. Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it. – Lewis Carroll
On paper, you would think his life was a happy one.
As a rule, he did most things right. He and his wife took long walks daily – fresh air when it was warm, and laps around the mall when it snowed. Each day, they would read their daily devotional over a table of fresh, healthy breakfast. They worked on crosswords after that. He read voraciously and had most of Lewis Carroll’s works memorized.
They had friends. Their friends loved them. He never drank, and he did not smoke. He prayed several times a day.
He taught his granddaughters how to play chess. He told them stories, as they sat rapt on his knee, about Little Orley’s old-fashioned adventures. Sometimes, he gardened.
Were his life to be written down in checkmark-list style according to healthy habits, he would have a shiny green check next to every single box.
Except for mental health.
He was fraught with worry – worry about his children, his wife, the morals and ethics of society, whether or not Jesus would come back in his lifetime … nothing was really off the table when it came to topics of consternation.
There were days he’d sit, staring into space, pursing his lips repetitively, filling the air with faint popping sounds as he stewed. There were other days where he’d scribble furiously in his journal – words of such judgment and terror even the Devil himself would raise a skeptical eyebrow.
Eventually, his wife died, and he spent the last 5 years of his life a completely different man. Lost in an alternate reality, he began to do and say and be the things he lived his life protesting against. With time, he stopped doing anything at all. And he suffered.
He was my grandfather. And he died yesterday.
He also had Alzheimer’s.
Prevent Alzheimer’s – ‘Cause There Ain’t No Cure
Needless to say, I’ve been very confused for the past 24 hours – grieving the death of my grandfather, reliving memories, and finally really devoting time to consider the fact that Alzheimer’s is hereditary, and I’ll be on the confusion train in time.
Studies are pretty nebulous in linking Alzheimer’s to genetics, though some evidence does exist that the two things are correlated.
However, I have a feeling that it’s also linked to heredity in a more profound way.
We have a tendency to adopt the lifestyle and attitudes that our parents have. They did the same with their parents.
My grandfather was full of stress. My mother, she has a pretty heavy tendency toward it to. Me? I have to “work” on not getting worked up about things every single day. A wrong word or a sideways glance can send me into hours of stressful obsession.
There are other things linked to Alzheimer’s that you can “inherit” from your parents – including unhealthy eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, and laziness when it comes to exercising your brain. Here are a few things you can do, according to medical advice, to prevent Alzheimer’s disease:
Lifestyle Changes that May Prevent Alzheimer’s:
- Eat healthy, nourishing foods – being sure to get plenty of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.
- Get some form of moderate exercise regularly
- Keep your mind sharp by reading, doing crossword puzzles or sudoku, or other games that require you to think logically
- Avoid aluminum (one good way is to make your own deodorant)
- Avoid as many chemicals as possible (smoking, commercial cleaning products, chemically laden cosmetics, pollution, etc.)
- STOP STRESSING OUT
The last, I have to believe, is perhaps the most imperative key to preventing Alzheimer’s. In fact, studies have shown that chronic stress quadruples your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
My grandfather taught me many things, but this is, I’m sure, the one thing he never intended to teach – how to let go.
What My Grandfather Can Teach You
My grandfather spent a great deal of his life worrying about things he couldn’t change.
He also worried about the things he was doing in the name of health.
You can run 3 miles a day, eat all your veggies, scream “go green!” from the rooftops, and life your life according to every issue of Self magazine.
But if you’re doing those things (and others in between) based on worry and stress, is it really going to help you in the end?
Stress is something you can control. Though, ironically, the only way to control it is to let go of it.
Live your life with grace and peace.
Be here now.
The only thing that really matters is how much you love the life your living. The way you live it, I believe, is secondary.
Today, in remembrance of my grandfather, I ask that you do something: For the rest of today, whenever you start to worry about something, let it go. Just for today. Let it go.
Instead, smile and think about something or someone you love.
You can’t worry yourself into health and happiness.
And that’s the moral.
Rest in peace, Grandpa.
This is an issue I think a lot about.
