Central Ohio has known Tom McNutt as their Gardening expert for the last 23 years. But, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him by an even better title: dad. And today, as my dad hangs up his television microphone and his gardening tools, I want to share a very private detail of this very public man.
Perhaps his viewers have noticed the fact that many of my dad’s latest televisions appearances have been done sitting down. If you see him in public, he is usually on his scooter, or walking with a cane or walker. The reason behind this is a muscle weakness.
This muscle weakness had been slowly affecting my dad for years before he was finally told a name for his condition. The diagnosis was Inclusion Body Myositis, but the easier to remember name is the acronym, IBM. This diagnosis was a mixed blessing. After such a long process of seemingly endless doctor visits, there is definitely something good about getting answers. But there is admittedly something bad when the answer comes back as a chronic condition for which there is no cure. He was told by his doctor that his quad muscles would weaken with time, most likely landing him in a wheelchair within a few years. That was many years ago.
Over the years he has reluctantly given in to using a cane, a walker, or that scooter, to keep himself from falling as much.
Now, to say his falls are unpredictable may seem odd, since most falls, indeed, are not predicted; but it seems all the more true when talking about my dad. My dad always walked with a purpose. He walked with a destination in mind. Full speed ahead. His walk always said so much about him. He is strong, determined and heading somewhere.
I remember, as a little one, having to run two steps for every one step of his just to keep up. And somehow, I usually would manage. In more than one way, it has frequently been a goal of mine to keep up with my dad.
Today, my own kids beg me to slow down as I shop with them or even just walk around the neighborhood. I have to smile when they complain about my rapid pace, because I know where it came from: the man who taught me to walk with a purpose.
He vows he won't go willingly into a wheelchair. And with the determination that is my dad, I don't doubt for a minute that he will do all he can to avoid it. After all, he is the man who, after his first "retirement," took on the career that brought him into the gardens and lives of all of Central Ohio for the last 23 years.
But no matter what happens in the future, there's one important fact Tom McNutt, the beloved gardening expert, needs to understand, especially today. Whether he falls, walks unaided, with a cane, or even one day ends up in that wheelchair, to me, no man will ever walk as tall as my dad.