Long before she received her engagement ring, our daughter made it clear she wanted to have her wedding on our farm, where she and her brother grew up doing chores, riding horses and complaining that we lived in the middle of nowhere. Watching the recent cognitive changes in her father only made her more determined.
“Something simple, a simple farm wedding.”
In barely two weeks 120 guests will trek a wooded, far-from-manicured path out to a clearing within a pecan grove where they will sit on hay bales to witness Hilary’s wedding. Her older brother will play the bagpipes AND the sitar during the ceremony. A close friend will officiate. The groom’s ten-year-old daughter will be maid of honor. Everyone will then stroll back to the banks of our fishing pond to celebrate with dinner, drink and a live bluegrass band under the stars (with a covered hay barn nearby just in case). We’ll eat wedding cake baked by my daughter’s best friend’s mother along with the 130 individual jelly jars of tiramisu she and I made together on Sunday.
It all sounds and hopefully will turn out to be delightful, but that “simple farm wedding” has ballooned into quite a production. While my daughter and her intended have done most of the decision-making and a lot of the organizing, the party is in our backyard—not to mention that a lot of guests will be camping out afterward and I’ll be feeding them the next day—so getting the farm ready has been Ralph and my responsibility.
Responsibility is not something Ralph likes to take on these days. His Mild Cognitive Impairment means that he can’t remember making or receiving phone calls, let alone the content of the calls. He gets anxious about dates and times. He needs 12 hours of sleep at night plus a nap in the afternoon. Nevertheless, as the wedding approaches he has stepped up and taken on extra responsibilities, just as he did this past winter while I was recovering slowly from a broken ankle.
In the last couple of months he has mowed our big pastures on his tractor, used the smaller mower at the reception and wedding sites, made the small repairs I’ve requested around the house because I am mechanically inept, and done various other chores. Given his limited mental and physical energy, he usually starts around 11am and quits by 2pm to sit on the porch until his nap before dinner. The farm, which was looking more than a little downtrodden, has spruced up in slow but steady increments. Next week he will use the tractor to smooth our ¼ mile unpaved driveway. As long as I remind him with his daily list.
I have to be careful though. Too much instruction or pressure definitely backfires. His memory blocks up. I am learning to control my natural impatience over how slowly long-term goals get accomplished and to bite my tongue when Ralph mows where he’s not supposed to instead of where I asked. Eventually he seems to follow through on every request more or less.
So although I lie awake every night worrying about where people will park, this wedding has been a boon. For a man whose attention span for reading and even television has dried up, Ralph has been remarkably focused. And he’s so good-natured about it. (Pre-cognitive impairment, he would have been super competent but grouchy.) He’s even relented and agreed to a new suit.
But there is a downside. As the day approaches, his anxiety rises. “This is going to be a disaster isn’t it?” he asks everyday, and since cognitive impairment has not impaired his fatherly ambivalence, he always adds, “Jason’s a great guy, but I don’t want my baby girl getting married at all.”