If you thought we said goodbye to Rose Ridge — the facility where Meredith Grey’s Alzheimer’s-stricken mother Ellis Grey lived before she died rather early in the series — you were sadly mistaken. No, unfortunately, the latest new episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “If Only You Were Lonely,” took us back there last night, as Richard Webber explored options for how to care for his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife Adele. The whole thing was — in a word — heartbreaking to watch. Rose Ridge is not the kind of place where you want to return.
The whole sequence began when cameras turned to a sleeping Richard, who woke to the sound of a smoke alarm going off. He ran to the kitchen of his house, where a skillet on the stove was flaming. It was clear from the outset: Adele, in her affected state, had somehow forgotten about the skillet and caused the accident, which saw Richard suffer burns on his arm while trying to put it out. “Adele, are you okay honey?” he asked her, but she only looked completely bewildered.
As seems to be the case whenever one of the Webbers is hurt or sick, Meredith took care of Richard when he came into Seattle Grace after the accident. His faux daughter recommended that he check out Rose Ridge. Her concern ran deep: “Any deeper,” Meredith said to Webber, “and this burn could have retired you from surgery.” Rather reluctantly, Richard took Adele to look at the place. I just about crumbled when the guy giving them a tour of the facility — we saw the exact pair of chairs that Meredith and her mother Ellis used to sit and chat, all those years ago — excitedly offered to show the Webbers the gym. “We just added a piloxing class.” Yes, piloxing, apparently a mash-up of Pilates and boxing — that was supposed to be a selling point for the place. As if that would make the fact that Adele was suffering from a debilitating disease somehow bearable. But the line did exactly what it was supposed to do: make me feel like grabbing Adele, wrapping her in my arms, and running home — or really anywhere else — with her.
That, in fact, is just what Richard wanted to do, too, especially after Adele’s confusion about why they were there continued. “It’s nice, but it’s too small for us,” she told Richard. “You’re a doctor. You said you could afford a house. We couldn’t possibly start a family here. Richard, where would the nursery go?” The pain in Richard’s face was palpable as he said to her, “You’re right, honey. It’s too small. I said I’d get you a house. Let’s go.”
Richard seemed determined to take care of Adele himself. “Rose Ridge is not the answer.” But Meredith told him: “You think you can handle this, but you can’t.” Richard volleyed back to Meredith with more heartbreaking words: “I made vows to Adele, vows that I have broken time and again…. The least I can do is honor her in sickness. She stays home, and if necessary, so do I.” But then, Adele had another tantrum with a caretaker in her home, which found her also questioning who Richard was. “Don’t hurt me!” he yelled at her. “I’m your husband, Richard! I’m your husband!”
The final scenes we saw with the Webbers really brought the whole situation to a head, and it became clear that we’ll — very tragically — be seeing a whole lot more of Rose Ridge as Adele’s disease progresses. “I have Alzheimer’s, don’t I?” Adele said, as she realized that she’s the one that caused the burns on Richard’s arm. “Yes, sweetheart, you do,” he told her. And then Adele again: “Rose Ridge does seem like a nice place. We went there this morning, didn’t we? I think it’s best that I would go live there.” And this is the part where you see your heart fall out of your chest.
NEXT: More on Adele’s Alzheimer’s