Thursday, February 29, 2024

This Old Car


When I was a kid, we lived in the Ozarks and the only music we ever heard on the radio was country music. I remember a song called “This Old House.” After I’d heard the song several times, I realized that the song wasn’t about a house at all, but about a human body.

Back in the day, you just figured things out on your own, but now we have the internet, and I was curious about the song. I found a treasure! Stuart Hamblen, the man who wrote the song told the story of finding a dilapidated log house while he was on a hunting trip in the Sierra Mountain range. The old house was falling down and when a dog came out of the house, Stuart went inside and found a man who had passed away. He wrote the song while outside the house, and many people thought the song was only about the old house, but Stuart says the song is about two houses. “…the other house, the mortal house that the maker of man has loaned to the man for such a short, short time.”**

Why did such a thought cross my mind? I was thinking about my old car, a 2010 Chevy Malibu. I bought the car new as my “retirement” car, and I’m still driving it 110,000 miles later. After all the nasty weather a few weeks ago, and after a drive down a country road, my car looked pathetic. It was making a loud noise, which I hoped was from the tires.

This car and I have traveled a lot of miles and been through a lot in the past thirteen years. I couldn’t help but compare myself to the car, which is definitely an upgrade from “This Old House.” We’ve both suffered some bumps and dings over the years. Fortunately, neither one of us have had any accidents. We have to recharge our batteries and change the oil regularly. We’ve had a few flat tires, and scraped up our fancy wheels. We are both a little worse for the wear, but I think we’re in pretty good shape for the shape we’re in.

Still, in my mind, I was a little worried about the noise…and I went online car shopping. I couldn’t find anything that really caught my eye. The prices on new vehicles are shocking, so I thought it might be much more feasible to give my car some TLC. My Malibu has been a dependable low-maintenance car and I couldn’t see taking a chance on finding another great vehicle.

During one of the recent warm days, I took my car through the carwash and saw the beauty of the red jewel color sparkle. It reminded me of the time I’d just washed my car and went to the Post Office. As I pulled in, this old gentleman told me, “That is the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen.” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I like the looks of the car too.

I made an appointment to have an oil change and have the sound investigated. Yes, it was the tires. With an oil change and new front tires, we’re back in business.

If there’s a point to this story, it would be that for a car (or a body) to last, we need checkups and regular maintenance. Sometimes the noise (or pain) isn’t anything to worry about, but better safe than sorry. Here’s to hoping that my car’s engine (and my brain) keeps on clicking on all cylinders for many years to come.

**Find “This ‘Ole House – Story Behind the Song Told by Stuart Hamblen” at

Copyright © Feb 2024 by L.S. Fisher


Healthy Habits are Good for your Brain


During the past twenty years, I’ve followed Alzheimer’s research, and have had a front seat to many disappointments. Currently, I’m pleased that significant progress has been made and promising new treatments can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Many years ago when I served on the Alzheimer’s Chapter Board of Directors, I learned that a healthy lifestyle was the most effective way to delay the onset of age-related dementia.

Most of us blissfully move through life with confidence that our brains are clicking along like a well-oiled machine. Sure, we may not be able to multi-task as well as we could in our younger years. We also learn that stress can cause us to fumble around, make miscues, and have occasional mental glitches. Although these age-related changes can be concerning, as long as they don’t interfere with our daily life, we haven’t developed dementia.

Lifestyle changes are good for our bodies, our hearts, and our brains. The possibilities are endless, but I’ve listed seven changes that are within reach for most people.      

1.    Enough Sleep: I might as well start with the one that is my biggest challenge. I’ve become a night owl, but wake up around five or five-thirty in the morning. If I go to bed early, I toss and turn and stay awake later than if I just go to bed around midnight as usual. When I go to bed late, I can read for ten minutes and go to sleep. A short nap during the day helps me feel rested.

2.    Healthy eating habits: We all have our downfalls when it comes to eating. I’ve found through the years, that I can add fruit and vegetables to my diet on a regular basis and maintain a healthy weight. I’ve found that crash diets, are more like crash and burn diets. Yo-yo dieting is harder on your health than carrying a few extra pounds.

3.    Social Interaction: I think we all learned the lesson of the importance of social interaction during the pandemic lockdowns. We realized we needed to spend time with friends and family, and some of us need to feel that we are helping make the world better in our own small way. Volunteer work increases social interaction, provides learning opportunities, and helps us feel useful. 

4.    Stress Management: Most of us find a way to manage stress. Physical activity is often a good stress reliever. Hobbies are a great way to relax. Reading a good book can make your troubles seem small in comparison to the protagonist! My favorite stress reliever is playing my ukulele and singing.

5.    Stay Active: Physical activity improves memory and brain health while it strengthens bones and muscles. With a stronger body, you increase your capabilities of being able to perform daily activities. Other benefits of staying active include reducing anxiety and depression while improving your quality of sleep.

6. The New Math: Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and vascular dementia is the second most common type. Health conditions that contribute to vascular dementia are atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque inside arteries), heart disease, and stroke. Along with a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol, you need to watch your “numbers.” If lifestyle changes alone cannot improve your numbers, you may need to take medication to treat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, or prevent blood clots.

