Thanksgiving and an Anniversary

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It was also Ralph and my 44th wedding anniversary. And although the flowers I received—from myself—are lovely (and to brag a little more, I made the vase they’re in during my glassblowing days), I did not expect much celebration.

The day before yesterday I’d begun to write a post  with the line, “One of those I’m at my wits end moments”, and assumed my mood would continue. My anxiety has been increasing for weeks, in part because of Ralph’s diagnosis, in part because I have taken on more work deadlines than I should have, and because my ongoing sciatica has drained my patience just as Ralph’s neediness has increased. Ralph’s constantly repeated questions and inability to grasp or retain simple concepts have irritated me to the degree they used to in the early days of his MCI, before they became the wallpaper of our lives. 

My wits were pushed to their end over a dog issue that I cannot seem to resolve: Lola’s almost daily, sometimes more often than daily disappearances, and Ralph’s resulting panic. Lola, now upgraded to the center of Ralph’s life since Zeus’s death, is a lovely, loving terrier; but if left alone in the fenced back yard off our bedroom, she sometimes finds a way under the house. Because the house is in the process of being painted and some plumbing work is also going on in the crawl space under the house, controlling access is a problem; we keep closing off vents and holes and she keeps finding new ones. 

Each time Lola disappears, we follow the same routine. Ralph comes to me distraught that Lola has gotten loose and run off. I tell him she is probably under the house (sometimes, we can actually hear her), but he begs me to go search the neighborhood. I drive around and never see her. I come back and remind him she is probably under the house. He doesn’t remember that she has that habit and argues there is no way she could get under the house because he has blocked all entries. I suggest he open an entry wider because I suspect going down and in through some tiny opening is easier than climbing back out. Finally Ralph agrees and five minutes later Lola appears. 

The first time or two this happened, I was as concerned as Ralph. Now I realize Lola is not going anywhere. That she cannot escape to the street once she is down there. I also know we cannot block access to the crawl space until improvements are complete and workers are gone. Until then, when Lola goes out, someone needs to stay with her. That would be Ralph or me.  And there lies the problem since Ralph is always in the room when Lola wants out, and I often am not.  

On Wednesday morning, Lola disappeared, Ralph freaked out, I did my obligatory drive/search, Lola then showed up, and I explained to Ralph that he had to stay with her. He agreed. I wrote it on his white board. He read it. He promised he’d remember. 

I began my other care-giving job, watching my adorable, but high energy demanding grandsons both under five. Usually I pick them up after pre-school at three and keep until one of their parents gets off work at 4:30 but Thanksgiving break meant I had them at our house most of day. When I got back after taking the kids home, Lola was missing yet again. We went through the routine. She showed back up, while I was dealing with the IRS, or rather trying to get through to a human person because the website was “unable” to verify my account for a refund. 

I was much less patient with Ralph this go round. I don’t think I yelled at him exactly, but he said I did. So maybe my voice went up a notch before I stormed off to make his dinner, which he ate with no memory of Lola disappearing or me raising my voice. My memory was less forgiving.

I went to bed thinking that I didn’t like—no I hated—always being responsible, always being caring, always putting someone else first. I didn’t want to be a wife or a mother or even a grandmother.

Then came Thanksgiving. My friend M to come over to share a very unconventional Thanksgiving with Ralph and me: Asian dumplings in broth from our favorite restaurant Luvi’s, my homemade cranberry sauce, M’s homemade pecan stuffed squash, and my knock out Tres Leches for dessert. M and Ralph don’t know each well, but she’s a natural extrovert and made him comfortable. 

She also likes to sing and asked if he’d like to join her on guitar. He said no, but as we sat and chatted, he suddenly pulled out his guitar. The next thing I knew he and M were singing Willie Nelson’s Crazy. Then while M looked through for a song in Ralph Dylan collection, Ralph started playing Mr. Tambourine Man, singing the rather complicated, twisty lyrics from memory. M and I were astounded. Soon the three of us were trying to thinking of more songs. We ended clobbering Yesterday and reminiscing about our first times hearing the Beatles.

So when M went home, Ralph actually agreed to watch the Beatles documentary Get Back on TV. It was the first time we’ve sat together sharing an actual experience in I don’t know how long. And this morning he remembered and discussed how Paul came across versus John. Furthermore, we actually agreed

Thanksgiving indeed. 

8 thoughts on “Thanksgiving and an Anniversary

  1. Alice, my husband has MCI. I may be in your position one day. I look forward to your posts and know you’ll stay strong. Thanks for sharing good and bad.❤️

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    1. I remember the early stages of MCI and know they can be as difficult as stages of Alzheimer’s itself. There is both good and bad though sometimes it is hard to remember the good. Thanks so much for writing.

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  2. Oh, it’s so hard isn’t it to be always the one who has to think, plan, act and be responsible? The first part of your post reminded me of how I felt when caring for Dad. Love the sound of Asian dumplings in broth and your Tres Leches! And, I’m jealous of you being able to watch Get Back – we don’t have Disney Channel so I hope alternative viewing options arrive soon.

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    1. Well I only have Disney because of grandkids and it is the first time I have ever used for myself but you are right to be jealous. I assume the roof concert will be the culmination and can’t wait to get to it, except then the documentary will be over–watching is like reading a book you rush through never wanting it to end. Ralph has been watching with keen interest and keeps commenting that the actors look remarkably like the real Beatles. They are the real Beatles I tell him. So they got the Beatles to play themselves, he marvels each time.

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  3. That sounds a perfectly wonderful Thanksgiving and one that you’ll remember for years to come. It’s odd how these moments can come out of nowhere and then, just for a short while, life is almost normal again and you can wade through the difficult times with a slightly lighter step.

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    1. Thanks for writing and you are so right. When I felt that jolt of wifely joy as he sang, part of me was shocked because I’d forgotten the feeling. It is great that he doesn’t remember our bad moments, but it is sad that he already has forgotten that we even had Thanksgiving….

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  4. Happy Anniversary!! The flowers are lovely and the vase is beautiful! You wrote about the one forgiving grace of dementia — the patient forgets things almost as soon as they happen. Ralph didn’t remember your being upset with him so it was water under the bridge for him. Not so much for you, I know, but you and I know we must do what we can and carry on. It does wear you down at times, and taking care of your grandchildren at the same time is like taking care of 3 kids–not fun. Do take care and if possible, find another way for your children to find daycare for their kids. You have more than enough on your plate chasing Lola and taking care of Ralph.

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    1. Thanks so much for writing. I know we experience many of the same ups and downs. It’s funny about the grandkids because they both exhaust me and keep me sane. Their level of enthusiasm and affection, connection really, is what I don’t get from Ralph of course. (Well, they grandchildren so I never got their level of those things from anyone including my own children.) I have been learning to limit my responsibility there just as I have had to learn to pace myself with Ralph……

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