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What’s eating me? Alzheimer’s jokes.

November 29, 2012

Over the past few years I have gained not only an appreciation of political correctness in certain social settings but also a desire to infuse my life with joy and humor. This presents a problem. Sometimes I would rather evoke a laugh than spare the feelings of an absent marginalized group. We’ve all done it — guffawed at the Family Guy “You Have AIDS” song; called a dying laptop computer Corky in reminiscence of Life Goes On; agreed that Justin Bieber indeed looks like a lesbian.

Ever since my father developed Alzheimer’s disease, I have become more aware of and sensitive to memory loss jokes, particularly the use of the #alzheimers hashtag on Twitter.

#ThatOneKidInClass who always raises his/her hand but ALWAYS forgets what he/she was about to say #alzheimers – @ChrisAteTheSun

Cuddles and hugs are very different. I think I’ve said this before #alzheimers – @RachelGall

@rosspalmerr Did you forget to finish that tweet? #Alzheimers – @caledavies

I guess the above tweets are no different from my nonchalant comment that my friend who lost 90 pounds now looks like a cancer patient or desire that Fuego, my next-door neighbor’s loud obnoxious dog, choke on a jalapeño. No ill will is intended, but caution should be exercised when dispensing such statements.

For example, my big sister Timber and I lived together in college. One afternoon our hallmate brought her mother by our dorm room to meet us. After the momentum of small talk fizzled, I encouraged Timber to break the ice.

“Ooo, Timber, do your impression of Arnie from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape for Mrs. Berry.”

Note: Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Arnie, a mentally disabled teenager. In the beginning of the movie, Arnie finds a grasshopper in the front yard and smashes it in the door of the mailbox. In the next shot Arnie’s older brother Gilbert consoles him because he didn’t mean to kill the grasshopper. See the video below.

“Bobbin. No.”

“Please! It’s so funny!”

“Ugh. Fine.”

Timber closed her eyes, clutched her forehead and sighed, fully transitioning into the role.

“Hurrrrr!” she fake sobbed, cupping her hands as if holding the pulverized insect. “HURRRRRR!” she continued, eyes bulging with horror. “HURRRRRRRRRRRR!” she screamed, lifting her hands into Mrs. Berry’s face.

I leaned back in my desk chair, howling and spanking my thighs.

“Yeah. My brother’s mentally handicapped,” Mrs. Berry said.

“Oh,” Timber cringed, unbucking her teeth.

“Well it was nice to meet you,” I offered a handshake.

Similarly, the other day my friend made what he believed to be an innocent statement about how he would prefer to die.

“I can’t tolerate any type of physical pain. I just want to get Alzheimer’s. I wouldn’t suffer — everyone around me would suffer instead.”

I forced a chuckle, knowing he wouldn’t want to experience the demoralization of slowly losing his independence and identity, or put his loved ones through the hell of watching him waste away.

I find it impossible to see humor in the above tweets or death preference – but Mrs. Berry probably felt the same way about Timber’s impersonation of Arnie.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Timber permalink
    December 14, 2012 6:26 pm

    You’re making it sound like I succumbed to your request for the impersonation after being asked only twice. I recall incessant goading. I just thought I’d mention that! 🙂

    • December 14, 2012 6:43 pm

      Hahaha. I was trying to be succinct! You’re right, though – my begging you probably freaked Mrs. “Berry” out, too.

  2. March 17, 2013 10:07 am

    “Well it was nice to meet you.”
    I laugh out loud every time.

    • March 18, 2013 9:14 am

      I’m glad you appreciate our foul humor. You and my sister might be kindred spirits…

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