Saturday, February 21, 2015

ALZHEIMER'S--I SEEM TO HAVE MISPLACED MY SENSE OF HUMOR

Joe and grandson Calvin having a big laugh 1994



Have you ever heard something that you thought was humorous and then tried to explain to someone else why it was funny? Sure you have, and I’ll bet it was difficult. 

How do you explain humor? Or better yet, how do you explain sarcastic humor? 

There are so many elements involved in humor that for me, it would be like trying to explain nuclear fission, an inexplicable mystery. 

With thousands of years of speculation, there’s still no real agreement on the purpose of humor. I say, “Who cares”?  I know what it does for me. It makes me feel good and it makes me happy.  

One of my greatest treasures as a mother and grandmother has been that first time one of the children laughed at something they found funny. It was confirmation that they truly were developing a sense of humor, a personality; one they would carry with them throughout their life. 

I had no idea that a person could lose their sense of humor, I mean really lose it, simply not have it anymore. Well, that was before Al, the Grinch, parked his sled in our yard.

There are a few situation comedies that we frequently watch on TV and lately I’ve noticed Joe’s not laughing.  Not that the programs are so excellent, but we could always find things that made us laugh. (How could you not laugh during an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”?)

I thought it was just the same hearing issue. So, I started repeating the punchlines. It didn’t help. Even with the TV cranked up a few decibels, still not much.

Now, I don’t give up easily, so I started rephrasing the lines for him with extended explanation. Oh boy, that doesn’t help at all.

I’ve known people that I would call very literal, meaning they took words in their most basic, exact sense and didn’t leave room for humor.  But this was different. Joe wasn’t like that.

He’d never been one to tell jokes, but he would be the first to react. He had a BIG laugh, one that filled the room. He liked my attempts at humor and called them “Jane Jokes” (meaning mostly corny). 

I’m not saying that Joe has lost all of his sense of humor, it’s just different than before Al. It’s slower, less spontaneous, and requires a little coaxing (we’re still talking about humor here). 

I’ve taken on the challenge to help Joe laugh every day, at least once, if not for him, for me.  Some days it’s more of a challenge than others to pull him away from Al, out of the grumpy zone, and get a good laugh going.

Today was a routine visit to Joe’s neurologist (of course Al tagged along). There was no news, good or bad. We just shook hands, shared a few smiles, listened to the “no news”, and were out the door.
 
On the way home we talked about Joe’s appointment and what it must take for a doctor who is trained to “heal” to go through that process day after day, saying the same things to different faces, each patient sitting there with their own “Al”.  

Wow, if anyone could use a good laugh it probably would be Joe’s doctor.

It may seem trivial to talk about laughing with so many other “Al” issues on the road ahead of us. I understand that there are many pieces of Joe that I may lose. But, laughter and humor are right up there on the top of my list of things I will fight for. And that’s no joke.

At the risk of being politically insensitive, we’re hoping to laugh all the way to the funny farm.

Valentine’s Day was last weekend.  We should have booked a flight from sunny Arizona to frigid Northern Alaska so Joe and Al could go ice fishing.  Did you catch that?  Now that was “sarcastic humor”.