Director, Yale Prevention Research Center


Good day everyone!  My dear online friend, Susan Katz, has allowed me permission to copy her son’s (Dr. David Katz) article for his blog via the Huff Post – Healthy Living.  It is a tribute to his father Don, who recently celebrated his 74th birthday.  So what did this wonderful guy want to do for his birthday?  Of course, to bicycle 54 miles with his son and son-in-law.   Well worth the read!
Katz photo 74th birthday

74th Birthday, 54 Miles

Posted: 07/30/2013  4:30 pm

My father turned 74 yesterday. Most of the associated festivities were fairly conventional, and more or less predictable.

The usual suspects converged on my parents’ home in Washington, Conn. My sister and brother-in-law and their two kids timed their mid-summer trip from Baltimore to coincide. My grown kids, save one who couldn’t get away, all assembled in time for a celebratory dinner. There was homemade cake complete with candles, and the customarily dubious rendition of “happy birthday to you.” Several men’s fashion retailers clearly made out like bandits, as did Hallmark.

And, naturally, my dad and I exchanged our annual and prototypically awkward hug, before reverting back to the handshakes and monosyllabic grunts that put us right at ease. We love one another, of course, but we’re guys. You know how it is.

At least one element of Dad’s 74th was almost certainly somewhat atypical, however. My father and I (age 50), along with my brother-in-law (late 40s) and a friend in our age group (but not my dad’s) went for a 54-mile bike ride.

The Harlem Valley Rail Ride, sponsored by Bike New York, happened to fall right on my dad’s birthday this year. He noticed that some months ago, and proposed the four of us register accordingly. Who says no to a guy on his birthday?

The ride, which began and ended in Millerton, N.Y., was spectacular. Most of the time, we were winding along country roads and passing cornfields, flowers, and horse farms. We were fortunate to have a cool, overcast morning — although our good fortune ran out temporarily for the roughly 5-mile stretch between about mile 38 and mile 43 we spent in a very cold deluge.

My brother-in-law, a serious cyclist and some-time tri-athlete, monitored our activity and tells me we averaged just a bit less than 17 miles an hour. For those who don’t know, that’s moving, particularly with the rolling hills factored in. It was serious exertion for all concerned, and my father was right there with the rest of us, all 20 years or more his juniors.

That’s impressive. And more impressive still is that my dad’s grandchildren find it impressive.

My folks have seven grandchildren; my wife and I have five kids, my sister and her husband have two. We didn’t quite manage to assemble them all, but for much of the weekend we had five, and got up to six for the birthday dinner. There was talk among them more than once about how “cool” it was to have such active grandparents. The youngest of them, my niece Samantha, now 11, was not too young to notice, and agree.

For one thing, the kids were clearly just proud of grandparents who were so vibrant (my mom also bikes; in fact, she and my dad take inn-to-inn bike trips all over the world). For another, they have benefited directly because they routinely get to participate in grandparent-sponsored activities, which have ranged from rafting, to hiking, to horseback riding, to skiing. My folks are fun grandparents, and great role models.

A 54 mile bike ride to celebrate a 74th birthday is, indeed, very cool — for many reasons. My father’s lifelong devotion to physical activity is partly responsible for my own. I believe my father and I are part of the reason my brother-in-law got into triathlons. I was the example that turned my niece into a competitive equestrian, and she, in turn, has drawn her mother into the sport. My kids are all very fit and active; several are accomplished dancers. Samantha is a devoted, and quite talented, gymnast. Apples, all, not far from the tree.

A vigorous, 50-plus mile bike ride (or any comparable activity) on the occasion of a birthday near the middle of the seventh decade is testimony to the benefits of a lifetime of good living — and the kids have noticed. The vitality that allows for such activity, and the blend of pleasure and gratification it accords, is a gift my father has given himself.

It’s a gift that keeps on giving. It pays dividends across decades. And it pays dividends across generations. For my kids and my nieces, this is just what 74 looks like; it’s what they now expect. And with our oldest now almost 25 — who knows? My dad may yet get to imprint his love of an active lifestyle on a fourth generation.

My dad’s example to his grandkids is wonderful. Getting both pleasure and health from active recreation is a contagious demonstration. My dad isn’t trying to put on a display for anyone; he’s just doing what he loves. But as a parent looking on at the impressions he is cultivating in my kids, I am grateful just the same. Everyone has a shot at more years in life, more life in years — if they take good care of themselves. It’s not a chore; it’s an opportunity. I tell my kids that healthy people have more fun; their grandfather shows them just what I mean.

So, there you have it. For my dad’s 74th, it was 54 miles. This makes me think that when I turn 54 several years from now, we may need to go 74 miles. Assuming we do, I just hope to be able to keep up with my dad.

For now, here’s to healthy living — the gift that truly does keep on giving — across the years, and across the generations. Thanks, Dad — and happy Birthday!


Dr. David L. Katz;

Three’s Company … Also a Family

There’s a saying, “Who Rescued Who” referring to saving or adopting a pet which in my case are dogs. I wrote last April about my two white boxers in “We Are Family — My Dogs and Me!” Extra extra … now there is another dog saved. Or was I the one saved, again?

As I learn about dancing in the rain, May 4th is a reminder of the terrible tragedy that I encountered in 2010 – the horrible suicide of my husband. So tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of that awful day. Sad, yes…angry still, can’t help but be a bit. However, this year I made a firm decision as to May 4th. Going forward, I wanted it to be not just a memory of sadness and grief. Oh no, I want to show progress and I need to find positive reasons for progressing with my life. This year on May 4th, I’m officially adopting my foster dog, Mabel.

I’ve learned quite a few lessons in two years’ time, about myself and my life, and about others around me. Your real friends will always be there for you no matter what you go through. The others … well, they were really only acquaintances anyway.  And what is family these days?  It’s very different than it once was in our parents’ era.  Broken homes, single parents, blended families – you name it.  It’s not homogeneous and uniform; it’s heterogeneous and different.  That is America today.  And I believe family is what and who you make it.  In my life, my little family is made up of three wonderful creatures who love me unconditionally.  They are always there for me, just like my real friends are.  And I couldn’t be happier with my family.  I wonder how many people feel this way.

And also I made some decisions.  I wanted to Speak Up about the tragedy to inform people about suicide, its statistics, and that there is help out there.  So many positives I felt could come about from such a dreadful situation.  And I’ve made further decisions, one important one is to make May 4th much more of a positive.

Now I had viewed many photos of dogs that need to be rescued.  But already having two, I had no feelings to have another.  When I saw Mabel’s photo and read about her, it all tugged at my heart.  She felt to me like some kindred spirit needing me.  Once I brought her home as my foster, she immediately made friends with my other two dogs, Miley and Casey, sisters.  Her timid demeanor, soft and gentle ways and she is the sweetest girl I’ve ever known.  Which leads me to the original quote above.  Who Saved Who here?  I think we saved each other.  What a wonderful way to help remember May 4th with new beginnings and a new life.

As I work from home now, the girls are here with me and seem to love it.  The Florida weather allows me to open the sliding doors to the living room and the girls go in and out, like little kids.  After playing outdoors for a while, they’ll trot inside for water and to check up on me.  Life is good!

So look into your hearts and see if maybe a pet needs your saving.  Or perhaps you could be helped a bit by “being saved” and becoming a family.