When I told you about hurting my neck and back in the last story, what I didn't tell you was my father is quick in advising me to stretch because he's decided he wants to get back into shape and is now an expert in health and fitness.

"To get back into shape," I said, "implies you had to have been in some kind of shape to begin with."

Of course, I said that to myself.

Out loud I told him, "You're right, Dad."

There's a few standard answers I give whenever I talk with my father. One is, "That's nice, Dad." Another is, "Is that right, Dad?" And still another is, "You're right, Dad."

It's not the only fitness advice he's ever given me or any of us. In fact, my brother, who's overweight and not all that bright, was once complaining about not being able to lose weight. Dad told him to run ten miles a day for thirty days.

"That," he assured him, "will help you lose about twenty pounds in a month."

"Really pop?" my brother asked him.

"You bet," Dad said.

My brother enthusiastically followed Dad's advice to the letter, and we didn't hear from him for weeks. It was Heaven. On the 30th day, he finally called.

"Did it work?" was the first thing my Dad wanted to know.

"It sure did," my brother told him, "but can you send someone to pick me up now?"


"Because I'm three hundred miles away."

Of course, I'm kidding.

The pretend stretching I say my father does, he does while watching TV. During a commercial break (because to do it any other time would interrupt quality television-watching time) he'll stretch out his arms and make a grunting sound like Rambo when he's jumping away from an exploding artillery shell.

The following is his new fitness regimen (as far as I can tell) and they're all true:

1) He's begun to limit his sleeping (naps included) to only twenty hours a day.

2) He'll attempt to get out of his-my-favorite chair three times in a row before deciding there's nothing he really has to do that's worth getting up for after all.

3) He'll stay up until 2200 hours (that's 10pm for all you non-military types) to watch a baseball game...

4) ...only to sleep until 1100 hours the next day.

5) He insists on going for a walk...

6) ...around the backyard.

7) He once took his dog for a walk around the backyard and got lost. The trail he traveled was so convoluted even his dog was confused. I finally had to go out and look for them and found them staring at a tree.

8) I bought an eight pack of Dr. Peppers and hid them in the fridge for later...

9) ...he drank them all.

10) We gave him a walker to help him walk. He looks unsteady on it sometimes. He gets tired of carrying it.

"I thought you said it was a walker," he told me, "it doesn't walk at all."

You're right, Dad.