I remember about fourteen years ago… Yay! I haven’t lost my mind to Alzheimer’s yet! That’s not the point of this though. Fourteen years ago my dad was 70. He lived about a five hour drive from me, so we rarely saw each other, but we did talk on the phone monthly. At that time, I noticed that every phone conversation we had was the same. He would tell me about his old golfing buddies, but lamented that he didn’t golf much anymore because most of his buddies had passed away. Every damn call he would tell me about his deceased golfing friends. At the time I thought he was drunk, which was always a possibility. Looking back, maybe that was the beginning of his Alzheimer’s. Or maybe it was just the beginning of the symptoms that I noticed…
My dad retired at 57 and never worked another day in his life. He wasn’t a millionaire or anything. He had been with the same company for over thirty years and they offered him a buyout package with a pension for life. Like me, your first thought is “Wow, that’s great! Who doesn’t want to quit working as soon as possible?” The fact that he never worked a day in his life again is what has me wondering. He was a hard worker and a very frugal man who wanted to hang onto his money. I can’t imagine him at 57 just deciding to never make any more money. That’s why I wonder if he wasn’t already seeing the early signs of Alzheimer’s in himself.
As a younger man he was always active. He’d go camping, in a tent like a man. No fancy trailer or cabin camping for him. Instead of buying firewood, we’d just go out in the woods and cut down trees. He kayaked and canoed. In the winter he went skiing. I even remember him taking scuba diving lessons. So why would someone that seemed almost hyperactive, retire at 57? I’m not 57 yet, but I’m trending in that direction, and when I forget something, which may very well be perfectly normal, I wonder if my dad, at 57 saw the writing on the wall. Did he suspect that he was losing his ability to do his job? Was that when the Alzheimer’s started?
At 70 my dad stopped traveling or taking trips with his girlfriend. He stayed home, watching the news and doing Sudoku. He had become uncomfortable being anywhere he wasn’t familiar with. That’s very common in Alzheimer’s. In Alzheimer’s you forget recent information first, which was why he couldn’t travel anymore. It made him feel completely disoriented. As I used to say of my dad, he couldn’t remember what he did 30 minutes ago but he could remember what he did 30 years ago.
I have one of the genes that contributes to Alzheimer’s. That gives me a 30% chance of having Alzheimer’s. There may be other elements that increase my risk. Every time I forget a word, or put the yogurt in the cupboard and the salt shaker in the fridge, I wonder if I’m destined to live another thirty years or more, but only know who I am for the next 10-15 of them. That’s what I’m really afraid of.
That’s why I’m back to writing more here. This blog is my history. If twenty years from now I’ve forgotten who I am and who I was, I hope someone shows me this blog, which has been a part of me for the last 18 years and hopefully will be for several more years going forward. So, future Phil thanks you for reading and commenting. You all are now an important part of my memory one way or another.
Have a great weekend! ~Phil