I'm sitting next to my Dad while he sleeps in his hospital bed. He had hip replacement surgery on Monday, and Mom and I are providing the support team.
Dad's 82 years old. And he's amazing. Other than his hip, he's in great shape. Low blood pressure, great heart, lungs, and blood sugar. He never thought his hip hurt that much, at least not enough to do something about it until two months ago.
My folks live in the same house on 2 1/2 acres of wooded land that they've had for 49 years. Dad mows his own lawn (albeit now with a small tractor), shovels the deck and runs the snow blower in the winter, unless it's way too deep. His garden is considerably less than the 1/2 acre it once was when we were kids, but he still plants, weeds and hoes it by himself. Mom pitches in occasionally for the harvesting process. They both volunteer everywhere, including Dad's work at the 4-H farm. And to top that off, they both go to senior exercise class twice a week at the local university. Heck, these two eighty-somethings even park far away and walk to their class!
When Dad's doctor came to check on him the first night after the surgery, he mentioned that the whole surgical team couldn't believe he was almost 83. He really does look much younger, he's fit and he's kept his weight at a healthy level for as long as I can remember. Not too many hip replacement patients can say the same.
Exercise isn't new to him. He was one of the first wave of health conscious Americans. Around 1968, Dad would come home from work and take my brother and me jogging. Dad recalls reading a book about jogging. I would wager it was written by Bill Bowerman, University of Oregon track and field coach, who is credited with getting people running for health. Along with the millions of people started jogging in the 60's, others were getting fit with the help of "Aerobics," a book written by Air Force physician Kenneth Cooper. My dad was on the cutting edge of fitness. He kept running until he could do it no more. At that point, he and my mom walked together.
They always ate plenty of vegetables from the garden, fruits, and lots of milk, cheese and ice cream---Dad was a professor of Dairy Science (nutrition for cows!) Mom was a home economics major. Between the two of them well balanced meals were simply their way of life.
As I think about all of this, I realize that he has been my inspiration. Perhaps without ever really thinking about it, his interests influenced mine as I went into dietetics and exercise physiology. And looking at him now, it should be very apparent to anyone that making healthy choices in life really can make a difference. When he's fully recovered from this surgery, you can bet he'll be right back out there doing everything he had been doing, and probably more.