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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Confused (08/16/07)

By Dan Louise Mann


I’m not the confused one. It’s you!” my mother shouts at me indignantly. How often have I heard those words from her in the last few years? Too many to count.

These days most conversations with my elderly mother remind me of the famous Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Whose On First? comedy routine of the 1930s. That skit, funny though it is, used to drive me crazy every time I heard it. And now my mother and I are reluctant actors locked in our own daily skits of confusion.

“Mom, didn’t you say you wanted to watch the noon news?”

“Oh, that’s right. I did say that, didn’t I. What time is it now?”

“It’s ten minutes till noon, mom.”

“Okay,” she says, as she continues to dust her beloved collection of porcelain birds and flowers.

My thumb hovers over the on button of the remote, but I wait for cues from mom, as I’ve learned the hard way that the babble of the TV and her doing another task can be an explosive mixture. But she’s forgotten her lines again, and finally I’m forced to take center stage.

“Should I turn on the TV for you now, mom?”

“I don’t know. Why would you do that?”

“Remember you said you wanted to watch the noon news?”

“Did I say that? Well, what time it is now?”

“It’s five minutes till noon, mom.”

“Oh. Well, why don’t you wait.” She smiles and goes back to shifting the dust molecules from one location to another.

The silence that soothes my mother in her limited world is only broken by the deep tick-tock tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the corner. To me that sound is magnified and swells to fill the room as those five minutes till noon drain away. Can’t she hear it? Doesn’t it push little darts into her soul with each stroke? Apparently not, as forenoon becomes afternoon in a chimeless moment. Time to take the lead again.

“Mom, it’s time for the noon news,” I say firmly. “Would you like me to turn on the TV?”

“What time is it now?”

“Um, it’s actually three minutes after noon.”

“Well, what’s wrong with you? You know I like to watch the news. Why didn’t you turn it on already?”

“You told me to wait, mom.”

“I did not tell you to wait! Why would I do that?”

I sigh. She was not an easy woman to get along with before the Alzheimer's, and things have not improved.

“I’m sorry, mom. Let me turn it on for you now.”

She plops into her well-worn Lazy Boy as the perfect features of her favorite female newscaster pop into view. Mom gives me a smug look. “You think I’m confused, don’t you? Well, I’m not the one who can’t seem to tell time anymore, dear, it’s you.”

In my mind I raise a glass in silent tribute to Bud and Lou. . . who is on first?

Recommended resource: Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s by Joanne Koenig Coste

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This article has been read 615 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Cartwright08/23/07
I have similar confusing, often comic, conversations with a certain elderly family member who does not have Alzheimers. Good choice for the topic.
Alzheimer's is such a cruel disese. Very well written piece and helps the rest of us to be aware of the struggle a family faces when dealing with the affects of this disease. God Bless.
Jan Ackerson 08/23/07
Well-written, with just the right mix of compassion, exasperation, and humor.

FYI--I think you meant "Who's" in your title--two words that are easily confused.

I've read several similar pieces on this topic, but this one stands out.
Jacquelyn Horne08/23/07
This was well written. You pictured the problem well without "telling" the story. Good job.
Lynda Schultz 08/23/07
No matter what you do right, you are still wrong! You've described well the frustration, and the incredible patience and grace of God it takes to care for a family member struggling with this awful disease. Nicely done.
Mark Bell08/23/07
Nice presentation. Kept me engaged. Puts a "face" on early Alzheimer's that most folks never see or understand. Good job.
Vicki Wagner08/24/07
I just have to say that this is very well writen and was enjoyable to read. I hope things get better for you.....smile
Rita Garcia08/25/07
A light touch to a complex disease, well written!
c clemons08/26/07
This was really good, I personally would have like a little more, just one more example of how exasperating and sometimes comical a conversation can be. Maybe "what's on second":)
Dee Yoder 08/26/07
Your story is a true blue account of Alzheimer's and the frustration, from both sides, of dealing with the disease. Well written!
Dave Wagner08/27/07
I'm a bit confused myself about the ultimate point of the piece, unless, of course, it was to simply entertain. If that was the goal, it certainly succeeded. Nice and warm. Pleasant little phrases sprinkled through. A good, light read. Thanks for posting it.
Katherine Kimbley08/29/07
I loved reading this one! I especially enjoyed the comical insight into such intimate, seemingly trivial moments in one's life. Sometimes the most mundane things prove to be the most enlightening, and the most comical!
Martha McLean10/30/07
I absolutely loved the way you wrote this. It was touching, and real. Thanks
Dan Louise Mann11/02/07
Thanks to all for comments received and reads on this entry. I knew seconds after I hit the submit button that I had errored with that word "whose" versus "who's." It's one thing to have an error in the body (where it might be missed by others), but in the TITLE!? *Sigh* So, as others have rightly pointed out, my title and references within the body should have been "Who's On First?" but my error is carved forever in FaithWriters stone for all to see, but life goes on. :o)