I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that.  I just couldn’t control it.  My stomach hurt I was laughing so hard.  Yes, it was at Mary Ann’s expense, but I just couldn’t stop, and she finally started laughing too.

Yesterday, I started adjusting the sheet and bedspread on her bed while she was standing next to me.  Her question was almost matter-of-fact.  Did I find the squirrel foot?

She has had hallucinations often in recent months.  There have been rats and mice in her bed.  Some have bitten her.  She has seen the Thursday people, the man and woman and their two children.  In the past she has seen a cat, other people, a bird sitting on the window, strings and threads almost constantly.  She has tried to pick up things from the carpet, things that were not there.  She has seen bugs in her food and other bits and pieces of foreign matter.

“Did you find the squirrel foot?”  The question didn’t just tickle it, it set it off my funny bone like the fuse on a fire cracker.  I burst into laughter.  At first, Mary Ann did not at all think it was funny.  After a while, she started laughing at me laughing.  Then, even though the hallucination had been real for her, probably the night before, finally, she was laughing together with me at the thought of there being a squirrel foot in the bed.

It was good to laugh.  It was good for both of us.  It is interesting that a sort of relaxed warmth and affection seemed to surface after our bout of laughter.  I really don’t remember the last time we laughed like that.  Laughter doesn’t come so easily these days.

I don’t know if it is just me, or if it is common to other Caregivers.  My sense of humor seems not to be working so well any more.  I have often taken myself too seriously, but I have also enjoyed kidding around with folks.  Since I am, as they say, vertically challenged, I have endured a lot of smart-aleck comments.  My defense mechanism of choice has been to beat people to the punch and make a joke about my height before they had a chance to do it.

In earlier years, it was all great fun.  Now, I find myself moving too quickly to feeling put down or belittled when I am the object of what would have in the past seemed to be just good fun.

When someone is being light-hearted and silly, the weight of twenty-two years of battling Parkinson’s,  the daily struggles that come with that battle, sometimes steal from me the capacity to just let go and laugh.

Often when ministering to someone who had lost a loved one a couple of weeks earlier, I would observe out loud to them how hard it is to deal with people around them just going on with their normal lives, conversing with one another about trivial things as if nothing had happened, while their world was in a shambles.

Full time Caregivers who are completely immersed in the task sometimes find it hard to let go of the struggle and relax, have fun, be silly.  The Caregiving task seems to expand and fill every corner of their world, leaving little room for the trivial.

It is easy to turn into a Grump.  I have come to do grumpy pretty well.  Even so, we have our moments.  Sometimes muscles that seem to have atrophied, the silly muscles, are revived by something unexpected.   At the risk of being indelicate, we have waged war on constipation for decades.  When there is some especially normal and plentiful activity (if you catch my drift), I can’t help but celebrate with a hearty “Good Job!!!”   I laugh, even if Mary Ann doesn’t.  Who would have thought such a thing could bring such joy.  Dr. Oz would be proud!  (By the way, the first person who reveals to my lovely wife that I mentioned this in my blog, will wake up the next morning with a squirrel foot in his/her bed.)

Gratefully, twenty-two years of Parkinson’s and a couple of years of mild and periodic dementia have still not stolen Mary Ann’s wicked sense of humor.  She has a knack for surprising people with an often softly spoken zinger.

I am not really sure why, but recently, the load has seemed a little lighter, even though there has not really been any change in its contents.  It seems a little easier to relax and be sort of normal, at least our version of normal.

Maybe there is still hope for the return of a sense of humor that has seemed to wander off.  Who would have thought that the search for a squirrel foot in Mary Ann’s bed could have such power!

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