These days Peter often wears two shirts because he doesn’t remember he already has a shirt on. Sometimes he wears two socks on one foot, sometimes no socks at all. The other day he fished around in his pocket and finally pulled out a cracked white plastic spoon, a mechanical pencil and a tan sock with red, white and orange stripes. He studied the sock, shrugged, then used it as a handkerchief. I couldn’t help it, I laughed and laughed and he did too.
Sometimes laughter is all you’ve got.
I knew his hankies were well past their use-by date, so I bought new ones. When I took them to him he was as thrilled as if they were woven with gold threads. A day or so after that, he pulled out all eight of the new handkerchiefs, still neatly folded. Maybe now he’ll put the socks on his feet, rather than in his pocket, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
As days go by my husband loses more and more words and his voice is fading, not that he was ever very loud or even very vocal. He’s long since forgotten my name, as well as family and friends’ names. That makes me sad, but it wasn’t unexpected. Now though he doesn’t know his dog’s name—Nobby. That’s very sad. Even more surprising, he can’t remember the name of his favorite Disney character either—Mickey Mouse!
Laughter can make sad things better…sometimes.
When I walked in Sunday Peter was sitting in the lounge holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’d brought his favorite McVitties Chocolate Digestive biscuits to have with tea. “Do you want to finish your beer and wait awhile before I make tea?” I asked.
“I don’t have a beer,” he huffed.
“What’s that in your hand then?” He doubled over laughing. I suggested he set the dominoes up while I fixed tea.
“OK, but I don’t know where my room is, do you?” He was surprised when I said yes. We only played three hands. Generally he plays well enough with a little prompting, but he was struggling. He seemed tired.
“Let’s finish this game next time,” I said, gathering my things. “But remember, you’re ahead by thirty points,” I told him.
“Will I see you tomorrow or the day before?” he asked.
“Today is the day before,” I said. He smacked his forehead and laughed again.
“Good thing you don’t make calendars,” I said. He shook his head and waved me off.
Sometimes laughter really is all you’ve got.
Header photo: Peter holds his beer.
2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.