Monday, August 04, 2008

And check his teeth while you're at it

This past weekend was spent in New Jersey with Nick's family for my non-shower shower. It was nice, genuinely nice.

So, everyone is on a diet for the wedding. Actually, months ago Nick's doctor - at the same time as she upped his dose of Lipitor - gave him a target weight, and the wedding has been the impetus. Well, the wedding and my nagging gentle and loving support.

Because does he know how furious I'll be with him if he has a heart attack and kicks it? He's much better off going down in a weird blimp accident. At least, as far as I'm concerned.

So the weight. They are all tall, big-boned people. They can carry a lot of weight. But there's a limit to everything.

Nick's father needs to lose at least 50 pounds in order to have a heart operation. They won't operate unless he loses it. Which, until lately, hadn't been happening. He doesn't exercise; he doesn't even walk around a whole lot. He's 75, has arthritis and other health problems, and has mobility issues, which don't help.

And he is a man who likes food. Especially if it's fried. With cheese. And hollandaise. And eggs. And butter. And not-fruit. And not-vegetables. With ice cream on top.

I see how hard things are for him. And I know it would all be easier if he'd just eat better. That would make a tremendous difference.

I genuinely like him. But I want to shake him. I want to say, "Stop it! Yes, your family has this terrible history of heart disease and yes, you will always struggle with weight - but you are in control of your health. And your weight is really working against you."

But I am in no position to do so. Nick's mom does, sort of. She doesn't say that, but she has him on a diet with her at the moment. She's in charge of everything they eat at home, and so all goes pretty well except when they're out and he can order whatever he wants.

In the last couple months, Nick has been losing weight and getting fitter - and feeling better. He has all the same food inclinations as his father. But he exercises, and he's been practicing self-restraint. And he's discovered that he actually likes a couple vegetables. It's all paying off.

And so over the weekend his family remarked on how good he's looking. I'm really proud of him, and I said so. Because not only losing weight, but changing lifelong food habits, is really really hard.

At some point his father and I were alone, and I remarked on how seriously Nick has been working.

Now, I enjoy his father, but sometimes, when we talk about Nick, it feels very much like I'm buying a horse. It's like he feels compelled to tell me pros and cons.

"I believe you'll find that Nick is very kind and generous."

"That's true. He's really great."

"He's a nice, good person."

"I know."

"The thing you need to know about him, though, is this. The men in our family are fine until age 45. And then they really start putting on weight."

He gestures toward his stomach.

"And they go bald."

I just sit there, really not knowing how to respond. As he's pointing to his thinning but nonbald head. "Oh?"

"But the big thing is that he's most likely going to need a triple or quadruple bypass down the road. That's something you should know."


"I hope not. You know, he's been exercising, and eating more fruit and vegetables. He's really trying to eat well."

What else to say beyond that?

"I'm glad to hear that. You keep up with that. But if you haven't seen it yet, you should be aware that he can be extremely stubborn."

"Well, he's met his match in that regard."

This clearly surprised his father. You could see it on his face.

I don't know if you have seen North Dakota Norwegian Viking Ancestry Stubborn in action? If not, you have no idea. It's like there wasn't much else for my forebears to do out there on the prairie but bale hay and practice stubborn.

Bald, you obviously can't help. But blaming your weight and health entirely on your genes? Resigning yourself to it? While helping yourself to corned beef hash and sausage?

Not with me, you don't.


  1. "Well, he's met his match in that regard."

    That was the only/perfect thing to say in that moment - clear, with finality, and polite. Usually the perfect response comes to me an hour too late. Happy for you to have hit that one over the fences but still inside the foul pole.

  2. Oh my.

    Make sure 'Dad' gets the fish at the wedding, just so you can have the last 'word'.

  3. Restaurant Refugee - Thank you. Honestly, I think he was pleased. He knows Nick is really strong, and I think he's glad I am too. And I didn't mean it unkindly. Usually, when I want to say something snarky, I wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect response - when in the moment I didn't have anything to say.

    FreckledK - I do really like him. But I was getting kind of defensive and protective of Nick. Even though it's his son and his intentions are good. The food thing makes me crazy, though. I see him struggle, and it just doesn't have to be that way.

  4. Lisa - this is totally off topic, except that it involves "interesting" discussions with fathers-in-law. At my wedding reception, my father-in-law (who had immigrated to Canada forty years previously) said to me with total earnestness, "Liz, we love you. Even if you're not Czechoslavokian." Talk about not knowing what to say!

  5. Ohh, Liz, that is fantastically hilarious! I'm giggling as I type!

  6. Bald, you obviously can't help. But blaming your weight and health entirely on your genes? Resigning yourself to it? While helping yourself to corned beef hash and sausage?

    Not with me, you don't.

    hmm... I could use one of you around to "nag"... errr, what was it, "support" me. My eating and exercising habits could use some improvement.

  7. I think it's really awesome that you made the distinction between both of the statements your soon-to-be-father-in-law made because they really are not the same thing. You are exactly right.

  8. VVK - I would be happy to support you. Food is a really complicated thing, much harder to change, I think, than exercise habits. But I would be happy to be a sounding board and cheerleader if you want.

    Ryane - Thank you. I appreciate that. Nick says - and I think it's true, that he really lacks awareness in this regard.

  9. My mom drives me crazy, she's the same way... as my dad says, she's on the "seefood diet." She sees food, she eats it.

    How many times in your life do you hear, "Look at her mother, and that's her in 20 years"?

    I love my mom more than anything else on this earth. But I'll be damned if that's true.

  10. Sometimes it is entirely your genetics though. One side of my family just drops dead from heart attacks in their 60s. One of my parents eats healthy and exercises and does all the right things but still has high cholesterol and will have to take Lipitor until the bitter end because there is no other choice.

  11. LivitLuvit - I have definitely heard people say things like that about women's mothers, and you don't really hear women talking about how men will turn into their fathers...although I suppose they do, as much as any of us turn into our parents. But some of it is definitely a choice, as you point out.

    Anonymous - I have to say, I'm very glad for Lipitor. There does seem to be a huge genetic component to cholesterol.

  12. My name is Laura Arena and i would like to show you my personal experience with Lipitor.

    I am 58 years old. Have been on Lipitor for 6 months now. It did lower my total cholesterol from 235 to 200.

    I have experienced some of these side effects-
    After three months on Lipitor, I started to feel like an airhead -- slightly dizzy virtually all the time and frequently unable to think clearly. I actually started to wonder if I were developing early Alzheimer's (I'm 58). After five months, I developed severe pain in my thighs and knees and I'm exhausted all the time.

    I hope this information will be useful to others,
    Laura Arena


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