“Do you have the AC on?”
“No it’s 72 degrees on the thermostat”
“It’s freezing in here.”
“You might try putting on a sweater.”
“Why is it so cold.”
“It’s only 65 degree outside.”
“It’s December. Christmas is in four days.”
“It is?” (Our house has two Christmas trees and an advent calendar the grandkids come and mark daily)
“It was not this cold last year.”
“Yes, you complained last year too.”
“No I didn’t.”
This conversation has actually occurred in some similar form for years, here in New Orleans but also before at the farm. One of Ralph’s earliest symptoms of cognitive loss was his weakening sense of time and another was his sensitivity to the weather. In the summer he complains of the heat unendingly—while often wearing a flannel shirt. And in the winter, he cannot get warm—while ignoring the sweaters in his closet.
I have not always been as patient as I could be during these repeated conversations, but I finally have made an adjustment in our lives that might help. After resisting covering our beautiful old French windows for selfish aesthetic reasons, I have ordered solar shades for the room where Ralph most often sits. And meanwhile it will be warming up here in time for Christmas, although the temperature might not stop Ralph’s discomfort or this conversation.
As for the holiday itself, I am not sure how it will go. Now that I’ve adjusted to Ralph’s move into “moderate” Alzheimer’s, I recognize that that this may be a period in our lives that I will be nostalgic about someday because while Ralph’s cognition may be diminished, he is also undemanding; as long as I don’t set expectations too high, our day-to-day life is not that demanding —as long as Ralph’s routine is not disturbed and he can stay within its narrow confines. But Christmas is going to disturb his routine big time,
My son and son-in-law are arriving tomorrow with their negative tests in hand. So are my sister and her husband. Everyone is coming, despite the new covid risks, largely to see Ralph, not sure where Alzheimer’s will have taken us by next Christmas. This year will be in untraveled territory enough. As recently as two years ago, our last full scale celebration, Ralph was tstill he center of our big, raucous Christmases, while I cooked and cleaned in the background.
Now all he wants is to be left alone and he can’t remember that it is December even as I ask him to water the Christmas tree. My guess is that even when the family gathers, he will prefer not to participate.
And that will be okay too.