“So tell me,” my mother said, looking at me earnestly, “how is your mother doing?”
I patted her hand and smiled at her. “Well, Mom,” I said, “that’s something only you can tell me.”
Mom laughed. I laughed. We hugged and I felt a rush of connection and hope. Every caregiver experiences those unexpected moments of humor, where surprise and laughter overshadow grief and loss.
My friend, author Theresa Hupp, recently shared a few of her surprising moments with her mom.
“Not long after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, several family members gathered in New Orleans for my daughter’s graduation from Tulane Law School. The day after we all arrived, my father announced that he needed to buy dress shoes.
‘I’m the one with dementia,’ my mother said, ‘but he’s the one who forgot to pack his shoes!’
A day or two later, after we had toured the National World War II Museum in New Orleans we were standing at a corner waiting to catch one of the famous streetcars back to our hotel. We waited and waited. No streetcar came. Then my mother pointed at a sign, “Look at that. It says the route is changed.”
And sure enough, because of a parade (there’s always a parade in New Orleans), the streetcar route had changed for the day. None of the rest of us had noticed the sign.
A few months after our New Orleans trip, I wrote this poem:
At first, she’s tense when traffic speeds,
An early sign she cannot cope.
We take her hand to cross the street,
It’s just her age and gait, we hope.
Then household chores become too hard,
The daily things she’s done for years.
Forgetfulness and gaffes increase,
And every failure leads to tears.
No longer parent, now she’s child,
Her brain regresses day by day.
Our lives flow on as her mind fades,
The shadows take her far away.
And when our hearts acknowledge loss,
Just as our grief begins to hit,
She smiles and utters a remark
Surprising us with her old wit.”
Here’s to listening with an open mind and heart and being ready to appreciate the marvelous happenstance humor.
To explore more of Theresa’s world, visit her blog at http://mthupp.wordpress.com/
Deborah is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.