Clinging to Love and Laughter

I’m so proud of my mom. Her mind is disintegrating very rapidly, more rapidly than I have ever seen, in my limited experience of dementia, but she clings faithfully to love and laughter.

“I think people who laugh are happier,” she told me today, and it makes me want to hang on to the many times we have laughed and laughed and laughed.

Now we have to work with the home health aides on manicure/pedicure, tooth brushing and other hygiene issues. At this stage it is so important to date all leftovers in the fridge, because, if ancient, they can be dangerous for people with dementia.

Every time I see her, I ask my mom, “How’s it going?” and she always replies “Well now I’m happy because you’re here.”

Then sooner or later she takes hold of her diamond brooch in the shape of a heart and asks me if I know what it means, and I say yes I do, it means ‘I love you.’ Sometimes I say that’s the ‘sacred kidney bean’ and we get a few laughs that way.

Then she goes to her refrigerator door and points to two playing cards showing George Bush and Dick Cheney as jokers. Just in case that might give you a laugh. I look forward to telling her if and when they are held accountable for their vile deeds, if that ever happens. I do believe she will understand. She has often suggested that what’s needed is a lengh of rope, and I cannot say I disagree.

I recently bought her a picture book of the Obama inauguration, and she dug up her Obama button and put it on her sweater, so I think she understands, in her own way, the great things that are happening. We had a great time looking at the pictures of Malia and Sasha.

Every day it’s a little harder to remember things, and this has to be really scary for her. I thank providence for our helpers, who are wonderful, inventive, caring people.

But Sally is cantankerous.

If you google the word cantankerous you get a lot of negative definitions like difficult, irritating, ill-tempered, quarrelsome and disagreeable, but these definitions do not capture the positive connotations of the word. It means you still have spirit and that you will never surrender, even if the gift of clarity is denied to you.

I think, based on that definition, I have been cantankerous all my life, but that’s another story.

In the face of terrifying mental confusion, my mom clings to love and laughter, and it makes me happy and proud. And we still laugh every day.

Just a note: I put up a note by Sally’s telephone titled ‘Liberry Ours’ to show when the library is open, and although she doesn’t know who her sons are, she laughs every day at those two misspellings and points them out to me. Everyone knows it should be ‘Library Hours.’