Appreciating the Common Cold

This will be short because I don’t have much time to write today. Ralph is sick in bed with a very bad cold and I am playing nurse—note, I said playing and nurse, not being or caregiver.

In the old days when Ralph was sick, I always complained, at least to myself, about what a baby he was. Now I find myself offering to make him toast and tea. I make pots of homemade chicken soup. I have skipped scheduled meetings and almost cancelled a trip Ralph and I both agree I should take with my son.

Yet I feel none of the resentment I usually feel around my never-ending sense of responsibility toward Ralph.

Why? I keep asking myself until I realize that it is much easier to deal with the fact of Ralph with a concrete, physical, medical ailment. Not that the brain changes connected to Alzheimer’s are not medical or the plaque build up in his brain is not physical. But for me there is a psychological or maybe I should say magical thinking difference:

What Ralph calls his fogginess is frustrating to manage or even face because it is hard to quantify. Maybe his namenda and donepezil make a difference, maybe they don’t. Maybe I sense him losing more memory lately and being slower on the uptake or maybe I’m looking at his every sentence too closely and reading too much into his slips. I don’t know and don’t always trust my guesses.

On the other hand, a stuffed nose is a stuffed nose and a fever of 102, while serious, can be measured going up or down. The efficacy of cold medicine is uncertain but plop plop fizz fizz what a relief a cold can be. After all, we both know he will recover from it—tomorrow or the next day his nose will stop running, his fever will drop, and physically at least he’ll be “better”. His memory? Not so much.

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