One of my favorite out-of-state cousins, "Alice," and I exchange e-mails several times a month. Sometimes Alice will attach a photo to an e-mail. The photos she sends are almost always taken by her husband, "Ralph," so of course Ralph rarely appears in a photo.
Well, last week Alice sent me a recent snapshot of herself and Ralph standing together at a party.
Ralph looks like he has aged significantly since I last saw them at a family reunion four years ago. (OK, I know everyone grows older, and indeed, Alice looks the tiniest bit older in that photo. But Ralph looks like he has aged fifteen or twenty years, not four years.)
I'm thinking that there is no way I can politely inquire specifically about Ralph's health, right?
Honestly, Ralph looks like maybe he's been seriously ill... and that makes me feel badly that I didn't realize he was so ill. I searched old e-mails to see if there was a clue I missed, and there was only one reference 3 years ago about Ralph having had an unnamed "procedure" scheduled, but then having canceled it at the last moment. I had responded by wishing him well, but then I guess I never asked any specific follow-up questions about the "procedure" and about whether he had indeed rescheduled it. And Alice never mentioned it again.
I know it would be crude and rude to comment upon Ralph's appearance (and I won't do that), but is there anything that is polite to say when I e-mail Alice, beyond my usual "Hope you and Ralph are well"?