Life is short (special issue)

This week’s newsletter is a bit different than normal.

Dad and I at Santee National Golf Course in Santee, SC (2019)

I just watched Remembering Gene Wilder, a new documentary on Netflix.

Wilder played (and wrote) some of the greatest comedic roles of all time. Willy Wonka, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, The Waco Kid, Leo Bloom…

Gene Wilder died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2016 at the age of 83. All you need to know about how the disease affected Wilder comes from the documentary interview with his best friend, Mel Brooks.

Mel says “I called him a lot thinking, ‘Maybe if I gave him enough references I could get him out of it.’ Insanity [on] my part. He was in the throes of that terrible disease. We could never talk too long after he got it. It was so sad, it made me cry a lot.”

Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to shrink and, eventually, it kills brain cells. When it progresses enough it becomes dementia where the affected person will lose memory and change their behavior and ability to function.

There is currently no proven treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about this disease.


For over a decade my dad traveled with me and my friends down to South Carolina for our annual golf trip. In 2019, while we were waiting out a rain delay, I needed to step out of the motel room we were staying in to take a call. I told my dad I’d be right outside.

I’m about 30 feet from the motel door, talking on the phone, and I see the door open and my dad look both ways and dart down the hall. I ended my call and jogged over to him.

“Dad, where you going?” I said.

“Going to look for you. I didn’t know where you were.” He was a little panicked.

“I just told you I was taking a call outside.”

“I don’t remember.” And then I walked him back to the room.

Later in the same trip I lost him at a rest stop when I went inside to use the restroom. I found him on the other side of the rest stop, eating ice cream, without a care in the world.

Both these situations really shook me up. I knew this would be my last golf trip with my dad.

The good news is I still golf consistently with my dad. I’ve already been out with him three times this summer to play nine holes. While he struggles to put the tee into the ground, he still hits every drive perfectly down the middle about 150 yards (not bad for 85). This week he had two legitimate pars.

Each time we golf he believes it’s his first time out in a very long time. He also believes he hasn’t played the course we go to in “so many years” even though he’s played it dozens of times recently. He asks a lot of the same questions, like if Jack Nicklaus or Lee Trevino are still alive. He tells the same stories, like when I used to cry because I had trouble hitting the ball when I was a kid (this is true).

He knows I have kids, so the disease hasn’t totally shut down his memory, although when he asks how old they are and I say 21 and 22, he almost falls out of the golf cart. In his mind, they are toddlers. When he sees them in person, sometimes he seems shaken and surprised (which makes sense).

He told me a story about how our oldest squirted him with a water hose. This sounds like a true story, but as my dad tells it, it happened only a short time ago (most likely it happened over 15 years ago).

The great news about my dad is that he’s almost always in a good mood. I’ve known some people with the disease who get angry and combative. At least for now, we aren’t at this point.

I’m also thankful that he remembers the trip he and I took to Sicily to see his cousins. It was one of those bucket list trips. He only remembers seeing his mother’s house and holding his aunt’s hand (it was actually his cousin), but at least he still remembers.

My dad’s two sisters both had advanced versions of the disease before they passed.

Whenever my cousin and I see each other, Alzheimer’s naturally comes up in our conversations. Since the disease is genetic, we both feel like we are marked.

When I can’t remember something, I immediately think it’s early onset (it’s not, I’m being irrational). But still.

Part of the reason I exercise regularly, stay socially active, read, and even write is because I know these activities help reduce cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease where you lose someone slowly over time. It’s one of the worst diseases in my opinion. My mom, who takes care of my dad every day, is a saint.

But knowing all this is also (weirdly enough) a gift. I cherish moments. I value time more than ever.

For Father’s Day, the kids took me out for coffee and breakfast. We talked about our dreams. We talked about what we each hope to accomplish.

They asked me what my dream is. I told them that I want to find ways to make a positive impact on other people. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to get there, but that was the goal. I wanted them to know that I don’t have all the answers. That I still struggle with life. That I love them dearly. I also said that I can’t wait to be around to see how the two of them impact the world and find their version of happiness.

It was one of those days I will (hopefully) never forget.

Life is short. Cherish every minute.

Hot Links

Here are a few pieces of content that made an impact on me this week:

Lessons From an Imperfect Father to His Perfect Son (some amazing thoughts here)

Nvidia Is Now the Most Valuable Company in the World

LA School District Votes in Favor of Cell Phone Ban (please make this happen)

And…my only thing on AI this week, an interesting video on how far AI music has come

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