I am well aware that in the gamut of behaviors exhibited by Alzheimer’s patients, there are problems vastly worse than the silliness that I contend with on a daily basis. Although minor snits occur, anger, temper, and aggression are largely features that Jeff’s changing brain has steered clear of.
So, it seems a little trivial of me to complain that I live with a clown. Especially since I know that rage and tantrums can be typical, and there are good reasons many Alzheimer’s victims are prescribed seroquel to help keep them calm. Maybe we will never need it. I could be so lucky (while acknowledging that lucky, in Alzheimer’s world, is a relative term.)
What we try to be careful about, the kids and I, is doing anything to provoke the Jeff-in-the-box clown to pop out of his cube and create a public spectacle. Mind you, I am not one to be embarrassed or chagrined at being the escort of someone who is cognitively limited, but it does tend to make you glance around a bit when the 63 year old man you’re strolling through the mall with suddenly turns into an orangutan which hoots, swings his arms, and jumps up and down.
And we’ve learned that if we’re out for lunch, and we make a subtly silly face, meant for our table alone, we’re apt to trigger a quadruple-strength response from Jeff in which the goofy mug is sustained for what feels (to we fairly shy people) like an interminable foreverness, and there are almost guaranteed to be sound effects.
We clam up, is what we do. We chide ourselves and go deadpan in the hopes of not further fanning the flame.
It’s all part of the Alzheimer’s aging backwards phenomenon, and sense of humor reverses direction along with everything else. Last year for Jeff’s birthday my mom gave him the perfect card. I can’t remember what it said, but when you opened it there was a big picture of a chimpanzee holding a bouquet of flowers which jiggled at the end of a spring. Jeff picked up that card every day, opened it, and laughed. And so did we. It delighted him anew every time.
So, far be it from me to be Severus Snape and scowl at lightness and humor, even of the Alzheimer’s type. Not at all. We should all find life funny if we can. For Jeff, silliness serves as a way to cope with the frustrations of a world that’s a lot trickier to contend with than it used to be.
Recently he was all upside-down and backwards about how to open the car door. Generally I point out the proper handle and if need be place his hand right on it. Usually he notices nothing extraordinary about this. But on this particular day, it did occur to him that a) he was having trouble, and b) this is not the kind of curbside service just every spouse provides. So he instantaneously morphed into his version of Cretin-Man. He grunted, he rolled his eyes, he hunched his shoulders and grasped pointlessly at empty air. I waited patiently for this to pass, then opened the door myself. He chuckled resignedly, and got in the car. And off we went, Larry, Moe or Curly (pick one) and I, to do our lunchtime errands.