In a recent column, I wrote about steps that each of us can take to avoid or at least reduce the effects of Alzheimer's and the senility associated with growing old. I practice what I preach and have incorporated all of those suggestions into my daily life for years. However, I think that it is already too late for me. My first signs of Alzheimer's happened less than a month after my daughter's comment about not giving her any trouble as I aged.

I was doing some shopping at a local Wal-Mart, and while checking out, I fished for my keys. However, they were no where to be found. There I was standing in the checkout aisle doing what looked like a Scottish version of the Macarena. I told myself to slow down and think. I re-searched my pockets over and over again as it slowly dawned on me: somewhere between the parking lot and the checkout, I lost my house, office, and car keys. After beating myself up for being careless, I took it out on God.

A week before while shopping at the grocery store, one without a super savers' card, I noticed a wallet of an old retiree who had given me his cart as he left and I entered. He had left his wallet in the cart. When I noticed it, I called out to him. Relief was written all over his face, but his relief was quickly rewritten when he realized what losing his wallet could have meant. I resented having been God's guardian angel for that absent-minded man, and I wasn't accorded the same divine treatment when I needed it. Why? It wasn't fair.

While I continued to register my Job-like complaints to God, I retraced my every step in the store. Finally, I went up to the Wal-Mart greeter and explained my dilemma. He jumped into action, took my name and phone number, and even looked around with me. A glimmer of hope raced about my head. The greeter would find my keys and Paul Harvey would use my story during a future newscast about Wal-Mart people going the extra mile for their customers. But alas, the story wasn't going to end with a Wal-Mart moment. However, the greeter was so concerned about not finding my keys that he wanted to arrange to get me home, but I always carry a spare car key in my wallet. I left the store grateful for the help but still irritated by my stupidity and God's letting me down. As I drove off to go home, I noticed that I needed gas. I stopped at the first station figuring with my luck that prudence would be in order. After losing my key, running out of gas would have made me commit myself to the psych ward of the local hospital to protect me from hurting myself.

While pumping the gas, I put my hands into my side pocket of my coat. My coat is the kind that has pouches placed over pockets. Guess what I discovered when I put my hands into the pocket to keep my hands warm? My keys! After arriving home, I sat down in front of my computer to try to make sense of the key episode. I learned several things:

  1. Don't dump on yourself. It won't do you any good to denigrate yourself for making a mistake. We are human beings and not gods. By definition, we are imperfect. Adding to our imperfection by self-inflicted blame doesn't improve our effectiveness in life. Learn from your mistake and go on.
  2. Don't dump on God. It is just as detrimental to our success to blame God as it is to blame ourselves for our failures. God isn't the author of our problems. When we attribute to God all that is wrong in our world, we bleed off needed energy that can move us from failure to success.
  3. Get focused. If we don't waste our time and energy wallowing in our errors or falsely blaming God, we can focus upon the problem that we are facing. By determining what the problem is and developing a game plan for solving it, we focus all of our energies in a productive direction.

The next morning, feeling that I had been given a reprieve from early senility and dementia, I doubled my efforts at warding off Alzheimer's. I am working on reducing stress, exercising daily, keeping my mind active, dealing with my medical problems, enjoying life now, not buying flannel shirts, and not acting my age.