Remember Don and Susan? The fictitious couple I created in the scenario snippet titled Success in Life is Multifaceted.
Novelists and screen writers love stories about privileged and wealthy people. Men and women who, after years or even decades of living what appears to be the good life, are hit with almost unimaginable tragedy and heartache.
Success is rarely linear and achieved in an unimpeded fashion. There are challenges along the way. Big bumps in the road. But they are overcome with grit and determination.
Until they aren’t.
Stories like that are part of the American mythology.
We challenge the elements and prevail. We succeed financially and materially. All is magical until reality hits us in the face with obstacles we cannot overcome. Sometimes those obstacles are of our own making.
Our own hubris and unacknowledged failings.
Perhaps the reason for the success of storylines and screenplays like that has to do with our need, as ordinary folks, to know ALL of us are only human. The temporal aspects of money, power, privilege, pleasure, and unlimited opportunity will someday end.
We cannot predict how everything will finish, but the events leading to it will likely be multifaceted. Different dimensions. Awful events like accidents over which we had no control. Illnesses that seep unexpected into our bodies. Cancer. Alzheimer’s.
The end of a multifaceted successful life is too often not included in planning done by the story’s main characters. That is understandable.
Youth. Good health. Money. Years and decades stretching out in front of the couple.
The only choices to make are associated with the right universities, wedding venues, honeymoon trips, new homes, cars, birthing and raising successful children, and how to fill the time with pleasurable pursuits. Family, friends, interesting things to do.
And the commercial world of advertising lays out the entire menu everywhere you look, in every kind of media.
Other scenarios I discuss later will involve people in the 95% bracket.
Like I am.
The story of Don and Susan is, for me, an opportunity to firmly declare that nothing we do as human beings, no matter how well educated, wealthy, or privileged, will help us defend against life’s gremlins who sometimes morph into monsters.
Even when we live in a social bubble. In big homes on lovely gated properties served by the best public or private schools. Entertained by great country clubs with beautifully manicured golf courses and tennis courts.
Alzheimer’s does not respect privilege. Nor do many other human afflictions.
My wife was a fan of Eleanor Roosevelt. Not because she was married to Franklin. Not because she was the nation’s first lady for many years. Not because she belonged to a certain political party.
My wife was impressed with Eleanor because she believed in the same things my wife believed in. She stood up for the defenseless. She was an advocate for the disadvantaged. With all her money and privilege, Eleanor took great risks in support of those who were disenfranchised.
She had convictions and was a substantive human being committed to others.
Her life was one of service, no matter the sacrifice required. And she didn’t mind disagreeing with her handicapped husband, the president, if she thought he was wrong. And she even stood up to the family’s grand matriarch, Sarah Delano Roosevelt, Franklin’s mother!
Eleanor was not complacent, nor was she impressed with wealth and social standing. Most historians agree that Franklin, as great a leader as he was, would have never become president without Eleanor’s dedication and amazing initiative. Neither of them would have gotten to the White House if they had not demonstrated an altruistic faith in people, and a herculean determination to serve.
How does someone become like Eleanor Roosevelt?
What would the story line have been with Don’s wife Susan, if I had given her the personality of Eleanor Roosevelt? Would Don have even picked her as his wife?
Probably not, given his preference for living the docile good life in luxury.
But let’s say he did pick Susan as his wife. That she was interested in international relations because of a deep need to help the world’s downtrodden people.
The laws of mutual attraction among human beings are mysterious indeed. Maybe Don saw something in Susan he had not seen in anyone before. A depth of character. A unique way of believing. Something he learned about and wished he possessed.
Just as my wife helped me understand the importance of helping shunned and disenfranchised members of our own society, Susan might have convinced Don that the law can be just as much about altruistic service as making a nice salary in the comfort of the corporate world.
In the alternate plotline I create, maybe Don and Susan make an ice cream pact too. A way to serve a world larger than themselves. That idea isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. I’m sure you know of very wealthy people who occasionally show up in the news, those who are consumed with the need to serve the underprivileged and underserved throughout the world.
Will Susan still become afflicted with Alzheimer’s in my revised storyline?
Yes, she will.
Will Don consequently suffer?
Yes, he will.
Will Susan’s dementia-related meltdowns never happen when her mother has the accident and dies, and when her daughter contracts breast cancer? We don’t know.
But suppositions can be made. Suppositions are never supported by fact.
But as a husband who has spent many years with a wife who has Alzheimer’s, and as a daily visitor to a memory care home, I can tell you what I SENSE is true.
Women who know they are loved and respected for having made real contributions to the welfare of others seem more content.
Even within the fog of Alzheimer’s.
Just as feelings of love seem viable and evident in the afflicted brain, so does the knowledge that a life has had meaning. Sometimes it comes out as a radiant smile, a muttered word or two, a quick sparkle in the eyes, and even a look of serene satisfaction on the face.
So, this is an unverifiable plot twist I could have created in the story of Susan and Don. Many medical researchers would laugh at it. But others might not.
We all die. Our hope is that we die in the knowledge our life meant something and we were appreciated for it.
How is Alzheimer’s a reflection of your life’s meaning? How would you have managed your storyline differently?
Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.
©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved
2 thoughts on “17. Insight”
What a wonderful relationship you and Barbara have had throughout your marriage. Your love and respect for her come through so clearly in your blog posts! Something Alzheimer’s couldn’t conquer!
Great post Dad!!
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