My husband and I moved across the country to care for my in-laws including my mother in law who is in the severe stages of dementia now. I never knew her before she was sick, and when we first moved she was very violent and aggressive. I felt so out of control, didn’t know what to do. So overwhelmed. She seemed like a monster to me. But we stuck it out, we live with them and we take 12 hour shifts watching her. As the disease progressed her behavior mellowed some, and she is less active, but she is entire dependent on us. It is difficult. But I have to say that I am grateful for every minute I have spent with her, and the daily reward for sharing a life with her. I see God in her, and I don’t believe that a persons value is based on what they can do FOR you, but what they can do TO you, to change you and mold you. Whether it’s learning from their life, or learning selflessness, unconditional love, and responsibility. I am a different person than when I was before I met her. Whether it’s been me wanting to rip my hair out of frustration, or crying because I don’t want to let her go, I love who she’s made me. I pour myself into the vessel, she will never understand the sacrifices, the pain… but it all comes back to me. Not just in the act of doing good for goodness sake, but that everything I am doing for her flows back onto me, for better or worse. Making me the woman I am, that I never thought possible.
Though it was years ago, I am sorry for your loss.
PS: we also take a lot of coconut oil, it’s supposed to help.
I just found your blog thx to Capability Mom. This is so eloquent right from your full and beautiful heart. Shared words for everyone to benefit. Started today with a long to do list and a rushed metropolitan of trains running to and fro round my head. I think I’ll start instead by going for a nice walk with my dog on this beautifully sunny autumn morning. Grandparents are the best hug and tears xo
Thank you so much for your kind words. I got to spend a lot of time this week with my mother and aunt, reminiscing. There was so much about him I never knew!
Good for you for setting aside your worries! It’s such a habit, y’know? Ever since writing this post, I’ve become SO much more aware of every little worry that pops into my head. Never would have thought there’d have been so much!
Consciousness … it’s the way to all kinds of health. For sure.
Thank you all so much for your kind words and support. They meant more to me than you could know.
Alzheimer’s disease is tragic and unnecessary, and, in my opinion, one of the saddest ways to go.
So here’s to loving the life we live, and understanding that there are things we can change and things we cannot change – and in both cases, worry and stress is not going to help either.
Love you guys.
Jen @ Lita's World
Oh Betty, I’m so sorry for your loss.
Even in your sadness, your words are so inspirational and so very true – why do we worry? especially about all the things we have no control over. I’m guilty – guilty daily. The only thing I’m good at is calling my husband on it and encouraging him to do the same to me.
Sending you really big hugs right now…know you are loved!
Betty, I am so sorry about your grandpa! So sorry! There’s a big history of Alzheimer’s in my family as well. My dad’s two first cousins(brothers) both had it. It’s a tragic thing for everyone who loves them.
I can usually let things go pretty easily. (Except for Sam starting school, having no kids at home stressed me out.) It drives Wayne crazy! He says he feels like he has to worry for both of us! He’s only half joking.
I’m going to show him this and maybe it’ll give him a reason not to be such a worrier.
Again, sorry about your grandpa.
Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points
Love to you, dear one. Much love.
I’ve worked in geriatric rehab most of my career. I’ve treated more patients with Alzheimer’s than I can count.
I give talks and lectures all over the place about the value of an active, healthy mind.
And decreasing stress – the more information about the damage stress causes us, the more I want to make a living harvesting strawberries. (Which is probably not as stress-free as I imagine it to be).
You are as smart as you are beautiful. Or maybe it’s the other way ’round.
But whatever way, love to you. Today and every day, but a little extra today.
Sorry for ur loss.. But great way to commemorate ur grandfather:)
Stress sucks and u wrote a great article on another reason to avoid it.
I lost both of my grandfathers after prolonged battles with Alzheimer’s. It is incredible difficult to watch the men you love, who taught you so much, lose themselves slowly.
You wrote a beautiful tribute to your grandfather, you made him proud.
You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
He is so very handsome your Grandpa!
Be sad with your family, play chess and celebrate your Grandpa.
I’m very sorry for your loss and very grateful to you for the important reminder of what a nasty companion Stress is, today and in the long run. You are my Blessing today.
So sorry for your loss. A lovely tribute and good advice. I need to stop stressing. I’ll try to be zen today.
Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs
What a sweet tribute to your grandfather. He’d surely be proud of you for making a difference in the lives of others. I’ll be taking your advice today and doing my very best to not stress.
My condolences, my thoughts are with you and your family.
Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry for your loss.
and I’m in total agreement with the stress factor. Not healthy. I refuse to do it.
My maternal grandmother has Alzheimer’s. So, you and I will both NOT stress out together. Okay? okay.
You have written a wonderful tribute to his life and legacy. My love and prayers go out to you and your whole family. Peace and Grace to you all.
My condolences to you and your family