They’re always loaded up to their dentures with great stories and their black and white photos tell teasing tales of a time before me. My Poppa gave me a shoebox full of them a while back and it’s a nostalgic high that those dodgy corner dairies can’t quite match.
When I was a smaller thing, he used to take us kids on adventures. His favourite place to take us was ‘Rat Island’, a rather small piece of land inhabited by a bunch of its namesake. We’d jump around like Ninjas in our camouflage gear, while Poppa would stand by proudly, his skin coloured by the outdoors.
He was fit too, my Poppa. Back at his house he was forever doing things. He’d build us go-karts in the sun while Nana fussed around in the kitchen baking scones and filling our already hyperactive bodies with candy. Outside was his world.
A few months back he was still able to toddle along for a grocery shop. He’d want his frozen veges without peas, and I’d spend five minutes looking while my subtle suggestions of fresh food hit the scrap heap. Call it ignorance, call it stubbornness, but nothing’s gonna change this man’s mind.
I look at him now, his trademark round face replaced with a Tom Hanks jaw after a few too many falls. “You look more handsome”, I tell him cheekily, and I catch a glint of that sparkle that isn’t around as often anymore. Yes, he’s eating food he assures me, getting me to check the cupboards and the freezer as proof this is so. It’s the same stuff he’s eaten for years: processed, packaged, heavy on the meat. The only green thing around here is his face at the mention of plant-based food. You’d think I told him that the world’s going down in a sinkhole tomorrow and he’d best pack his speedos.
On the drive home I wonder to myself how much of his health is the cause of what he’s eating or if this is just how this part of life goes. A body that while without pain most days, has picked up a dodgy hitchhiker in the form of cancer and decided to go on one long ride. Next time I’ll tell Poppa to pick up a blonde beauty instead, preferably one with no baggage that doesn’t overstay her welcome.
I read those articles online about the 98-year-old that runs daily in India, and that grandmother that puts my flexibility to shame by being able to do the splits. These stories are becoming more and more common, and they all seem to have a few things in common, a main one being that they’re vegetarian or vegan. Jackpot.
Then it also comes to mind that this closet nerd watched a documentary recently, Forks Over Knives, subitled “Prevent and reverse disease with a whole-food plant-based diet”. It followed several people of different lifestyles and body builds as they made the changeover and the end results were something pretty special. I made my father watch it, and it had a big effect on him and his love of sweet treats. He’s a vegetarian who wears those impossibly short shorts as horticulturists do. Part of the uniform for being a modern day Tarzan he reckons, and while I’m not so sure, I grin nevertheless because I know he’ll be around for a long time.