Ralph’s Pre-Wedding Jitters

We are down to the last few days before the wedding and it is bittersweet in all the expected ways, but Ralph’s MCI/cognitive impairment adds a layer of intensity.

The bride and groom seem to be over the humps of pre-marital jitters and moving into pure excitement and impatience for the day to get here already, although I do spend a lot of time calming the bride-to-be down about mostly minor issues.

The rest of the time I am walking around the house in my glittery new silver pumps getting used to two-inch heels on my still-recovering ankle when I am not running out to buy flashlights (a little obsession of mine, that the path to the parked cars will be too dark) or pecan pralines for the guest goody bags or garbage bags (controlling the mess, another embarrassing obsession). My day starts early and ends late, including quickie visits to my mother, whose health is shakier and shakier as the wedding approaches.

But adrenaline is fueling miles of energy I never knew I had. And I have moments of incredible joy when little details come together that seem symbolic of the coming marriage.

We spent last evening with our daughter and one of her two brothers and our granddaughter, whom we had not seen for a year. Like at the Thai restaurant last week, Ralph was amazing. There were the usual discussions that began “remember when” and he always did remember, at least some version. When sibling issues began to percolate, he jumped in and smoothed the waters. I saw him through the kids’ eyes:  the patriarch, imposing and beloved.

But today Ralph is suddenly a little lost, probably because he has finished all the pre-wedding chores that have kept him scheduled into a routine. Plus this is his baby girl getting married and as much as he likes her intended, he is only half-joking when he says he would rather she move home and take care of him.

When I left the house at 11 this morning, he was still in his bathrobe. When I got back at 2:30, he had forgotten to eat lunch—I suspect he had been asleep. After I gave him lunch, he drove to the gas station for a six-pack of beer. That was his only activity of the day.

Yet he is exhausted and talks openly about how anxious he is feeling. Tomorrow I will have him help me put up signs to the ceremony and reception sites. He does much better when he has a chore to accomplish.

Tomorrow night, the whole family descends and my guess is he will rally, at least outwardly. (No, I am not cooking; take out bbq will do fine.) But the anxiety is not going to abate. His inability to keep straight the details of when-and-where-and-who is staring him down in a way he can usually avoid but finds impossible to ignore this week. He is openly nervous about the physical details but I suspect his bigger concern is interacting with so many people and keeping straight the details. Since I may be busy with hostessing duties, various friends are planning to keep an eye on him, but I know that when Ralph starts getting disoriented I am the only one he wants nearby.

He keeps asking, “How do you  me  stay so calm?”

I avoid answering, but really, I have no choice; someone has to stay calm, the same way one of us has to keep remembering for the other.

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