This past weekend, it rained, and was unseasonably cold, and was really kind of stinky. Yesterday it warmed up – and, at the same time, my husband happened to have planned to take the day off for some father-son time with my teenager but they ended up spending time on Sunday at the shooting range, and then my teen needed to catch up on homework, so the two of us had a sort of “date afternoon” by throwing the bikes into the minivan and heading over to the Des Plaines River Trail — not the literal part of the trail that this is a photograph of (I’m not much of a photographer; this is from Wikipedia) but the view is pretty similar, so you get the idea. In the section we biked — 7 1/2 miles each way — all streets but one are crossed by means of underpasses or overpasses. Parts of it are alongside the river, parts a bit further away. The trail is mostly gravel, with some bits where the gravel has become more dirt than anything else, and some parts where it’s two narrow tracks rather than this wide open path. It’s very green, though. Twice we saw herons in the river; each time my husband, who does like to take pictures, was too late to capture the huge birds.
It was also very wet. Due to the rain, the riverbed itself was very full, and there were large numbers of puddles along the way. Those which had firm gravel underneath were fine, but the muddy ones, not so much, and I struggled and felt very wobbly, and on one occasion when it was much deeper than anticipated (I made sure my husband went ahead after this), I couldn’t push through and — well, I didn’t fall fall, but put my feet down, and I still need to clean the mud off my shoes. At the end of our chosen section of trail, we had lunch at a spot at the nearest intersection (I had thought I would try to clean my shoes and dry my feet a bit but then thought better of it, not being sure how easily I’d be able to put them back on), then turned around and headed back, and, well, I’m not sure if I’d gained enough experience with the mud-puddles on the first half to be able to handle them better on the way back, or if somehow that small stretch of time had helped them dry out, but the second half was more manageable in that respect.
But, geez, was I out of breath on the way back. And it’s not that my husband was pushing me to go too fast. I mean, sure, maybe I should have forced myself to ride even slower, but it was super-frustrating. And I suspect that not that long ago, I would not have had this trouble.
So the whole thing was yet another reminder that time is passing. If I don’t get in better shape now, it will be much harder in the future — and Bad Things Will Happen. Because at this point in my life, one key motivation (though it isn’t always effective) is “don’t be my parents.” Get back into shape/stay in shape. Take off the midlife weight gain/stop gaining weight. Build that social capital. Get better about keeping the house picked up. Conquer the nagging items on the to-do list (this isn’t about specific failures so much as executive function in general). Build that cognitive reserve!
But there’s a whole chicken-and-egg issue.
Did Dad slow down physically and mentally because he didn’t make a sustained effort to be active after retirement? Or did his bad knee and a subtle pre-dementia cognitive impairment prevent him from doing so?
Did Mom’s failure to get her diabetes under control (and her failure to exercise and eat healthily) trigger the vascular dementia? A puzzle: she stopped going to the doctor, taking her medications, etc., round about the time when, retrospectively, we guessed that was first showing signs of cognitive impairments. But if no longer treating her diabetes triggered the vascular dementia, then what caused her to stop treating her diabetes? And it was years before then that we invited her to go on a walk with us and she made it for a block before turning around.
Even in the medical research, there is not a well-established causality — in a twitter conversation the other day, someone shared a link to a study that was an evaluation of the literature about wellness practices and dementia. Yes, people who exercise, eat well, are intellectually engaged, etc., are less likely to have dementia. But is this because these practices stave off dementia or because some segment of the people who are inactive and unengaged and snack all the time already are in the early stages of what will eventually become dementia?
So this is kind of a downer. But Sunday evening we brought my parents over for dinner, and Dad, while he intellectually seemed to understand that he was at our house, and the reason why he did not need to drive 5 hours to get here is that he now lives in an apartment 20 minutes away, was still struggling — there was some sort of emotional disconnect, and my husband brought them back immediately after dinner, and we planned, next time, to have it be lunch (in case part of Dad’s disorientation was due to sundowning), or to have dinner at their apartment (either in the restaurant, though it’s not oriented towards serving guests and kids, or just by bringing Chinese take-out and sitting on barstools and on the couch). And yesterday, Mom called to say that Dad’s belt had broken and all his pants were so loose-fitting that they couldn’t leave the apartment so all they’d eaten was cereal (it’s an assisted living place where you have all the meals in the restaurant), and I had to run over there after the bike ride to bring a belt (and a spare), and remind her that they could have their meals brought up to them if they asked.
Anyway, it was a nice bike ride.
How was your weekend?