Inevitable I suppose as you get older that the spectre forgetat the feast of your retirement is your health, both physical and mental. And you know you’re in a bit of trouble mental health-wise when you start thinking Edgar Alan Poe. In the last couple of days Mrs Summerhouse went back to Specsavers to have her annual check-up and, surprise, they sold her two more pairs of glasses to go with the other two pairs she got last year that she never wears. They told her to stop wearing cheap readers but then they would wouldn’t they. They also told her, as proof that she was deteriorating, that she now had cataracts developing and this to go alongside her macular degeneration which is potentially far more serious. I went for my diabetes blood test and in a couple of weeks I shall know whether my attempts to fend off insulin have worked – or not. As my grandma used to say – it’s a grand life if you don’t weaken.

So health issues are looming quite large and then I read an article on Alzheimers (the big A of the title) or Dementia (the big D) if you prefer, on AOL (who are putting up prices a ridiculous £5 a month so are also on my shit list). The article was entitled 11 Early Signs of Dementia. Do you remember the joke about Alzheimers? No, neither do I. And in case you think I’m making light of this subject let me say, quite forcibly, that it’s my way of coping because, according to the article, I certainly have some of the signs. I just wish I could remember what they were. OK enough.

My two biggest indicators are, one, what I believe is broadly called aphasia – not being able to find a word that you know perfectly well in my case, although aphasia can mean much more than this. It could be quite funny apart from, of course, the looming shadow of the big A or D. Mostly it’s quite ridiculous. For example, last night I could not remember the name for, wait for it, punch, yes, the stuff you make in a big bowl at Christmas, full of fruit and enough alcohol to stop a horse. Maybe that’s the problem too much punch, better cut down on the fruit. Anyway no matter how many ways I tried to remember this benign, ridiculous little word, it would not come. Eventually I gave up and then later, when I had stopped trying, there it was, it had been there all the time, just playfully hiding. I think getting anxious doesn’t help at all.

The other ‘symptom’ in the article was an inability to speak clearly. I seem barely able to get a sentence out without some form of malapropism – nice word and I can say it perfectly well. A lot of my job was about public speaking. Standing up in front of a group of teachers and discussing children’s behaviour problems. I needed to be clear, articulate, witty even, and I was but now, in normal conversation, I’m a frequent mess. I probably do over-estimate the problem but then it really does piss me off. Maybe that’s why I take more pleasure in writing these days.

There was a potential third indicator – falling over – that I have chosen to disregard because I haven’t actually fallen over – yet. Mrs SH did fall over the other day but then, given she was standing on her head, perhaps it’s not surprising. It did upset her however as she’d never done this before in all her years of standing on her head. I toyed with this category in a ‘shall I choose you’ kind of way because, although I haven’t actually fallen over, at least not as far as I can remember, where was I? Yes, not actually fallen over but I do get dizzy and sometimes have to rest against something for a moment. Getting up, something to do with blood pressure I think, can prove a challenge sometimes but then that might be more of a knee issue than a big A issue.

Surprisingly, to me at least, dropping things (a topic I have written about before) at which I am an expert, didn’t figure. I suppose dropping things and forgetting to pick them up, as opposed to refusing to pick them up because they shouldn’t have done it, might be a worry. Refusing to pick them up, them being the inanimate objects, because they shouldn’t have done what they done, is simply insanity and another topic altogether. Mrs SH says I’ve got a lot going on in my head, so that might not help. I should probably write a book in the KISS series – Keep It Simple Stupid : the key to a pure retirement. Maybe if you do get the big A and forget stuff then life becomes simpler. No, I don’t rate that as an idea either.

So back to the article, (link at the end), as I said 11 indicators. Thankfully, there are 8 and a half of them I do not have or at least only a bit, so the odds at least are in my favour. I retain a sense of embarrassment when things are embarrassing and even when they are not. As far as I am aware I don’t stare at people. I’m not more inclined to steal or break the law. I’m still very fond of sarcasm and recognise it in others. I do not spend time eating objects like the flowers on the table rather than the food. There are many objects that I do not understand and never have understood what they are for, so I can’t be losing knowledge of what an object is for. I don’t think I have any less empathy than I used to so I can’t be losing empathy and saying hurtful things. Yes, I have a little in the way of compulsive, obsessive ritualistic behaviours / extreme hoarding. As for money management troubles (the last one of the 11) well yes, but as far as I can remember, I’ve always had these and including this would make half the population senile. So you be the judge of the 11 categories. Two and a half are enough to add to my impending sense of doom where the big A is concerned.

So there we have it, the main requirement of a happy retirement – good physical and mental health. Good health and friends, two main requirements, good health, friends and a sense of purpose, three main requirements, oh, never mind, I’ll come in again. How come I can remember pretty much the exact words of a Monty Python sketch 40 plus years old, but can’t remember the name of that thing you make at Christmas that goes in that bowl thing? So yes, this retirement business is definitely a two way street – good and bad. As my grandma used to say, now what was it she used to say?


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