The Ever Changing New Normal

Eighteen months ago I was sitting in a six-week support group I had recently joined for caregivers when a new member walked in late, sat down and burst into tears in. She was a young woman in her late forties with a child in college and another in high school. Her husband was a former economics professor no longer able to teach due to his Early Onset Alzheimer’s. While she struggled to maintain her high pressure banking career to support their family, he spent his days in his home office playing chess on the computer and supposedly organizing his files. She tearfully described what a mess the office had become. She said he was depressed and angry and she was not sure how to go on.

At the time I was full of pity and secret relief. Her husband seemed so much further along the Alzheimer’s path than Ralph. Interestingly enough, her husband was the one person Ralph genuinely liked in the care-getters group which met at the same time as our care-givers group.  Ralph complained continually about having to listen to people drone on in his group, but when givers and getters came together for a luncheon when the six weeks series ended, he made a point of going up to the former professor to shake his hand and wish him well before we left.

Flash forward to the present. On my way to the grocery store this afternoon after a morning of office work, I realized that Ralph was not at home in his usual spot on the porch or out in the field mowing, but at his barn office/painting studio where he keeps a few files, his fishing equipment, and his art supplies. Ralph has always been a talented painter and always said that once he retired he would take it up more seriously. But despite my nagging, he has not lifted a paintbrush.

Still I became briefly excited.  Now that  the weather has turned cold, sitting on the porch smoking might be less appealing, so maybe Ralph was going to buckle down and begin to paint again after all.

But no. Ralph was sitting in his messy office, smoking a cigarette  with his dog at his feet.  When I walked in and asked what he was doing, he  said he was organizing his files.

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