At Adagio we may forget that we ate breakfast but remnants of proverbs and songs from our childhood slip out between the spaces of memory.When a spoon or fork drops onto the floor either Grace or I will repeat, “and the dish ran away with the spoon.” Then we try to remember the nursery rhyme from the beginning. She usually gets “the little dog laughed” and I finish “to see such sport.” Now how does that nursery rhyme start? Sometimes she will remember, “Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon.”
If she doesn’t immediately remember, I give her time. Or she will hold up her thumb. “Put in his thumb and pulled out…. What was it?” Once again we finish the rhyme and try to work back to the beginning. In case you don’t remember, it is “Little Jack Horner sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie.”
One of you commented: “The other night, I was eating leftover marshmallows, and the sugar stuck to my teeth. I thought to myself, “She’ll rot her damn teeth.” then I thought ‘Now why do I say that?’ Oh yea, it’s a joke:Teacher: Spell Rotterdam, and put the word in a sentence.
Kid: My sister ate all my candy, and I hope she’ll rot her damn teeth.
“I forget so many lovely, wonderful things. Words drift in and out of my useful vocabulary, and I remember the refrain to a ditty, ‘rot-er-dam teeth.’”
I can’t remember jokes to save my neck. But there is a joke involving people choosing between heaven or hell and they come to a swimming pool full of mud. Citizens of whatever the place--heaven? hell?--are lounging at the side of the pool. It looks good. The joke ends with our favorite and oft repeated line,
“Coffee break’s over. Back on your heads.”
Working back to the beginning is a healthy exercise as we tell ourselves the stories of our lives. The way we remember an event may not be another family member’s memory. We still have time to ask, “Do you remember….? How did that happen?”
Dementia may rob our senior of the ability to engage in meaningful conversation. But by telling their stories families can, in their laughter and smiles, reassure their parent that they were important and still are as important as ever.
I know a boarding house not far awayWhere they serve onion soup three times a day.
Oh, how those boarders yell
When they hear the dinner bell!
Oh, how those onions smell
Three times a day!
Oh, the stories we can tell!