Just finishing up a busy, busy week-end of preparation for next week-end’s graduation celebration for grandson, Alex. But, all day, my thoughts have drifted to a movie we watched last night…Still Alice.
It was very, very good…but heartbreaking and haunting. It brought back many memories of the years that my mother was going through a similar experience. My mother was a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s as well. And, the problem, though it had to have begun while she was still working, became much more obvious following her retirement.
When I was debating my retirement decision, Ken, at times, seemed to be apprehensive. And, one day, he finally admitted that he remembers so well, that my mother retired and, very shortly thereafter began her decline into dementia. That scares him. You hear stories like that quite often, but I’m not sure that it is the retirement that causes it. Still…I have to admit that it was one of the motives behind my determination to challenge myself to re-invent retirement. I face challenges daily in my job, and it will seem very strange when that goes away. So, I am determined to remain open to other challenges that may present themselves. I read a lot about dementia. I’m not paranoid about it… just very cognizant of the fact that it’s out there. So, when I read that eating certain foods may help delay Alzheimer’s, I try my best to incorporate those foods into my diet. And, when I read that brain games may delay Alzheimer’s, I work on some brain games. So, when I read that retiring from a challenging career and not “working” on a regular basis may accelerate the onset of dementia, you can bet I will do everything in my power to ensure that I am still challenged to use my talents in some way.
One of the daughters in the movie made the statement that she would rather be diagnosed with cancer than Alzheimer’s. That struck me, because I made that exact same comment myself. At the time my mother was going through Alzheimer’s, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Not pretty, either of them. But, it seems like dying of cancer preserves your dignity in a way that dementia can not. However, you don’t get to choose… and, sometimes you wind up with both. My mother had Breast Cancer as well as Alzheimer’s. I followed in her footsteps with cancer. Hopefully, not with Alzheimer’s. But, if Alzheimer’s decides to choose me, then I will face it with the same tenacity as Alice.
Until then, as my retirement date approaches, I am keeping my options open. I know there is an opportunity for me somewhere out there, and writing this blog is just the first step in re-inventing retirement.
If you haven’t seen the movie, do. Still Alice.