TSA, It’s Me Again…


Hemingway was so wise. The above is one of my favorite excerpts from “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and it’s a lesson of which I’m constantly reminded when spending time with my loves. Many of them were not as fortunate as I am to realize the validity of that quote at such a young age. Some, however, possess an inspiring “better late than never” attitude.

I met a woman this week who toured my community on behalf of her dad. I knew she had just returned from a European vacation, but it truthfully came as a surprise to hear that it was one her father not only attended, but booked and planned for his family.  At 87 years old, this determined nonno is simply not willing to leave items on his bucket list unchecked. He realizes now more than ever that the clock is ticking; if he doesn’t see the places he’s dreamt of now, he may never get to them at all. A bigger motivator/quasi-roadblock (depending on your outlook): he has dementia.

My spirit animal nonno (I’ll call him J) is in the earlier stages of the disease process. He sadly knows there are changes happening to his mind, and he’s terrified of their consequences. As is common in diseases like Alzheimer’s, short-term memory loss is one of the earlier symptoms one can recognize:

“The hippocampus takes our immediate thoughts and impressions and turns them into memories. Alzheimer’s attacks the hippocampus first, so short-term memory is the first thing to fail. Eventually, new memories become impossible to make and learning is a thing of the past. Without knowing what just happened, it’s difficult for people to judge things like time, place, and what’s going on around them.”

The Forgetting

In his case, J is constantly misplacing things. He’ll store his online banking passwords somewhere safe, for instance, only to be on the phone with his teller a day later to reset what’s now forgotten. Even more alarming IMHO: he’s lost his passport three separate times. His angel of a daughter has expedited new ones, knowing how important that document is to her wanderlusting father.

J is on a race against a clock with unmarked intervals. Dementia lays no clear path and gives no notice as it changes course. Imagine how terrifying it is, then, to know your days are numbered.. to recognize that sometime soon, you won’t be truly you anymore. How debilitating that fear must be:

“Alzheimer’s is a lot of stress, mainly because you know what you have been earlier and you know very well you’re not that good now and it’s real hard to reconcile. … We really do want to be like human beings. We have so many fears: the fear of forgetting things, the fear of tripping over something. Our speech is not too clear sometimes and our feelings are hard to sort out many times.”

-Cary Henderson, A Partial View

This month, J killed it in Europe. He walked the cobblestone streets of Rome, ate French bread in a Parisian café, and gambled in Monte Carlo. He was happy and he thrived. God willing, if he’s still able, he’ll visit Japan and Cuba next. Without a doubt, he’ll fiercely battle this disease and fight for what he loves – as long as that next passport’s expedited.

In Love and War

As two weeks of playing tour guide to friends winds down, I finally have some time to sit and reflect on what’s gone on lately. It was brought to my attention that an American movie was filmed in my tiny town of Vittorio Veneto in the 1990s, so I of course had to immediately rent it on iTunes. In Love and War takes place during the First World War and documents Ernest Hemingway’s experiences as a Red Cross volunteer. Apparently, he was injured and fell in love with one of his nurses during recovery. Their relationship unfortunately did not work out ( why couldn’t the movie just pretend?! 😦 ), and it is said that Hemingway remained forever heartbroken over his first love, Agnes von Kurowsky.

The film is so incredibly cool to watch because I live in the heart of its setting and it hasn’t changed a bit. Being a historic town, VV looks as though it did during both World Wars (or at least extremely close to it). After playing In Love and War on repeat and sulking about the breakup, I began researching “Ernie” and pulling together some of my favorite quotes of his.

“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? There is only now, and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you never will get, you will have a good life. A good life is not measured by any biblical span.” – found in For Whom the Bell Tolls

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, to really taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, to really sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good & angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

“Out of all the things you could not have, there were some things that you could have.. & one of those was to know when you were happy, and to enjoy all of it while it was there and it was good.”

“Life is unpredictable; it changes with the seasons. Even your coldest winter happens for the best of reasons. And though it feels eternal, like all you’ll ever do is freeze, I promise spring is coming, and with it brand new leaves.”

“You talk like a timetable. Did you have any beautiful adventures?” – found in A Farewell to Arms

“Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”

“I can’t stand to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.” – found in The Sun Also Rises

“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.”

As I’m sure is apparent, the excerpts I’ve shared are all related in that they have to do with living and appreciating life. Hemingway, though perhaps broken and in pain (he married four times and eventually took his own life), certainly offered great advice about living. In the scheme of things, our time on Earth is so excruciatingly short.. to worry serves no purpose, to wait is ludicrous, and to simply exist is one of the saddest ways to spend your days.