Saturday, September 26, 2015


Joe down by the river 2015

I’ve always looked forward to the next big adventure, the next thing that would happen after completing whatever was currently in focus.  I call it the “someday after”.  Humans seem to be wired for the someday after.  How else would we be motivated and inspired to dream of the future if we didn’t manifest hope and optimism for what comes next?  It’s part of our DNA. 

Not once did I say, “Someday after one of us is diagnosed with a devastating disease.”  Thankfully, that’s just not the way most of us think.  Oh, we know there’s the possibility of bad things happening.  That’s why we buy health and life insurance and get regular checkups.   But with the life expectancy in the US most of us assume we’ll live full, long, mostly healthy lives.
In a perfect world, the someday afters would just go on until we’d enjoyed life to death.  (Yes, the pun was intended.) That isn’t the case if the Uninvited Guess (Alzheimer’s) shows up.

Let me introduce you to Al, the great disruptor.  He crept slowly and mysteriously into our lives, and in his sinister way began to chip at our someday afters.  He tries to turn optimism into apprehension and hope into fear.  He fogs the brightness of the future and conspires to make us focus on the worst aspects of things.  He is at his best when we are at our lowest.  He is an undisputed creator of pessimism.

So how do we fight what is so essentially evil and destructive to our someday afters? How do we find ways to restore a disposition that looks on the brighter side, to be hopeful, to be our ambitious selves?

I’ve never understood the whole “bucket list” thing, where people who sense their mortality suddenly develop a fever to experience things that may have been suppressed or delayed.  Joe and I have been working through our “bucket list” for over 35 years and I can assure you that when we started, we weren’t thinking about mortality.

We’ve had wonderful adventures together and individually; like the time we were living in downtown Portland, Oregon after building a loft apartment out of an old warehouse (that was truly an adventure).  And there was the time Joe fulfilled a dream to play in a pro-golfer like tournament in California.  He still talks about the fabulous golf courses he played.  His hole-in-one story may live on forever with as many times as he’s told it. 

I was fortunate to have my own art exhibits and to act in and direct community theatre productions.  We gratefully became grandparents eight times.  There was travel to other countries and unforgettable (well I thought they would be unforgettable) experiences.  The point is, we’ve already done most of the things that would have been on a bucket list had we had one.

What would really restore our outlook, and would be worthy of being at the top of any bucket list we might have would be to surround Al, hog-tie him and throw him in the briar patch.  But, since we don’t have a briar patch and a cure for Alzheimer’s is still in the future, we’ll have to be content to focus on things more practical. 

For now that means shortening the horizon, refocusing the lens and thinking less long term.  In that respect, I’m actually mirroring Joe’s new way of thinking.   I’m not saying that I’ve stopped considering the longer term future but, I don’t know what life will be like a year or two years from now.  For that matter, no one does.  I just have to get used to living with the uncertainty that Al dragged in.  It all reminds me of a famous Yogi Berra quote, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

 So the question is:  How can we be happy in the here and now?
Well, each week we’ll assess our status and decide what’s going to work over that amount of time.  It may be something as simple as going to the golf course and hitting practice balls (I sure wish Al could swing a club).  Maybe it’s buying tickets to a local theatre production, or having a glass of wine with a neighbor.  Whatever it is, it has to be something that we can look forward to and is manageable within Joe’s current abilities.   (Of course, if you asked Joe he would vote for a trip to Baskin and Robbins.)

The times they are a changin’.  Thinking less about the future may just be a good thing.  For now, our someday after doesn’t need to be any further away than the day after tomorrow.

Last week, we had a new roof put on the house.  The noise and disruption could have created problems for Joe and Al but it turned out to be a non-event, except for the ball cap that one of the workers left on the roof.  Joe spotted it and was pretty sure that if I held the ladder he could get up on the roof and get it.  There’s that confident ambitious Joe I miss so much.

Joe with daughter Juli 2014