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A 'Father's Heart' Leaves Enduring Legacy for Son

Steve McKee was just 16 when he watched his father die of a heart attack.

It was 1969, and McKee and his father, John, had just finished watching a TV movie when the heart attack hit. By the time help arrived, it was too late.

At 52, Steve McKee himself was diagnosed with serious cardiovascular disease, a condition he tried to prevent his whole life by leading a healthy lifestyle. In his new memoir, My Father's Heart, McKee explores his condition, and the emotional and physical legacy of the man who died before McKee could really get to know him.

McKee, now a global copy desk editor at The Wall Street Journal, watched his father surrender to heart disease after a first heart attack. McKee says his father didn't try to exercise, stop smoking or eat right — behavior McKee vowed he wouldn't repeat as an adult.

But genetics caught up with McKee, and it took him a long time to accept that he wasn't doomed to repeat his father's fate. In My Father's Heart, McKee meticulously researches what happened to his father and why. Today, McKee takes part in triathlons, takes cholesterol-lowering drugs and monitors his heart closely.

McKee spoke with Scott Simon about the night his life changed, and how he has coped with his father's terrible bequest.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.