My father passed away in November. I originally wrote this post on Wednesday, November 29th. I wrote it and shared it with my health and fitness accountability group on Facebook. Writing it helped me process the grief. Writing specifically about one aspect of my dad’s life and one aspect of my relationship with him helped me process some of my grief. I was sad and I cried the whole time, but it wasn’t plunging me into what this all meant to my whole life.
One of the good things (for me) about having a blog (even if it is a neglected blog) is that it is a place to write. I love writing, but before I created this blog I rarely wrote anything. So it’s an outlet for me. Sometimes I type away like mad on my computer and then it just sits there. I never publish it. But having this blog gave me an outlet that morning, when I couldn’t sleep. When I was in bed and my mind was racing. It gave me a constructive way to talk about my dad, without getting too personal. A place to share some things about him without delving into all that he means to me. Even if I knew I wasn’t going to share it- yet or maybe ever- on this blog. I shared it only in the safe space of my little group.
I share it here now because losing my father has had a huge impact on my life. On my “journey.” I feel like I’m baby stepping out of the surreal, underwater feeling that has been the last few months. Part of moving forward will be wrapping myself up in nutrition and exercise. (Could be worse, right?!) I think my dad would get a kick out of hearing me talk about what I’m about to get myself into next….
Here’s what I wrote and shared with my group back in November:
“My father passed away on Monday night (November 27th). He was very sick, diagnosed with cancer on September 25th and things seemed to progress so quickly. But the way he died, and the quickness of the actual end, was unexpected.
I write about this here because up until the few months before his diagnosis he was an amazingly healthy and active man. And he inspired me to be healthy. He set a wonderful example for his children and grandchildren.
His fitness was a bit like a bell curve. He had that time in the middle of his life when he was less active, consumed by the responsibilities of work and commuting from Rockland County, NY to Brooklyn for 34 years. But even during those years he was health conscious. I remember him eating wheat germ and drinking apple cider vinegar in the ‘80s, when neither of those was a “thing.”
My dad was a conservative business man. You wouldn’t look at him and guess he was a health nut. But he was always open to vitamins and holistic stuff, never a sucker for fads but knowing there were real options out there to optimize health.
My love of nutrition is definitely inspired by him. Sometimes I feel like my father when I mix up my kefir and granola and berries. Every morning he would fix his “concoction.” The ingredients varied but mostly it was oats, cinnamon, nuts (when my kids weren’t around), berries. He ate salmon twice a week. I first heard about flaxseed from him and he heard about kefir from me and started eating it too.
He ran when he was younger, walked and hiked a ton when he was older. Just a few years ago my dad, my brother, my husband, my son and I hiked the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland. It was a challenging 9-mile hike and he impressed us all. There was a little bit of rock scrambling involved and we worried but he was fine.
And my dad loved golf. He would golf 4 times a week most weeks when he and my mom were in Florida. He shot an 81 when he was 81. He got a hole in one a few years ago. More often than not he would walk the course. Golf brought him great joy and as he got sicker missing it was one of his biggest concerns.
My sister Liz has been a big part of me finding a love for exercise and she told a great story about my dad the other day. She went to Rockland Lake to go for a run, started out and felt like she didn’t really have it in her that day. My dad drove by her and waved. She knew he was going to park and walk the hills by the golf course there. And if he could go do that, then she could go finish her run. It ended up being one of her best runs ever.
My dad would always ask me about what I was doing. And he always had something positive to say about my workouts or my running. He always showed interest and encouraged me. He also made me want to do better. I wanted to make him proud.
And maybe before I found my love of exercise as an adult, it was my dad who planted the seed when I was a child. Some of my favorite memories of him are from our hikes at Bear Mountain or our walks at Rockland Lake.
I have been wanting to write about my dad on here for a long time and just never did. I wanted to write about how he inspired my love for health and fitness, nutrition and exercise. I wanted to tell you about his daily walks, his golf games, his regular trips to the gym. How even in those middle years when he didn’t have the luxury to golf all the time, my siblings and I might catch him doing push-ups and sit-ups in his room. I wanted to tell you that he always took the stairs at work, I want to say it was 6 flights. He would never brag about his golf, he would never tell anyone he was doing daily exercises in his room. But he was there carving out his own healthy routines, all along.
I don’t want to pour my heart out here. I could go on and on about my father, about the wonderful man he was and will continue to be in our hearts and memories. About the gentleman he was, the strength he had, his brilliance, his humility, his incredible sense of humor that brings a smile to my face right now as I think about it. He gave me so many gifts- especially the love of books and words that I have passed on to my own children. He was a wonderful dad and a wonderful Poppop to my kids.
But I mostly wanted to write about him here to share his inspiration for living a healthy life. He was so strong and healthy and active the last ten years of his life. I want to be healthy so I can grow older strong and active and healthy. People would look at him and say, “he’s in great shape!”
His level of health before sickness made it harder to see him as he weakened. And I know it made it harder for him. So while I’m sad we said good-bye sooner than expected, I’m glad he was spared some of the physical decline that would be inevitable.
The question on that Monday when I drove my mom and my dad to the emergency room wasn’t “Is it time to let go?” It was “Do we give the treatment another shot or do we call hospice?” But things unfolded differently than anyone expected. I can’t overthink why. I can’t wish I knew better or saw it coming or said a better good-bye. I can go through this with my family, I can know he’s always with me, and I can try to live a life that would make him proud. I’m lucky I had a dad that made me want to be a better person.”