7. Stimulate Your Brain: The phrase, “use it or lose it” comes to mind. I recently read an article that said lifelong learning is one of the secrets to a healthy lifestyle. Learning stimulates cognitive ability. Other ways to stimulate your brain are reading, working daily puzzles or crosswords, playing games that stretch your mind, or taking up a new hobby.

As we grow older, we have more health challenges. I like to think that no matter what ailments I have, I am luckier than many others I know.

Age is the number one risk factor for dementia. I have seven decades of information and trivia stored in my brain, and retrieving a pertinent piece of information might take a bit longer than it did when I was younger. Sure, I’ve slowed down, but I’m still moving forward.

Of all the healthy habits we can implement to improve our health, it is important to have a positive outlook on life. I like to focus on the activities I can do instead of the ones that I can’t. Although I’m older today than I was yesterday, I’m younger than I will be tomorrow.


Copyright © Feb 2024 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Getting Affairs in Order

At forty-nine, Jim exhibited troubling symptoms, but the first MRI came back “normal.” About a year later, we visited a neurologist who ran a SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) scan. The SPECT scan was abnormal and the doctor believed damage could have been from a stroke.

I wrote about trying to find a definitive diagnosis in Indelible, an unpublished memoir:

 Jim began to have difficulty writing. He would write letters but they wouldn’t make words. Most of the time, the combination was close enough that I knew what he meant.

I wanted him to feel useful and to “exercise his brain.” One morning, I was washing the breakfast dishes, and Jim was sitting at the table. “Honey, would you make a grocery list for me?” I nodded toward the pad and pen I’d placed on the table. “We need paper towels,” I said.

He picked up the pen and wrote on the notepad. “We need milk,” I said.

Jim set the pen down. “I don’t want to.” He walked out of the room, and I sat down to finish the list. On the paper, he had printed, “taper powels.”

Later he picked up the list and studied it carefully. “I wonder why I spelled ‘paper towels’ that way,” he said.

Little things began to add up. When we played cards, his mom had to help him pick out the suit. Sometimes he didn’t know which cards were hearts, diamonds, spades, or clubs.

Jim couldn’t dial a telephone number. He couldn’t count his money and had trouble using the ATM. He stopped pumping gas because the pumps had too many options that had to be selected. He couldn’t change the tire on my car, although at one time he could change a tire faster than anyone else I knew. 

Jim did most things slowly and sometimes forgot a step or did something that didn’t make sense. When he intended to make a glass of instant tea, sometimes he would put in sugar and water, but forget the tea. When he fixed a bowl of cereal, he would put milk and sweetener in the bowl but forget the cereal.

Ryan’s was one of Jim’s favorite places to eat. As soon as I paid, Jim would go to the buffet and pick up a serving spoon. He would look around because he knew something was missing.

“Here’s a plate,” I said.

Jim took the plate and scooped up a spoonful of gravy. He backtracked and put mashed potatoes on top. Next, he placed spaghetti sauce on his plate and topped it with a generous helping of spaghetti. He set his plate on a nearby table and wandered back to the buffet line.

Jim was eyeing the soup. “If you’ll bring me a bowl, I’ll get you some soup,” I said. He brought me a plate and I swapped it for a bowl. We found a table and sat down to eat.

“What day is it?” he asked. He had already asked that question four or five times already. 

 “What time is it?” I asked him since he had a watch and I wasn’t wearing mine. He opened his pocket watch and studied the dial. He closed it. “Well?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” he replied.

With the possibility of stroke damage, we set up an appointment with a cardiologist who sent us back to the neurologist for a second MRI. As we waited for the doctor to tell us the test results, we sat in side-by-side chairs in an examining room. We were both scared. I knew I looked as worried, or more so, than Jim did.

The neurologist breezed into the room. “Now, we know why you are having trouble with thinking. Your MRI shows brain atrophy.”

The tears began to flow. “Why so sad?” he asked. “Other people have similar problems and go on with their lives.”

He talked with us for a while explaining the changes in Jim’s brain. “Do you have your legal affairs in order?” he asked.

“No,” I admitted, thinking that question had an ominous sound to it.

He looked at Jim and said, “Jim, if you are not able to make your own decisions, who do you want making them for you—your wife, or some stranger?”

“Her,” Jim said pointing at me.

 We made an appointment with an attorney and he stepped us through our wills, advance directives, health and financial power of attorney documents. Before long, we had our affairs in order. I had no idea how important it was to have those documents until Jim could no longer sign his name or make financial decisions.

Now, all these years later, I’m getting my affairs in order—again. I’ve been meaning to update my documents for several years, but it was easier to put it off than it was to make the appointment and the effort.

What I really should do is pare down my inventory. I need to get more than affairs in order—I need to get closets, cabinets, dresser drawers, and a basement in order.

The ultimate goal is to get my life in order. I want to let go of the time wasters that no longer enrich my life, and to make time for the activities that make life more enjoyable. I want to spend more time with people I love. I want to wake up excited for the day ahead.

Jim used to say that he needed something to look forward to—and for him that was usually a trip to Branson or across country. He was right about that. If you lose focus on the joy of living, life loses its joy.

Getting affairs in order is a reminder that life on this earth doesn’t go on forever. It means getting in touch with your mortality and planning your exit strategy.   

 Copyright © Feb 2024 by L.S. Fisher