His name was Charles – commonly known to friends as Chuck or Charlie. Chuck was an engineer – a very smart guy; practical, pragmatic, detailed, organized, tenacious and one hell of a hard worker. He could also swear up a storm, which I liked very much.
My dad was 8 years older than my mom and I heard him say throughout my lifetime that he’d be gone far before my mom left this life, but that, as it turned out, was very wrong. In fact, my mom died 11 years before him (18 years ago, now, which blows my mind). Anyway, I digress…..
My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – an auto-immune disease, as an older fella. It was a devastating disease which caused him a good deal of pain and numbness. By the time he was in his late 70’s, he’d lost the use of one of his legs almost completely, but in proud Chuck-style, he’d move around (all around, as I learned from neighbors and friends) with his walker – dragging the old, tired leg behind him. He’d stop to rest a lot, but persevere he would!
One day I was in Traverse City at our cottage and Frank, our neighbor the same age as Chuck, dropped by to tell me that he’d witnessed Chuck, using his walker, drag a tall ladder from the front of the cottage to the back, so he could scrape paint. Frank watched him scale his way up the ladder using some crazy device that would help him climb the ladder without the use of his bad leg. Wow Chuck – very creative!
Another day, years later, after my dad had decided to move into an assisted nursing facility, I walked in to visit with him and found him doing one-legged dips on the side of the bed. He was 85. When I asked Chuck what he was doing (I already knew the answer because I’d heard it many times over the years) he said that although he had a disease that took away his mobility (and much of his dignity, unfortunately), he’d be damned to just sit there and die. He knew that to become still would be a death sentence.
He walked, dragging that bad leg behind him for years. He traveled to the cottage and back over and over again. He scaled ladders and scrapped paint, raked leaves (I’m not making this stuff up), lifted weights, and did seated calisthenics to get his heart pumping. As he aged, he also lost most of his eye sight, but Chuck didn’t let that stop him. The engineer in Chuck was persistent. He loved to draw and paint, and used a huge magnifying glass over his work so he could continue to create.
Chuck was a healthy guy most of his life. He ate a healthy diet, and no matter the circumstances, he continued to eat healthy – filling himself with salads and soups until the end of his life (thankfully, he’d also drink an occasional beer with me).
So why am I telling you this? My dad developed strong habits during his lifetime. His healthy habits and never-ending positive outlook on life kept him moving and strong for many years. He never gave in to the pain, didn’t complain, broke all the rules of what an old guy should do, and hung around to spend time with family, laugh, joke, and enjoy. Some people believe that their destiny is up to their genes and what the world hands them. Chuck believed that his lifestyle was his destiny, and he was right. I’m so grateful for the tenacious man, named Chuck, who taught me so many good, healthy habits and demonstrated that lifestyle is what you design for yourself.
Chuck Miller – my dad!