Where does humor and laughter fit into this crazy illness called FTD?
As my father was dying in March 2016, I teased him up until the very end. We had a running joke that I inherited some things from him that I wish I hadn’t inherited, like his bad back, his touchy stomach and a bad case of hay fever. I did thank him in those last days for two things that I am glad I inherited from him — the ability to sleep and a sense of humor. Boy, do you need a sense of humor when dealing with someone suffering with a shrinking frontal lobe.
After Barry was diagnosed, we spent a lot of time feeling depressed. But one day, I was shocked the first time we both laughed at something odd he did because of FTD. It was then I realized that laughing felt so much better than crying and, maybe, Barry realized that too. Before FTD reached into his frontal lobe, Barry had a really good sense of humor. I think that is why he fit so well into our family. My dad loved to tease and Barry could take it and tease my dad as well. As I look back, it was good for Barry to become part of my family. I don’t think he laughed a lot when growing up.
Humor has served me well in trying to cope with our new life after the initial shock of learning that Barry had FTD. It also helped Barry in the beginning. He was able to laugh at some things he did, like drinking beer at 6 a.m. or using a margarita glass as a water bottle on his bike. Being able to laugh when Barry was naked in a public hot tub moved us away from the embarrassment of mental illness to accepting what was happening to him. The elephant in the room — FTD – no longer held us in fear. Instead we laughed in its face.
I thought about Barry’s old laugh as I walked one morning not too long ago. I loved Barry’s laugh. It wasn’t a loud laugh, but rather kind of like a teenage boy’s laugh. It seemed a little self-conscious, yet it was always an honest laugh. I miss his laugh very much now, and it is one part of the old Barry that I still remember clearly. Although I try hard to remember the way he walked, how he looked while reading a book or how he sat watching TV, those memories are all gone. I just can’t remember the Barry before FTD. But I do remember his laugh. I think that is a good thing to remember.
Just when I thought that Barry’s laugh and sense of humor were all swallowed up by FTD, I was surprised to hear it come out once more while he watched “Ellen,” his favorite TV show. Ellen was playing some goofy game with a celebrity and suddenly Barry burst out laughing. For just a moment there it was, Barry’s old laugh. When I heard it, I laughed too.