Laughter Sparkles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Some funny and poignant moments during my mom's last years.

Submitted: November 03, 2018

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Submitted: November 03, 2018

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Eleven years ago this month of November, my mom, Carolyn, died after almost a decade with Alzheimer's Disease.  She was a witty woman, and no one would appreciate these tenderly funny/poignant moments than Carolyn.

When you are a long term caregiver/care manager of someone with a dementia, it is vitally helpful to have a sense of humor, or quickly acquire one.  In this way, you have a fighting chance of retaining your own sanity during these long years of a loved one's decline.

The following moments have been lifted up and out of a truly difficult passage in our family's history:

1.  During the months Carolyn lived in a residential assisted living facility within the memory care unit, she told me with the innocence of a child, of wanting to roll over and over in the wide, open field outside her room.  I sensed she was symbolically referencing leaving the body and being free.  It was a wonderful analogy.

2.  In the last residential assisted living home where she lived out her last two years on earth, she answered their phone, unknown to the staff, when she first arrived.  She said in a professional voice, "Law Offices.  Carolyn speaking."  Having been a legal secretary in her early adulthood, she still retained this memory.  The callers to the ALF* were really flummoxed by that one!

3.  As the disease progressed, I took to trimming Carolyn's hair at needed intervals.  We'd set up in a sort of sun room at the ALF.  She thought we were back in Charlotte NC, at Ivey's Department  Store, downtown.  She'd often gotten hair services in the 1940s and early 1950s at the store's mezzanine beauty shop.  When she said this to me, I knew she thought I was her beautician from those years.  I went along with it.  You see, I found it so sweet, I just met her there.  And that is actually the best way to handle these situations.  Because the store was still in business in my childhood and teens, it was actually possible for me imagine the situation visually.

4.  One day when I visited my mother, at the ALF, she asked me, "How is Mother?"  She was referring to my grandmother, Blanche, who had died at least twenty years earlier.  I told my mom that as far as I knew, she was doing just great, even though I hadn't seen her recently.  Carolyn was satisfied with that.  Actually, I was being truthful!

5.  My mom's ALF owner had a young son who had his own wife and young family.  One day he was filling in at the ALF.  Carolyn asked in his presence if he was my boyfriend.  I thought it was funny, being 25 or 30 years older than this young man.  But it was hilarious to see how horrified he was to have my mom think this!  He never caught on to this sort of work, lacking the critical humor necessary.  Bless him!

6.  During my mom's active dying stage, in the care of hospice who served her at this poignant time, she roused hours out from her death to inquire, "What now?"  I told her it was a hurry up and wait game, at heaven's gate.  She was just fine with that.  The next morning, she died in the presence of a hospice nurse at 9AM.  The thing is, she'd always been a morning person.  It was like Carolyn to be so polite about her leave taking.  

As the years roll on, I've become used to being an adult orphan.  Luckily, memories of my mom's years before Alzheimer's have returned in full measure.  There are so many fun and humorous times through the years she was my mother, when we were a family.  She was a graceful woman.  Sometimes I ask myself, "What Carolyn would do?," in a sticky situation.  

"Carolyn, I do my best, dear lady!"  

*ALF refers to Assisted Living Facility, where primarily older adults live when they need more skilled care.

(Do you have your own poignant type experiences with a loved one's decline and eventual death?  How did the experiences grow you as a person?)


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