Twenty-two years ago on Mother’s Day, my father died while driving through a graveyard. The graveyard is a famous old place in the middle of Cleveland, Ohio filled with mausoleums, granite statues of angels and madonnas, and fancy headstones. All my grandparents are buried there and, on that particular day, my father and mother were visiting their mothers’ graves. One of their traditions. My father was cracking a joke about a statue of an angel when he slumped over the wheel. The car, traveling at only ten or fifteen miles an hour, veered off the little road and down a gentle slope. If they’d been driving on the freeway, my mother surely would have been killed.

My father was a bit stout around the girth, but he was not fat and certainly not obese. He was energetic and active, always on the go. He was losing his hair and had gray in the remaining strands, but he also still had color. He was highly intelligent, kept informed, and loved his family, his house, and his life. About one thing, though, he was in serious denial.

My father was a red-meat eater. He ate red meat twice, sometimes three times a day. Every day. Lamb roast and barbecued pork ribs and veal and bacon, but mostly beef. Beef in every possible way beef can be served. Even in dishes that are wonderful without beef—spaghetti, pizza, lasagna, chili—he would add beef.

The last time I had dinner with my father was at a traditional Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. We even sat on the floor. The menu offered all kinds of fish (raw and cooked), chicken, and vegetarian. My father ordered the one and only beef dish on the menu.

Also, he had butter on everything. Whole milk. Whole cheese. Cream. Whole eggs. He loved ice cream and candy bars. I found a Snickers bar in the pocket of the jacket he wore the day he died. The white wheat, white rice, and sugary drinks (he guzzled coffee in the morning, Coke the rest of the day) didn’t help.

Warnings about the “typical American diet” have been around for a long time. I’ve got a Theosophist book from 1934 that advises people to consume only whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables. I’d tell my father, “All that meat is really bad for you, Dad.” And he’d say, “But I still feel hungry without it.”

His own body warned him ten years before his death. He was diagnosed with a painful condition called diverticulosis, the creation of pockets in the colon and small intestine. There is one cause of this disease and one cause only.

You are what you eat, my friends. When you see yet another article about the dangers of red meat and saturated fat, sugar and white flour, do your eyes glaze over? Do you say, “Oh, okay, I’ll get around to changing my diet one of these days”? Do you order that steak or Big Mac, anyway?

I’m here to tell you the warnings are true.

Twenty-two years ago on that Mother’s Day, my father had his first and last heart attack. The autopsy confirmed he had major blockage of the arteries.

My father had everything to live for. He was thinking of joining a computer start-up company before such enterprises were commonplace and never got the chance to take his career in a gigantic new direction. He knew I was attempting to get published but never saw the publication of my first story in Omni, an international magazine. I made that sale six months after he died. (I’m not sure he would have liked what I write but that’s another story.)

I sometimes wonder what he would have accomplished in twenty-two years. If he’d radically changed his diet and exercised, I think he could have claimed the time. After all, his own father outlived his son by twenty-two years.

From the author of The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle, Summer of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) on Nook, Kindle, and UK Kindle.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more. And on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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