Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. -DYLAN THOMAS
WAKING UP TO ALZHEIMER’S – A Real-Life Documentation -- by Bill Angelos
One day I woke up and I was 75 years old. Where’d it go? We’re talking about someone’s life here... in this case, mine. But hold on, chances are most of you will experience that same – uhm – phenomenon. And when one considers the alternative – you might as well face up to its inevitability. Moreover what today may be perceived as being too far down the line to think about now, may just happen like it did in my life. One day it wasn’t there – the next day it was. So think of what you are about to read as what is generally referred to as “a cautionary tale”.
Turning 75 is not like when you turned 16 and were old enough to get your first Driver’s License. Or 18 when you were old enough to be eligible to join the army and be killed. Or when you were old enough to drink – which in most states in this country takes place 3 years after you’re at the killable age of consent - 21. Back in the 60’s, turning 30 was tantamount to losing all that was deemed holy. By the ‘70’s it was 40 that became The Great Divide; and “the Big FOUR OH” held its position all through the 70’s and into the ‘80’s –perhaps as a lingering artifact of Women’s Lib and the “Me” Generation – both of which turned droves of humanity - at least partially - inwardly. Then , in the ‘90’s– the sheer number of Baby Boomers that began to experience the coming of their half-century of existence elevated “The BIG FIVE OH” to that distinction. It’s this same group that’s now causing tidal waves of havoc to inundate the inner sanctums of government where things like this are wrestled with – specifically, what will happen to the Social Security System and Medicare as more of them step into their 60’s .
But let me tell you now folks, turning 75 brings with it a whole other kind of awakening that will not be ignored. And therein, my friends, lies a paradox that also will not be ignored. And it’s no secret contradiction, either! Uh-Uh! In fact it’s even been given its own name. FACT: With every passing day, everyone’s chances regardless of race, creed, color or gender are increasing that they will one day become consciously aware that they are losing that same conscious awareness. HUH? I repeat and italicize (in BOLD) for dramatic effect. “They will one day become consciously aware that they are losing that same conscious awareness.”
And apparently there’s little or nothing that can be done about that dreaded disease named after an otherwise obscure German scientist named Alois Alzheimer. Or is there?
“Between two and four million Americans have AD; that number is expected to grow to as many as 14 million by the middle of the 21st century as the population as a whole ages. While a small number of people in their 40s and 50’s develop the disease (called early-onset AD), AD predominantly affects the elderly. AD affects about 3% of all people between ages 65 and 74, about 19% of those between 75 and 84, and about 47% of those over 85. Slightly more women than men are affected with AD, but this may be because women tend to live longer, and so there is a higher proportion of women in the most affected age groups.” – Wikipedia, 2009.
Did you catch it? That single statistic that puts all the meat on the bones of what I’m trying to communicate? It begins quietly on the 4th line by announcing that 3% of everybody that is presently walking the earth – which includes you, friend reader – will acquire the first signs of it “between ages of 65 and 74”. Then all of a sudden there’s this HUGE 16% per cent leap. When? “Between 75 and 84”! That includes your truly, because 3 months ago I crossed that statistically established line that suddenly placed me at the very edge of what we are told may soon be experienced by many of us , as a forest of ever-increasing density which, upon being entered, disallows even the creation of a trail of bread crumbs in order to find our way back home. At best, if what they say is true, the foreboding arboreal maze before us promises a journey of increasing uncertainty at the end of which lies what Woody Allen characterized so brilliantly in at least one of his movies as a tall hooded figure wielding a scythe that’s half again larger than the hooded figure is – who will keep following you around till you – well, you know...
One day, not that long ago, I looked over my shoulder, and darned if I didn’t catch a momentary glimpse of that same hooded figure; Woody obviously caught a pretty good glimpse of him too, because he cast him perfectly in his movie. As I recall, for all the grimness personified in Woody’s Reaper, mine – like his – was imbued with an air of unmistakable humor.
That image planted the seed for what you are reading now . I would be pleased indeed if I could share with the reader what it’s like to cross that THREE-QUARTER-CENTURY threshold. Because that’s what it really is - not a finish line, but when perceived from another perspective, it is in actuality another threshold like 16 and 18 and 21 and 40 and 50 and 60+ were. And, just like the others, when crossed with the proper perspective , it too may reveal - as the others can - a deeper, more profound point of view from which to watch the unfolding of Life itself.