LAUGHTER IS INDEED
THE BEST MEDICINE
I went to visit my 88 year old mother in the
hospital this morning. She had taken a fall, as 88 year olds are prone to
do, and was slowly recovering.
disheveled, the hospital gown hanging loosely off her bony shoulders, IV and
monitors attached to her arms and chests, oxygen tubes in her nostrils….I
had to stop and remember what a strong, vibrant woman my mother had always
sleep a wink last night," she complained as soon as I walked in her
not?" I asked.
fell asleep at 8:30, as usual, and the nurse came in at 9:30 and woke me up
to give me a pill."
not unusual in a hospital," I counseled. "What was the pill
whose physical frame was a shadow of its former self, had a slight twinkle
in her eye. "To help me sleep."
We looked at
each other, both with slight smiles. "Let me get this straight," I
said. "The nurse woke you up to give you a sleeping pill."
there was more than just a smile. We were both howling as my mother
explained that she couldn’t get back to sleep because she was so mad.
It has to be
true that laughter is the best medicine. My mother, bless her heart, has the
ability to laugh at the predicament of aging, and it keeps the rest of us
laughing along with her.
When my sister
visited her in the hospital a couple of days earlier, they had tears running
down their cheeks discussing my mother’s concern over whether the hospital
(CPMC in San Francisco) was accredited. This was prompted due to one of the
nurses placing my mother’s breakfast at the foot of her bed, where she
could hungrily see it but not reach it.
"This has been
the worst week of my life," she announced to me, once she stopped
laughing about her fitful night’s sleep. "I’m so anxious to go
will be skilled nursing at her retirement home. Already in a walker before
her fall, she’ll need extensive therapy just to get back to that level.
Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. But it won’t be for lack of trying.
have the help of drugs. As we talked, the nurse brought in her morning doses
of medication. I counted ten different pills, which she placed in her mouth
one by one with her trembling hands.
"Do you know
what each one of those are for?" I asked.
they’re steroids," she replied, laughing. "I need to build some
laughing. Well, not always. There are times when she’s in pain, or wracked
by anxiety, and laughing is out of the question. But those times,
fortunately, are rare.
My mother is
old, and her body is failing. She knows it, and she has chosen to laugh
about it. She jokes about going to "never-never land," and insists
on giving away all her earthly possessions to her children and grandchildren
before it’s too late.
I tell her the only
thing I want is her walker and the nurse’s call button she wears around
her neck at her retirement home. She thinks that’s funny. But then again,
she thinks everything’s funny.
Her body is poor,
but her attitude is excellent. She knows she gets confused, and asked me
this morning to please correct her if she says something weird. She wants to
But I don’t
correct her. Instead, when she asks if I’m bringing her home when she
checks out of the hospital later that morning (she’ll go by ambulance, as
always), I tell her that we’ve decided she should take Muni. "But don’t
worry," I add. "One of the nurses will walk you to the bus
harshly at me for a few seconds, a scowl covering her face. Then she turns
bright, and that wonderful little twinkle in her eye returns.
better give me the senior rate."
around. Long live the Mama.