The last time I spoke to my Dad, he had decided he wanted my baby, due that winter, to call him "Granddaddy." You see, my sister and I never stopped calling him "Daddy" even into our adulthood, and he wanted to keep it that way. He never got to meet my daughter.
I remember him always doing his exercises in the evening. He did Pilates before it was cool, conscientiously kept himself slender and fit. He looked just like Tom Selleck in those Salem cigarette ads from the 70s, mustache and all. But that comparison has its problems, too. That cigarette, casually draped on his finger, its smoke mingling with the cool, fresh air from the car window, is braided through all my memories of him.
Eventually, no amount of exercise and eating habits kept him healthy. I don’t remember a time when his feet weren’t purple, and in the two years leading to his death, my sister and I noticed that even getting dressed made him winded and sweaty. He often tripped over those feet we’re sure he could barely feel. He was very private about whatever was wrong, but we knew. In the end, he didn’t die of lung cancer or heart disease. Alone in his apartment one Tuesday night in August, 2011, my Dad stumbled and fell, hit his head, and was gone.
Because his death was an "accident," my Dad won’t show up in any of the American Heart Association’s statistics, but if he had known better forty years ago, he might be my daughter’s Granddaddy today. When my Dad was a teenager, he made a choice, and his choice was purchased by a company that told him it was harmless.
I am an advocate for the American Heart Association and a member of its Maine Board of Directors. My father’s memory and my daughter’s future are why.
Owner of Black Squirrel Workshop in Scarborough, Maine
Secretary of the Maine AHA Board of Directors