Everybody has choices. Every single moment of every single day, every person has the choice to choose if they want to be happy with what they have or irritated with what they lack, to eat what they want, to wear what they want, to do what they want. We have the free will to help people, or to be selfish. Sadly, this free will is the reason people’s rights are often infringed upon and harm is done to innocent victims all over the world, whether it be someone choosing to drink and drive, someone choosing to steal, a person violating another human being through sexual assault and taking away their most basic rights. People’s choices make the world turn. And they can do great good, as well as great harm. They can bring relief to victims of natural disasters or poverty or homelessness or personal injustices. They can spread love and hope to the unloved and the hopeless, simply when someone chooses to be selfless and kind…even if just for a moment.
However, the choices which are weighing on my mind are much less dramatic or damaging (on a large scale at least). In my personal life, they are causing me a great deal of anxiety. Tonight, I am worried, and I will be utilizing once again the therapeutic function of writing to at least lessen this stress. So venture on, kind reader, if you want to know about my troubles.
I love my dad. He is the best dad I imagine I could ever have. I am very much like him personality-wise. I am an extroverted introvert, who can be oblivious sometimes. I have his premature gray hairs and his love for terrible puns, as well as (for the most part) his taste in music. He is kind & gentle & loving. He is a strong example of what it means to be a good person who makes the kinds of choices that positively affect people in the mundane moments of his day to day life. Every year for as long as I can remember, he took me to the valentine’s day dinner hosted by our church. Dads bring their daughters (or uncles bring nieces, or granddads bring their granddaughters, etc.) to remind them that they love them. It is a time that dads can express, without awkwardness, that they are proud of and love their little girls, and a time that they can devote to them. Even after we were too old to be able to attend these “dad-daughter” dates, he always gave my sisters and I valentine’s day cards with honest, heartfelt, encouraging messages, and he took us on individual dinner dates. He has always taken care of us and provided for us, giving to us even though we didn’t always deserve it and did nothing to earn it. I look up to him and love him more than I can explain. He has always been present and active in my life. I know that many people are not as fortunate as I am, and I am so thankful for the blessing that he is to me.
I know that this seems like an appreciation post- what is there to worry about? Life sounds great! And it is. But his work schedule has always been stressful. He gets up early to take my sisters to school. He usually skips breakfast. Often, he works through his lunch or eats just a little bit to get by. Then he comes home to dinner, ravenous, and overeats, spiking his blood sugar and harming his body. Work is stressful, so no one can blame him for wanting to wind down and relax after a long day. Yet, even on weekends, he would order larger portions than would be healthy, and he usually finished all of it, despite often times proclaiming that he was full. Eventually, he was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Then later on, diabetic. Hyperglycemic. His symptoms were not always obvious, but after a decade and a half (almost twenty years, now) of these poor eating habits and almost non-existent exercise, his body was run down and began to really show. Toward the end of summer, before I left for school, he began running high fevers, which would cyclically break and leave him feeling extremely hot with sweat pouring down his face as if someone was dumping buckets over his head. He was fatigued and felt sick. He stayed home from work sick longer than I can ever remember him doing before. He went to the doctor multiple times, and later, I found out, to the ER. Things were getting worse and we weren’t sure why. He was essentially incapacitated. After these multiple visits to the hospital, they determined the same things as before- hyperglycemia and diabetes. Now that the symptoms were more serious, he took it seriously. We all did. So my mom went to Costco with him, and they bought A LOT of food that was good for him- low carb, healthy, snack food, breakfast food, easy lunches for diabetics. They spent several hundred dollars preparing the whole family for a radical diet change. Then the family began a regular exercise regimen- daily running. They were keeping up, making breakfast & running each day. Daddy checked his blood sugar at regular intervals and only indulged his sweet tooth/comfort food cravings occasionally (maybe once a week?). He lowered his blood sugar and regulated his diet as I was preparing to leave for college. I was proud of my family for maintaining the lifestyle change so well.
They came to visit me for “family weekend,” and it was unbelievably good to see them. But apparently, in the past week, he has not been eating well at all, and he has not even been checking his blood sugar. We ate lunch at the bean, tailgated for dinner at the football game, and had Sunday lunch after church at a pizza place. This was all a setup for additional failure on the “healthy lifestyle” track, it’s true, but there are still good choices available. While I was at home, I was very proud of how well he was doing as he made healthy choices from what he had available to him- even when we ate out. Even if it just meant forgoing the bun on a burger or skipping dessert. But this weekend, he ate like he did before the hospital visits and the health scare. And I have to admit how terrified this makes me.
I know how stressful his job is, and I understand that it is difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you are tired. I am a college student with continued access to the bean (which has an ice cream bar) and my varied assortment of junk food in the dorm. I know how easy it is to stop working out. It’s exhausting and stressful to try to fit in, even when you know you’ll be less stressed if you push through. I also know how vital my mom’s support is to him, and how essential she has been to getting him to eat better and exercise more. She is a pre-k teacher and has been for a very long time. 10+ years, if I am not mistaken. And this year, she has been kept at school very late every day. For her to have to be at school every day past 4 is unusual, let alone 6, which is just crazy. It is understandable for her support to be flagging under the stress of her own job & inability to prepare healthier meals for the family on a steady schedule. Things are hard.
But despite understanding this, I cannot understand why he would do this to himself. I am so afraid that something is going to happen to him while I am away at college- that he is going to go into diabetic shock, a coma, or even die. I am terrified that I might lose him, because he doesn’t care enough to put in the extra effort to eat healthy or exercise a bit more. I know people die. I know that they all could’ve died, my parents and my sisters all at once, on the drive home in a car crash. But things like this, that are under our control? I wish he realized what this means to us, my mom, my sisters and I, to try. I know that I bring up my worry at the worst possible time- when he is eating. But I only notice it then. And I am away from home, so I receive very few opportunities to talk to him about it face to face. I know he cares about us. I know that he loves me, and that he truly loves my mom. But when he refuses to take care of himself when he needs it more than anyone, it seems like maybe he doesn’t care about us. I know it isn’t true. But it still seems that way. It breaks my heart to think that his disregard for his health could lead to him not being able to walk me or my sisters down the aisle. That he might not attend my sister’s high school graduation or my college one. That he might miss out on my youngest sister becoming a teenager, the time when she needs him the most.
It amazes me, because he is such a strong spiritual leader and he works on improving his relationship with God every day. And yet he can neglect to care for the physical body God has given him. He can ignore the possibility that if he treats diabetes as “no big deal,” he could be prematurely abandoning his family, who loves him more than anything and needs him in their lives. I love my Daddy. I truly do. And so I am scared for him.
I have hope that maybe, I can talk with him about this. Maybe I can share all these reasons and things that are scaring me. Maybe I can make a deal with him. If I eat better (salads and healthy proteins at the bean, no sodas or desserts) and exercise daily (swim, maybe even run!), and he does to. I could call nightly, or tri/quarter-weekly as fitting with their schedule at home, to touch base with him. Maybe this could work. Accountability and expectations. I don’t know. But I am willing to try. I’ll do anything if it means helping Daddy live healthier.
Dear reader, if you have read this far, thank you. I am more appreciative than you know for your interest and/or concern for me. If you can put up with my rambling and anxiety, well, that says a lot about you, friend. Goodnight, and best wishes.
Song of the Day: Cinderella by Steven Curtis Chapman