A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.   ~Henry Ward Beecher

Good old Henry definitely had something there! For caregivers, humor is to everyday life what a hammer is to a tool belt.  It’s a necessity; one of the most basic, utterly simple things we have at our disposal to help get us through the days.

Laughter in the Face of a Storm

My mom was blessed with a wonderful sense of humor – always laughing and bringing smiles to the faces of others. Even now, in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, on a good day, you might catch her laughing out loud and making everyone around her do the same. I guess humor is woven so deeply into her being that even this appalling, inescapable disease can’t steal that part of her.

Whether through genetics or just observing her all of those years, my sense of humor is also apparently pretty unyielding! How grateful I am for that, and little did I know what an incredible survival mechanism it would come to be!

What Might Others Think?

During the early years of my mother’s illness, it’s safe to say that frustration overshadowed humor by a long shot. Everything we were experiencing was so new and completely unexpected; there was a time when it was impossible to find even a shred of humor in what was happening. Looking back at those painful times makes me even more appreciative of our ability to laugh now, even during some of the worst times.

It has crossed my mind a time or two that someone unfamiliar with our saga will overhear me telling a funny story and think I am crass and insensitive; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, I’m probably one of the most oversensitive people on the face of the earth, but I’ve learned to let humor guide me through some of our darkest days.

When I start to concern myself with what others may think, I am reminded that my mom would want us to laugh. I have no doubt that if she could, she would tell us to find the hilarity in every situation no matter how hard we had to dig. She would encourage silliness and laughter during moments that would otherwise be too sad to bear.

The Choice Between Laughter and Tears

There are the moments when we think she has swallowed her pills, only to catch her spitting one across the room ten minutes later as though she had once been a world class watermelon seed spitter! Or, when she sits for twenty minutes making funny faces and behaving like you would expect a toddler, not a grown woman, to behave. She’s entertaining us; I believe she wants us to laugh. If I sat and thought long enough about seeing my own mother in this inconceivable condition, I would cry – but that wouldn’t do either of us any good.

Make no mistakes, I don’t mean to imply that we sit around and laugh all the time; there are plenty of tears. But ultimately, we do have a choice. For me, Henry Ward Beecher’s words ring true – humor helps protect me from being tossed around like a ragdoll on this twisty, often treacherous, rock-strewn road. So go ahead and laugh a little; it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy!!




  1. Mary Sheridan

    A couple of funny things come to mind – there were times when you had to laugh to keep from crying. My mother retired from teaching elementary school before we were aware what her future would be and got a kick out of telling about the time a little boy who had been in her class the year before introduced her to his mother. “This is Mrs. Alders. She was my teacher, but she’s retarded.” There came a time when that wasn’t funny, but later it was again.

    And I remember her staring at the grocery list on the blackboard for a long time. Then my very genteel mother who never said even euphemisms for “bad words” said loudly enough to startle everyone in the room, “Peanut butter. Well, DAMN, I can still read.”

    • Ann Napoletan

      No doubt about it, Mary. There are times when laughter is all that keeps us sane! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>