“So, Alice, when do we have to leave for the birthday party”
I come home at five in the afternoon to find my husband showered, shaved, and dressed in a clean shirt. Sounds great, doesn’t it, Ralph getting ready on his own?
Only problem is that the party he is talking about is a dinner I wrote about here weeks ago. The one he clearly didn’t enjoy attending at the time.
“We aren’t going to a birthday party.”
“Are you sure. Well, why did I think we were?” Puzzlement all over his usually placid face.
“I’m don’t know. We had dinner for H’s retirement three weeks ago.”
“We did? I don’t remember.” It is almost physical, how hard he is thinking before a memory takes shape. “Oh yeah, it was boring. Well, I’m relieved. I spent all afternoon dreading the birthday party.”
“Since you’re dressed, why don’t we go out to supper?”
“I don’t feel like going out. It’s too late.”
“Are you sure.” He is spiffed up after all, and it would be good to get him out of the house and his rut. Also, frankly, I wouldn’t mind not having to cook.
“No, I don’t feel like going out anywhere.” He shakes his head, standing by the door to the porch. “You sure you didn’t tell me we had to go to a party tonight. Why would I think we were going to a party?”
“I promise, we went to dinner for H’s retirement three weeks ago. Maybe you had a dream while napping and it felt real?”
“Maybe.” He shrugs and heads onto the porch, unlit cigarette already in one hand, beer in the other, dog at his heels. We will repeat the same conversation throughout dinner but now, clearly shaken, he needs time to himself (as do I).
The way that facts once forgotten can’t be retrieved has become our normal problem as an Alzheimer’s couple, annoying but easily handled. But now Ralph has presented me with a created, or rather mis-created memory. A new process has misremembered, twisted and reshaped a fact before lodging it in Ralph’s brain. Will our new normal problem encompass not simply a loss of Ralph’s sense of the past but a reshaping of his present reality into something unpredictable, unreliable and disturbing.