Ralph’s Night to Shine (And Forget Alzheimer’s)

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It never fails. Whenever I start complaining about my life as a caretaker spouse, events remind me to shut up, stop griping and recognize the good stuff.

Case in point, we had house full of guests last week:

My 20-something nephew living with us for the summer while doing an internship; my 13-year-old (step)granddaughter was having one of summer weeks at the farm; and a photographer from out-of-state here to defend (with my support) her local portrait project, which was being attacked as too controversial by some members of the project’s sponsoring art organization board on which I serve.

So the five of us were sitting around the dinner table, one of those big group meals at which Ralph and I used to excel and which I tend to avoid now because I hate sitting beside Ralph as he withdraws into silence unable to follow the thread of conversation. What I usually feel is a mixture of guilt that I am not finding a way to include him and impatience that he is ruining my enjoyment. (And the truth is it is my responsibility to make him comfortable in a variety of situations and I sometimes chafe under that responsibility.)

What I felt the other night was, well it was envy. Ralph was so damn charming that the three others at the table—for whom I’d been working all day to entertain in different ways—were enraptured. Even the 13-year-old, jaded as only a 13-year-old girl can be—sat up straight an listened with fascination as Ralph told his stories about meeting MLK Jr. The photographer leaned over to whisper how handsome he was. My nephew acknowledged that Ralph scared him when he was a little boy. “You weren’t mean, but you were stern,” my nephew said. The 13-year-old smiled slyly because the Ralph she knows is a pushover softie. Ralph agreed with her.

My envy reminded me how I used to feel in my introverted twenties when I was in a group setting with Ralph and he was the energy force around which everyone orbited. In those days I was obviously drawn to his charisma, if a little jealous of sharing it with others.

This envy was oddly refreshing. I admit I kind of like my new role as the social butterfly in our marriage but it can be tiring. I have become so used to being the one responsible that it took a moment for me to relax and let Ralph hold the limelight for a change. Once I did relax, what I really felt was wifely pride in Ralph’s charm. And even a little wifely love.

(But I can’t get too Pollyannish because the next day, exhausted by his social efforts, Ralph was more foggy than ever.)

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9 thoughts on “Ralph’s Night to Shine (And Forget Alzheimer’s)

  1. Lovely post and I’m so pleased you’ve been able to enjoy some ‘good stuff’. Don’t think you need to worry about becoming too Pollyannish – dementia won’t allow it, I’m afraid. These good moments are to treasure.

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  2. That’s’ a really helpful observation, Alice, that as we get used to our new roles it’s startling when they sometimes aren’t necessary. For a moment or an hour, things flash back to “normal”. This path is filled with strange ups and downs, for sure!
    Thanks for your update – keep writing!

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    1. I’m glad it seemed helpful. There’s been a lot of dark feelings in my heart lately but it is important to record good memories because who knows what lies ahead.

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  3. Love your last sentence. It made me laugh!

    Thanks for sharing Alice. I don’t do enough sharing of the good moments, the good times. Your post is a reminder to appreciate the good moments.

    It still amazes me when my hubby can say something quite articulate, and then moments later be stuck in a fog that is impenetrable. It’s the way of dementia. You never know what to expect. It keeps us on our toes!

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    1. Thanks, Carole. It is sometimes hard to catch the good moments before they slide away. Even writing this, I had to struggle to return to the warm good feelings I had at the time.

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  4. As I once said, “Ralph can hold court like no one else.” It sounds like you got a sampling of Ralph’s old self in its glory. Joel

    On Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 9:50 AM, Alice in Memoryland wrote:

    > MCI Alice posted: ” It never fails. Whenever I start complaining about my > life as a caretaker spouse, events remind me to shut up, stop griping and > recognize the good stuff. Case in point, we had house full of guests last > week: My 20-something nephew living with us for t” >

    Liked by 1 person

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