I am not going to pretend that there were never silences in our marriage before Ralph was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Our arguments included the silence of resentment, the silence of fury. Ralph and I argued a lot since we were frequently on different wavelengths about everything from child rearing to national politics. But when those silences happened, I was passive-aggressive while Ralph used to be the one who eventually stormed and stomped beforehand.
…..Not to diverge but I just noticed that I write Ralph used to be the one who an awful lot in my posts: Ralph used to be the one who complained about silences. Ralph used to be the one who followed a regimen with medicine. Ralph used to be the one who was more outgoing. Used to be the one who took care of our business affairs, Used to be the one who was into rules and regulations, The one who drove too fast. The one who was charismatic, Who loved to analyze politics, Who was good with facts and figures, Who was the family disciplinarian. Who could remember everyone’s name, Who was intellectually and emotionally passionate.
Now Ralph has relinquished many of his roles, every one of those listed above. Meanwhile I am taking some but not all of them up in his place: yes, I’m the one running the business, setting the schedule if not the rules, remembering whatever needs remembering, but not picking up the slack on passion or charisma.
Sometimes, especially when I receive sympathetic comments, I wonder if I am giving people a lopsided view of Ralph here. Too much Ralph used to be.
Because the fact is, Ralph still functions on a daily basis pretty damn well. He can drive a car (even if he can’t remember directions), he can go to the hardware store and discuss why the tub leaks with our plumber, he can fix complicated machinery. He can carry on a perfectly reasonable conversation, even if he doesn’t remember it afterwards. If you met him, you would probably wonder what all my fuss is about.
Sometimes I wonder myself. After all, we have not really argued in months. Sometimes I am short-tempered and speak harshly, but he doesn’t remember long enough for my behavior to matter. And he almost never expresses anger himself. It takes very little to keep him pleased: whatever I cook for dinner is delicious these days, whatever I wear looks great, whatever he reads is interesting.
If anything, he is too easily pleased. Our lives have flattened. I am ashamed how bored I get with Ralph’s conversations about the weather and the dog, yet how disinclined I am to share my own thoughts and feelings with him—I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve stopped trying very hard. Writing these sentences forces me to acknowledge that while I know who Ralph used to be, I am not at all sure who Ralph is now or who we are together.
I have read enough about the later stages of Alzheimer’s to realize that down the road I may well look back on these early days of Ralph’s cognitive loss with nostalgia. But right now I’m nostalgic about our imperfect past, even those churning silences we used to share as furious but passionate equals.