My dad is brilliant; gentle, kind, caring, funny, and faithful, in all aspects of the word. The great irony of the universe, or perhaps an acknowledgement of God’s unfathomable humor, has put my dad in Alzheimer’s hell.
He spends his days lost and confused, angry and occasionally aggressive, with only a few splinters of his true self working to the surface at unexpected moments, just enough to make a heartbreaking situation, that we have come to grudgingly accept, spiral down to yet another level of loss and anguish.
I think back to all the life lessons he taught me. There were so many, but the one that sticks with me, that I reach back to every day, is this. Whenever something “bad” would happen, a tearful teenage trauma, a broken heart, or what my twenty-something self would deem an insurmountable problem, he would tell me this:
If it won’t matter in ten years, it doesn’t matter.
I have used this in so many seemingly hopeless situations. It helps me focus on what is truly important in life, and what is not. His wisdom is what I wish to impart to my children.
An ancillary part to Dad’s philosophy: If it can be fixed by money, it’s not a problem.
This additional adage developed from my older siblings’ tendency to constantly get in fender benders and minor to substantial car crashes whenever our parents travelled out of town. Dad was called, and his response was always the same.
“Are you hurt?”
“Was anyone else hurt?”
“Good. Cars can be replaced. People can’t.”
I am in no way as intelligent as my father. I don’t have any great words of wisdom to impart to my children. I’m more of their comic relief and chief supporter/fan. My sage advice is much smaller, mundane, but it could possibly make their worlds a bit brighter. Here is a bit of what I have learned from fifty-four years on this earth, so far …
First, there is no reason to have a blaring, flashing, siren type alarm to wake up in the morning. Shooting straight up in bed, heart pounding and fear coursing throughout your body is no way to start the day. Use an alarm with a gentle tone, church bells or music. If you are a sound sleeper, just turn up the volume. Better yet, get a dog. You will never have to worry about oversleeping ever again. Also remember the need for an alarm is temporary. As you get older, you just wake up. Perhaps it’s your soul’s recognition that you will not be permanently walking this earth, and time is a tickin’.
The Grinch is right. Happiness does not come in a box. Joy comes from experiences. Travel, spend time with those you love, laugh, go to movies, out to eat, sporting events, whatever makes you happy.
Saving money is great, but remember a future is not guaranteed. Take that trip to Italy, or wherever your heart desires.
Try not to get fat. It’s much harder coming back from it than not going there in the first place.
Life can be a battle, and the very best armor is humor.
Be kind. I’m still working on this one, as it goes against my sarcastic snark, but I’m trying.
Forgiveness. Forgive others, but most importantly, forgive yourself. You are a work in progress, we all are.
Oh, and pick the right spouse. It’s like bacon, it makes everything better!