The Dementia Diaries

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.

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68 Comments to “The Dementia Diaries”

  1. Now we know where you get your great sense of humor from. :)

  2. I love you sister.

  3. The Beiges are truly hilarious! Glad there’s that to see you through.

    • The best part is that half the time they aren’t even trying to be funny. They just ARE. But as soon as I crack up they get it and start laughing too. It does get us through a lot :)

  4. Lovely post and an inspiration for rest of us to have a sense of humour even in very trying times.

    Am I right in assuming that the “girl in glasses” is our own memsaab in the 1st photo?

  5. Three-legged pants?? I can bet I can explain why they are required ;-)

  6. Love the writing, love the writer, love her family, and love the photos, especially the one with the oversized bow tie!

    • I think he was dressed up as a character (Alfalfa?) from Little Rascals for a May Day celebration :) There is another photo with him in that costume alongside his little brother, who is in blackface as Buckwheat! (It was the late 30s!!!) :)

  7. awww, love this post of yours. I am so happy to see this side of yours, makes me like u even more :)

  8. Lots and lots of hugs to you, and your family. Though I can see them rolling up their eyebrows at all the hugs coming from some stranger. :)

  9. What a lovely post. I can’t say which one of those little anecdotes is my favourite, but this one would come somewhere at the top of the list:

    “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!”

    What great parents you have, Greta. It shows! :-)

    • LOL! That is a good one. Mom told me about it and I reminded her that one of the main things in caring for dementia patients is to provide a consistent atmosphere of comfortable routine—Mom yelling at him has been routine for them for coming up on 50 years now! :D

  10. Thanks for sharing…

  11. What a lovely post, and a beautiful tribute to your parents. Its so hard when a parent starts to drift, but it’s wonderful that he has his personality and humour intact. And your mum’s wit is delightful!

    • We are lucky that his sweet and tolerant personality is intact. Except for his rage at the Chinese Pants Company, he is very easy-going still…but he feels it all very keenly during the times when he’s more “here” and it’s hard for him. My mother takes really really good care of him too, despite the eye-rolling :)

  12. I just love old B&W snaps!!! So nice 2 share these and ur memories with us… it makes us feel closer 2 u…

  13. This is the best post I have ever read!
    Bless you!
    Your parents are great!
    Give them a virtual hug!

  14. What a heartwarming little insight into your storehouse of humour!!! Lovely, just lovely!!

  15. This one is really surprise gift for you readers Memsaab.You look preety much like your Dad.That small dog is cute.Thanks for sharing your childhood memories with us.

  16. Still trying to figure out what to say, I am at a loss for words. Yes you are right every day is an adventure which brings new gems to light. Let what I feel after I reading this post remain unsaid.

    • It’s situation which leaves us all at a loss for words sometimes (yes, even me) :(

      Yet I know that I am lucky to still have him around, as hard as it is.

      *big hug* :)

    • Hey Shilpi, Won’t it be a good idea to show us pics of u with your dad? Its been a while since we have not heard anything about him.

      Its been like ‘Aaj se bees saal pehle…..’ (Its been twenty years….. – for the benefit of Greta) that we have read about him in this blog. :-D

  17. Such a BEAUTIFUL post this is, having a sense of humour definitely helps one get through life. And i totally love the image above, from the way everyone is standing, to the clothes, specs and the look on everyone’s face it really reminds me of the retro type styling of Mad men

    • Ha ha! Early 70s (1973 I think) all the way! I love the way mom and dad are laughing out loud at something while we three kids are more in the “hurry up and let’s get this over with” mode :)

  18. A heartwarming and heartrending post, Greta. Your great love for your family certainly shows.

    Oh, and I also love the old photos!

  19. I think I’ve mentioned before that I totally love and admire the Beiges but it bears repeating. Their kid’s pretty awesome too :P

  20. Memsaab, a lovely and moving post. I’m smiling through tears. Heartfelt best wishes to you and your family.

  21. What great memories to have and treasure…..Thanks for sharing them Greta.

  22. Greta, what can I say? I think you already know what I feel about you and your lovely, lovely family. Not only are you brave and positive, but your natural sense of humor must come in very handy in the current situation. Hang in there. *Hugs to the Beiges*

    • We are hanging in there. Not much of an alternative!

      When I called them last evening Dad was watching the news. He complained to me about how depressing it was (he’s not wrong!), and I told him to have Mom put a movie in for him.

      So he told my Mom (she was standing there next to him): “Greta and I want to watch a movie now.” He gets all mixed up with the phone and us actually being in the room with him…which when you think about it is really nice for him. A phone call is the same to him as a face to face visit. I’m a little envious of that sometimes :)

  23. There aren’t very many situations in which humor is not a lifesaver. Thinking of you.

  24. The best post ever. Loved the first pic, you have a great family. Thanks for sharing!!

  25. This is your best post ever. You should publish beyond the blog.

  26. How lucky you are that your father still has his humour. It makes the process of dealing with dementia that much more humane. Reading your blog made me understand why having a family is a good thing.

    • He is such a blessing, afflicted as he is. He retains his sense of humor, although he is really sad too when he realizes what is happening to him. It is the cruelest of fates, really. But hopefully we can help him (and each other) get through it.

  27. Yes, best post ever. And you look like your dad.
    You know I talk a little like your dad myself. But I’m much younger–does that mean…
    Oh never mind. At least people find me funny.

  28. Such a beautiful post, thanks so much for sharing – it is hard for me to read about parents these days, but great ones are such a truly special gift worth celebrating. You have a wonderful family, but then you already know that. And you’re so right of course, it really is so important to keep the ability to laugh at life, even when it breaks your heart. Laughter is another special gift.

  29. I am laughing and crying at the same time. All of u have a great sense of humor. And loveeeeee the old fotos.

    Thanks for sharing a little insight into ur life.

    lots of luv and hugs

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