Growing up, my father was a constant companion, but a man of few words. We lived close to one another and for many years we would go for walks together where I would talk and he would listen. It was a cathartic process for me... someone to listen to my problems and in a way it really seemed to help. Dad never judged me or offered solutions... but was always a sympathetic ear. How I looked up to him... he was a real gentleman and a son couldn't have adored a father more.
Time waits for no man and Dad is now 85 and has for the past few years been afflicted with dementia. It just breaks my heart to visit him at the old folks home. His face lights up each time he sees me, but there is no longer a depth of understanding in his eyes. My mother passed away a couple of years ago from Alzheimers and now poor Dad has it too. It's a real challenge for loved ones to have to endure, as your parents slowly descend into a very dark place.
I'm now 52 and my wife and I have children aged from 2 - 14 years... and for them, we are now the people that they look to for guidance and inspiration.
I've been under some stress recently and combined with the fact that I like food, spend too much time in front of my computer, drink too much tea and as a result suffer from insomnia and lack of energy. I felt a pain in my chest recently, so I made a rare visit to my doctor. She said I was fine... but she did ask me one question. Martin... do you take any exercise... no. So I've now started taking an early morning walk up a steep hill at the back of our house.
The first time I went, I took some of the children and our dog Harry for companionship. By the time I got to the top, my face was red as a beetroot and I was huffing and puffing like an old steam train. But I had a smile a mile wide and I felt like I'd just conquered Mt. Everest... it was a sweet feeling indeed. I spent valuable time with the kids, the dog got a chance to run around and hunt rabbits and I got much needed exercise.
Getting back to the house, the endorphin rush came on strong and it sets you up superbly for the day. I can now begin to appreciate why those runners go at it as hard as they do.
I've only been going for a week... but already I'm feeling much better and importantly the pain in my chest has gone. My wife Vicki is trying to wean me off my fetish for cold toast, real NZ butter and Vegemite... I die and go to heaven each time I eat it... and the taste of New Zealand butter... oh yeah... it is nice... every man has his weakness and food is definitely one of mine.
It is never too late to take positive life steps... and sometimes the simplest things can be the most rewarding. You don't need to join a gymnasium or be Bear Grylls to benefit from exercise... taking a walk up and down a hill is all it takes for me. As for children... they don't need you to lavish them with gifts... all they ever really want is your love and attention... doing something together... like going for a walk is my opportunity to reconnect and marvel at them as they grow up.