Like my mom, our friend B. has dementia. Last night, she put four peas in the palm of her hand and asked me which one I thought was most powerful. Mom laughed when I chose the largest pea. But B. said, “Well, he may be the most handsome, but you don’t know what’s inside of him.” Crazy talk, yes — but it still seemed saner than the nightly news.
Just before we sat down to this meal, we’d passed a loud TV that was broadcasting details of the Sandy Hook School shootings. Although Mom is baffled by most everything, she is still super sensitive to the feelings of others. I pulled her away from the news show because — even though she can barely hold a glass of water — she would easily absorb the waves of grief churning in the wake of this tragedy.
Earlier in the evening, we observed some people lighting candles for the last night of Hanukkah. She didn’t understand the ceremony, but she got a lift from the happiness of the group around the menorah. Continuing our stroll, we saw some old men watching the news and it made me think about how unbelievable the Sandy Hook murders must be for my mom’s generation.
Today’s elders have lived through experiences like a World War and the Depression. After struggling so much to preserve and defend life, the killing of these small children must rattle them in ways that younger people can’t fully appreciate. People my age have been watching such tragedies unfold on TV since we were teens. There is a certain helpless numbness that comes with repeated exposure to this type of mass violence.
Nevertheless, before I went to sleep I took the time to think about the nature of lunacy and the craziness that seems so rampant in the broader society. It is more difficult for me to grasp the rationale for killing tiny children and their loyal teachers than to accept B.’s theory about the power of certain peas. Dementia is no picnic, but sometimes its wacky side feels like a marvelous break from the hideous behavior we witness in other segments of our society.