Saturday, April 23, 2016

Laughter in Despair - Patti J. Smith

It was just recently a dear friend informed me her husband, who is also close to my husband and me, was diagnosed with early onset dementia. It was devastating news because we love them both so much and know what they will be facing in the coming years.

As one of the writers fortunate enough to be part of the Helping Hands Press family, I participated in a blog tour a while back on the topic of Dementia/Alzheimers. My post dealt with the challenges of being a caregiver for my mother who was afflicted. I addressed the mood swings, heartbreak, and the importance of reaching out for help … but left out the necessity of humor to temper the ever-present despair.

I had called my friend one day, telling her it was tempting to carry around a tape recorder that repeated, “You’re right, mom, I’m wrong, and I’m sorry.” (I learned early on, when my mom was having one of her bad spells and accused me of something off the wall, it was easier to just agree with her and move on instead of arguing because ten minutes later she would forget all about it.) After I had vented there was a moment of silence then all of a sudden we both burst out into laughter.

Roles have reversed … now my friend is calling me. She told me their cat is gaining quite a bit of weight. It took some time to notice that her husband would feed the cat, forget that he did and feed him again, and again … much to the pleasure of their now flabby furbaby. It also solved the mystery of the canned cat food supply that was disappearing at an alarming rate. Once again, we ended up in hysterics.
Dementia is not something to joke about – it’s a cruel disease … I saw what it did to my mother and now what it’s doing to my friend’s husband. Yes, some might think we’re heartless to find any part of this tragedy humorous but in the long run, it’s those moments that shed light into the darkness and provides strength for another day.

Bob Hope wisely said, “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”

P.S. One of my favorite memories was when our hospice nurse arrived one day. She always determined my mom’s state of mind by posing a question, i.e., what year it was. About a week before mom passed away we were having a particularly tough morning. The nurse asked the name of our current president. My mom frowned and with a sigh of disgust said, “Obama, and he’s an idiot.” I rushed out of the room before I cracked up in front of her and picked up the phone .

Patti J. Smith was born in Wimpole Park, England. She lived in England and Morocco as well as several state-side Air Force Bases and considers her father's last assignment, Moses Lake, Washington, her hometown. She audited for the Dept. of Labor and Veteran's Administration Offices of Inspector General, served in the U.S. Army Reserve (Transit Control Unit and Criminal Investigation Division) and recently retired as a background investigator.

Patti lives in Vista, CA with her husband and is a full-time caregiver to her uncle. She is a member of the Association of Christian Therapists, serves as a Regional Coordinator for the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and leads Rachel's Hope After-Abortion Healing Retreats.

Her writing includes devotionals, light romance and suspense, and her strong faith is reflected in each genre. She is currently working on Series II – Volume One of her Grave Obsessions series tentatively titled, “Precious Garden”. She is a prolific blogger and reader, and proudly admits to being a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan and Fantasy Football fanatic. Her travel adventures include Spain, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Fiji, South Korea and almost all states - including Hawaii and Alaska.

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  1. Loved this post - I experienced the same things with my mom and my mother-in-law. There were some times it was easier to laugh than to cry.