So between a hurricane which knocked out our power and the new grandbaby and an election that has yet to be settled, I have been adjusting to another new reality, less dramatic but personally profound concerning Ralph.
When we met with our new team at Ochsner’s brain health center, the neuropsychologist, Dr. S., was wonderfully tactful.
“You have been doing really well holding steady and now have shifted from mild to moderate.”
That was all he said about the day’s testing before moving on to discuss…well I kind of tuned out at that point. Ralph didn’t register anything of concern and I registered it all too well.
Basically we are at that tipping point I have been expecting. And yet now that the level of cognitive decline is officially changed, it feels less dramatic and specific than I thought.
Or it did.
A news alert on my phone bolted me awake early this morning.
“Biden is ahead in Georgia.” I shrieked to Ralph.
“Is that important.”
“Very,” I am quivering with excitement to share.
“Who was he running against?”
“Oh yeah. Who’s winning.”
“We don’t know yet.”
“Is this the primary?”
“No, it’s the election. You’ve been listening all about it on the radio.”
“I wasn’t really paying attention.”
“Well it’s up in the air. People are very nervous.”
“Remind me who’se running.”
“Biden and Trump.”
“Oh yeah. I don’t remember voting.”
“We mailed in.”
“Oh yeah.” And he’s back to sleep.
Living through this crazy election with Ralph really points up the oddness of living in a marriage with someone on the Alzheimer’s spectrum.
Ralph listens to NPR all day while sitting in his “office.” Ralph spent his first 64 years a deeply political animal, even as he veered from socialist to libertarian to Hillary fan. Many of our marital battles centered on political disagreements (masking perhaps deeper psychological/emotional issues we weren’t ready to face). Certainly family dinner conversation focused on Ralph’s take on the news of the day.
Yet now, as one of the most important elections of our lives unfolds from one excruciating moment to the next and my anxiety level has ratcheted up from eating everything in sight to losing my appetite all together, Ralph is oblivious. And the divide between us feels all more acute.
He knows the names. Biden Trump. “Is this Trump’s first or second term?” He likes to ask. But it matters to him no more than the weather. Actually the weather matters to him much more.
Over the last few days I have texted and spoken to friends and family in a constant sharing of mutual anxiety. I have certainly not felt alone. But increasingly, Ralph is although I’m not sure he notices.