Little moments of shared laughter go a long way toward making the burdens of dementia endurable for both caregiver and patient. At the heart of the grief of Alzheimer's disease there is a little glimmer of joy springing from the fact that no matter what state our loved ones are in, at least they are still with us. Shared laughter brings that joy to light even if just for a moment.
I love to laugh with my mom. Before she was sick we shared the same sense of humor, and when that surfaces now I feel such gratitude that I still have her with me. Of course just behind that emotion there are tears because she's obviously in the process of leaving me; but for today she's here, and there are opportunities to connect with her still.
On a rainy afternoon in 1980, my mother and I sat in the waiting room outside my doctor's office. I was expecting my first child, and that day we shared the waiting room with a half dozen other women, all of whom were in varying stages of pregnancy. We were not a talkative group and there was silence in the room when a UPS truck pulled up. The driver sprinted to the door, stuck his head into the room and shouted, "Delivery!" He then focused on the startled faces of the group of pregnant women, blushed, dropped his package on the floor, and fled. Mom and I both burst into laughter, and when we realized we were the only ones laughing, the joke became funnier still. I'm not sure why the other pregnant ladies didn't connect the word "delivery" with the imminent arrival of their own special packages, but Mom and I sure did. And why didn't anyone else think the UPS man's obvious embarrassment was hilarious?
Move forward nearly thirty years to a hot July afternoon in 2009. Mom and I were being chauffeured to an appointment by my husband. He had taken an afternoon off from farming, which was a real sacrifice of love for him, and he was not in the best of humors. Mom and I both sensed this and were a little giggly--his taciturn face and abrupt answers to our lighthearted comments were not bringing out the best in us. Mom looked in the mirror and said, "My hair sure does look nice when I'm headed to the beauty shop to get it fixed."
"No, Mom, we're going to the eye doctor," I said.
Exasperated, my husband spoke slowly and clearly, "We are going to the dentist!"
Mom and I both laughed until we cried, as my husband shook his head in resignation. We were indeed headed to the dentist's office for Mom's six month checkup.
Sharing laughter with Mom reminds me of how blessed we are to be together still.
Scripture: "A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing..." (Proverbs 17:22 AMP).