It was a week of deja vu.  Met two different college kids sporting blue hair; one at Starbucks and one at my front door.  Well, it sure beats the nose rings.  Of course, back in the 60’s, a “blue hair” was any older woman who put a blue rinse on her white hair.  Most of my grandmother’s friends had blue hair, so I was pretty convinced that mine would turn that color when I got old.*   

     Tie-dyed shirts are back.  We used to wrap our old t-shirts with rubber bands, pour in a ten-cent box of Ritz dye, and ruin the family washing machine to do the trick.  I just bought one for $9.99 at Target.  My teens straighten their locks with expensive gizmos from salons.  I used Granny’s iron.

     But the best part?  My husband takes me to a specialty “back” store filled with chairs to do this and that for your spinal alignment.  The sales gal has me sit in one, fusses with a bunch of weird pedals that look like mini stick shifts, almost breaks my neck, and says, “There.  Isn’t that wonderful?”  The top half of me feels like I’m in the dentist’s chair.  The bottom half of me feels like I’m at the gynecologist’s.  She’s GOT to be kidding. 

     “How much does this thing cost?” I ask with a voice as pinched as the rest of me feels.  “Just $3,000,” she says with a lovely lilt to her voice.  “Get me off,” I yowl.  But she isn’t done with me yet.  She wants me to try the ‘tip-you-upside down, anti-gravity device.’  I lay down on a skinny, black board.  She squeezes my ankles under a footpiece, pushes more levers and tips me upside down.  While I lie there with the blood rushing to my head, she sweetly informs my husband, “This is wonderful for reducing wrinkles in the face.”

     “What wrinkles?” I ask, as if entirely sincere.  She suddenly goes mute.  Turns out that thingamajig is ‘only $900.’   As we leave, I am remembering a fold-up green board that Granny kept in our hall closet.  She bought it, (for about $5.99),  when she first took up yoga in the 60’s.  The two of us spent many an evening lying upside down.  Would say that I miss those days but apparently, they’re still with us—just at a higher price tag.  (*Excerpt from, “Kissing Tomatoes,” Hudson’s memoir of her Granny’s Alzheimer’s.   http://www.helen-hudson.com




     “There’s nothing funny about Alzheimer’s,” the woman in the audience told me.  “It’s just awful–every single part of it–just awful.”  As I recall I had just shared some funny moments my husband and I had spent with my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s for the 13 years she lived in our home.  Keep in mind, I said, “funny moments.”  Thirteen years holds a lot more time than that. 

     However, if you think about it, how many “funny moments” did you have today?  Did anyone make you laugh?  More importantly, did YOU make anyone laugh?  Since you woke up this morning, how much actual fun have you had?  Or, look at it this way, how much joy did you squeeze for yourself out of the last 12 hours?  Somewhere, between punching the time clock, getting to appointments on time, driving the kids, paying the bills, and getting dinner on the table, did you really have a LOT of fun? 

     Hmm.  I’m thinking back.  Okay, I had one, really terrific moment this afternoon while I was grocery shopping.  The aisles were empty and I couldn’t resist.  Yes, in a wild burst of spontaneity, I did, indeed get a running start and jump on my cart, flying past both the butcher and the dear, old woman trying to get me to sample something weird-looking.  Those few seconds felt really, really good–not just because I was getting a free ride, but because it made the people around me smile.  In fact, I did it again as I headed into the checkout aisle where the lanes were blissfully empty.  “I’ll take you here,” squealed the gal with enthusiasm.  Now, how often do your hear THAT when you go shopping? 

     We tried to find the same joy when caring for Grandmother.  She had no memory, so we told her, sometimes on a daily basis, that it was our birthday and would she sing to us?  She did.  One afternoon I tied a helium balloon in her hair simply because it made me smile to look at it.  She, however, had no idea that it was there at all.  When she asked me for the zillionth time where our baby (her granddaughter) came from, I finally said “the mailbox.”  The answer not only satisfied her curiosity but also made me giggle.  When Grandmother stood straight up in front of the congregation during the minister’s sermon and announced to everyone:  “This is boring.  He’s just awful.  Let’s go,” did we laugh?  Well, not right there, but trust me, we did in the car as we were driving away.*  So, you tell me:  is Alzheimer’s funny?  Guess it depends on you.  (*Excerpt from, “Kissing Tomatoes”, http://www.helen-hudson.com)