Always laugh when you can.

Thunder woke me this morning. A grim start to an anniversary, although this isn’t an anniversary to celebrate, no. A year ago today I had Peter admitted to memory care. Although he hasn’t been able to remember the day, the month or the year for a long time, I think, if he could remember April 18, 2018 and if he could express himself, he would say it was the worst day of his life.

I do remember and I shudder, but I don’t dwell there.  That’s both good and bad, I suppose.

I’m glad to say that Peter is doing well, better than most, I think. The problems he had those final months at home—falling, getting lost, increasing confusion, hallucinations, anger— are gone. But cured? Of course not. Living apart from the heightened tension and stress at home as I tried to cope with our situation helped both of us enormously.

Settled in now, the staff and residents love him and his silly pranks and goofiness. At last week’s Prom Peter was, as he always has been, the life of the party.  He thanks me and hugs me the way he used to do every time I visit.

My husband’s single-minded determination to problem-solve and his innate sense of humor have carried him through these very rough twelve months. It’s as if he grits his teeth mentally and reckons with how his life is now. He rarely asks when he can go home, but when he does I redirect as best I can, then watch as he turns inside himself, furrows his brow and deals with the knowledge.  After a couple minutes he shakes his head, smiles sadly, and says, “Oh well.” And that’s it. He’s dealt with it.

Peter thrives in care as much as anyone who has a dementia can thrive. Perhaps he thrives too much! His entire adult life he weighed 145 pounds. He loved to boast he could still wear clothes he had when he was twenty. He’s now a fraction under 150 and he’s popped the buttons on his trousers and shirts!  My formerly skinny husband has love handles!

Over the past year I’ve posted about the tough times, and there were lots, but if I were to count, I think there were more light-hearted posts than not. I want to believe that.

Neither of us would have gotten through the year so well without laughter. If laughs were available in a pill, they might be a cure for dementia. 

[Elaine Eshbaugh, PhD, Associate Professor of Family Services & Gerontology at the University of Northern Iowa, writes a hugely helpful blog. Her April 15, 2019 post, What I think caregivers… need to know…”, was exactly what I needed to read this week. Do follow her!]

Header photo: This dogwood lightened my mood as I walked Nobby this morning after the rain.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

19 thoughts on “Always laugh when you can.

  1. Gosh, Judith, you’ve done a wonderful job articulating the amusing moments with very modest mention of the difficult times, from my perspective. It’s so challenging to figure out what exactly to say on a blog, especially when you intend to be encouraging and yet the situation is often quite fraught with all kinds of sorrow and stress.
    Immensely helpful to read this past year’s entries. Thanks.

  2. Beautiful writing, as always! Congratulations on this anniversary, you made it, and you have realized that it was the right thing to do. And Peter did too, in fact he really has done it in spades. Thanks goodness he is the gregarious guy that he is!

  3. Your year was certainly filled with many first and I am happy to hear you and Peter have weathered it as you use laughter to change your outlook. Keep that medicine of yours …your ability to find humor and share as often as you can.

  4. You are amazing .. wish I was as strong but we do the best we can.. both blogs wonderful ❤️

  5. A year goes by awfully fast these days, and it’s true Time heals – not all, but many things. Another great post, Judy, so keep on smiling, laughing, writing. 💞 cj

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