Momentos OR Finding the Funny

When it comes to all (or most) things miserable in life, you have 2 choices: You can stew in self-pity or laugh. When it comes to all things dementia, indulging in moments of self-pity are absolutely allowed, just avoid spending too much time in the pot—you’ll just become a soggy, useless mess to everybody around you, including your demented loved one.

Laughter and humor have been two spectacular coping tools—without a good laugh. This past weekend was offered up a few fabulous funny gems that I wanted to share…………. because remember, like Huck Finn author Mark Twain said, “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”

And Target.

The set up- My cousin Anita flew into town for a quick visit……………… Anita hadn’t seen mom in almost 2 years, so we weren’t really sure if she would recognize her……… despite my mother’s phone calls to her niece………….unfortunately, when Anita walked over to give her a hug, mom had no idea who she was. She stood there. Smiled. And mumbled her only remaining English phrase that she uses when she has no idea what the hell is going on: “Oh, I see.” This is not the funny part.

This is my set up for funny.

Anita, took it in gracious stride……………………..

OK, you know what cures a sad hello? A trip to Target. So we go. Mom has a thing for Starbucks Vanilla Frapps. The woman loves them. Well, actually, she hates them until I make her take a sip. Here’s what amuses me about her…………….. and Anita was eye-witness to her funny behavior…………………………….she sips, then bitches and hands the cup back. A minute later she takes the cup back from me and drinks it…………….. She then gives it back and complains that it’s not good for her; that it doesn’t make her feel well (9 months ago, a Frapp was “beautiful” and made her feel good—fickle, fickle). I take it back. I leave it in the cart, wander off and turn around to see mom chugging her Frapp. After this back and forth, she finally starts gushing about how good it is. She proceeds to suck the whole thing down. She does not share. This is a typical mom-ism. She doesn’t seem to like anything—“No. No. No. No. No. No me gusta. No me gusta.” This no-no-no includes pretty much everything…………… we wandered through the baby section looking at the sweat onesies for another cousin and mom didn’t like anything. No. No. No. Anita showed her a sweater that she pulled off the rack. No. No. No. (this coming from a woman who wears the same thing everyday, or at least tries to)……………. Of course, you can’t argue, so you either throw in in the cart (and then she tries to take it out of the cart) or you hang it back up. Drink your Frappuccino, please!

Funny also happens around the check-out area…. Mom, turns out, likes to shoplift. A hilariously new development that I forgot to tell Anita about. So we are standing in line and mom, not realizing that I had already paid for her Frappuccino, takes her cup and tried to hide it as we’re checking out……………….. Anita’s face was worth 1000 Frapps! Realizing that my mom who we call Gaita (a childhood nickname) was walking past the checkout with her Starbucks cup slightly hidden made us both crack-up……………………………… Ah, Gaita. This actually worked out a little better for me because since she was so focused on stealing her already paid for drink, I could actually pay for—and not wrestle product like her hot pink nail polish away from her………………………….. yes, polish she is planning on stealing. Sometimes I just let her toss it into my bag and when she’s not looking I’ll pull it out and pay. It’s a win-win.

Funny again revealed itself the next day—and this is my favorite—when we took mom for a walk. Gaita still had not recognized Anita…………………………….. In fact, mom seemed sort of stand-offish and almost a little mean with her at times. As we walked, I would tell mom that the woman next to her was Anita, her niece…………….. Gaita would not even look at her. Finally, we stopped and again I said, “Gaita, this is your niece Anita…….” Mom looked over Anita’s shoulder and looked at the cactus, “Oh, I see.” Anita the cactus. She finally turned to look at Anita the niece and touched her curly hair—mom wanted to know why she had that hair……………………… the conclusion, mom didn’t seem to like Anita’s hair. Poor Anita. I just laughed……………… and laughed. And laughed. Anita my cactus-cousin. La pobre. She took it all in stride………………… patient she is.

And then Jon, my boyfriend, came over…………………………… Mom hadn’t so much touched Anita in 2 days. Her niece. Her sister’s daughter. When Jon arrived for dinner that night, Gaita seemed very happy and hugged him and told him that she loved him very much. Anita, who has a great sense of humor, just laughed…………………………… Jon got more L-O-V-E in the first 5 minutes he was at the house…………………………………… Pobre prima Anita. Conclusion: Anita is a girl. Mom seems to like the fellas.

“Quotes”

I love quotes. They keep me going. These words remind me that somewhere, buried deep, deep, deep down, I’ve got the strength to keep going — I think of this strength as a little ball of bright-white, super-awesomeness that just needs some oomph to be catapulted up and out. I’ve managed to vomit a little bit of brightness over the last few years… so it’s a work in progress, I guess.

114174576_464edbc376Naturally, with my mom, I have ups and downs… triumphs and bloody losses… and when I feel defeated, it can be devastating for me because I am incredibly hard on myself. I dissect my failures. I think about them. I dwell on them. I over-analyze every word, every moment; I tell myself that I’m a bad daughter.

When I’m walking alone in this dark, lonely place, I use the power of words, other people’s words (including those of my friends and therapist), as a reminder that I am not a terrible daughter, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel — and yes, I have been going through a, “I-am-a-crap-daughter-and-caregiver” couple of weeks, hence the last three blog entries, thanks for asking — I may come out a little bloody, have a few broken ribs, and a slight concussion, but dementia is a fierce opponent.

Some quotes I’m living by this week… and of course, if you have any you love and live by, share:

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” ~Winston Churchill

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

“If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your parents.” ~Ram Dass