A top New York City lawyer has shared how he juggles a complicated home life with a millionaire screenwriter girlfriend while caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s disease at home.
Townsend Davis, 60, said in a candid op-ed for the New York Times who is still struggling to handle his reality, eight years after his art executive wife Bridget’s diagnosis.
With two children aged 11 and 13 at the time, Bridget, then 51, begged him to “please go find someone else”, leading him to begin a whirlwind romance with Emily in Paris, the writer Deborah Copaken, 57 years old.
Sharing his story to help others live their own lives while caring for a sick loved one, Townsend said that after he and his new lover enjoyed their first Thanksgiving with his wife and children, she still feels He was left with a disconcerting reaction.
“I can’t help but feel like an intruder.”
Prominent attorney Townsend Davis shared a candid look at his life with his screenwriter girlfriend Deborah Copaken (pictured together) while his wife lives at home.
Townsend’s wife, Bridget (right), was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease eight years ago, which dramatically changed both of their lives.
Townsend said his wife’s decline came quickly, as she was a respected and high-powered arts executive at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.
As a successful woman, Bridget had refused to accept that any of her early symptoms were serious and waited until she made dangerous mistakes before seeking help.
This included running stop signs, burning pots, and even forgetting to show up to his own 50th birthday dinner.
But after his condition worsened, he was barely able to consent to his new relationship, leaving him in a limbo where all he had to do was her initial insistence that he find a new partner.
Townsend admitted that when he told his wife about Deborah and she told him it was a “good idea,” he was sure she didn’t understand what he was talking about.
Recalling how he slowly started dating his wife back home, the father of two said he initially put it off for years, feeling sure the guilt would plague him as soon as he met someone else.
It took him six years to even broach the topic, until he was set up for a surf day in Montauk by a mutual friend, who was worried he was lonely and that Deborah would lack company after her divorce.
At that first meeting, he bluntly told the writer, “I’m fine, never getting married again and getting different things from different people.”
At the time, he maintained that dating was out of the question. The duo would meet up for bike rides and watch movies, all out of friendship rather than romance.
“After several months, I began to ask myself, ‘What exactly am I waiting for?'” he wrote.
“If for some reason it didn’t work out, I’d be back to square one: married but effectively alone.”
Bridget had been a powerful arts executive before her diagnosis, but she realized something was wrong when she started running stop signs, burning pots, and even forgetting to show up to her own 50th birthday dinner.
However, after taking a leap of faith that he compared to diving into a frozen ocean, Townsend said he kissed Deborah one Friday night and “suddenly my life took on a new dimension.”
“Our romance did so many things at once,” she wrote.
“It helped me regain hope, process loss, rediscover wonder, and remember what it was like to be in a reciprocal relationship.”
The new romance surprised him, as he had previously been caring for Bridget for years with the help of a carer and had moved to a separate part of the house as her condition continually worsened.
After years without his wife’s usual skill, which before her diagnosis led her to organize the budgets of the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in Excel spreadsheets, the attention of his new lover left him speechless.
“The first time he made me dinner, I practically fell off my chair with gratitude.”
Despite some trepidation, they shared their first Thanksgiving as a couple with their family last year, hoping it would have been like any other when their family gathered for their traditional meal.
‘Turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy and a concoction of mashed yams with mini marshmallows that we affectionately call “glop,”‘ she wrote.
But as others piled their plates, Deborah sat with a tear in her eye, which she attributed to her wife barely recognizing her own son moments before dinner.
Townsend seen with his new girlfriend during a fundraising walk for his wife in Central Park
Despite feelings of guilt and confusion for his wife at home, Townsend said his relationship with Deborah “helped me regain hope, process loss, rediscover wonder, and remember what it was like to be in a reciprocal relationship.”
Deborah had been married for 25 years until she divorced in 2018, and her three children were celebrating with her ex-husband a few miles away.
However, as the meal came to an end and they headed to her luxurious $2.9 million apartment in Brooklyn, she revealed what had really been bothering her.
“This is her vacation at her house and I will take her place, but she is still here,” he said.
“I know it’s irrational, but I can’t help but think she must feel that displacement.”
The problem is common for those dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s, as Townsend had no intention of divorcing his wife or stopping caring for her, while she barely knew who he was.
For others in a similar position, Townsend’s op-ed shared aspects that made Deborah the ideal partner in navigating the complex situation, allowing him space to be with his wife without jealousy.