stop loving them and missing them, do we?

    I hope it’s some comfort to you that not only are you doing all the right things to ensure a healthy life as you age, you are helping many others to do the same, and even helping people restore the health they thought was lost. Did you ever imagine that your funny little movie would do so much for so many? But it all started there.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      If there’s a heaven, it’s full of golf courses and my dad is regularly shooting in the 70s.

      Dad, if you can hear me, remember to leave the 1-iron in the bag, even in heaven. Don’t forget what Lee Trevino said after being struck by lightning: “If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”

  6. The Younger Sister, after a new puppy chewed on one of Dad’s shoes:

    “I know, Dad — sorry, but he’s just teething.”

    Dad (seeming uncharacteristically upset): HE’S NOT TEETHING, DAMMIT! HE’S THERIOUS!”

    Cheers

  7. Elenor says:

    “I want to dance at their weddings. I want to play with my grandkids.”

    When I read that, I heard in my head your dry laconic voice echoing… I’ve probably watched Fat Head 30 or more times! You’re a brilliant guy Tom — and I’m so glad you’re out there.

    I’m just now dealing with a 92 yr old mother many of whose marbles have rolled away, and who is struggling still on her own. (Out in Sherman Oaks, near my younger sister. I’m planning on moving her here to GA, to I can be at her beck-and-call in a way my sister can’t be.) Man! Getting old is NOT for sissies!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      No, it certainly isn’t. But our great-grandpa lived to be 101 and was lucid until the last couple of years. I want to beat his record.

      • Dianne says:

        My aunt will be 101 next month, and is still very lucid. Physically frail, but lucid. We made her stop driving when she was 97, and she was pretty mad about it, but with macular degeneration, what can you do? Please, Lord, may my sister and I have those genes!

  8. Kelly Tague says:

    ahh that sense of humor sounds like my Dad! My Dad died of cancer. He had hypertension as long as I can remember and became diabetic at some point. Funny thing was when he lost weight, due to the cancer, he was the first to proclaim to everyone “i’m no longer diabetic or hypertensive now that I lost all the weight!” He was my living proof that these diseases are reversible. I only wish he had lost the weight due to lifestyle changes instead of cancer.

  9. Bonnie says:

    My dad died less than a month before his 89th birthday. Wish I could say he had been in good health, but his many years of uncontrolled t2 diabetes took its toll. We were all so clueless about it when he was diagnosed – I didn’t get serious about low carb until after his death.

    Even tho my health is so much better, there’s not much chance of playing with grandkids. I was in the 2nd half of my 30s when I had my kids, and they seem to be taking after me. If they wait as long as I did, I’ll be well into my 70s. Tho maybe that would keep me feeling young(er). 🙂

  10. Chmeee says:

    I’m 61. Two kids aged 11 and 13. I know the feeling! 😀 Had diabetes. Touch wood, don’t have it now and haven’t for 8 years. I WILL see them married etc. Go for it it Tom and thanks for all the help and advice

    Thanks

  11. chris c says:

    Oh bless!

    Yes bittersweet memories.

    Mine had hyperthyroid when he was young, which they “cured” by opening up his neck and hacking out most of the gland. By then he had a damaged heart (and those Marty Feldman eyes) but he still lived to be 82. We all laughed because he insisted on eating meat three times a day, and butter and lard, but in retrospect he knew best after all.

    Sadly his later years were plagued by what I now realise was hypothyroid, which the clueless doctors failed to diagnose. “Treatment resistant depression”, my arse.

  12. Harold Aardsma says:

    Tom I’ll be 59 in 3 weeks. I’m a bricklayer or I should say blocklayer. I pick up 40, 50, 60 pound blocks hundreds of times a day. When I was in my 40’s I was overweight and in pain. I wondered how long I could continue laying brick. Later, I was diagnosed as a T2, ever suffer a mild heart attack by 52. I went LCHF moderate protein (on cusp of keto) lost a ton of weight and inflammation is gone. I out perform guys half my age on the job. In fact, one coworker asked, “What are you? A machine?” Here is the point. I’m not trying to live to be 100. I just want to live well until the day I drop. My dad lived to be 98. The last 10 years of his life he was alive, but not living. So far I’m achieving my goal. I feel like I have discovered the fountain of youth.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Same here. I go out and do heavy-duty farm work, or go to the gym and push hard, and I know my 35-year-old self would have struggled to keep up.

  13. Deb says:

    Your dad sounds wonderful! My dad had a wonderful sense of humor too, and was quite lucid until his last illness that took him at age 90. My mom is now 96, and although physically frail, VERY frail, and almost completely deaf, (which is maddening), she still has her wit and humor and sense of determination. I insist that she has coconut oil and D3K2 every day, and she mostly indulges me, even when she rolls her eyes. Many days, she can out-snark me!

  14.  
Leave a Reply