My eldest son, Joe, is trying to save my life.
Even if it kills me.
"I want you to be around to play with my grandkids," he said.
No big deal, I thought. For Joe, grandchildren are probably only a decade away.
"I'm only 56, Son," I said. "I think I can make it for 10 more years."
"Maybe," he said, eyeing me critically. "But I don't want to have to bring them to your nursing home to see you."
That stung a little.
"Hey, I'm still in pretty good shape for a guy my age," I said.
"Yeah," he said, "if your age was 80."
"OK, I know I'm a little heavy," I said. "But it isn't THAT bad, is it?"
"Actually, Dad, you're the perfect weight," he said, "for a guy who is 6' 10"."
Since I'm significantly shorter than 6' 10", I'll assume that was not a compliment.
"OK, I'll start to exercise more," I said. "And I'll try to eat better."
"At this point, Dad, that isn't enough," Joe said. "We need to change everything."
"Everything?" This sounded serious.
"Everything!" he insisted.
So these days I'm following this special diet that Joe introduced me to, in which I eat plants and animals, and that's pretty much it. By "plants" I mean fruits and vegetables. No grains, no potatoes, no corn on the cob, no sugar, no beans — not even peanut butter. That last one seems kind of strange to me because I'm allowed to eat nuts. But evidently a peanut is a legume, not a nut. Who knew? I'm thinking the guy who named them probably figured people wouldn't really go for something called a "pealegume," so he lied and called them "peanuts."
Also, I can't eat chicken nuggets, corn dogs, meatloaf, chicken Parmesan or any other kind of meat that has been breaded, coated or otherwise sullied. Sandwiches are fine as long as you leave out the bread, which sort of makes it not a sandwich anymore but just meat, lettuce and tomato — or in other words, a salad. And the founders of the diet say it's not enough to just eat the meat. They would prefer that I go out into the wilderness and hunt a wild cow, kill it with my bare hands, butcher it, eat what I can and turn the rest into jerky.
Thankfully, I've lost 12 pounds without doing any of that, so I think I'm good.
Even though losing weight isn't really the point of this for me. Don't get me wrong — I'm not opposed to having to cinch up the belt another notch or two. If I can walk by a mirror and not wonder who the chubby guy is, that will be fine with me. But that isn't what drives me. If it was, I would have done something like this — minus the cow-killing — years ago.
In fact, I've tried to do this before. On several occasions my doctor has told me that diabetes is going to make body parts start falling off if I don't take better care of myself. And each time, I've tried to make changes — I really have. I've tried to watch my diet. I've tried to exercise. But that usually lasts for two weeks, and then life gets crazy and I let up and before you know it I'm eating chili cheese fries and a churro while watching the midnight "SportsCenter."
What is different this time — and what seems to be driving me — is the look of sincere concern on my son's face, and his unabashed enthusiasm for having me around for a while. In fact, the entire family has gotten behind this, with my wife and children all offering loving words of support, encouragement and gentle nagging. They inspire me to do this, and with the exception of an unfortunate run-in with a bag of potato chips — and a bag of Cheetohs — during a recent late night at work, I've done pretty well.
And I think I've done pretty well because I've done it for — and because of — love.
Will the same approach work for you with your loved one who needs to make significant changes in his or her life? I don't know. I just know that it seems to be working for me.
As long as I don't have to actually kill a cow.