If there’s one thing I can say for sure about my family, it’s that we’ve had a lot of laughs together. My parents quibbled constantly over small things but they always got over it quickly, and I don’t remember them ever having a major disagreement or going to bed angry with each other. Of course, it’s possible that I wasn’t paying attention or they made an effort to hide such things from us, but in any case my perspective is that we have always been able to find “the funny” in any situation (camping and the teen years don’t count).
That ability is coming in handy these days, as my father slips further away from us into his own world. More and more the one thing that keeps the rest of us strong and allows him to still connect with us is humor.
Dad says (as he does most nights now): “I’m going upstairs to bed” (they haven’t lived in a house with stairs in 20 years).
My mother is exasperated. “What stairs are you talking about?” she says. I say, “If he wants to go upstairs to bed, let him go upstairs to bed.” Dad beams at me.
Mom rolls her eyes and says, “Just don’t trip on your way up.”
Mom sends me an email: “The fire alarm went off last night at 3 am. Dad woke up and asked what I had bought that was making so much noise.”
I fall off my chair laughing.
Mom is complaining about all the junk mail they get. My father says, “At least we don’t eat it.” I ask, “Why would you eat the mail, Dad?” and he says, triumphantly: “We don’t!”
Dad frets about the pants that he can no longer put on by himself. “They have three pant legs instead of two!” he says, “They need to be returned to the Pants Company!”
Later he tells me that the Pants Company is owned by the Chinese, who don’t know how to make anything properly.
We are sitting around the table after dinner making conversation, family stuff (non-dog-related). Dad blurts out suddenly, emphatically: “Cocker spaniel!” Everyone stops talking and looks at him, confused. He looks back at us, equally confused.
We all (him too) crack up.
Dad reports over the phone that he is watching Wives and Daughters. I say, “Oh good! It’s one of your favorites, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he says. “I don’t mind waiting for that one to be over.”
Dad calls from another room: “Gloria?” My mother shouts back: “What?”
He says, “I don’t know where I am! I need help!” She says impatiently, “Well where are you?” Dad: “I don’t know!”
Sometimes it’s hard to be sure which of them has the dementia.
At the end of a particularly trying day, Mom says to my father: “I’m sorry I yelled at you so much today.” “It’s okay,” he tells her cheerfully. “I’m used to it!”
I hug my father and tell him he looks nice. “He’s wearing his three-legged pants,” my mother says.
Dad says, “I’m going upstairs to bed now.”
Mom rolls her eyes and says, “It should be an easy climb.”
And so it goes.