My grandfather, Kozo Hamanaka has been through alot in his 96 years on this Earth. I think about all that I’ve lived through my 30 years… and I can’t even begin to imagine the things he’s heard or the stuff he’s seen. From legit having an icebox for a refrigerator or having to escape the country to avoid internment… those things are on the same level, right?
The year he was born, Amelia Earhart had her first flying lesson, Einstein won a Nobel Prize in Physics, and from a health perspective, the discovery of insulin took diabetes off the list of fatal diseases. Could you imagine a time where a diagnosis of diabetes meant you only had a year to live? The “cure” to prolong your life for that 12 months meant a diet low in carbs and sugars and high in fats and proteins.
Now, as I write this, I’m sitting in a wheelchair, opposite my grandpa. For the hour that I’ve been here, he has yet to open his eyes, close his mouth, or utter any recognizable words. It’s a little depressing to look back at all the times we had, even six months ago, where he was laughing, moving on his own, and not depending on tubes to assist his breathing. Yet, there is something subtly calming that I feel as my grandma sits as close as she can to the slightly upright hospital bed. She would sleep here every night if we would let her, I don’t doubt that for a second. As a matter of fact, she’s sleeping right now. It’s truly adorable.
However, this isn’t a post on diabetes. And as much as it should be, this is isn’t even a blog trying to tell you how to eat. This is about making the most out of your life and living something worth telling.
My grandparents used to have fun. They used to be avid ballroom dancers. My grandpa kept dancing for a decade after my grandma stopped. They used to take family “vacations” to Zuma or Huntington beach to go Pismo clam digging. I only use quotes around vacation because with working a 6 day week, Sunday clam digging is all they could really fit in. My father recollects fondly on those trips which ended with my grandma roasting the ½ shell clams over a fire and serving them with teriyaki sauce. I can only imagine the taste, and much less the freedom people used to have in the past.
These people are so loving I used to poop on them, and yet, I still adorned all four walls of their living room. They used to laugh and smile. Every Fourth of July. Every Christmas Eve. Every Easter. None of those holidays would be complete without a trip to Monterey Park. I used to call it grandma’s house but if grandpa wasn’t there it wouldn’t be the same.
On one occasion, in jest I’m sure, my grandpa (who at the time had been taking numerous medications for months) told my sister and I, “Why won’t my heart just stop beating?” We all had a good chuckle and he went back to propping his elbow up on the armrest of his chair and holding his good eye open so he could watch the news. This was a few years ago now, but I always reflect back on that moment. I look back and think how poorly you have to feel to make a statement like that, “Why won’t my heart just stop beating?”
My urging to you is to take advantage of the time you have. Take advantage of the body you have. Take advantage of whatever youth you have left. Take advantage so you never have to say those words. Everyday we get older, we get more experienced, we get wiser… From seeing my once active, clam digging, surf fishing, ballroom dancing grandfather in his current state it really makes me think. Instead of being in that condition, is there something I can do today that may help me avoid that fate?
Will eating more vegetables and less fast food keep my body healthier and less inflamed? Will building strength now help me avoid osteoporosis? Will I take more time to read, meditate and de-stress so I can sleep better and be more productive with the time I’m awake? The answer is yes to all of these things. It always has been and it always will be. This is probably true for most of the people reading this. We all can, but will we?
It usually takes some monumental occasion for people to realize things that cause them to make a change. This was enough for me.