Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nature, Nurture, Whatever

Nature or nurture, genetics or care - which is it?

My hobby is genealogy and as a result, I know something about my ancestors. Most lines, excluding the presidents and governors and such were just good solid farming stock. They worked hard, they had no Social Security and they lived a gooood long time. Many lived into their upper nineties. Shown here is Nimrod Harrison, Jr. and his wife Sarah C. Watkins Harrison, my great grandfather and great grandmother. In this photo in 1910, he was 71 and she was 65. He lived on for another ten years and she for twenty. And they were the slackers of the family fading away so young.

Here's their whole family in that shot, my grandfather is here, Peter Kleylein, my grandmother Hallie Harrison Kleylein, my father Leon Kleylein and my uncles Stanford Wheeler Kleylein and Nimrod Harrison Kleylein. Families got big in those days.

On my mother's side, outside of one German line, all of her folks came from Posen, Poland. Here's my grandfather Roman Damos Pawlak and grandmother Wanda Marie Pokornoski Pawlak in 1963 when he was 82 and she was 76. They still worked their dairy farm right up until the end. The man standing behind them is my uncle Edwin Pawlak, I've written about him in this blog before. My point in all this is to discuss how long I'm going to be writing this thing. I'm sure you'll be sick and tired of it if you aren't already.

My company had a kind of 'health day' at work last week. They bring in some healthcare workers to do some simple tests to warn you if you're dying, I guess. And once more I was reminded that I'd better save my money or I'll end up eating catfood because I've outlasted the cash. And, yes, my daughter has kindly told me that she won't allow me to get into the state of eating catfood but I still have this nagging doubt. It nags at me. I got it from my mother, I think.

My mother grew up during the Depression, you know, the other really bad one. And her family was poor enough already, I bet the Depression didn't help any. I can clearly remember her swiping sugar packets if we were ever in a place that had them. I guess folks had to do that if they were going to survive. But my lines DID survive, lousy healthcare, no healthcare, whatever - they had the ability to survive. And part of that, at least, can be attributed to good genes. Good strong, Depression-era-fighting genes.

So, I went to the 'health day' thing with a pretty good notion that things would turn out OK. Part of that good feeling can be attributed to the three or four full-scale, all-day physicals I've had at John Hopkins in Baltimore. In my business, you come to know which hospitals can be really trusted to give you the straight skinny. And when the Chief of Medicine at Johns Hopkins tells you you're good, then head right out and have a big greasy cheeseburger. If you're going to have a physician tell you something about your life, then have an A-student physician from a top-rated hospital do it. You know?

So once again, my blood sugar was fine, pulse 58, BP 120/82. The Nurse asked me if I had any stress in my job. OOOh NOoooo. Apparently if I didn't have the stress, I'd die of low blood pressure. The real killer, of course, is cholesterol. Mine continued it's decline and is now 148.

But that doesn't tell the whole story because my HDL, the 'good' cholesterol, is very high, out of the normal range leaving me with very low LDL (the 'bad' cholesterol). So the Nurse checked my carotid arteries to discover if they were open or not (they were), gave me a box of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts and sent me on my way to the next spot.

At the next station, they were able to analyze the condition and age of my circulatory system. No, Bones McCoy didn't wave a whirling knob around me but that must be next because this was also non-invasive. So now I know (supposedly) that I have the circulatory system of a man twenty years younger than me. I'm not sure how he's able to get along without it, but nobody grabbed me and told me I had to give it back, so I just kept moving.

They told me my skin is bad. I know my skin is bad. I spent too much time in the sun in Miami and I'm sorry. Every time I see someone at work come in after too much sun exposure, I just want to slap some sense into them. You can't take the damage back. There it is to stare you in the face forever.

And yeah, I go to the gym, but not enough - the job interferes a bit. But gym or no gym, as long as my wife doesn't kill me, I've got a pretty good chance of living forever. Just gotta make the cash last.


Leah Kleylein said...

once again, I PROMISE, you will not be sitting around eating cat food in your old age.
Although, as healthy as you are, I guess it's likely I'll keel over way before you, in which case, you will inherit all my gold bars and jewels and furs, so you'll be fine anyway.

Dave said...

Good thing you’ve got a hobby with that lifeline!