Health & Fitness Column

Dad does not get to see Molly grow up

By John Taylor | Apr 23, 2013
Photo by: File Health and Fitness Columnist John Taylor.

I was sitting at home with my fiancée, Andreya, last Thursday and we were laughing at the “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer nearly came down with hypothermia after he fell asleep in the hot tub and the heat pump broke.
But my laughter quickly turned to disbelief after receiving a phone call from the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua informing me my father had died that afternoon.
My father had been living abroad in Nicaragua since 2010, and had taken a wife last year.
His business ventures earned him tremendous wealth, and when we last spoke, he stated he was looking to have children with my new stepmother. Dad was also able to see his granddaughter, Molly, over Skype conversations and stated he wanted to visit the United States as soon as he could to meet my little girl.
But this visit never occurred, because my father’s poor lifestyle decisions finally caught up with him and he died at the age of 57 from cardiac arrest.
Throughout his life, dad was morbidly obese. I would like to say he battled obesity, but battling insinuates he actually tried to shed his unhealthy body weight. My father once admitted to me that his weight fluctuated between 380 and 415 pounds, but by taking the prescription Lipitor, he felt his high blood pressure was under control.
However, the combination of his sedentary lifestyle and KFC-enriched diet proved no match for Lipitor and the other medications he took to treat ailments caused by his ample size.
It wasn’t as though my dad didn’t have warning signs that his lifestyle choices wouldn’t lead to catastrophic consequences. Since 1992, my father experienced three heart attacks and two minor strokes, all caused by weight-related hypertension. In 2005, dad had a massive heart attack that forced doctors to perform a quadruple bypass. However, despite this near-death experience, my father still never changed his ways.
I’m saddened because my father died, but what makes his death even more devastating is that my little girl won’t get to know her grandfather. Molly won’t be able to be spoiled by a doting granddad, and receive extravagant birthday and Christmas presents that mom and dad would never buy her.
And why…because my dad refused to prioritize his health so he could live into old age.
I’m finding we are living in a society that pledges, “big is beautiful,” but I also feel this rhetoric has the potential of having dangerous consequences for families.
Yes, I agree people should be happy with themselves, but everyone needs to assess if their current level of health is conducive to a long-life. Like my dad, many people living unhealthy lifestyles may refuse to believe that their choices not only affect them, but also their loved ones, both living and yet-to-be-born.
When my dad had his massive heart attack, shouldn’t he have felt guilty for living a lifestyle that forced others to take care of him while he rehabbed? There are few things more awkward than helping your 400 pound father use the toilet because he was too out of breath to go from the living room to the bathroom on his own.
So next time you look at your waist line and find yourself in a position of acceptance about your present health, just know that you may not be around long enough to see your grandchildren celebrate their second birthday.
I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad about themselves. Quite the contrary. I’m writing this so the future Molly’s of the world don’t have to feel bad when they realize they don’t have grandparents like their friends do, particularly when the cause of death can be avoided through being active and eating well. Seriously, no amount of the Colonel’s original recipe is worth dying young over.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Gail Heathman | Apr 24, 2013 09:05


My deepest sympathy to you. I can relate to the frustration and pain of losing loved ones because of their lifestyle choices. Most of my family members have smoked. I lost my dad to lung cancer, my older brother to throat cancer and for the past six weeks, I've driven daily to visit my mom in the hospital and then rehab -- she has COPD and heart failure. Smokers are a defiant bunch, saying those of us who don't smoke can't understand the strength of the addiction, and I'm sure that's true. But it seems I've spent way too much of my life in hospitals, standing helplessly at the bedsides of those I love. There could have been so many more beautiful memories made together than the sounds of labored breathing with the background noise of hospital machinery.

Gail Heathman

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