Two weeks ago, I was just settling back in from returning from a family road trip when my sister told me that her son’s grandfather had just passed. Grandpa Z, my nephew’s granddad, was just 63 years and six days old. I say just because he was young; not only do I think he was young in age, he was witty and warm and always always always had a little smile on his face. And although he was usually assisted by a wheelchair or walker, he wasn’t disabled. The handful of times I’d met him, he was always positive, rarely letting the pain and discomfort of Lou Gehrig’s dampen his spirit.
I am deeply saddened for his wife and sons and my nephew⏤that they didn’t get to have him around for longer to soak up his humor, wisdom and good energy. I cried almost the entire home going celebration with these thoughts of who he left behind. The impact he made. I’m sure his sons and grandchildren feel the devastation I felt losing my grandfather as a teen.
Death always makes me reflective and Grandpa Z’s death made me think of the cognitive slide into Alzheimer’s that eventually took mother’s mother almost 10 years ago. Her slip was quick and painful. Since 2019, I’ve witnessed many of the signs of failing cognition in my own father; he goes weeks without leaving the house, changing clothes or even bathing. I heard that he would have the television up so loud he’d hurt his ears and need aspirin! My nephew introduced him to YouTube and he’ll often watch the same few clips on repeat. He has always had a temper, but now snaps unexpectedly at the smallest question or inconvenience. His narcissism is more annoying than ever! You would not look at my father and ever believe that he was once a fashion model, avid reader, golf champion or soldier. We are quite distant and weren’t ever close so it’s not necessarily painful to watch, just uncomfortable and strange.
I hear dementia is not hereditary, but witnessing such a debilitating disease affect close relatives more than once continuously inspires me to ramp up my cognition game; there are MANY ways to do it, it is easy to do and pretty much free:
- Exercise. I’ve read that staying physically active can greatly lower your chance of developing Alzheimer’s. This could be as simple as a 30 minute daily walk.
- Get outside. You can easily take that walk outside or just sit on a park bench. We’ve all been isolated for waaaay too long and isolation can be dangerous! Looking at something besides your four walls or a screen and being in the elements has a positive effect on your mood.
- Maintain a healthy microbiome. Microbiome is a new word for me. The microbiome is basically your gut’s environment. You want it to stay healthy and strong by eating mostly
boringfoods that are high in nutrients and easily digestible. I’m all for that, but food has to be enjoyable too!
- Learn you something! Most of us have the World Wide Web on or near our person at all times; it can be an unhealthy distraction, but there are so many benefits to realizing and utilizing that electronic encyclopedia in your pocket. Even in dotage, there is always something new and interesting to learn.
- Read. I’m currently working through Parable of the Talents, Daddy and catching up on blog posts. How about you?
- Keep dreaming. I often remind my readers to keep some goals. Don’t let age or current circumstances stop you from dreaming or trying something new! Too often, I think we only dream big instead of understanding that actualizing tiny goals make an impact too. So even if it’s simply getting out of bed early to watch the sun rise, keep a list of goals; I think that list is such a great reminder that there is always always always something to look forward to in life.
I know I can’t cheat death, but if I live to be 63, I want to still be traveling and cracking jokes like Grandpa Z and recalling countless funny stories like my spicy aunt Karena at 92! A lot of my relatives that passed at old ages were in their 80s and 90s and if I do the same, I don’t want to just be old and existing⏤I wanna be old and alive!