Missing the View Ralph Has Forgotten


This is the view Ralph and I have woken up to for over 25 years but no more. Although we don’t move for another two weeks, I took the mattress and box springs to Nola last week (so Rick will have a bed waiting for him when we arrive). For the last days here we are sleeping in our guest room in the antique double bed we slept in when we first married. A kind of poetic justice.

Waking to that view, though, was always my favorite thing about living on this farm I came to against my wishes; at times it was the only thing I liked about living here. Since there are no neighbors except a horse or two, we never bothered with curtains, and whatever the weather, sunny or cloudy or stormy, it was wonderful to sit in bed with a cup of coffee looking out.

Our bedroom always had a good view, but about 12 years ago, around the time we became empty nesters, we did some renovating and enlarged our span of windows. Afterwards Ralph and I went through a period of intense bird watching. We set up feeders outside the windows and armed our selves with bird-watching guides. Ralph made sure the feeders stayed filled. We had struggled in our marriage, particularly because we seemed to have few interests in common except our work and kids, but with the kids gone, we had more time before heading to work and the bird watching became a shared focus.

By the time Ralph was first diagnosed with MCI, evenings were when he functioned least well. We stopped hanging out together much once the dinner dishes were cleared. But mornings, he was sharper. I made a point always to be available from eight, when he woke up, til about nine. We’d bring each other coffee in bed—sometimes I made it but just as often he would—and spend an hour listening to NPR and talking about the view out the window. During that relaxed hour I would bring up subjects that might be harder to discuss other times of day. Ralph’s memory seemed better in the morning and he would converse with surprising clarity and even humor. Then around nine, he’d want his first cigarette and I’d start my day.

I’ve been telling myself we still have that schedule, but we don’t. I still wake up at sixish and read or do work. But now I have to force him to wake up, and although he goes to bed earlier and earlier, it’s getting harder and harder to get him going by eight. And even if I do, I end up drinking coffee alone because he goes to the porch to smoke as soon as he’s up. More than once lately, I’ve come home from a morning errand to find him still in his bathrobe on the porch as noon approaches.

This is a change that has crept up on us, but as I prepare us to move, I’m suddenly aware and worried that there are more changes I’ve been ignoring. A decrease in conversation, less care in how he’s dressed,  a vacancy around his eyes. Tonight he seemed particularly out of it—even momentarily confused where to find the milk he always pours himself for dinner.    I asked if something was wrong. He said he felt unwell, but when I pressed him, he said he didn’t ache or hurt,  just felt “spacey.”

I want to think he was just having a moment due to the strain of the move. The truth I am afraid to face is that Ralph is accepting the move because he has withdrawn so deeply into himself. He gets tested next week so I guess I’ll find out then.

Meanwhile, what I already know is that Ralph has forgotten the birds and the view. Funny to think I’m the one who will miss them.

14 thoughts on “Missing the View Ralph Has Forgotten

  1. I’m wondering if those ‘out of it’, ‘spacey’ moments might be TIAs (transient ischemic attacks). Worth asking about it when he gets tested next week, not that there’s anything they can do, I’m afraid. Dad used to get them and we became quite attuned to spotting what was happening. That’s quite a view you are leaving behind. What will the view be like in your new place? Sending a huge hug.

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  2. I find it strange that Ralph still retains his smoking habit… his addiction to nicotine must really be strong. I wonder if he will ever reach a point where he will forget that he’s a smoker or perhaps feel the need for the nicotine but be unable to understand what is causing his discomfort. And I am so sorry for what you are going through. My husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. I’m attending a class for middle stage caregivers and recognize some of the signs in my husband’s behavior. It’s not an easy road for any of us…

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    1. Thanks for writing. Ralph smoked as a youth but stopped in his thirties. As his cognitive issues arose, he picked up cigarettes again probably to help with his anxiety. The doctors have said getting him to stop smoking is not the battle worth fighting at this point. But I agree that he may well forget he smokes, or better forget his need itself. His mother forgot she smoked toward the end of her life.

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      1. Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking. I figured that as the disease progressed, his brain might forget that the addiction, which wouldn’t be all that bad, considering. For sure, it would save you money each month! (I’ll take any plus I can get these days!) I agree that it isn’t a battle worth fighting over at all; was just curious about the fact that he was still smoking. Do take care… we all seem to be on that same long road. Blessings to you.

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  3. Your post made me think, you’re by yourself in a relationship. You are taking another step in your long goodbye. I know you must feel alone in his company. I used to work as a handy man and recall the mystery feeling I felt when I worked for women who had lost their husbands. I saw all the evidence of a man living there with all the tools, hobby supplies, unfinished work and yet no man. It seems a person had just disappeared. I get that same feeling for your situation.

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      1. I had to reflect on your question as I hadn’t thought about widowers. I only had one widower. No I didn’t have the same sense of disappearance. Inside the home every thing seemed the same. That’s interesting. I wonder why that is so.

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      2. I am not sure. I would love to have more conversation about caregiving for men and women. And how the change in relationships with an impaired spouse effects men and women both the same and differently.

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  4. Alice we need to talk, your Ralph and my Steve have been on the same slippery slope. I just yesterday told my friend its nice just to have a conversation, thoughts opinions , comments. Instead or directing imagining and wondering what is going on in his mind at 64. MCI at 57..Retirement not what we planned, but we moved closer to the grandkids. good luck your posts keep me grounded please contact me if you need to talk

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