Friday, September 4, 2009

Laugh or Cry?

Elderly Woman Laughing



Two scenes from life-with-grandma yesterday stand out. How to respond? Well...

First: G-Ma, feeling fragile, ( "I'm on my way out, I think...") sits on the doctor's examining table. He says, "I'm going to take a look at you now" and uses the foot pedal to raise the table up-up-up.....G-Ma's face reacts in shock, fear, confusion (she thought she was leaving her body right then and there, floating up-up-up to heaven.)

Nice doctor shouts, "I did that, don't worry! I'm sorry, I should have warned you!"

G-Ma bursts out in riotous laughter, telling us that she had thought her spirit was leaving her body at long last. We all laughed hard and it turned her mood around. Laughing is good.

Anyone else out there holding the hand of a parent with dementia? Being a live 2-way filter, protecting him/her from a suddenly confusing world while simultaneously protecting the world from a suddenly confusing person?

Well, you can laugh or cry. (In reality, of course, you do a lot of both.)

I worry about sounding disrepectful when I share some of the laughing moments. Believe me, that is not my intent. Nor is it a way of denying the sad truth of this journey. It's just that I have to find the humor or I'll drown in other, less pleasant emotions.

I remember Mom and her sisters laughing at similar events with their own parents. (Yes, I'm taking my blood pressure medicines and not planning to walk this same genetic road...)

So here is the biggest laugh of the day. Or cry, depending on how you look at it:

Mom needed at CT Scan of her brain. Walking into the hospital, we passed a wheelchair-bound woman who had obviously had some major head surgery, as her entire head was wrapped in a huge turban of bandages with various tubes coming out at all angles. Mom looked at her, laughed (!) and said loudly, "Hey! Nice hat!"

What do you do? Laugh or cry?

I didn't have time to do either right then. I was too busy steering Mom in the other direction, which is hard to do with your eyes closed and teeth gritted.

I've got to laugh. On good days, Mom does, too.

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