“Youth is wasted on the young” – George Bernard Shaw
Each month we look for members that inspire us. We search for members who have overcome obstacles that would have stopped most of us dead in our tracks. Our goal, other than to recognize their extraordinary efforts, is to convince you that no matter your circumstance, reaching your goals is always possible. Like we tell our athletes, limits and “cant’s” are for losers.
This month’s member of the month has inspired me over the years in more ways than I can count. What follows is just a glimpse of the impact he’s had on me over the last 29 years….
When you’re young, you’re invincible. Death, disease, and even aging are unfathomable. You never truly appreciate the gifts of youth because you can’t comprehend life without them. When your grandma forgets her keys and blames old age, you scoff. When your grandpa complains about knee pain from spending a few hours in the garden, you laugh because just yesterday you played 3 basketball games and feel great today. Better yet, when you see pictures of your grandparents when they were young, you react no differently than you would if you were looking at a magazine with pictures of people you didn’t even know. Your brain automatically says, “That’s not my grandparents. Those people are young, fit, and attractive. My grandparents are old and wrinkly.” You can’t comprehend that everyone at one time was young, fit, and attractive. Unfortunately, age whittles you away, eventually leaving an image that vaguely resembles your youth.
If you see my grandpa now, you see an 84 year-old man that barely resembles a young, innocent teenager that would drive escorts from St. Louis to Benld when Capone was rumored to roam the local streets. You don’t see a young, hot-headed Italian that would throw a punch or two at the drop of hat. You don’t see a young, high school boy who quit the basketball team because the coach told him he’d have to stop chasing the girls. You don’t see a young husband and father of 4 that, though he had his faults, would fight off the toughest of tough guys to protect his family. You don’t see a young grandpa that would toss his grand kids over his head in the swimming pool over and over and over again.
No, what you now see is an apparition of a young Ed Ruffatto. You see a man that 6 months ago had his entire family by his side because his COPD exacerbation was so bad we thought he wasn’t going to make it through the night. He couldn’t even catch his breath to talk, and just opening his eyes used up more energy than his body could muster. You see a man that on some days can’t leave the couch because even a few steps prevent him from catching his breath. You see a man that’s on so many breathing inhalers he may be solely responsible for the deterioration of the ozone. Essentially what you see is the product of 84 years of living.
Yet even with severe COPD and 84 years of wear and tear on his body, you see glimpses of the young hard-headed Italian. Yes, he’s the old guy that hops on the vibration platform for a few minutes, and then slowly walks on the treadmill for as many lapses as he can make it. Usually, he’ll stop at a machine or two just to catch his breath as he crosses the gym. On his really good days, he can make it over a mile. On his not so good days, he can manage a lap maybe two. Just making it to the gym in his condition is a feat that speaks to his determination and strength.
Why does he do it? Just the shear thought of not being able to catch my breath makes me anxious. My best guess is purpose. It’s a challenge. “How many laps am I going to make it today?” It’s as much psychological as it is physiological. People vastly underestimate the importance fitness influences mental health. When you’ve lost the ability to do almost everything you loved doing, even the dullest, smallest challenge is enough to get you out of bed in the morning. He used to paint lawn ornaments, plant flowers, clean his pool, and walk the dog. Now carrying plant pots and statues are beyond his physical capabilities. He needed a new purpose, and he found it at Ageless.
He’s a great reminder that we all have good days and bad days, and that we shouldn’t let the bad days prevent us from enjoying the good days. He reminds us that it’s not over until it’s over, and if you are going to go down, you go down swinging. He reminds us that money is not the root of happiness; the intangibles are (purpose, laughter, conversations with good friends and family, etc). He reminds us that everyone is human, and no matter how strong, wealthy, or intelligent you are, aging doesn’t care. Our time on this earth is finite so enjoy every second of it. What you can do today you may not be able to do tomorrow. Most importantly, he reminds us that you are never too old to exercise! Here’s to you Papa!
“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation