I had breakfast with J and our son T this week at our regular diner. J has early onset Alzheimer’s disease and is often confused. To the extent she talks, she mostly mirrors the last sentence she has heard.
Me: Do you want eggs?
J: Do you want eggs?
Me: How about bacon?
J: How about bacon?
I ordered her an omelet, toast and coffee.
During this visit and the last, J laughed a lot. Her laughter is not in response to anything we’ve said. Indeed, I’m pretty sure she only picks up bits and pieces at best. At first, this behavior disturbed me. It doesn’t feel like a connection when the laughter doesn’t relate to the situation or conversation.
Then I mentioned it to a friend who cared for her mother with Alzheimer’s. She said, “J laughs because she’s happy to see you.” Of course this seems obvious now, but I needed someone else to point this out. (Thanks, P.)
This revelation also underscored the importance of spending time with J, however painful it is. The whole family agrees, it’s also harder on us not to visit than to visit.
I was away for Thanksgiving, and so our daughter, L, saw J on her own. L was sad that the family was not together for Thanksgiving and that the home where we spent her childhood holidays is gone. (I sold it in May.)
L told J she was having a bad day and J took her in her arms. For a moment, L glimpsed her mother before she began slipping away and L was comforted.
So this is where we find the moments of connection eight years in: in laughter and sadness.