You never know what tomorrow has in store. When I was nine, playing with my friend from across the street, my mom came over to speak to my friend’s parents. It was agreed I would stay over for a few hours while they went to a doctor’s appointment. I was thrilled that our play-date had been extended. Later that evening my mom came to pick me up and told me the bad news, that my dad would have to stay in the hospital for the next little while.
Five of his arteries were clogged and he needed bypass surgery. The doctors prepared my parents for the worst.
I’m sure it wasn’t the tomorrow they had imagined. He told me, years later, that he fought to stay alive for the chance to spend more time with me. My dad was a beacon of strength throughout his recovery.
His staple stitches started from his ankle and went all the way up to his collar bone.
A few days after he returned home we started going on walks together. My mom suggested I tag along in case I ever needed to run home and get help if my dad wasn’t feeling well. As you can see I was more than happy to be part of the adventure. Our first few walks were at a very slow pace and we only walked around 200m up the street. Before turning back my dad would put his closed fist up and say, “Zeto Hellas” (Long Live Greece). It became our catch phrase. Our walks got longer and longer and we would proudly exclaim “Zeto Hellas” together before heading home.
Eventually my dad walked too fast for me to keep up so I biked by his side while he completed his 7km power walks.
In the winter, our walks continued indoors at the Scarborough Town Centre. We would get there around 7:45am before all the shops opened. The mall used to have an indoor hot air balloon installation and we would bet on which one would get to the top first. Now looking back on it, I realize he would always let me win. I thought the winter walks were great. By the time we were done walking the food court would be open and I would get whatever freshly baked treat I was eyeing during our laps, usually a chocolate chip muffin.
When my dad found out he needed heart surgery he couldn’t change the beginning of his story, the years of inactivity, the smoking, the weight-gain, the unhealthy diet, but he sure as hell changed the next chapter.
He quit smoking cold-turkey in the hospital. He followed the heart-healthy diet prescribed by his cardiologist and he exercised every day. He got into great shape, and sometimes when I’m doing cardio (and struggling) I think back to how hard it must have been for my dad to change his entire lifestyle overnight but how he made it look so easy. He never complained.
He never made excuses. So the least I can do is finish my hill-runs or burpees without whining.
I wish I could tell you that I call my dad after every tough workout and say “I did it dad; it was a crazy one but I got it done!”. That he smiles and says, “Bravo Sofia, I’m proud of you!” just like he did when I aced a test or won a track meet.
But you never know what tomorrow has in store. Let’s skip ahead to my second year at UofT. My dad noticed the toes on his right foot feeling numb; it was causing him to limp a little. He went to get it checked out, but none of us were worried. Daddy was our hero. Whatever the doctor’s recommended he should do we were certain that he would follow through, like a model patient, and bounce back in no time.
But what if the doctor’s say that there’s nothing you or anyone can do?
What if they tell you that what started in your toes will only continue to spread? That soon you’ll be in a wheel-chair and then paralyzed in a bed. That you’ll become a prisoner in your own body. That you have ALS and that you’re going to die.
Even my dad couldn’t change that ending.
He did what he could. He made the most of the time he had left with his family. In the face of death he stayed positive. He remained supportive and imparted his parental wisdom. Life is unpredictable and the comforting notion that we, and all of our loved ones, will live well into our 90s is just that, a comforting notion but not a guarantee. While we can’t control tomorrow, we can definitely seize today. We can give ourselves the best chance possible to live long and happy lives.
Make time for your workout today. Prepare that healthy meal today. Quit that bad-habit today. Don’t wait until you have no choice. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
At my annual physical a few years ago, I asked my family doctor if I could have my cholesterol levels checked. He said, “If I told you the test came back already and that your cholesterol levels were a little high what would you do?”. I thought about it and said, “well I would exercise regularly and eat better”. “Great” he replied, “then just do that!”.
Author: Sofia Martimianakis