Ok, so the truth is that I have been walking around all week furious at Ralph. Is that allowed, to be angry with someone with cognitive impairment? I have a voice in my head that I’ll call White Rabbit but that I also imagine (perhaps unfairly, but if I’m going for honesty here…) represents Alzheimer’s activists who would tell me, “No you don’t have that right. You can’t expect him to be a practical helpmate. You have to support him, not the other way around. You are a selfish bitch.” (I don’t really imagine the activist saying that last bit, but White Rabbit definitely.)
Well, my answer, this morning anyway, is so what? And I think it is important to accept my real feelings. As I try to define my role in Ralph’s life going forward, it doesn’t help to sweep the uncomfortable, unpretty emotional bits under the carpet. And the fact is that some of the ways he infuriates me now are no different from the ways he infuriated me before he was diagnosed.
So why am I angry this week? The details as I try to put them in typing sound almost silly: We have a rental townhouse in Florida that was recently flooded out after the neighboring townhouse’s pipes burst. I have had to take all the responsibility for dealing with insurance and repairs. I have been doing a lot of driving 5½ hours each way for 24 hour visits. This weekend is the final push—taking all the supplies and furnishing unavailable there and setting up the place. Usually I go alone but I need Ralph’s physical help this time. And he is driving me crazy.
I understand that when he repeats questions or statements, he really cannot help it. I may get impatient but I do understand. I understand why he keeps asking why we’re taking all these things to Florida, why he can’t remember to do the basic tasks he’s been assigned, why he keeps saying we can fit everything in the back seat when we obviously can’t since it’s already full. The annoyance of our repetitive dialogue gets on my nerves but is not why I am angry (well, a teensy bit).
I am angry because his obliviousness, which I usually convince myself to accept as a symptom of Alzheimer’s, is nothing new. During most of our marriage I could not depend on him when I was overwhelmed with responsibility.
And that’s what rankles.
Because I may be Ralph’s caretaker, but I’m also his wife. I imagine the wife role will recede more than it has already—and it keeps receding as our communication becomes more limited and we share less and less except the mildest chitchat—but for now the wife in me still has stored resentments that burble up when I’m triggered into remembering all the other times I couldn’t count on him, when he was self-important and impatient with my requests for help, when he was belittling, when he was generally a jerk—and all the times he was a delight too of course, but that’s another conversation.-