Reading the Modern Love essay in the New York Times Style section has become a favorite Sunday pastime. A widely diverse set of stories explore the paths that love and relationships have taken over the years. Funny, sad, deeply personal and evocative. I find myself connecting with the writers and their subjects in unexpected ways. This week's essay, Sweetest at the End, shared the story of a beloved and accomplished husband's decline and then death from an atrophy of the frontal brain lobe.
This story was similar to the experiences of Alzheimer's caregivers sharing the challenges of living and caring for a dear loved one who is fading away in mind while the body seems to have hit a pause button. But for one important detail the thing that struck me and has stayed with me even into the start of a busy new work week the age of the writer's husband, 57. I, too, am 57.
There is much about my fifties that has been rich with work, family and love but there is also a growing sense of time's passing and more than the occasional wondering about what lies ahead. In an odd sort of way, I catch myself reading more health news stories about the early signs of dementia, long term care options, and staving off decline and weight gain in middle age by increasing physical activity'almost as if I am assembling a What to Expect When You Are Expecting guide for sailing into old age.
The news and science seem mostly hopeful. We can live longer and be more active than ever before. And there is much I can do even now to increase my chances of good health of mind and body. But I wonder if I can marshal the discipline and resolve that came so easy when 32 years ago, I gave up caffeine and alcohol for nine months. Why did it seem so much easier then to protect my unborn child than it is now to change behaviors and make preventive health choices to protect myself --and increase my chances of a healthier old age?