My parents: A quality of life story

May 8, 2018

By Rob Gray

I was away from Gran Roca, my sustainable permaculture farm in Yunguilla, during the last half of March as my mom recently passed away. I was deeply saddened. My dad had passed away several years before and I was saddened by his death as well, but in truth, he was in his 80s and given his lifestyle choices, it felt like he was playing with the house’s money.

You see, my mom and dad were like Jack Sprat and his wife. My mom had generally good lifestyle habits including her diet and exercise. My dad, not so much.

My dad had acquired habits as a young man that were not health supporting; quite the opposite, in fact. He smoked, he drank Coca Cola all day long, including at meals, and his diet would be in the healthy living dictionary as an example of what not to eat. He had had a heart attack when I was very young and as I grew up I learned early on that he always had to carry nitroglycerin tablets in his wallet in case of another one.

Crops on Gran Roca farm in Yunguuilla.

He was unable to do anything physically challenging like play sports with me for fear of another heart attack. The doctor recommended that he play golf for exercise which he started doing on the weekends.

Some luck came into my dad’s life when at about age 50 he needed a triple-heart-bypass. No, that was not the lucky part, although he did survive the operation. But, his body had a very bad reaction to the anesthetic used in the surgery and he was in the hospital for many weeks.

By the time he got out of the hospital, he was no longer addicted to nicotine and, fortunately, did not smoke again. The other lifestyle habits may have improved, but not much. His body was still quite fragile, and he needed regular visits to the doctor to keep what was ailing him in check. As my dad got into his 60’s, he began to really slow down. His favorite thing to do was to play golf; and that was becoming harder and harder to do.

Now, I understand, that as we get older, many things become harder, but I’d seen many 80-year-olds handle life better than my dad who was 20 years younger. And it only got worse from there. I visited my dad when he was no longer able to play golf and talked with him, thinking that he might be open to making some changes. But, even though he could no longer play the game he loved, drive, shop, travel, etc., and basically spent years just sitting around the house, often dozing off, he said to me that he was “going to die with his boots on.” And he did.

My recounting of this story is not so much about how much longer my dad could have lived, but how much better his quality of life could have been during the years he lived.

In contrast, my mom lived past 90-years-old with a very different experience. She still lived independently, drove, shopped for herself, dealt with her finances, prepared meals, exercised, did her laundry, you name it. She had a long, but more importantly, high quality of life to the end.

My dad, was a miracle of modern medicine, who had, in addition to all the heart and blood vessel issues, two types of cancer, a myriad of other health challenges, and was hardly alive for the last 10 to15 years of his life.

If you wonder why I started Gran Roca farm, it was because I witnessed, from an early age, health challenges all around me, among my family, friends, neighbors, as well as with all three of my own children. And I too am getting older.

As I witness the ongoing degradation, spraying and over-processing of the world’s food supply, and watch us consume what our bodies have not evolved to eat, I feel compelled to provide a “back-to-the-future” alternative of fresh, delicious, whole foods, in the hope that others will have the opportunity to be more like my mom, than my dad. And — not to wake up one day and repeat the immortal words of Mickey Mantle: “If I knew I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”


Rob Gray runs the Gran Roca Project, (, a sustainable commercial permaculture farm in the Yunguilla Valley southwest of Cuenca. Rob sells his fresh picked produce, meats and eggs in Cuenca at a Wednesday Market and provides deliveries and pick-ups on Mondays and Fridays. He also publishes a weekly newsletter of the goings-on at the farm; you can sign-up on his website. He can be reached through his website,

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