At lunch yesterday, Kate asked my name and hers. I told her and then mentioned that we were married and have two children. Thinking that she might envision our children as little, I said, “They’re not really children now. Our daughter is fifty.” She was surprised and asked, “How old am I?” I told her we were both 78, and I would soon be 79. She said, “Well, you look it?” I said, “You think I look old?” She pointed at the hairline above my forehead and tried to say, “Look how your hair is receding.” She just couldn’t figure out how to say it.
Then she mentioned my glasses and asked if I always have to wear them. I said, “Only when I want to see you.” Then I told her I was getting new ones. She said, “Are they going to be bigger?” I said “The better to see you with, my dear.” She recognized the phrase and said, “Where did that come from?” I said, “Little Red Riding Hood” and recounted the portion of the story of the wolf in bed dressed up like Grandma. As I was telling it, I mentioned that the wolf had eaten Grandma. Kate reacted with horror and, rather loudly. said, “What?” Then I had second thoughts about the wolf’s having eaten her. I pulled out my phone and Googled “Little Red Riding Hood” and brought up the full story. I started reading it aloud to her. When I got to the part about the wolf, I quickly learned that I was right. The wolf really did eat Grandma. When I read that, she reacted exactly as she had before. It was quite noisy in the restaurant, so I don’t think anyone heard her. I didn’t see any need to get out “My Wife Has Alzheimer’s” cards. I continued to read. We were reminded that the wolf also ate Little Red Riding Hood, and the hunter cut open the wolf’s stomach and saved both Grandma and Red Riding Hood.
Kate was quite taken with the story and how gruesome it was. It’s hard for me to remember exactly what we said after that, but I said something about the changes in the way people look at such stories for children these days, that we take a more sanitized approach to them. It was not a conversation of great depth, but we did talk about how children generally accepted the gruesome elements as part of a fairy tail and focused on the entertaining aspects of the stories and their messages of morality. I was really taken by how engaged she was.