Yesterday, I went to Waco to spend the day with the fam. After a lovely lunch with Pat (guest/host of honor), Keith, Kerri (sister), Scott (brosef-in-law), and an empty place setting for Otto/Jordan(jer-din)/OJB (my grandfather who lives with my parents and who, yesterday, slept right through lunch, until about 12:45), it was time to head over to Wesley Woods, as it is affectionately referred to. Wesley Woods is the Alzheimer’s home where my grandmother, Zaidee, Otto’s beloved, lives. My mom oft tells me stories of its happenings, but I had never experienced it for myself until yesterday.
Zaidee is a character if there ever was one. Qualities such as opinionated, outspoken, and eccentric paired with ones that accompany dementia: a hyper-imagination and severe memory loss. While Alzheimer’s is not something to take lightly, it does provide some funnies, and its good and necessary to be able to laugh sometimes. Even when mixed with tragedy, a little laughter goes a long way.
We were happy to see that Zaidee recognized us when we walked in. Although she neither said Kerri’s or my name (she even skipped the usual “babydoll” that I so often get), we were surprised that she announced “Hi Scott” as soon as he walked in. This was impressive since last time we checked, she was at least 10 years back, and Scott has only been in the picture for the past five or six.
Her real excitement came when she saw Otto walk in, though. “Oh my!” she said. “Come here,” and she kissed him on the cheek. “Did you miss me?”
“What was that?” Otto asked.
“Did you miss me?” she repeated.
“Oh, oh yeah.” Otto obliged.
“Hold my hand.”
“I can’t hear ya.” He leaned in.
“Hold my HAND.”
“Zaidee, I can’t hear you.”
“HOLD MY HAND.”
He held her hand.
We proceeded to a sitting area by a big bay window to chat for a bit longer. As we discussed summer plans and the travels we are soon to embark upon, Zaidee reminisced about her time as a twenty-something, when she went to Mexico to learn Spanish.
“Well we studied in Mexico City, but it was in Guatelamara… Gualemata… What is it? How do you say it?”
“Guadalajara.” my mom offered.
“Yes. Guadalajara. I learned Spanish across the bar in Guadalajara.” She snickered.
“But those men… there were men that like to look at women and women that like to look at men.”
“You did have fun in Mexico, didn’t ya?” Someone jeered.
“Yes,” she laughed, “but you have to watch out for those men. They will….”
“You don’t have to tell everything you know.” Uncle J censored.
“It will cost you $10,000 to get there. And when you go ask the pilot a question, he will tell you to go ask the person in the back. The person in the back will tell you to ask someone in the middle.”
Background: Whenever we go anywhere, Zaidee always asks a countless questions to whomever she deems knowledgable on the subject matter. At a steakhouse, for example, she might ask the waiter to describe the taste of the bloomin’ onion sauce, and what spices are in it, or where the cow was raised.
“Then the person in the middle will tell you to ask the person in the back. And then you just end up taking a long walk over the ocean.” She explained.
“And it will be your last good meal.” Meaning, your last good meal will be the one you consume on the airplane ride over.
“And when you get there, you better have a strong constitution.”
“The country?” my sister asked.
“No, she’s talking about your personal constitution.” My mom explained as she motioned to her stomach.
“Well, both, is what I mean.” Zaidee clarified. “Because if the country does not have a constitution, you cannot get into it. That country next to Mexico…”
“The ocean?” a hint of sarcasm from Uncle J.
Zaidee continued, “You can’t get in on land because there’s no constitution. You have to go in the ocean.”
As the international travel topic died down, Zaidee proceeds to pick on my typically quieter cousin, who is a freshman at Baylor. “You haven’t said two words. I want to hear you say two words. Say your name.” Pretty sure this one was a sneak b/c she couldn’t remember his name.
Other notables from the day were the several references to the UFO that she claims to have seen on their Roswell ranch, the talk of her “beach front property in New Mexico,” and the mentioning of one of the many dance troupes she has been in – notably, the “Cow Belles,” or as Otto likes to say, the “Cow Bellies.”
My family got a kick out these things, so just thought you might enjoy it too.
“Only with laughter can you win.” -Rosie Thomas