I arrived to find that the large metal door, the one that still reminds me of gangster movies, had already been opened. For once, I would not have to wait for someone to open the padlock, remove the thick metal chain, and slide open the door. Today, I walked right in.
As I entered the facility, I noticed activity off to my right. It was in the area where Uncle Herb often parks his truck. There were mats, and exercise equipment, and a few individuals that I did not recognize. I wondered if maybe that was how Uncle Herb keeps in such great shape—he has his own private gym right here in the warehouse.
As I turned to investigate, I caught a glimpse of Uncle Herb over by the forklift. I pivoted and headed in his direction. Discovering the story behind the mats and gym equipment would have to wait for some other time.
As I moved closer, I noticed that Uncle Herb didn’t have his red “The Noni Man” hat on. With no memory of ever seeing anyone wearing a baseball cap while exercising in a gym, I speculated as to why no cap was sitting on Uncle’s head right now, he’d been working out—I’d bet on it.
As we shook hands, Uncle Herb started right in, “I cannot believe it, I spent last week over on Maui, looking up old friends. We go see our old neighbors and I no recognize them. They all sick. And old . . . walk hunched over and with a cane. So sad.” I saw sorrow in his eyes. His wife, Lona, had a similar look.
Uncle Herb and Auntie Lona moved from Maui to Hawaii Island decades ago. Over the past few weeks they have mentioned, more than once, how glad they are that they moved. Maui had become too busy, too crowded, too unhealthy for them.
“Where there used to be fields of vegetables, all types. Gone. Pau. Nothing there now,” Herb said shaking his head. “They can’t get anything to grow. What does grow is all mess up looking.” He moved his hands to demonstrate sick looking plants. “It’s like the land poisoned. Something not right. Too many chemicals I bet.”
I can tell Herb is deeply upset by what he saw. He is filled with that unique mixture of nostalgia and sorrow; an emotion that overtakes us when a place we hold dear becomes over-developed, a mere ghost of what it once was.
As the lyrics from “The Last Resort” played in my mind—“. . . call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye”—Herb circled back to talking about his friends and how old they looked. And how many of them are no longer around, reminding me of something my mom (who is now eighty-eight) said, “The biggest problem with getting old is watching all of your friends die.”
“They all wrinkled and hunched over,” Herb said as he shook his head. “I ask them they take their noni and eat local grown fruits and vegetables. They all say no or not much.” Herb continued to shake his head. Then he looked right at me, ran his hands across his bald head and said, “They ask me, Herb, how you stay so young and got such smooth skin”—as the words came out a hint of a smile started growing in the corners of his mouth—“I tell um one Turtle Wax.”
Lona smiled that smile wives make when their husbands are “telling tales.”
“I need to help get them healthy,” Uncle Herb said. “Need to take noni and fern and milk thistle regularly. It’s so simple and so sad how they all sick.” I can feel his passion, as well as his frustration.
Uncle Herb has spent the last three decades helping people live healthier lives. But it’s always been an uphill battle. Like too many things in life, people put off doing healthy things. Getting healthy is something they will get to tomorrow. Unfortunately, when tomorrow comes, they find themselves hunched over, doing the “old-fogie shuffle,” and by then it’s too late to finally decide to start living healthy.
Health cannot be put off, not even for a day. Health must be at the top of everyone’s daily to-do list. No excuses.
If everyone was as healthy at eighty-one as Uncle, this nation would save billions in medical expenses. On top of that we would have a wealth of untold knowledge that we could tap into. For with age comes experience and with experience comes wisdom, and the human race is always in need of more wisdom.
As I got up to leave Uncle noticed me glancing over at the exercise area. “Getting ready for his next fight,” Uncle said, followed with, “No better place to get in shape than here amongst all this noni.”
Lona smiled again but this time it was the smile wives make when their husband is making them proud.
Just who was training and what he had to say about Uncle Herb and noni is a story for another time. For now, I exited the facility wondering how we get The Noni Man’s knowledge and products into the hands of more people. People who want to be living a full and healthy life at eighty-one and beyond! (For the record, my goal is to live to 103 and never having to do the “old-fogie shuffle.”)