Is it possible to find humor in dementia? What if the person is your own mother? I confess it, gentle readers, but the answer is YES! The alternative is to cry so I will try and bring you into the world of dealing with a 91 year old mother who has been on the downward slide for 20 years now.
The Adult Beverage Caper.
The entire family was gathered for one of those Big Family Dinner events. I always make a flourish about fixing a bourbon and water for DM(Dah Mama for new readers). It’s mostly ice and water with enough Canadian Club to give it some color. DM can’t remember to drink it but she holds onto it and feels in a party mode. I was drinking a very nice chardonnay with a golden color. I should say I was intending to drink the wine—DM requires quite a bit of attention so I had not yet had a taste. After one quick trip to the kitchen to fetch something for the table I finally got to settle down to eat and enjoy the wine. I slugged down a pretty hefty gulp and nearly sprayed the entire table with the libation. It was not just chardonnay—in that brief moment DM had managed to pour her watered down bourbon and water into my wine glass! It was not a good blend. Of course DM denied having done such a grievous thing despite the evidence of her empty glass and my taste test. As I dumped the contents of a very full wine glass down the sink I made a note to put this in the column of things labeled “One Day You’ll Laugh About This.”
I’ve found it easiest to enter whatever world DM is in at the moment. Generally in her world we are both 16 and living in Barstow and getting ready to go climb “B” Hill. That works for me. She’s pretty good on anything before 1950 but one has to roll with the flow for Real Time. On Mother’s Day I gave her her Mother’s Day card to read in the car. She was so pleased and got teary from the verses and then put it on her lap. Five minutes later she was puzzled about the pink envelope and opened it up. She was delighted all over again, thanked me profusely and wiped away tears. And put it back on her lap. We only live 15 minutes apart but she got to open the card and be surprised all over again 4 times by the time we pulled in the driveway. What a great investment—I wonder if I can get the card back and just use it next year?
Yesterday I tried to take her shopping. She’s always loved that and a new outfit generally lifts a girl’s spirits. I think I’m the one in denial—I way underestimated how difficult it would be to get her out of the car, into the wheelchair, get through a carpeted store, and change clothes a few times. And of course there was the de rigeur trip to the bathroom. On the rush bathroom trip it was just impossible to push the wheelchair through the rounders of clothing and down the narrow passageway to the facilities without running over a hinge on the floor. The clang of hitting the metal made DM jump and she yelled out, “Don’t Shoot!!!” Quickly masking their worried expressions, the assistants behind the counter began to laugh and complimented DM on her quick sense of humor. I decided I didn’t need to explain that “Don’t Shoot” is a regular response to any loud noise. We returned to the dressing room—rather like maneuvering a cruise ship in Glacier Bay—and I left her just for a moment to get a top in a smaller size. I heard this animated conversation coming from the dressing room, punctuated by gales of laughter. I dashed back to see what was going on and realized DM was seeing numerous reflections of herself in the triple mirrors. She thought she was in a room full of people and she was trying to converse with all of them. She didn’t recognize herself but apparently had decided she might as well party. It really was kind of funny–and I realized it would be our last shopping trip together. In kinder times we would have been high-fiving each other over the great sale and the good bargains we had scored. She had totally forgotten the shopping by the time I got her back to the Jeep. I was starting to wheeze and was rummaging through my purse for the purple inhaler and DM was even more exhausted. Meanwhile, DM had returned to her world and was worried she was going to get in trouble for being gone without getting permission. Sometimes it’s best to just throw in the towel. Maybe the clothes we got will fit me. For now, it was a bit of a relief to go where I could be 16 again.