Nancy Evins: When you laugh to keep from crying...

Nancy Evins • Updated Apr 15, 2018 at 2:00 PM

I was touched by The Democrat’s columnist, Becky Andrews, who recently wrote about dementia and those who cared for the people who have it. Therefore, I chose to continue the discussion in today’s column. 

I was reminded of my cousin who lived in Knoxville when he and his wife took her father in to live with them and who was suffering from a form of dementia. As they ate one evening in the dining room, the old man suddenly said, ”There’s a bear in that chair” as he pointed to the end of the table.

My cousin said they usually went along with what he said but saw he was distressed so they told him, no, it wasn’t a bear but a jacket lying across the back of the chair. When the daughter left the table to go to the kitchen, the father whispered to my cousin, “Is that bear still over there pretending to be a chair?”

I had played in team games with a lady in her 70s several times, and her husband suffered from the same malady as the bear watcher. She would bring him to the club, place him at an empty table and fix a plate of snacks, along with a soda, for him to have as she played. He seemed quite content to do this but often would come to our playing table to watch. Suddenly, he would laugh and look embarrassed when one of us made a bid. We were never sure which bid seemed so risqué to him.

I was discussing him with his wife and made the comment he seemed happy, but she said he was always running away from home, saying when caught he wanted to go home.

She would go after him and bring him back to their house, telling him this was their home.

One day after retrieving him, she brought him in, walked him around the room and showed him various pictures of their family.

“This is your son,” she would say. Then, “this is your daughter.”

After they had made the rounds, she said she took his face in her hands and turned him to look at her. “And I am your wife.”

He looked her up and down and replied, “Well, I ain’t buying that.”

I was never sure my mother suffered from what was called “senile dementia” or not as one of her doctors would put her on a strong medication, then take her off without tapering it off. I got many calls from her assisted living facility that she had fallen and was taken by ambulance to Saint Thomas Hospital.

I would be on my way to the hospital, only to find out that once again her medication was removed.

She was 5-feet, 6-inches tall and thought she was too tall so you can imagine how she felt when her only child was 5-feet, 9½-inches tall at 13 years old.

My father was tall, and one of his cousins was 6-feet, 7-inches tall, so she had a lot of concern about me who was taller than all the girls and most of the boys in our high school.

I remember the cousin making a talk on the evils of cigarettes and commenting he had smoked from an early age, and everyone could see how it had stunted his growth.

When I finally persuaded my parents to move to Nashville, I went by regularly and got their clothing for laundry, among many other things.

One day, I realized I had lost a pair of my favorite slacks, so I asked her if I had mistakenly mixed them up with their things. I described them in detail, and she said, no, she didn’t have the slacks.

Several times after, I would ask again and get the same answer. Then, later, I saw she was wearing the belt that went with the slacks, and I said, “Oh, good. I see you have found my slacks.”

She sighed and said, ”no, I have some just like them, but they were too long, and I had to cut about 4 inches off.”

I said, ”I hope you enjoy them as much as I used to enjoy mine.”

God bless all the victims and their caregivers, and tell my children that despite their concerns for the past several years, I do not – I think – need their help in that area yet.

Nancy Evins, of Lebanon, is a certified bridge instructor. Email her at [email protected]


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