Sunday, July 4, 2010

A meadow on the bureau

The other day Ken and I were cleaning out that cabinet under the sink: the one where you throw odd-shaped kitcheny things that you almost never use. He held up a turquoise glass vase that I'd gotten for $5 at Ikea years ago and asked Do we still need this? I said Not really, I only hung onto it from when we used to live close to that flower store and you'd bring me armloads of flowers every few weeks.

Two days later, I came home to find this scene on my bureau. That's my Ken! He doesn't do anything by halves.

Incidentally, the painting was made by Ken's father. I was allowed to go into his studio one time and pick out a painting for myself for my birthday, out of dozens of oils, watercolours and ink sketches piled up against the walls. It was a tough choice to make because they're all this beautiful.


I found out last week that my step-dad has Congestive Heart Failure. Technically, it's not a big surprise. He's 72; his mother had her first heart attack in her 60's; and his idea of following a "healthy diet" has been low-carb, high-fat for the last few years. He's a card-carrying member of both the Mayonnaise Fan Club and the Butter Appreciation Society. When I was a kid, he'd always insist that my mom put "gravy" on his meat: his name for the 100% liquid fat drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan. It's frankly amazing that he didn't clog up his arteries sooner than this.

Still, he's my dad. I love him, and getting a strong reminder of his mortality is sobering. He's gotta go sometime, and 72 is already a fairly respectable age to have reached, but that's not going to make losing him hurt much less when it happens.

How much danger is he actually in? That's anyone's guess. Some patients with CHF go on for years, after surgery, or managed on medication, to finally be done in by other causes. It doesn't have to be fatal. On the other hand, one of the potential symptoms is listed as "sudden death".

The truth is, my step-dad is one of those selectively brilliant guys. He's a successful businessman, and reads widely on a number of academic subjects. He's also that guy who might try to back up on the highway if he misses his exit. Sometimes he's unbelievably dense.

(I'm always surprised that he's survived his own terrible driving habits. One time he took Ken to hit a few golf balls at the driving range. He asked Ken, who was in the passenger seat, to take the wheel from him for a minute while he did something that required both hands. Ken proceeded to steer the car all the way to the driving range, a 20-minute trip, while my step-dad worked the gas and the brake. What was so important that my step-dad needed both his hands free during this long interval? He wanted to shell and eat a hard-boiled egg which he had in his shirt-pocket in a plastic baggie. I rest my case.)

On Friday Ken and I went out for Japanese food with my step-dad. I watched him pour at least a tablespoon of soy sauce into his miso soup, which is already basically a salt broth with a little reconstituted seaweed floating in it. I didn't say anything, but later I sent him an e-mail with a link to a medical website that states CHF patients need to reduce their sodium intake. I knew that before I looked it up. He knows it already. I'm not sure if he was being absentminded, living in denial, or feeling like he just didn't care at that moment. It's impossible to tell.

Anyway, one thing's for sure, and that's that no one can control my step-dad. He's one of those guys that really does do what he wants, and doesn't much care what other people think. In some ways it's admirable, and in some ways it's maddening. But it's who he is, and I love him. So I guess we'll just see how things go.


E. Gorst said...

Lovely picture and lovely painting. Sad to hear about the diagnosis. The only good thing is that at least he can be aware of this and perhaps adjust food/lifestyle now? I hope it sinks in for K too.

Jameil said...

1) Ken is AWESOME!!!
2) It is so difficult to watch loved ones with their life-threatening poor eating habits. I have to hold my tongue every time I come home.

whatigotsofar said...

okay, the part with the egg while driving is making me hurt myself laughing

DarcsFalcon said...

What a lovely picture! :D

So sorry about your bonus father. I know it's a difficult thing to hear, and even harder to see him ignore advice that could potentially help him. I had a step monster who - after being diagnosed with diabetes, refused to stop eating sugary stuff. I called it slow suicide, but it was her decision and she resented the hell out of anyone who tried to reason with her. It's hard to forget they're still adults and still have the right to make choices for themselves, even ones we don't like. Maybe he just wants to enjoy his remaining years and not stress about everything he eats.

Most importantly, he knows you love him. :)

Ily said...

My father is 74 and his health isn't what it used to be, but he cheats every now and then because he'd rather LIVE while he's alive (his words not mine). I'm a lot like him, so I cannot criticize his way of thinking...but we do have to take better care of ourselves, I agree!

PS - Those flowers are beautiful and Ken is sweet to have put the vases to good use! Nice landscape painting as well!

Sparkling Red said...


I sent my step-dad an e-mail to express my concerns about his salt consumption. He replied that he was grateful for my concern, and he hadn't realized that soy sauce or soups had a lot of sodium. Go figure! Somehow he managed not to learn that, or remember it. Anyway, I sent him some more information on sodium, and he seems to be interested in paying attention to the amount of salt in his diet, so that's good news!

Thanks everyone for your supportive thoughts!

LL Cool Joe said...

Ken is cool. :)

Sorry to hear about your Dad. My father has an irregular heartbeat and has been on medication for many years. He's never smoked, very slim, healthy and has always eaten well. I don't know, I believe when your time is up, it's up whether you eat well or smoke 80 cigarettes a day.

A bit morbid, I know.

Jenski said...

Hope your step-dad continues to take care of himself.

Beautiful flowers - go Ken! :-)