New to the site?

If you're new to this blog and want some context for it, read this post from the day I announced my Alzheimer's disease and this post about the day I announced I had lost it. For more info, visit my website with my autobiography and all blog entries in chronological order for easier reading to catch up. There's also a sermon on the spiritual lessons I've learned through this journey through my damaged mind.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Elderly at 69?

Washington DC
 It’s not just my mind that makes me feel old.  It’s my body, too.  For the last several years I’ve had a permanent numbness in my feet caused by a neurological condition known as “peripheral neuropathy.”  It makes it difficult for me to sense anything on the skin of my feet.  It’s as if I were sensing through a thick piece of cloth, as if I were wearing socks.  

Fortunately, it’s not a progressive disease and mine has been stable for a number of years.  The worst part is that the nerves responsible for telling my brain just where my foot bones are in relation to each other (the proprioceptive nerves) are also affected, so I don’t quite know where my feet are, which means I stumble constantly and lose my balance easily.  I don’t know if the worst part is falling into somebody I’m talking to or swinging wildly for a couple of steps as I regain my balance.

So in addition to this declining memory, I feel physically unsteady, too.  I sometimes feel elderly, especially when the person I’m talking to reaches out and steadies me or when I stumble over nothing.  (Marja and I hold hands on our evening walk.  It’s not just cute; it would also protect if I tripped.)  Just to be clear, I know I’m not elderly in either my mind or body.  Marja and I backpack into high mountains, carrying our supplies as we hike for a week.  Despite the city traffic, I still bicycle everywhere I go (my overall balance is fine; I just can’t find my feet).  I do over thirty push-ups most mornings, and so on. And I still teach, lecture and lead groups well.  But in a society that seems to value youth over everything else, it’s a struggle not to feel less-than.

Mostly it’s the same old problem: I’m still hanging on to a picture of myself from twenty years ago when I was an athlete and could calculate most everyday math problems in my head.  As I’ve written in this blog several times before (here, here and other places), however, a sure path to unhappiness is to hang on to the self I used to be. 

I’m sixty-nine, my memory is shot, I’m confused from time to time, and I stumble over cracks in the sidewalk.  And unless I think I’m supposed to be different, I’m fine with it. 


  1. I'm 31 and I stumble over cracks in the sidewalk so much that my husband makes fun of me for it! It sounds like you're doing quite well. Best to you.

  2. Anonymous5/13/2014

    Thanks for your statement: "A sure path to unhappiness is to hang on to the self I used to be." Love reading your updates!

  3. The old saying, "Youth is wasted on the young" is true. And you take health for granted until you have something come along that trips you up.

    I have peripheral neuropathy, my doctor thinks its possibly Charcot Marie Tooth neuropathy because I have a hereditary condition that includes neuropathy. I have venous insufficiency and have worn TED hose for over 20 years now. Its hard to explain neuropathy to people when you don't have diabetes.

    However, my neuropathy is lessened when I stopped drinking artificial sweeteners. I had a break in my foot that I couldn't feel, and the doctor pushed on it, and it didn't even hurt. He was quite shocked.

    I know a woman that was about 85, who told me that "the 70s were the best years of my life. I travelled, I had lots of family around me, it was wonderful. Then the family members started dying of old age and my health suffered. " So I guess my recommendation is to enjoy the 70s, because those are supposed to be the best years of our lives.

  4. Mary Lou5/15/2014

    Thank YOU !
    "And unless I think I’m supposed to be different, I’m fine with it. "
    Those words stood out and hit me over the head! (in a good way!) I can call back those words and feel as if someone is holding my hand as i stumble trying to walk, or when i feel that my challenge is just too much. i hope you can feel the hug of appreciation i am sending you.

  5. Thank you all for your affirmation.

  6. That's the way it is ! we don't want to be old... but never forget the alternative is worse ! Be strong, wish you all the best !


If you would like to be notified whenever someone comments on your comment, click on "Subscribe by Email" underneath your comment.