This behavior is described as "clinging or persistently following you around" in the 2011 revision of The 36 Hour Day, with the addition of the term, Shadowing. Imagine a long term relationship in which two people meet, fall in love, marry and don't spend most of the day together, as the man works full-time and the woman becomes a homemaker, with two young boys. Picket fence is not white, but leftover from the man's first marriage.

Fast forward from late 1980's to end of August 2001, this family of four spends a weekend in Cape May, New Jersey, prior to returning to school and retirement party for the man, after 25 years of Environmental Education. Many people invited from out-of-town, former colleagues, local officials, family members, catering set for September 13, 2001. Cape May had been deserted, the water was warm. I remember thinking, as we all bobbed up and down in the waves, watching a pod of dolphins passing by, glistening and can't get any better than this.

We drove home three hours on the Garden State Parkway, full of peace, in our old red van, listening to a variety of music. The kids fell asleep almost immediately, as did my husband, while I drove. I changed the music to old spirituals and sang along, feeling refreshed and supremely happy.

Our sons returned to school on September 3rd or 4th; my husband was making trips back and forth, bringing home the entire contents of his office that belonged to him, including all of his environmental magic show paraphernalia. I was at the time working 30 hours per week, doing in-home care of twin girl toddlers and two very young boys, both of whom have autism. The fathers of these families worked on Wall Street.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at the home with the boys while their mother was out shopping and getting her nails done. The grandmother was there for a visit and she had the television on when the planes hit the towers. The house phone rang; the father was up in the Connecticut branch of the company and was hysterical. Couldn't get through to his wife. The grandmother was crying; I sat and held her hand until her daughter came home, also hysterical, as they had quite a few close friends who worked in the towers. She said I could go home, paid me for the entire day, plus a generous tip. I thanked her and said I would pray for her friends, some of whom I had met.

I didn't intend to go off on that tangent, but that was how my husband's retirement started. I insisted we hold the party anyway, made a short speech about 9/11 and asked for a moment of silence. A friend played Amazing Grace on the harp. We did not let the terrorists win that day; we celebrated with a tinge of sadness, but we celebrated the dedication my husband had given to his job. I also made a brief closing speech inviting anyone who wanted to visit his infamous office to our home, where it was already being re-created.

Fast forward once more to November 23, 2012, when my husband is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, that in hindsight may have started well before the diagnosis, as he never discussed retiring from his job with me. One year later, I'm trying to understand how to deal with this sudden Shadowing, as most of our relationship was quite comfortable with many hours apart.

"Families tell us that people who have dementia sometimes follow the caregiver from room to room, becoming fretful if the caregiver disappears into the bathroom or the basement. Or the person with dementia may constantly interrupt whenever the caregiver tries to rest or get a job done. Few things can irritate one more than being followed around all the time." (pages 251-252)

The book continues with a brief description of why this occurs and gives a few ways to handle it, in addition to a sample case study. In my experience, just knowing that this is a coping mechanism my husband needs to do to feel safe instead of confused, helps me to be less irritated. (I say less because I'm not a saint, by any means.) I don't usually disappear into the basement, but I've had him yell through the bathroom door to ask if I'm all right many times.

Taking a shower requires telling him several times in advance that's what I will be doing. I was raised to take a military shower, so despite my long hair, I can be in and out in less than 3 minutes. If he's napping, I can stay in a bit longer. If he's not napping or has been particularly clingy on a certain day, I suggest he make a sandwich for himself and I leave a book on the kitchen table where he sits. He has changed where he sits to my usual place, leaving the end of the table, where the head of the household typically sits, empty.

*note: My husband was sitting six feet away from me, as I wrote this, continually interrupting me with variations on the same question.

Shad"ow*ing, n.


Shade, or gradation of light and color; shading.



A faint representation; an adumbration.

There are . . . in savage theology shadowings, quaint or majestic, of the conception of a Supreme Deity. Tylor.


© Webster 1913.

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