Kathy and I have known one another for 40 years. Our relationship has been fractious at times because of her competitive streak. When we first met, I was a newly-minted copywriter enjoying my partygirl phase. Ten years my senior, she was a divorced mom re-entering the workforce as a creative supervisor. As time went on, I switched my energies from partying hard to working hard and I moved up the advertising ladder. She did not. I endured years of little digs about being a sell out. Kathy always maintained she could have had the career I did, but she wouldn't compromise her integrity. We both know that's not true, and she could be quite mean.
She can also be very kind. When my mom died, she stayed to the end of the service, just in case I needed support. She drove me to my first colonoscopy. When I had covid in 2020, she called often and sent me a jigsaw puzzle.
For the last three years or so, Kathy has been struggling with some form of undiagnosed dementia.
She has medicare, so I don't know why she hasn't seen a doctor. But she hasn't and won't. She used to insist, "I recently had a problem with my brain but it fixed itself." It's gotten so bad she doesn't even bother denying it anymore.
She feels isolated. Our mutual old friends have fallen away. She can be difficult and confusing to deal with. I'm hanging on, but it's hard.
Take yesterday. First she emailed me a photo of the Christmas card I sent her, writing, "Thanks. Perfect. If you answer here, I may not figure out how to answer. I'm aging faster than expected."
OK, I know that's a trap. She gets mad if I don't answer. I know she can't help it, but she's always been quick to anger and dementia hasn't helped. So I replied, "Glad you liked it. Have a Merry Christmas."
In the meantime, she clicked "like" on three of my Facebook posts.
Then she emailed me back, "You have fallen off Facebook. Are you OK?"
I emailed her a screen grab of a meme I posted along with her response. I wrote, "I post and you respond so our Facebook connection is working just as it should. Thanks for your concern."
"Awesome!" she replied. PHEW! She wasn't mad!
Every interaction is a dance through a minefield.
I know she is lonely and she must be frightened. I worry about her safety. I know she has curtailed her driving and won't get behind the wheel with passengers, but she shouldn't be operating a car at all. She has adult grandchildren nearby and they have keys to her apartment, so I don't have to worry about her (to borrow from the commercial) falling and unable to get up. She mentioned in passing that both her daughter near Boulder and her sister near Seattle have suggested she move in with them, but she doesn't want to give up her freedom.
But I'm scared and sad. I wish this wasn't happening.
My oldest friend is battling clinical depression and other health problems. Henry is still in the looney bin. He may not be out by the time I go to Key West and I may be visiting him in a hospital ward on Christmas Day.
Sometimes all I want to do is nap. Can you blame me?