30. Contingencies

Using big words is my weakness. I am not trying to impress people that I pronounce these words, know their meanings, or use them in a sentence. The reason I occasionally write big words is because they express exactly what I mean.

No beating around the bush trying to explain something in a paragraph when one word does the job. Contingency is one of those words, a concrete descriptor of what will happen given certain conditions.

A contingency is neutral and depends on understood and explainable circumstances. It is an educated guess based on certain facts. And, to the extent we human beings can plan for the future, contingencies can be written as “what ifs.”

People my age lived with “what ifs” all the time. What if a nuclear bomb dropped on us? A planned contingency was a fallout shelter.

What if I was drafted to fight in Vietnam? A planned contingency was to flee to Canada, rebel by burning my draft card or give in to the system and do my best to serve.

A contingency is making decisions based on what we know about the realities of life. And it can be cause and effect. If this happens and I take a certain action, this has a pretty good chance of being the result.

I have lived enough years to know life can deliver unexpected blows. It happens to people all the time. It happened to many of the fictional characters I have been writing about in previous blog posts.

Most of us do not live a serendipitous life like Forrest Gump. Where good things happened to him because innate characteristics turned lemons into lemonade. 


In this blog I’ve shared perspectives on my own journey as a husband caring for a wife with Alzheimer’s. And I will continue to do so.

I have also created stories about other couples in which the husband is, or soon will be, a caregiver of a wife with Alzheimer’s.

The reason I added scenarios different from mine is simple. Situations vary.

In some ways I am fortunate. Alzheimer’s did not enter our married life for about 50 years. Other significant health issues did not appear during that time. Our relationship stayed intact. We have supportive families. I stayed well and have the resources to take good care of my wife.

But many people are not as fortunate. Their stories are often layered with tragedy on top of tragedy.

I did not want to emphasize that kind of misfortune too much, but just enough to acknowledge that my experiences are NOT standard.

In many ways they are not typical at all. Just one man’s story that might be helpful to others.  

One universal aspect is that Alzheimer’s differs from other end-of-life tragedies. The two worst aspects of the syndrome in America are the effects it has on caregivers and finances.

A large percentage of caregivers report serious problems with health and depression. And finances can take a big hit, even for a family that has planned well.

Other problems may occur prior to a full Alzheimer’s diagnosis:  depression, memory loss, bizarre behaviors, suicidal tendencies, anger, and unpredictable actions.

These are manifestations of suffering. But they can often be controlled with drugs or different kinds of care.

On the plus side, Alzheimer’s does not typically involve excruciating pain and incapacitating, physical problems. Conditions commonly seen in cancer and other debilitating diseases.


Should a young or middle age person develop “what ifs” for Alzheimer’s?

Maybe, depending on family history.

But how about cancer and other afflictions, accidents, abusive behaviors, suicide of a loved one, divorce, financial reversals, and a multitude of other situations that pop up unexpectedly?

For a person to do contingency planning for everything would be exhausting and depressing. And might be a waste of time given all the possible “what ifs”.

So that begs the question. Is contingency planning something that can be painted with a broader brush? 

Like a way of thinking and being?

For example, I have never thought of myself as a victim. Not bragging. It probably has something to do with my loving upbringing. And admonitions from my parents telling me I can do and become anything. If I want it badly enough.

My family was lower middle class, partly because of the Depression of the 1930s and World War II. Mother’s health was also a factor, prompting a move in late 1945 from cold and wet New York to dry and sunny Arizona.

My mother refused to be a fatality, a victim to the harsh northern winters. She did not want to die in her 40s as her mother did.

She refused to be a victim. And my father was the same way.

But later in life my father was afflicted with mild dementia. Not Alzheimer’s, but the result of hypoxia, lack of oxygen to the brain due to a mini stroke. With the help of the family, my mother took charge. She refused to let that situation make either of them victims.

The “I will not be a victim” mindset will not overcome all challenges in life. History is full of horror stories of strong people overwhelmed by circumstances over which they have no control at all. Like the Holocaust.

But for most of us, the “I will not be a victim” mindset forces us to discover ways to control our own destiny. At least to some degree.

The next few blog posts will address the goal of controlling our own destiny.

There are essentially three parts to the “control your destiny” outlook. The first is taking control of your self-perceptions and actions. The second is understanding how our world works. The third is devising and using strategies for meeting its challenges.

And contingencies?

They are important aspects of both parts two and three. Knowing what the contingencies are and figuring out a way to deal with them.

Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself. ©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved

One thought on “30. Contingencies

  1. 😊Your vocabulary is one of my favorite aspects of your writing. Looking forward to the three parts to be addressed in your future “control your destiny” post(s).


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