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The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed a Mountain…

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Stairway to heaven

I’d love to live to 100… but, if I don’t… well… if the news about anti-depressants being detected in municipal water systems is true, at least I’ll knock on the Pearly Gates with an upbeat smile on my face.

I may even throw a tiny teehee at St. Peter about whether I’m in the right place…

……………….

(Tragically, three friends die in a car crash, and they find themselves at the gates of heaven. Before entering, they are each asked a question by St. Peter. 
“When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”, asks St. Peter. 
The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” 
The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” 
The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say…… LOOK!!! HE’S MOVING!!!!!”)

……………….

That’s me!

I’m not really afraid of the actual dying part, but I am nervously anxious of missing out on all those things that are important around me.

There is a universe of incredible beauty that wraps itself around us in warmth and comfort… the melody lines of the songbirds, the peach-blushed fiery sunsets and star-speckled inky night skies… the cozy love and generosity of our treasured ones.

I don’t want to leave any of that grace, that splendour, in the rear view mirror. Must all of the soul-elevating harmonic music disappear?

Years back, I used to think that once my kids were born, I could at last die happily knowing there would be investment and insurance $$ to give them a good forward push down the toboggan hill of life. What more could I possibly need from this world?

toboggan

But here I am – still – today, brimming with I’m-so-lucky pride over my grown up kids, and I’m acclimatizing myself to the idea that I’d really like to see the cute faces of, and share time with my yet-to-be-born angelic grandkids.

And I’d still love to visit a ton of places like Cairo, Moscow, Budapest, San Antonio, Texas and The Alamo (here’s a moving modern-day hurting song about the Alamo that I studied in a songwriting course).

So… life at 100. Yea or Nay? Would you like a piece of that cake?

In 2011, the Canadian Census enumerated 5,825 people aged 100 years and older, or a rate of 17.4 centenarians per 100,000 persons. The 2016 census counted 8,230 centenarians, a 41.3 per cent jump over the 2011 figures. That’s pretty impressive.

Yup, our odds are on the increase.

But, I’m already nearing the dropping off point where my Ma died (aged 61).

And in another decade I’ll catch up to my Dad’s departure gate of life (age 73). “Those passengers in Age Rows 70-75 may now approach the gate.

I sense that I’m stepping ever closer to the raggedy sharp edge of a cliff with no railings and no safety net below.

The weighty question: Do our parents write the rough draft of our autobiographies?

I’m going for a “To 100 or Bust” re-write of my life story, but we’ll see what happens.

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Here’s the plan: I’m doing some positive stuff that my parents were culturally blind to in terms of health and longevity. They knew nothing about fibre content of various foods, Type 2 diabetes, or the true lung and heart choking seriousness of smoking and weight control.

It’s a crap shoot but I figure I can do a few things to nudge my odds up the steep wall… what’s to lose?… my grandkids deserve a TMI-sharing curmudgeon in their lives.

Will current scientific knowledge and my own resolve get me over the genetic hurdles I face, and welcome me into the Centenarian Club?:

  • I exercise just about every day… run, yoga, bike, boot camp, tennis, HIIT train, swim, spin class. It’s a part of my habit train that I can’t and don’t want to get off. Endorphins and muscles are just too much fun!
  • I sleep 7-8 hours most days… add in delicious naps and I can get to 9 if I’m lucky. Unlucky you to be around me when I miss those zzz’s… I don’t function well on poor or shortened sleep.
  • I try to help others… I often feel damned guilty about not picking up hitchhikers, but my altruism comes through in other areas like working at the soup kitchen and tutoring ESL and literacy students. I pretend it’s only to help others, but it makes ME feel good.
  • I eat a fair bit of fresh fruits and vegetables (my parents thought – OMG! – that canned green peas were health food). And under the TMI category… my bowel habits are exemplary! That’s the GOOD! Here’s the BAD!: I do eat more meat than I know is best and I have an insatiable sweet tooth for baked goods and chocolate.
  • I drink scads of water plus a cup or two of coffee (via latte) each day and one or two glasses of wine or light beer each week. Depending on the science article-of-the-week (Fake News?), this may be helpful. I know it’s enjoyable.
  • I drive my car between the lines on the road and generally stick pretty close to the posted speed limits… which is why I love driving in Utah or Montana with their 85 miles per hour legal highway speeds!
  • I exercise my mind with reading and blog writing and practicing guitar. The mere mental exercise of trying to remember the recipes for a ton of mixed drinks in my occasional bartending “retirement” job is a huge cerebral workout. Then add in figuring out what the new words mean that my kids throw at me is a bonus (e.g. “He was the BOMB!”… “What? he blew up?”)
  • I hang around as much as possible with people that are supportive, make me smile and sport upbeat positivity. I cross the street to avoid the unfortunate Debbie or Donald Downers who throw gloomy anchors in all directions.

