Mummy and the Jam Jar: Keep Your Sense of Humor When Dealing With Elderly Parents

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Keep your sense of humor. It’s become my new “pep talk” mantra to myself. After all, I’m a menopausal, single parent, soon to be empty nester who is trying to restart a career and I have a mom who is in the moderate stages of dementia. That’s a mouthful if there ever was one.


Last week I finally sent off my gifts to Mummy, as we affectionately call her. The gifts were from our recent trip to London and Paris. Nothing too large or expensive, mind you. Just some mementos and a stack of brochures from the museums, attractions and other places we visited.


This past weekend, I called Mummy right after she had received the gifts. She seemed thrilled and said she was saving the stack of brochures to read through after dinner. Then she told me she would see Jim—my sister’s husband—the next day and would be sure to give Jim the “little gift.”


What little gift? No, I told her, all the gifts were for her.” Long pause. Well, Mummy said quite confidently, my note had specifically told me to give the “little gift” to Jim.


Back and forth we went. Me trying to determine exactly what the “little gift” was, and Mummy sticking to her guns, but unable to give me any more information. Finally, I realized the “little gift” was a small-flowered china server for jam and preserves—perfect for afternoon tea or simply for display. I thought I had solved the mystery and explained. Mummy listened and agreed, but still seemed determined to give the “little gift” to Jim because I had said so in my letter.


Sigh. Count to 10. Deep breath. Keep sense of humor.


Wait, hold your jam jar horses! I suddenly figured it out. My handwriting is so terrible that Mummy mistook “jam” for “jim” in my letter to her and then somehow made the leap that the lovely jar was intended for him.


Deep breath. Small laugh. I explained to Mummy the confusion was caused by my lack of legible handwriting, but I really did mean for her to have the jam jar.


“Use it for strawberry preserves when you have company,” I said encouragingly. “Really, Mom, I bought it for you, not Jim.”


“Okay,” Mummy responded a bit dubiously.


Long pause. Wait for it.


“But then what do you want me to give to Jim?”


I ended the call a short time later. Hung up and laughed and laughed, because you have to keep your sense of humor or you will cry and then cry some more. I’ve decided to type all future letters to Mummy. Easier for both of us.

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