An irate elderly customer called the newspaper office, loudly demanding to know where her Sunday edition was.
“Ma’am,” said the employee, “today is Saturday. The Sunday paper won’t be delivered until tomorrow.”
There was quite a pause on the other end of the phone.
“Oh,” said the lady. “I’ll bet that’s why no one was in church today, too.”
As dementia began to steal pieces of Dad’s memory, one way he tried to maintain control was by knowing the date and the time. I helped all I could by making sure all the clocks agreed, and I posted a monthly calendar with upcoming events, marking off each day so he could tell what day it was. Several times a day I’d see him standing in front of the refrigerator, studying the calendar as if it were a complicated academic work. Between visits to the calendar, he used the newspaper to refresh his memory. At breakfast, he’d slide a section across the table and check the date before going on to check the headlines or the box scores. In the evening when we were all watching TV, he’d pick up a section of the paper from the coffee table. He wasn’t particular which section it was. If I saw him gazing at the classified section, I knew he was checking the date again.
An elderly couple had dinner at the home of some equally elderly friends. After eating, the wives went into the kitchen to fix coffee.
The host said, “Last night we went to a great new restaurant. I would highly recommend it.”
The guest said, “What’s the name of the restaurant?”
The host thought for a moment and finally said, “What’s the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know the one; it’s red and has thorns.”
“Yea, that’s the one. Hey, Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to last night?”
During the day, Mom and Dad spent most of their time in their sitting room watching TV. Sometimes Mom’s attention would wander from whatever quiz show was on, and she’d engage Dad in conversation.
“Hi,” she’d say.
“Hi,” he’d say, giving her the attention she wanted. “You’re beautiful.”
“Thank you, and you’re handsome.”
“You’re my wife.”
“And you’re my husband. Now what’s your name,” she’d say with a giggle.
I was never sure if they were exchanging sweet nothings or refreshing their memories.
A police officer stopped an elderly gentleman for speeding and asked very nicely to see his license.
“I wish you guys would get your act together,” he said. “Yesterday you took my license away, and today you expect me to show it to you.”
The State of Florida requires all sorts of documentation to get a driver’s license: a passport or certified copy of a birth certificate, proof of residency, proof of insurance and a few other miscellaneous pieces of paper. But when Dad tottered up to the counter, barely able to walk and unable to find his Texas license without help, he had no trouble getting a new license. The really scary thing is that four years later they renewed his license by mail. Fortunately, I was smarter than the State of Florida. I kept his car keys hidden.
An elderly widow lived with her son and three grandchildren on a small farm in Canada, just yards away from the North Dakota border. Their land had been the subject of a minor dispute between the United States and Canada for years. One day her son came into her room holding a letter.
“I just got some news, Mom,” he said. “The government has come to an agreement with the people in North Dakota. They’ve decided that our land is really part of the United States. We have the right to approve or disapprove of the agreement. What do you think?”
“Call them right now and tell them we accept!” she said. “I don’t think I could stand another one of these Canadian winters!”
It didn’t matter to Mom whether she was in Texas or Florida or Canada. If the temperature was a degree away from her comfort zone, which incidentally changed from moment to moment, she headed for the thermostat. There was more than once when I tried to explain to her that the heat didn’t need to be set at 90 when it was already 90 outside.