“When you’re young, you don’t really appreciate how what you’re doing will affect you later in life; you just do what you want, and to hell with the consequences.” – My dad.
“Time to bleed, time to breed.” – Also my dad, included for balance, because even though my father is a very smart man, he is not just a font of wisdom.
Earlier this year, I lost a toenail for the second time in my life. It happened without incident – I was sitting on the sofa with my feet up on the coffee table in my living room, happened to glance at my feet, and noticed that there was ‘too much light’ coming from behind one of my toenails. Sure enough, it was hanging on by a thin ribbon of hardened skin, like a creaky old door on one hinge, and I plucked it off painlessly, much to my boyfriend’s disgust (despite the fact that he likes to make neat piles of his toenail clippings all around my apartment, so now you know that).
I looked at my mangled feet, covered in callouses, blisters, and black toenails, and realised that I used to do things like paint my nails, wear moisturiser with socks in bed, and generally make an effort to keep them in a state fit for public consumption. In fact, the first time I had a toenail fall off was a mere 8 days after I’d had a deluxe pedicure, and the little toenail still had a glossy coating of teal polish as I held it in my hand, examining it like some rare gem.
Unfortunately, running is not always kind to feet. Or knees, if I were to listen to my dad’s constant warnings about the health of my poor joints.
I am regularly reminded of the consequences of ‘not looking after your body’ by my father. He used to be an avid rugby player, and there are in existence countless 35mm film slides packed away somewhere with a projector capable of illuminating my dad, clutching a rugby ball and determinedly ploughing through burly men to score a try, onto my parents’ kitchen wall in Houston.
Ever since I stopped being a rippling tower of lard and started running, I have had my dad tell me that I need to be careful of all the impact activities I do, because I’ll live to regret them later in like. Or, perhaps more accurately, my joints will. Having broached the topic of a second hip replacement recently, he may know what he’s talking about. Despite his warnings, I continue to run because it’s something I really enjoy taking part in. And despite me brushing off his advice, he continues to try and be a knight in shining armour for my knees.
At least, that’s how it used to be.
I was recently speaking to my dad on the phone when the topic came up – again. We got to talking about conflicting advice (my doctor is in the ‘use it or lose it’ camp that I tend to subscribe to), and eventually I asked him a question.
“If you knew that you’d have to have both of your hips replaced at your age, would you have stopped playing rugby and listened to the same advice you’re giving me?”
The sigh on the other end of the line, my friends, is what victory sounds like.
“No, Rachel, I would not have.”