I have the distinct pleasure of caring for 99 year old Jean every day. She is a delightful companion, with no shortage of stories and laughs. Of course after many months of spending time with her, I have become familiar with quite a few of those stories. The only thing more fun than visiting with her is later recounting stories of those visits with my fellow caregivers.
Jean loves potato chips. Several times a day, everyday, she and Kay play a little game, verbatim. Jean says, “I’m hungry.”
Kay answers, “What are you hungry for, something sweet?”
Jean, pensive, shakes her head, “Mmmm, no. Something salty.”
“No, not crackers.” She contorts her lips in thought. She will soon go bald, racking her brain for what sounds good to eat.
“Potato chips maybe?” suggests Kay, with eye brows raised and a quick dip of her head.
“Yes!” Jean says, excitedly sticking a finger in the air.
Several times a day. Everyday. Verbatim.
Jean grew up in a beach town in a house full of other kids. She has many fond memories of her family. She also loves the beach and talks about it frequently, in her signature high-pitched voice. She remembers coming home from school, rushing through her homework and spending many a leisurely evening on the beach, roasting marshmallows with friends, till well after dark. One of my favorite stories goes as follows: “We had a large living room overlooking the ocean. I loved dancing. I would turn on the music and sing at the top of my lungs while I danced all over that room,” she said throwing out her arms expressively.
“I imagined it was my stage and everyone on the beach was watching and applauding. I must have moved them to tears. I always thought to myself, ‘Why would anyone be at the beach when they could be up here dancing?’ Then one day I went down to that beach, and I-never-danced-again,” she punctuated in a hush!
I love that story. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.
You can imagine my dismay, when I walked in on the tail end of my co-worker animatedly telling a captive audience a great story that Jean shared. “…I always thought, ‘Why would anyone be dancing when they could be down here playing on the beach. Then one day, I danced in that room, and I never-went-back -to-that-beach,” she said in a hush.
I was dumbfounded. She had heard it all wrong and I proceeded to correct her right there and then, “No Kay, she was dancing and wondering why anyone would be at the beach…” She looked at me with a pretty odd look on her face. “No, she tells ME this story at least once a week. She was playing on the beach and wondered why anyone would be dancing in a house when they could be playing on the beach,” she finished with conviction.
What on earth? Had she deliberately been telling us two different stories all along?
Jean isn’t a fan of pork. Today Emily went in to invite her to the dinner table. “What are we having?” She asked.
“Ham, mashed potatoes, and broccoli,” Emily enunciated, leaning in to her good ear. Jean responded, shaking her head in distaste, “None of the last three for me. A milkshake sounds better.”
Emily walked into the kitchen smiling to herself and muttering, “none of the last three, I only said three things.”
She quickly gathered milkshake supplies and was about to throw them together when Jean rang her buzzer. Emily went back to see what Jean wanted. “How is my dinner order coming along? I wonder what we are having?”
Emily said, “Ham, mashed potatoes and broccoli.”
Jean piped, “That sounds delicious, dish me up!”
I smile as Emily walks into the kitchen shaking her head.