Laughter

Today I had a good visit with Mom. And I didn’t expect to. I checked my office voice mail this morning, and she had left three messages in the course of about four minutes, sounding very confused. She has a hard time conceptualizing that she can speak to that voice mail and know that I will eventually hear what she has said. That was actually another early sign of disease – she was confused about the answering machine at her house. I would call her and leave messages, and later she would tell me that she was responding to me – meaning she was standing there listening to my messages and talking back to the machine – and she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t acknowledge what she was saying.

She wasn’t sitting the lobby of her facility when I arrived this morning, about 40 minutes before lunchtime. She often hangs out with friends in the lobby, and beginning about an hour before mealtime, the lobby fills with residents waiting to file into the dining room. She was resting on her bed when I got to her apartment. She seems to be taking mid-morning naps a lot these days. She came out and immediately said, “I called you.” I was braced for what she might need to report. I asked if something was wrong. “No. I just called you.” Whew! Then she said, “Whoever hears me talking must think I’m an oddball.” She simply does not get that only I hear her messages, but I reassured her that that was the case. “Oddballs are usually entertaining,” I said. She laughed. She muttered something that I couldn’t hear and I said, “What?” “I don’t remember,” she said. And she laughed and laughed. I am always so relieved when she laughs. And I think that despite everything bad that goes along with Alzheimer’s, I am lucky that Mom has retained so much of her love of laughter. She always had a strong, loud laugh, and she still does. Now she just aims it at herself most of the time. And what a relief that is, that she can laugh at what must be such a frustrating thing, forgetting in seconds what you wanted to say.

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