In general, it is a good thing to have a gift that keeps on giving. Even when we are traveling and shopping for souvenirs, I look for items that will be useful to me or the family when I get back home. I purchase things like neck ties for the guys, scarves, socks, crafty jewelry, dish towels, or special brews of coffee or tea. My mother used to say that I was too practical. She was right. I always did and still do think it’s wasteful to buy things you will never use. My mother was a child of the depression and she had a lot things that she cherished that were rarely used. We had beautiful living room furniture that was only used by special guests and her club members. She would only allow us in that room when there was an overflow of family members visiting or when she wanted me to show everyone the new song I learned to play on the piano. The only other time I can remember us using the living room was Christmas morning. We would all sit in there while we opened gifts. When my brother came over with his family, we would sit in there and sing Christmas carols. He was the true musician in the family. His ability to read music and play several instruments, including the piano, was a gift to the family that kept on giving. As a child, I figured out that my family gifted me with material things and they gifted me by sharing their talents with me.
Many years later, after my kids were in elementary school and middle school, I learned that my family’s gift giving ability was not as limited as I believed in my youth. One day I got light-headed and passed out in my kitchen. I remember my son cut his finger while he was trying to cut an apple, I think. I had fallen asleep on the coach and was awakened by his shout that he cut his finger. I rushed him to the kitchen sink to rinse away the blood and assess the situation. I asked my daughter to bring us a bandaid and she did. I opened the bandaid quickly and attempted to wrap it around the injured finger. For some reason, the finger kept moving away from the target area. I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t stop moving. I heard the kids ask if I was all right and I replied that I would be fine. Honestly, I remember thinking, “What is going on? This is weird.” I didn’t feel fine. As I faded back into consciousness, I heard my kids screaming for their dad to come downstairs. I remember my daughter asking if they should call 911. I remember telling the kids that I was fine and they just needed to check my son’s finger. Later the kids told me that I sounded like a really drunk woman trying to tell them she was fine. My daughter decided to make the call. I remember thinking that if I could have laughed I would have laughed at my daughter telling the emergency operator,”If I knew what was wrong with her, I wouldn’t have called you. Can you just send someone to help my mother.”
After the ambulance ride to the emergency room, the doctor came in to review the battery of paperwork I completed and he said, “Wow, you are doing a pretty good job managing your health. Your family history has not done you any favors.” Man!
Recently, I had a similar experience when I was having an eye exam and the technician had “just a few questions” about my medical history. “Any heart disease?” “Any diabetes?” “Any strokes?” “Any breast cancer?” “Any hypertension?” “Any other cancers?” “Any issues with the kidneys?” “Any cataracts?” “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” I replied. I only answered no to the question about liver issues. As I sat in the chair shaking my head, I said aloud, “I think I should write a blog called the gift that keeps on giving.”
I have heard people say time after time that I remind them of my parents or that I have grown up to be just like my parents. Heck, I can remember sometimes thinking that I have become my mom or dad. Every time I am asked about my medical history I realize how much I am really like my parents and other family members. We resemble each other from the inside out. As much as I looked up to them and admired many of their qualities, I can’t say that I looked forward to having any of the illnesses that plagued them. It was not a badge of honor to positively identify with heart disease, hypertension, cancer, or diabetes.
The family history of breast cancer led to mammograms in my early thirties and I recently received an order for a colonoscopy and I am not yet fifty. I constantly work to manage my diet and do some walking so that I can ward off obesity which can enhance my chances of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers (or at least that’s what I have been told). Last year, I participated in some genetic counseling and some genetic testing to determine if I had any mutated genes that might give me a higher probability for breast cancer. The findings suggested that I did not have a higher risk than any other person so my probability for developing cancer cells would probably be based on environmental exposures. Wow.
There is no way I can control every environmental factor that might effect my health negatively. I do the best I can to eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid second-hand smoke. I have tried to encourage my children to eat healthy, whole foods and exercise regularly. I told them in their younger years that I wanted them to teach their bodies to crave good foods and to crave exercise so that their normal would not be my normal. When I am real honest and talk about what I seek in times of stress or relaxation, I will tell you that I revert back to what is comfortable for me – sitting on a couch with a book and a glass of sweet tea (and a remote control nearby just in case I need a break from the book). My body may crave good foods, but exercise takes me coaching myself or making deals with myself to get this body up and moving. I recently started tracking my steps and that has been a great motivation for me each day because I look forward to reaching the daily steps goal.
I try to limit the unhealthy food choices in the house by not buying foods that are unhealthy because of the ingredients or because I will eat ALL of the servings in the container in one sitting. When my kids were younger, I didn’t keep soft drinks in the house on a regular basis or candy. People who visited my house would ask, “Why don’t you let your kids eat candy or drink soft drinks?’ I responded, “It’s not that they don’t eat candy or drink soft drinks. I have found that they come home with all that trash so I figured I didn’t have to buy it for them and keep it at home.” I decided that we got plenty of treats, snacks, and greasy stuff in our day-to-day lives outside of the house. So, I figured we needed to have more sensible options at home.
Now that my kids are older, I tend to keep more of the things they enjoy, the healthy and the not so healthy foods, in the house. I think it cool that they don’t over indulge in the not so healthy food options. I am excited when they recognize when foods they are served are not fresh, but probably canned. I am thrilled when they talk about their last workouts. My kids have a legacy of great people in their lineage who have given marvelously to their families and communities. These great family members have also given a medical history to me and my kids that I can’t change. My goal is to teach my kids about as much of their medical history as I know and direct them to make choices that won’t enhance their probabilities of ever having to deal with those medical issues. The only part of the family legacy I want my kids to own is the gift of greatness and the gift of good looks. Ha!