My mother, who has dementia, has a small repertoire of phrases she repeats.
When I enter her bedroom each morning, she asks, “Is it time to get up already?”
I reply, “Yes.”
She states, “I might as well stay in bed. I’ve nothing to do.”
Then she sits up and complains, “My head is spinning.”
I respond, “There’s no hurry.”
Transferring to her wheelchair, she drops and comments, “I don’t sit down, I fall.”
This conversation is the same every morning and continues over the hours. I can predict what Mom will say while I dress, feed, and care for her. Each day is the same as the last one. We never have conversations because her ability to converse has left her. I ask her questions, and her answers are always the same.
When she talks to strangers, the narrative is predictable. She tells them I am her son and begins an often-repeated tale about how she had two boys, tried for a girl, but got my twin brother and me. (Not my favorite story).
“When you get them in pairs, it’s time to quit,” is how her unchanging script ends.
She says, “with four sons, I baked a lot, but not anymore.”
“If it doesn’t go in the microwave, I don’t buy it,” is her next comment.
Never mind that she no longer cooks or grocery shop either. To the casual observer, her comments sound reasonable, but to me, they aren’t.
Like a talking doll, she repeats a few shorter sentences. She can’t process incoming language and express new thoughts. Instead, she retrieves often repeated phrases from her past days.
In her younger years, while raising children, she used idioms. She called them “sayings.” For instance, I remember saving money from my paper route for a bike.
She warned, “A wise man doesn’t count his chickens before they hatch.”
“Two heads are better than one,” was her comment if I snubbed her advice.
I learned many phrases from her. Following are a few.
“Don’t sit on the fence,”—decide.
“Direct from the horse’s mouth,”- from the source.
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” -be thankful regardless of the gift. An equine expert can tell a horse’s approximate age by examining the wear on its teeth, so an oral examination, questions the value.
“Don’t cry over spilled milk,”—get over it.I think her wisest saying was, “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.”
Solomon called idioms proverbs. In the Bible, he wrote quotable phrases which transmitted a higher thought. For instance, “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you,” and “… the honor of old men is their gray hair.”
Many of us silver-haired baby boomers are caring for our white-headed parents with dementia. We’re doing a good thing. Let’s encourage each other with this proverb from Solomon, “He who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:25 NASB.
This means God will care for people who care for others.
© Copyright 2018 Ronald Milburn