Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thinking About the Future Today

Sometimes I'm so busy worrying about how I want to age, what I want to remember, what I want to jot down on my scraps of paper, that I loose track of the here-and-now.

The other night, I learned that joy is being taken away from a friend, who recently learned he has early onset Alzheimer's.

According to the Alzheimer's Association (, nearly four percent (about 200,000 people) of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer's have early onset. Here are 10 warning signs offered by the association:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure.
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spacial relationships.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.

My friend and his wife (also a dear friend!) have filled their lives with good times. They are worldwide travelers and have collected memories and memorabilia from wherever they have gone. They go to plays and museums. They open their home to friends and strangers at holidays and throughout the year. Just passing through? They have a spare bed and are eager to offer you a place to stay; and while you're here, they are happy to show you the local sites. Their calendar and their hearts are full.

Lack of funds has never deterred them from taking in the world. Doug and I are always concerned about saving for that proverbial rainy day that we often forgo doing things in order to save just a little bit more (this habit long drilled into me by my Depression Era father). I once asked her about this.

"My mother always had a to-do list," she explained. "Places she wanted to go, things she wanted to accomplish, and then she died unexpectedly at age 59." My friend vowed that, since she never knew when her own time would be up, she would pack as much into life as she could. She didn't want to have regrets about not doing, not seeing, not using the good china so many of us keep in the closet waiting for a special occasion. And now, even facing tough times ahead, my friends continue to pack living into their lives.

I so admire them, and my scrap of paper is a note to myself on how to live my life from this day forward. I vow to live my life in the moment, to pack as much joy and experience into the now, to make time for those hobbies, people, travel I have been saving for, and to tackle the wish list now.

I, too, don't want to have regrets. I vow to open my home and heart to friends and strangers—just like my dear friends.

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