Last week, I wrote about my role as wife interacting with my role as caregiver. Since then I have been reminded that my role as mother, even to my adult children, still takes precedence.
When my kids were little, Ralph used to complain, as young fathers evidently often do, that I prioritized the kids ahead of our relationship. He was right, I definitely did. I was passionately, perhaps obsessively in love with my son and my daughter. And for better or worse, I put them first. I was no Ayelet Waldman, but then Ralph was no Michael Chabon.
Then the kids grew up, damn them, and went on their far-flung ways. (What was I thinking raising them to be adventurous and independent?) Ralph and I went into marriage counseling where we finally learned to get along. Like so many empty nesters we entered a kind of second honeymoon, growing closer, rekindling genuine affection while also, at least on my part, developing my own creative and social life. After Ralph’s MCI-Early Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the dynamic between us changed again. For the last few years, as I’ve explained probably too many times, I have been in the wife/caregiver conundrum, trying to maintain my interests while needing to focus more and more energy on Ralph.
Well, Ralph is not my focus today. Tomorrow I leave to stay with my daughter while she has a minor medical procedure. She didn’t want me there at first but needs me to babysit my granddaughter. Of course as soon as she asked, I dropped everything. I have prepared meals and a friend has offered to visit Ralph but otherwise, until I sat down just now to close the computer down, I was not even thinking about the fact that I was leaving him on his own.
And Ralph is fine about that. He wants me with our daughter as much as I want to be there, but he doesn’t want to be there himself. Not that he doesn’t care. He does, his high anxiety showing as a spike in forgetfulness and napping as well as an intense desire to stay in his comfort zone at home.
I know he’ll be fine, or okay at least.
But really my head and heart are not focused on him. For the last five days, even though the medical procedure is minor, I have reverted back to Mama Bear mode. For the moment at least Ralph is again a lesser priority in my life.