J Smiles runs into an old friend of Zetty. The problem is this "close" old bestie wants J to promise to tell Zetty a ton of specific memories from sixty years ago (silently - lady my mama doesn't know what day it is). Trying not to be rude goes wrong and J is stuck in quandary. Yell fire while ditching the conversation or bite her lip by entertaining the notion that Zetty will "remember" old bestie. What would you do?
J stumbles through this encounter, shares a few other touchy examples and leaves the audience with hope on how to handle bright-eyed people who expect your LO to recall them.
Join Alzheimer's favorite duo for another journey of heavy reality sprinkled with love and laugher.
Catch J's signature SNUGGLE UP ending for provocative take aways.
"Alzheimer's is heavy but we ain't gotta be!"
TEXT a purple heart "💜" to +1 404 737 1449 - to give J topic ideas, feedback, say hi!
INTRO - J Smiles: 0:00
I was at a coffee shop in my mom's hometown. This was years and years after Zetty had been diagnosed with dementia and way after this podcast had started, so the world had been put on notice. That Zetty, you know, the brain is a little on tilt. I am getting my latte. I am sneaking my little nip to put a bit of Bailey's in it. Mind yo business, I'm grown. In the south, if you don't have a little nip, which other people call miniatures, in your purse, you ain't real. You are a fake. Where you grow up? Who your people iz? I.Z. I was approached by a lady who said, "J, is that you? Is your mother Yvette Smiley Smith? How is she doing? You probably don't remember me, I haven't seen you in decades. But her mother and I blah, blah, blah." That's what I started to hear. You might as well have had the whole air commando squad that does the fly over when people die, and they do the 21 gun salute. That all started happening in my head. I'm like, lady, I'm trying to do my latte. You see me pouring this Bailey's in here in the corner by the trash can with my back to the window. And you gone find me over here from the window to the wall. Til the latte go down my throat. What? I guess there was a glare or daze or haze about my eyes? Because she said, "J, did I say something?" I said, "Oh no. No, ma'am. I'm sorry. What is your name again?" "Oh, I haven't said my name yet. I was just sharing with you how I know your mom. How is she doing?" "Well, she has Alzheimer's, and she lives with me." "Yes, I heard that. I heard that she had Alzheimer's. That's just so hard to believe. Well, you give her a hug and a kiss. And you tell her that Teresa said hello. We shared so many fond memories if you could just tell her about the time when we were in high school." Lady, the time when you were in high school? My mama that don't know Dr. King is dead, that my daddy is dead, or what she ate for dinner last night; you want me to tell her that you said hello from high school and I don't even know who the hell you are. Oh. Oh okay.
INTRO - J Smiles: 3:18
Parenting Up, Caregiving Adventures with comedian J Smiles is the intense journey of unexpectedly being fully responsible for the well being of my mama. For almost a decade, I've been chipping away at the unknown, advocating for her, and pushing Alzheimer's awareness on anyone and anything with a heartbeat. Spoiler Alert- I started comedy because this stuff is so heavy. Be ready for the jokes! Caregiver newbies, OGs, village members trying to just prop up a caregiver, you are in the right place.
INTRO - Zetty: 3:49
Hi, this is Zetty. I hope you enjoy my daughter's podcast. Is that okay?
INTRO - J Smiles: 4:00
Today's episode - Tell your mom I said hello
INTRO - J Smiles: 4:13
Our global community is expanding. I want your feedback. Let's snuggle up. Send a Purple Heart, the little emoji, to plus 1-404-737-1449. Parented Up family, I was floored. This lady who was well aware that I didn't know who she was. I had zero recollection of the memory she was speaking of, and she wanted me to tell my mama hello. And then to recount memories from high school. Hell, I can't remember things from high school. I'm 20 years younger than my mother and do not have Dementia. Lady, give me a break. But now, I'm wrong if I throw my latte on her, right? You know I'm not about to waste my Bailey's on her. But then if I go off, or scowl or say, "You know she has Alzheimer's, so she's not gonna know who the hell you are, right?" Then I'm a sour daughter. Who wants to do that? I don't want there to be any... I don't want there to be words floating around in the community that J is spewing evil or bad blood or not good vibes with people who just want to speak to Zetty. How do you handle that kind of stuff? And then there's social media: Facebook, IG, Twitter, whatever you want to use. They are looking for Zetty: high school reunions, college reunions, the 40 year anniversary, the 50 year anniversary. These Class Presidents, they are like the FBI, the KGB, the mob. I don't know who is in charge of looking for lost babies on the back of the milk carton, or criminals that are on the FBIs Most Wanted List, but you need to give them to the lady who is over the 50th reunion for my mama's college. Cause that heifer has hunted my mama down. My mama has not been a part of anything in the public for more than a decade. How the hell did she find us? Honay, she has run down all of my DMs. She has gotten in each one of my DMs. Can I get a date? Can a date slide in my DMs and not miss Gertrude? "J, this is Gertrude, blah, blah, blah. We know that your mother has Alzheimer's and may not get out much. But we're the class of x, and we would certainly want her to attend. She was so prominent and popular and held these positions in student government. She was voted Miss such and such. It would mean so much to us, and you're welcome too. We're sure that you have to travel with her. We will allow you to attend our special events. It's okay if she doesn't stay long if she would just come in wave and just say hello. That would mean the world to us. And we bet just seeing us would give her some encouragement. Just to see and feel the love." Ma'am, when she walks two steps there is excrement and urine running down to her ankles. How am I supposed to get her to you? Do you all understand the disease of Alzheimer's? Do you know how much a little change in her environment will put that baby on tilt? And she may crawl up under the table at this fancy reunion and turn it out. And have such a meltdown that won't any of you enjoy it. Um.
