It was the last few months of his life and my dad had been in the VA care facility for much longer than he probably ever would have wanted. His rational thinking, memory and motor skills were nearly gone as a result of several strokes, yet his humor, among all those failing clinical and quantifiable qualities, managed to hang on enough to allow us to still have a sustaining window into his personality.
In the activity room, they kept a checkerboard and my son Andy set it up so they could play a game. At first, it all seemed to be going well. Dad moved, Andy moved, and so on -- but then dad decided to rewrite the game and began moving checkers in various random directions on the board. I remember how puzzled Andy looked at first, but then he just kind of went with it and we all laughed with the both of them. Of course, I missed the bright and educated art professor but this was a gift and it was a good day.
Just a few months ago, Laurie's dad was sitting at the dinner table and was sneaking an inordinate number of sweet treats (well, really being helped to them by an unnamed family member), and it reminded me of my own father. He knew he was getting away with something but what did it matter more than his infectious smile and laughter?
I frequently see this sort of interaction at the hospital and it reminds me of how hard it is for anyone to lose a family member but how precious and nourishing humor can be in the wake of dying. It makes it all seem just a bit more fair to know this is one of many ways life can unfold and end without having to lose everything at once.