There’s a lot to be said for being ridiculous — if you mean to.
I often mean to.
But I realized very recently that my family doesn’t always know when I’m joking.
I say something ridiculous. They burst out laughing.
“How can you have known me for so long and not know when I’m joking?” I ask, serious now.
“Because you’ve come out with the craziest things sometimes,” one of them answers. “You’re very special.”
Oh… Of course.
They were there. Witnesses to the not-so-funny moments in the very bad years.
All those times.
When I struggled to get the words out, struggled to even think of them, hold them long enough in my mind — only to have them come out in a mish-mash.
Or when the words came, but I asked the same question over and over until someone said: “You’ve asked that question 5 times in the last hour”.
I can smile at some memories now.
I remember the first time my family pulled out my favourite board game — wanting to help bring back my words. It was a warm day. We sat at the table on the verandah.
I couldn’t remember the rules. Couldn’t find the words.
But we stuck with it, moving slowly through incomprehension and frustration to laughter at the ridiculous words I created.
And — the whole time — I called the game “Scramble”, not Scrabble. And no-one corrected me.
It was, of course, the perfect adjective for my mind and speech, but I didn’t make the connection at the time.
I empathize — very keenly now — with people whose memories have been stolen by head injuries, or diseases like Alzheimer’s.
People like my friend whom I’ll call Mel.
Mel knitted sweaters, blankets, and made gorgeous quilts — prized by her family and friends.
Mel had now forgotten all that. Forgotten even family and friends.
I was surprised at how elegant she still looked. Dressed in a light-blue skirt-set, not a hair out of place.
We sat together in the lounge of the ward where she lived.
It was a locked ward.
Mel smiled at me politely.
I chatted, paused between sentences, searched her face for signs of recognition. I told her it was freezing outside. I told her that I’d recently brought my relatives to see one of her quilts that still hangs in a prominent place that we both know very well.
I patted her arm.
I said I wished I’d asked her to teach me how to quilt.
“I can’t even figure out how to cut the squares of cloth,” I confessed. “And I have no idea how to join them.”
Her eyes fastened on mine.
She seemed to listen, and even nodded.
Then her fingers started to move on her lap. Almost as if they had a mind of their own.
Smoothing out the imagined fabric. Drawing, cutting, even joining our imaginary squares.
I watched, transfixed.
Mel looked up at me as if to ask: “Got it now?”
Sublime. It was sublime.
Mel was teaching without words.
I nodded, at a loss for words.
We sat together.
Silent. Smiling. Holding hands.
It was enough. It had to be enough.
The blank look was back.
I finally, reluctantly, said goodbye. Hugged her and left her there.
I heard the thud and click of the door behind me as it closed and locked.
Dedicated to everyone who has a head injury, dementia, or whose brains work differently.