You may have noticed that I like certain numbers. Investment returns of at least 15% annually… 10,000 practice hours… or 1,000 hours… 8 hours of sleep… sub 2-hours for a half marathon run.

Life is a cup of meaning in the joy of numbers.

Today I’m adding a new number to my list.

100. 

I like goal setting as an incentive to a milestone or mountain peak.

Why don’t we climb up this mountain and see if we can summit and high five at the 100 peak of life?

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Babies, Bibles, Bellies, and Bikinis…

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I wasn’t wearing my white lab coat, just my blue striped Under Armour bathing suit. Wearing a lab coat to the beach in the summer is just plain silly.

Wading through the mid-afternoon searing hot air yesterday to Sunoka Beach for the first time this year – first stopping en route for a quart basket of fresh, juicy Lapin cherries at Blossom Fruit Stand – reminded me of my former working life in the laboratory. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Actually, it felt like I was heat-swirling in a summer blender of beauty and laughter and worry.

Standing in the shade at the top of the wide, white and grey granite stairs that lead down to the warm, cozy sand of our local Okanagan Lake beach, I gazed over the crowded scenario on my left and right.

There’s been flooding this year and the lake level is so high that only a really narrow landing strip of sandy beach exists, you might say kinda like the lap-zone of a woman post-waxing.

Placing hordes of sunbathers on a congested strip of sand concentrates the view so I can absorb a whole whack of sunshine-soaked society in a quick scan.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, lots of human and motorboat sound, accompanied by french fry-scented breezes that attempted to woo and seduce me in the sultry heat.

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Sunoka Beach water lapping at the trees normally well back from the water’s edge

The beach held a balance: a human balance of gender (not sex, although there is no shortage of eye-sex going on out there), rainbow skin-tones ranging from black-brown-golden-red-white-pink, ages from infant to elderly, choices of book or Kindle/Kobo, shade seekers and sun soakers.

Looking about, I spied a few stunning, beautifully-toned bodies (sadly I can’t count myself in this category!), a scattering of young couples with adorable babies and yearlings and chatty two year-olds, a large group of teenagers and young adults from a nearby bible camp – waist deep – tossing footballs in the surprisingly warm water…

… but mostly – and this is where my former lab occupation, and my sense of worry kicks in – the sandy shoreline was replete with tourist and local bodies knowingly or unknowingly waiting in line for…  metabolic syndrome… that wondrous triumvirate of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol… our society’s menu special-of-the-day.

Maybe I was hallucinating a touch in the swelter, surveying a diabetic epidemic tsunami washing over the beach in front of me.

For the last 10 years of my lab career I sat in front of a computer (whoa, another high-risk diabetes sign!) monitoring numbers Alice’s Restaurant-style: “… injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected, and selected…“… diabetes statistics

Yup, lots of numbers… lots of burgeoning numbers… lots of out-of-whack blood sugar and A1C test numbers, numbers that wrote a horror story book of self-inflicted auto-immune Russian Roulette.

I didn’t need a special book of instructions on what to look for this day on the sand. It’s not difficult to spot the risky types; the Speedos and Jantzens so generously overflowing with loose, floppy skin, spilling over their waistlines like waterfalls, and bust tops stretching against their lycra restraints.

These sights pretty much tell the tale.

These were the same folks I would see day after day, week after week, filling the lab waiting rooms, quietly reading magazines while waiting for their quarterly diabetes tests.

Each day as I sat at my computer, I oversaw the scary numbers: the high levels of blood sugar, the high levels of cholesterol, and the rising tide of high blood pressure multiplied by the hundreds upon hundreds of newly diagnosed diabetics that walked through the lab doors each month.

Pancreatic panic. Insulin insolence.

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Overwhelmingly, the nice folks I added into the mushrooming database of newly-diagnosed diabetics were not regular denizens of the walking tracks, the gym, the tennis courts or the golf courses.

The diabetes risk factors of out-of-control eating habits and low physical activity were, and are, the common denominator.

You should know that I’m no “Saint of Restraint” myself, this blog post is a warning shot across my very own bow – I love sugary snacks like creamy milk chocolate and cheesecake.

We’re victims of success. We’ve made it folks. Our western world has a Horn of Plenty in each of our refrigerators.

And at some point we’ve gone beyond the tipping point where good sense and discipline have totally melted away, making an employment opportunity in the lab for people like me that should never have been needed.

Our enjoyment of the sparkling diamonds in the water can linger warmly for years to come, or with inattention, sugar-dusted away in a chill wind.

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