This stage of living with Ralph’s Early Alzheimer’s has become something of a blur. There is so much sameness; so much less, well less drama.
Ralph is calm and comfortable. And I’m used to, even sanguine doing everything practical that needs doing—appointments, bills, cleaning, cooking, planning. Basically thinking for two—and even used to the conversations we have over and over. We don’t analyze or discuss the situation any more the way we used to when he was first diagnosed. We avoid confronting the facts I suppose.
I make sure he has his coffee and pills in the morning and that he showers and changes his clothes (every other day at least). I check in on him randomly through the day to make sure he has eaten lunch, that the dogs have been let out and brought in before they bark, that he has books to read, that his two beers appear from their secret hiding place when he asks, that he accomplishes small chores like taking out the garbage and picking up dog poop in the yard when asked. He likes the sense of accomplishment; I no longer ask/expect more. He still takes an occasional walk with me if prodded. We always have dinner together, always with a radio on to hide our lack of conversation.
And sometimes we listen to a music program (sometimes the same show repeated on different nights, but Ralph doesn’t notice). These are our most engaged, lively times, but Ralph seldom listens to a whole show before wandering back to the comfort of reading in bed.
So our life repeats itself day after day. Boring but Easy. Asking little and not really paying more attention than absolutely necessary, I go through the routine of our days without the anxiety that used to roll over me daily.
But last night I had to notice.
First Ralph surprised me by asking about our upcoming trip back to the farm to get his tools. Now the tools, or the fact that the farm’s current owner threw them out with all the other junk in the storage shed so they are gone for good, are a topic of frequent conversation. But last night Ralph wasn’t asking about the tools; he was talking about a trip he believed was planned, was sure I’d told him we were going very soon for a visit
He accepted my response, that no trip was planned and that in fact no trips were planned because of Covid. But I could tell he was confused in a different way than usual. He had not forgotten something, or even misremembered. He had created an idea out of the blue. I was thrown off kilter but let it go.
A few hours later I came into the bedroom a little before nine. Ralph and the dogs were tucked. By rote I checked that the door from the bedroom to the back patio was locked. It wasn’t.
Which was strange because Ralph is an obsessive stickler for doors being locked. Now that we live in a city, locking all the doors has become one of Ralph’s repetitive behaviors, like rubbing his hands, and drinking his beers.
“Ralph, you didn’t lock the door?” I said in casual surprise but without concern. I always check the doors myself anyway, a bit of a stickler myself these days.
“I thought I did,” he said, and then added. “You better check them every night. I can’t trust myself to remember.”
Avoiding only goes so far. Those five words broke my heart.