I had decided that I couldn’t date a man with incurable cancer. But apart from matters of personality, worldview, age, appearance, and chemistry, I had not yet given much thought to whether anything else was untenable.
Days later, I had a date with another man. This one was a couple of years older than me, and while his photos did not suggest that I would be drawn to his appearance, I knew that photos cannot capture the real essence of a person and was willing to see what I thought of him when we met in person. He looked good on paper. He consulted internationally, had coauthored at least one book, and had published many papers, at least some of them in well-known journals. And those things were verifiable. He was also a horseman and into the arts. There were possibilities with this man. He was smart, fit, and cultured. I doubted any conversation with him would be boring.
We had a couple of long telephone conversations, and we seemed to hit it off. He had season tickets to more than one orchestral group and invited me to have lunch with him and attend a Sunday afternoon performance. After we got settled in at the restaurant, he asked where I was parked. I told him where I had parked, which was exactly where I’d told him I would when we planned our meeting over the phone. He asked what level I was on, and I told him.
We chatted about our lives for half an hour or so. Then he asked again where I was parked. I told him again. We continued to chat about places in the world we’d been. After a time, he asked again what level I was parked on.
Was he an absentminded professor type? Or was he just nervous, though he didn’t seem so? I could not quite figure out the fixation on parking, let alone why he couldn’t seem to remember where I was parked.
I actually had trouble remembering a thing or two myself. In a conversation about Ireland, I couldn’t quite remember the name of a particular city my sisters and I had love in the north-western part of the country, but later recalled that it was Westport, in county Mayo. It had been fourteen or fifteen years since my sisters and I had made that trip, and I hadn’t thought about that city in some time. Later, I couldn’t immediately call forth the name or title of something. Again, it was a bit of information tucked away that I hadn’t thought of for some time.
We shared a car on the drive to the concert venue rather than take both, and during the drive there, he asked where I lived. We had talked about that at sufficient length during one of our phone conversations that I was surprised he would ask. I was all the more surprised that he didn’t seem to recall our having talked about it before. And then he asked where I was parked again. I reminded him of what I had said earlier. He replied, “Between my faulty memory and yours . . .”
My faulty memory? The man was delusional. I assured him that I didn’t typically have memory problems, but it was clear that he knew he did.
And I began to consider the possibility that this intelligent, cultured man had Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
The concert was lovely. Afterwards, we went to a nearby hotel for a drink. I wanted a little more time with the man to discern if I was being just a bit too dramatic in my concerns about his mental state. But by the time we headed back to the parking garage, I could not shake the sense that something was not firing quite as it should be in this erudite and cultured man’s brain. It wasn’t just the inability to remember where I was parked for more than half an hour or the inability to recall where I lived. There were other bits of information that began to coalesce to support my position.
We parted with the possibility of getting together again. He wanted to cook dinner for me at his home in the foothills. It was a lovely offer, and I could not quite believe my own suspicions about him, so I left a bit of an open door. But I wasted not time getting out of there. There was something chilling about the chance that this man had a degenerative brain disease. He was, after all, only a couple of years older than me.
I again entered into a debate with myself on my drive home. For the second time in a week, I was questioning my thinking about a man as I drove home from a date with him. This time, though, the debate in my head was about whether I could possibly be wrong about his mental condition. Wasn’t my experience with him too limited to really have a sense of it?
My intuition told me that I was not wrong. Later, conversations with a couple of people who knew something about degenerative brain disease confirmed that I was probably smart to be concerned.
Did being past the age of sixty in the dating world really mean I was going to find myself dating men who were either physically or mentally untenable? I hoped not.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall