Groundhog Day

Mom loved the movie “Groundhog Day.” I never knew exactly what it was that tickled her about it – the absurdity of the plot, the Sonny and Cher song that woke up Bill Murray each day, Bill Murray himself. She liked to laugh. And the day itself has significance within a circle of our friends – basically it’s a reason to have a weekend-long party each year, where we declare that it’s significant because of its insignificance.

Today offers a different kind of Groundhog Day familiarity. Patrick and I are in Michigan with his family, trying to offer a little respite for his mom and his oldest brother and his family, who all have been looking after Patrick’s dad through an extended hospitalization. But as is typical for caregivers, no one is really taking a break from it even though Patrick, his middle brother and I are all here.

Meanwhile, Mom remains about the same. I visited her in the evening on Wednesday and found her on a couch, reclining after dinner. I greeted her and she said, with enthusiasm, “I thought you were dead.” And then we both cracked up. I’d like to think that’s not a reflection on the week that passed between my visits, but I suppose one never knows for sure what leads her to say the things she says. I talked to an aide who said she had been having a good day, and that she is always easy to work with in the evenings. When she shows signs of getting sleepy, he can gently coax her to her room to be changed and put to bed. She was showing signs of being sleepy while I was there, curling up on the couch and closing her eyes. I rubbed her head and kissed her goodnight.

I was at the Alz center that evening to attend a memorial service for Dr. Liss. Several people who had known him and worked with him for years spoke about his dedication to patients and their families. When the facilitator opened the floor to others, I just made a quick comment. That very day, my colleague had put out a press release about research suggesting that promoting happiness among the elderly can help sustain their working memory and decision-making. And it reminded me of advice Dr. Liss would offer to caregivers who fretted about their loved ones’ agitation. Redirect, he would advise. And try a compliment. For women: “Your hair looks beautiful today.” For anyone: “How about some ice cream?” Keep it simple. In that way and in many others, Dr. Liss’s extended anecdotal experience was way ahead of the research. And that’s why so many of us will always hold him close in our hearts. He knew what we were going through. He really, really knew.

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8 comments so far

  1. Laura on

    Lol on the “I thought you were dead” comment! I think of Mom every time i catch a clip of Groundhog Day and remember our favorite parts. I also remember the compassion and intelligence of Dr. Liss at Support Group. I’m lucky I got to meet him!

  2. becky honeywell on

    Thanks for another great post. I spent most of Saturday with my mother, running errands. She was in a good mood, and just made a ton of jokes. I love it when she laughs. She can be so witty – it comes and goes these days.

  3. Gemma McLuckie on

    What a great tribute to Dr. Liss. Thank you.

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, Laura – I don’t think I realized you and Mom shared the love of that movie. Did you see it together?? I’m glad you got to meet Dr. Liss, too. He was one of a kind.

    Becky – I’m glad you had a good day with your mom. It definitely makes things better to have a loved one who still cracks jokes and can laugh with you. My mom always had a robust laugh, and she still enjoys a good chuckle to this day.

    Gemma – Well, thank you. I think we all felt ourselves a little adrift in considering the magnitude of the loss. The support group will continue if you would still want to attend.

  5. patwhite67 on

    Thank you for speaking what many of us feel as we remember Dr. Liss. His empathy and understanding kept me coming to the support group for those many months and years.

  6. momsbrain on

    Hi, Pat – I couldn’t resist saying something. He was always so kind to me. It was interesting timing that that press release had gone out that very same day, and so instantly reminded me of Dr. Liss and led me to reflect on his wisdom.

  7. Jim Ellsworth on

    I too love that movie. And I’ve come to see that we all keep getting chances every day of our lives to begin getting it “right,” even if we don’t wake every day to the same song again and again.

  8. momsbrain on

    Jim, I’m not sure how I missed this comment! I agree, there is always a chance to try, try again. Thanks for commenting!


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