I meant to write about our last Christmas on the farm, about Ralph and his oldest son taking out guitars and playing together as everyone sang along on Christmas eve, Ralph thoroughly engaged for those few hours, how family and friends who’ve celebrated with us every year for decades and decades gave speeches at dinner that moved others to tears, how difficult I found it (still find it) to grasp the import because my bittersweet emotions were tinged with relief.
I meant to write but really once the 26th came, I was too embroiled in the present and future to worry about the past, event the immediate past.
It is the second of February and our movers are coming on the fifth of March. All my books are packed (minus the hundreds I donated to the library). So are most of my pictures, handmade glass and most of my kitchen. Next weekend I am driving to Nola with our bed and however much I can squeeze in a u-haul. I want the bed ready for Ralph when we arrive on the fifth to beat the movers who will show up the next morning.
The fact is that the practical issues are all falling into place. There are no serious glitches. The farm is under contract to my next-door neighbor who plans to put it into the rural preservation program. The movers are hired. The renovation is only a few weeks behind schedule and not too over budget so far. I have been able to get things done and keep up with my other work and with my social life. My days are full, but not overwhelming. In fact last weekend a friend and I organized our mutual birthday trip that will take place in May (with my son coming to stay with Ralph while I’m gone—a lot easier asking him to come to Nola than to the isolated farm).
I meant to write an update on all this because part of me is frankly proud of myself for pulling things off so well, but I haven’t until now. And lack of time has not been the real problem.
The real problem has been that since Christmas, I have been avoiding facing my feelings toward Ralph too closely. I do his life list, I make sure he takes his pills, takes his shower, eats his meals. But I have filled my days with chores and conversations and decision making that I deal with on my own. And while I dutifully, even obsessively worry about how I can make Ralph’s adjustment as easy as possible—from walking to the corner store instead of driving, to dog walking and poopscooping, to learning his way around a new house—I have felt basically numb where Ralph is concerned. Numb has seemed better than admitting the mix of resentment at having to do everything myself and exhilaration at doing everything the way I want without kowtowing to him as I did through most of marriage.
Or that’s what I have assumed. But then this week I was jolted out of my stupor. Early in January I contacted the neurologist who’d been recommended by multiple sources as the best in Nola for Alzheimer’s. I was told to have Ralph’s current provider, Emory, send a referral. So I called the social worker at Emory who told me to contact my medical provider for the referral. I used the portal that everyone must use these days to send a message asking for the referral. I didn’t hear anything back for over a week so sent a new message, this time to more than one of my providers asking what was up. Someone called me back the same day and said the referral had in fact been sent, I just hadn’t been told. I immediately called the Nola doctor’s office and was informed by the scheduling secretary that less than ten minutes before my call she had received a memo from the doctor’s nurse saying he was not taking new patients. I explained that I had just learned that Ralph’s referral had been sent in a week ago. She was extremely sympathetic and immediately messaged the doctor’s nurse who responded that she knew about us and would call me back“ shortly.”
I heard nothing that day. I called the next day. A different scheduling receptionist found Ralph in the computer as having had contact with the nurse. Again I was told she’d get back to me “shortly.” Again I didn’t hear anything. For three days I kept my phone at my side wherever I went, kicking myself for not checking with Emory earlier, for not starting the whole process last year in fact, for really screwing up. And just when I had given up and stopped expecting the call, there was the nurse on the phone as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Ralph’s first appointment with his new doctor will be in May.
Suddenly my stupor lifted. Having a doctor in place has shifted my whole orientation. I am still resentful and exhilarated, but more exhilarated than resentful. Now that I’ve found Ralph the doctor he needs, I know everything else will fall into place
PS I should have gotten the ball rolling sooner. If anyone reading this is contemplating a move, start your doctor search as early as possible. Alzheimer’s specialists are at a premium. I feel a new empathy for expectant parents who put their unborn babies on waitlists for daycare and preschool.