Nine Toe Joe.
I grew up on a tiny street in Brooklyn, NY across from Teena’s Bakery. From my perspective, Teena was the Willy Wonka of the pastry world. She could create the most delicious and decadent desserts that you could ever imagine. Walking into Teena’s was like walking into a paradise of pastries, cookies, cakes and other sinful desserts. There was no place like it. The smell of butter, sugar and chocolate wafted through the air and hit you like a wall before you even opened the door. However, when you did - you couldn’t help but smile as the smell was so divine.
My dad loved Teena’s. He was friendly with Teena and her husband and would stop by the bakery on his way home from work most nights as every dinner called for dessert afterwards. Marie Antoinette would have loved our house - as we always ate cake - no matter the circumstances. I would often see my dad sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and devouring something from a Teena’s cake box. At the time I didn’t know it, but my dad was an emotional eater. He didn’t cope well with stress so he chose to eat it.
His pattern of behavior continued year after year until he developed several complex and serious health conditions. The fact that he was a smoker, didn’t help his cause either. However, my dad, Mr. Invincible, rarely heeded his treatment plans. He continued to smoke, eat sweets and live a relatively sedentary lifestyle.
Writing this blog isn’t easy - and there is a part of me that feels really guilty about writing it because I feel like it’s a violation of his privacy.
At the same time, I feel like I have the right to share my thoughts and feelings without sharing the specifics about his health or his personal health information. I’m opting for the latter knowing that he’s not going to read this and ultimately, I don’t think that he would mind my sharing it.
My dads non-compliance and sedentary lifestyle caught up with him recently. He developed a complication that resulted in his having a toe amputated. Ultimately, it was only a toe - not a few toes, not a foot and not a leg. That’s the good news. However, just hearing that he was losing a toe made my break into tears. I had a lot of emotions and thoughts flying through my head.
I was worried about him - he has a cluster of medical conditions and I was afraid that he would not survive the surgery. I thought that this was the beginning of the end and I was not ready to say good-bye.
I was angry that he let himself get to this place. If he had taken better care of himself he wouldn’t be in this position. There was a part of me that didn’t want to understand why he couldn’t stop smoking or eating sweets or….but I did understand his struggles. I knew how hard it was. When I was overweight, I was on medication for a variety of issues: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a few others. At the time, I was in denial- even though I was overweight and knew that I had to do something about my health, I didn’t.
I was concerned that even after the surgery, he would continue to be non-compliant which would result in more surgeries, more complications, more issues.
I also felt sad. I just felt sad for his loss and what he was going to have to go through. This wasn’t going to be easy for him and I felt awful that he had to go through it.
I guess my thought is that the struggle is inevitable. You either struggle to get yourself to lose the weight and get healthy, or you struggle to get back to health after your diagnosed, hospitalized or have a major health event. Which would you prefer?
My dad is a wonderful man and I want him to live a very long and happy life. I love him dearly and wish that he would have taken better care of himself. The good news is that he has the opportunity to make changes now. My hope is that he does.
Bee healthy. Bee happy.