RALPH TRAVELS TO BABYLAND WITH MIXED RESULTS

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The picture above of Ralph holding his namesake may be a bit misleading. During the recent ten days Ralph and I spent in New Orleans to hang out with our now three-month-old grandson, Ralph held babyRalph exactly twice.

And that was after much prodding.

But he did hold him. And he did survive ten days away from the farm. (In fact I had booked an airbnb for ten days knowing we might leave early if necessary.) So over all, I’d say it was a victory, a pyrrhic victory…

He was not unhappy. Our son came down from NYC to surprise Ralph and meet babyRalph. Big Ralph was pleased and quite animated the first night. After that he read his book and napped a lot on the couch while the rest of us cared for and played with babyRalph in the next room.

Mostly Ralph drank coffee or beer and smoked cigarettes on my daughter’s front porch. Pretty much the same way he fills his time at home. Fortunately, my daughter recently moved into a renovated New Orleans shotgun with both a front porch. By the second day, Ralph had met pretty much everyone on my daughter’s small street where the neighbors all interact —white, black, Latino, gay and straight, elderly and hipster. Everyone thought Ralph was charming because while talking to strangers who demanded only the smallest small talk, he came to life. But with us inside, he was slightly removed, in a vague fog or intimidated by the hubbub surrounding the baby.

Frankly I found grannynannying while watching out for Ralph exhausting. Physically exhausting because I was running him back and forth from the airbnb where he slept twelve hours every night while I helped with the baby’s early morning feedings. And definitely emotionally exhausting as I tried to be grandmother, mother, wife and caregiver.

On the drive home, we shared what has become a rare moment of genuine conversation. Ralph acknowledged that travelling seems to make his memory worse, that leaving the comfort of his routine was difficult for him. I said I could see that. Then we went back to listening to a Bob Dylan cd.

But the unspoken message hung in the air—no more travel for Ralph.

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14 thoughts on “RALPH TRAVELS TO BABYLAND WITH MIXED RESULTS

  1. Hi Alice –
    Nice to hear from you again. Yours is one of three blogs I follow (the others are: http://www.faithfulfoggyliving.com/ and http://sherizeee.blogspot.com/ ). Three different perspectives, each of the patients and caregivers at different points along the path, each muddling through in a different way. I learn and take inspiration from you all.
    The heterogeneity of the disease and how we deal with it are more apparent and interesting to me each day. My official diagnosis has moved from MCI to EOAD over the past 6 months, but Ralph, Paul and Bob/Al (from the other blogs) and me all exhibit varying degrees of the same symptoms. My hours of sleep increase along with my exhaustion; perhaps my wife feels limited by my lack of energy at times. I also prefer hanging back as an observer in social settings, but at least for now still enjoy attending if people would just let me be the fly on the wall. Now dogs are different – for whatever reason, I’m more “at one” with the pack than I ever was. Maybe there’s no pressure. My best, Heading Somewhere

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    1. Good to hear from you and to see that you remain as articulate as ever. I went to the blogs you mentioned and was particularly drawn to Sherry’s writing about “Al” and Bob. I am glad you find reading about all of us helpful–it is brave of you to face EOAD straight on.Not sure many people can. By engaging directly perhaps you stay more engaged in life at large, my hope for you. But everyone has different needs and reactions that must be respected. Stay in touch….with warm thoughts…

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    2. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sharing “from the inside” of your experience. My husband has MCI and your comment about enjoying being with others “if people would just let me be the fly on the wall” helped me greatly in understanding him lately. Again, THANK YOU!

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  2. Oh, Alice, I’m so disappointed. I was sure Ralph would adore BabyRalph and want to give him lots of cuddles. I’m sorry the reality turned out to be so different and that for you it was so exhausting having to divide yourself in two while there. I had coffee yesterday with a friend whose husband will not go away for a holiday, not even for a weekend. He doesn’t have dementia but a physical problem caused him to collapse unconscious while out shopping with his wife. He was whisked away in an ambulance and has been home for some months now but has lost confidence and become afraid to leave the house. He spends his days sitting in a chair reading newspapers, doing crosswords and watching television while she feels pretty trapped and desperate.

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    1. Well, Mary, you just captured my mood completely. Since that trip and since my own time alone in New Orleans helping to care for the baby, I am having much more difficulty adjusting–why my posts have been less frequent. Am working to get my head around my situation and hope to explore more in coming posts.

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      1. Sometimes we only understand how we felt about or in a situation when we look back on it. I hope you can find a way to manage to take some breaks away, whether to see BabyRalph or just be on your own, to re-charge your batteries.
        I see from your reply below that BabyRalph is coming to visit you. Maybe Ralph will feel differently when he sees his grandson in his own comfort zone. Looking forward to hearing how it goes.

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  3. BabyRalph is so sweet and cute!

    Each change is hard. If you have someone who can stay with Ralph, maybe BabyRalph can be a good reason to get away which all caregivers need. I understand how hard it was for you with Ralph there while you tried to be with the baby. This winter we had a beach reunion of all the women in our family, and while the younger women were exulting in a little child free time, I whispered to my sister that I felt somewhat the same way being away from Neil. A little more free, a little lighter.

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    1. We are having babyRalph and his parents visit us this week. Will be interesting to see if Ralph is more connected within the comfort zone of his own environment. I did find the time I spent alone in New Orleans helping with babyRalph was a working vacation (as well as a deeply rewarding experience as mother and grandmother). If anything, I have found readjusting to being with Ralph everyday again a bit difficult.Thanks for writing.

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  4. Oh, Alice, I hear you – once again that poignant clash of joy and sorrow, hope and struggle. For us, too, the variety and excitement that travel provides is outweighed by the confusion it generates for J, and the sheer work it generates for me. I feel selfish, at times, making this observation – I so wish we could get the stimulation and delight from trips that we once so richly did. Life is a lot plainer now.
    On a quieter note, the hummingbirds have found the feeder this morning, and there’s been a parade of tiny visitors. This will delight us for weeks.
    Thanks so much for writing, fellow-travelier.

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    1. Yes, life is different for both members of the marriage. For a long time, I have hoped my life would not be changed but I am seeing how it will be more and more. Love hearing about your hummingbirds. Those small delights become the most important….Thanks for writing

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    2. So hard, yet so necessary to really hear what those of you who are a few steps ahead of me have to say about how travel/new people & situations affect your spouse differently than they used to, and the effect this all has on you.
      Both you & Alice are true heroes for sharing.
      Thanks to you both for writing,
      Alice too

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