For years, I have feared that one day I will develop Alzheimer’s disease and nobody will notice. According to the latest research, I’m right.
Goal-driven, conscientious achievers are less prone to contracting Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study just published in Archives of General Psychiatry. That means disorganized people who keep putting off until next week or next year the dishes in the sink are more likely to be affected. And more likely to have an odiferous kitchen.
It’s not that I don’t have goals. I just don’t remember what they are. There used to be one about playing small forward in the NBA. I’m only 6 foot, 48, overweight and lacking a jump shot. I’m guessing that’s not one of my goals anymore.
I wish I could remember where I left the list. Or if I wrote one. I think the last time I accomplished something was when I finally finished reading that issue of “Donald Duck.”
Basically, I’m in trouble. But I knew that. Alzheimer’s disease is in my family. Both sides. And if watching it take apart my family wasn’t enough, for years now I myself have been able to walk into a room, look a person square in the eyes and forget his or her name.
Usually, I try to gloss this over until searching my mental databanks — which are disorganized as my muddled and well-littered desk — until I can pick up a clue in the conversation. “Hey there, good to see, uh, you again,” I’ll say to a woman I come upon and know I should know somehow. “So what have you been up to?”
And she’ll say, “Burton William, I am your mother and I wish you’d stop pretending you don’t know me!”
Oh. Yeah. I knew I recognized her from somewhere. They lady who made my bologna sandwiches back in second grade. Or maybe it was seventh.
Anyway, I tend to blank out a lot. Previous studies have linked social connections and brain calisthenics such as working puzzles with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s. The same researchers reported previously that people who experience more distress and worry about their lives are at a higher risk. I like crossword puzzles, but mostly I exercise my mind with rounds of spider solitaire on my computer. I use the difficult setting.
I used to worry a lot. Fretting is the official pastime of my family. There isn’t a problem too small that we can’t figure out at least 16 ways to worry it into a proper tizzy, suitable for framing. Sadly, I had to give up anxiety when I realized I couldn’t remember what I was suppose to be worrying about. Now I worry that studies will show that the serenity of not worrying is bad for my health.
I don’t have social connections. I like to work on anti-social connections. I am studying to be a crotchety, old man when I grow up, and so far, I’m progressing nicely.
Hey, wait a minute! I just remembered what my goal is. I’m not sure if that makes me goal-driven, but at least I have a goal. And I’m very conscientious about forgetting. So I’m fine.
But if Alzheimer’s comes a knockin’, don’t worry — you won’t notice a thing.