After the Laughter
Access the audio version here.
My dad was the caretaker for his parents for years. I don’t know how many exactly but he’s definitely a contender for sainthood. So when he recently read on my blog that I was a participant (casualty, perhaps) of the AtoZ Challenge, he instantly gave me the topic for A: Alzheimer’s.
During the conversation he shared, and more importantly (or surprisingly) laughed about the stories regarding my grandmother Marie's decline into an uncharted world. I don’t know if it was as much for sentimentality as for fear of replication or simply his way of coping. I’m leaning toward the latter because, in my dad’s true form, he occasionally interrupted our conversation with, “Who are you again?”
Marie's regression was, by current standards, text book. One morning when he stopped by, the dryer was running. He was told she was drying the sheets. Later on it was still running because supposedly those sheets just wouldn’t dry. From his recollection, the dryer was empty.
Soon he found the basement stairs packed with dirty laundry and upon questioning was told, “I don’t go down there anymore.”
Not long after, he found the milk in the oven. Marie said, “You think that’s bad, there’s underwear in the freezer.”
Soon, it was evident she needed more help than he could provide himself. So he hired Bob. A stroke victim, Bob had few opportunities to earn a living so he was happy to help.
He was timely, efficient, kind and a God send.
Bob made her breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, vacuumed, shopped, and scoured the bathroom. There was little Bob wouldn’t do and each day he recorded his observations in a notebook that my dad kept. It documented Marie’s decline long before information was prevalent and they religiously made entries. Over time Bob picked up more chores and tasks that Marie was unable to address, and the effects of the stroke made each of them that more difficult to complete.
One morning as Bob busied himself with the chores of a whole household, he stopped to make her lunch and sat it down in front of her. Her response was, “Ya know, I don’t really see what you do around here.”
Bob’s entry was, What’s the penalty for beating an old woman?
Recently my dad read a post entitled, “The ten signs of Alzheimer’s.” “Ten?” he said. “It used to be three.” The majority of us now require immediate long-term care.
I can still talk to my dad. I can still talk to my mom. I’m fortunate that way and I’ll cherish every day that allows me to do that. Then when I can’t, I’ll let both of them know I’ll remember the laughter.
Maybe I already have.