Ch.226 Ron the Extrovert
Last night I attended a “Gala” at Azura Memory Care, in celebration of their record-setting pace in collecting donations for the annual Alzheimer’s walk. I walked in, immediately conversed with a resident and his daughter, hugged another resident, sat at a table with six others and spoke with them all, held a resident’s hand, hugged another volunteer, and happily roamed through the crowd.
I have always considered myself an introvert. I have always been an introvert, avoiding crowds like this one, or, if I had to attend (being “dragged along” by Pat), hiding at the fringe of the gathering and trying to convince Pat to leave asap. Then I’d find a nice corner at home where I could “unwind” from such a strenuous outing.
Today I attended a performance by a theater group sponsored by our local Learning in Retirement chapter. I marched in, assessed the situation, and immediately headed to a table with an open chair, not even once wishing I had stayed home. And then I engaged the three women at that table, sharing names, hometowns, cookie recipes, and dementia tales (At my age everybody has dementia tales).
The other day I mentioned I was an introvert to an acquaintance. “Gee,” she said, “I don’t think you are. You are so active and involved with people.”
So? What’s happening to me? Have I been transferred to an alternative universe in which I’ve always been an extrovert? Probably not. I think the long process of losing Pat has changed me. When Pat was healthy, I could afford to let her be the active one, knowing I could ride into social life on her coattails. Pat did have long periods of depression, though, and as her disease worsened, she became less able or interested in social engagement. Gradually I filled that vacuum; in effect we exchanged roles, although, especially during the two years of Covid, we were mostly isolated. And then, at Azura, I took over, wheeling her in her wheelchair to meals, befriending the other residents, consulting with the staff. And, finally, when Pat died, I realized that I simply could no longer be an introvert. I needed people and I alone would have to find them and keep them.
I used to believe that people were one or the other, introvert or extrovert. Now I have learned the opposite, namely that those two roles can be interchangeable, at least for some people and certainly for me.