THE ANSWER
Angels on Earth|Jan/Feb 2021
Could my husband’s recent retirement explain his behavior?
MARLIES PALKA

January 31. I circled the date on my desk calendar at work with a blue felt-tip pen. It was only the Wednesday before

Thanksgiving, but there was a long wait to see the neurologist and I was lucky to get my husband, Wayne, in to be seen at all. Meanwhile I didn’t want him to overhear me making the appointment.

I drove home from work, praying Wayne would agree to go. From day to day I never knew what kind of mood he would be in. He’d recently retired after a 39-year career at an international tech company, a job he loved. Retirement had required an adjustment, but to me that didn’t explain what was different about Wayne. Something was off, I was sure. I just couldn’t say what.

At home I found Wayne sitting in the living room. “What’d you do today?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful.

“I filled the tires, like you wanted,” he said.

Filled the tires? I walked out to the car and realized Wayne had meant he’d filled the gas tank. It made sense, as we were driving to see family for Thanksgiving, but the mix-up was the kind of mistake my husband made all too often these days—too many senior moments.

Initially, I’d thought it was me. I second-guessed myself, wondering if I needed to have my hearing checked. Wayne hadn’t really asked for a towel on his hamburger—surely he had asked for cheese. But the closer I listened, the more obvious it was that Wayne was confusing his words without ever realizing it. Trouble was, the signals that something was wrong came and went. We weren’t young anymore. Who wasn’t forgetful? No one else was around Wayne enough to see any kind of pattern. “It’s like he’s speaking in Mad Libs,” I said to my sister on the phone that evening.

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