INTRO - J Smiles: 9:08
I am always stuck between a rock and a mountain when I get an email from someone in my mom's past that I actually knew. "Hey, J, whew, I am so happy I was able to track down your email. It's auntie or uncle so and so." Now they're not blood relatives, they were not married into the family. But they were such close members of my mom's inner circle from the 1970s or 80s, that I was told to call them Auntie or Uncle. I have my own memories with these people. "I know," Vetty, or Y, or Zetty, whatever they call her, "has Alzheimer's. But I'm sure she remembers me. Tell her that I was just watching Mahogany, or Roots, or Star Wars, Star Trek. And we had a moment. And I remember the first time we... last time we cut a rug was at the Tina Turner concert. And I have a picture and I want to send it to her." And they have such a specific visual, and a tactile memory with my mom. They're like, "I just got to tell her. Can I get on a Zoom call with her J? I want to help, jog her memory. Bring her back to reality and give her a happy moment." Huh. It is not going to be the happy ending you thought? How in the hell am I supposed to handle that? This is auntie, uncle, Tammy Tom. I know them. They might have been at my graduation, my 16th birthday party. I went somewhere at they house, somewhere I lived. Maybe they snuck me a beer while my mama was in the bathroom. I don't even want to break their heart and say, "Auh, you know, she ain't gone remember none of that shit. Everything you just said, tell me, and let's just say we told her. Why don't you just do a virtual call with me. I'll put on Zetty sunglasses, and a long black wig. I'll do my best version of Zetty. Let's fake it."
INTRO - J Smiles: 12:00
Every so often, I'm approached by someone that was really close to Zetty in the past, who has the distinct badge of honor of being a family caregiver. And they say, "Ah, you might not know me, but I know you. You are the apple of Yvette's eye. I know all about your life." Or if it's an uncle or auntie that I knew, "Hey, J, it's been so long. It hurts my heart to know what Yvette is going through. But I'm not worried because I know how close the two of you have always been. And I know you're gonna do the best you can." And invariably, they go into some version of this: "When my mom had Alzheimer's, when my wife had Alzheimer's, when my granddaddy had Dementia..." and they give me some heartfelt revealing transparent story of pain and understanding around being a family caregiver. And they never, ever say, "Tell your mom I said hello." They ask me, "J, how are you doing? Are you taking care of yourself? How often do you work out? How often do you go on vacation? Are you dating? Did you go to the doctor? Check your sugar, your blood pressure. Hang out with your friends. Get some damn sleep." The most I get from them as a direct communication to my mom is, "Next time you hug her, you just think about me. If you are thinking about me when you hug her, that's cool. Or if the Spirit leads you, whisper my name into her ear, Uncle Irv. Just say 'Hey, Zetty, Uncle Irv loves you.' That's it, and if it doesn't resonate with her, who cares? Just keep hugging on her. And you just say I love you. I love you. I love you. Just give a few extra I love yous that day, J, from me. A few more than you would normally say. Parenting Up family, that's it. That's all they ask me to do is give Zetty more love and affection the next time I see her on their behalf.
INTRO - J Smiles: 15:05
What are we supposed to do? As family caregivers what the hell are we supposed to do when people who only remember our LO's as healthy brained individuals, come up and talk to us like they are not ill, and they believe we can pass on these messages. The hell are we supposed to do? I'm not gonna lie, I fluctuate between frustration, anger, anxiety, and a warm welcome. On the one hand, I am extraordinarily grateful that they even remember my mom with enough fondness that they go take the time out to come tap my shoulder at a coffee shop, and say, "Hey, give your mom my best." They don't have to do that. That is very loving, and very generous. And on the other hand, I'm like, "Are you effing kidding me, I can't do that. You are adding stress to my life, because now I feel like you have dumped love in my lap that I gotta create an audible. I gotta come up with another lot of love for my mama. And it can feel selfish, or ignorant. I got a plan though. I got a plan.
INTRO - J Smiles: 16:49
This is where the Parenting Up family really excels. We're here to make the world better. We're here to bridge the gap. The gap over the river of ignorance. Those people who approach us to give these warm wishes and good vibes to our family members, our LO's, they don't mean any harm. They are ignorant to what the disease of Alzheimer's really is. We have to determine when and how to expose them to best practices of showing up and sharing their favorable memories moving forward with someone who has Alzheimer's. So come up with a few ways you can let a person know, "You know, my mom, my dad, my sister, my husband, they're not going to remember your name, or your voice, or any of the pictures that you give me. But what I can do is just give them a hug on your behalf. Or perhaps you can donate $10 to the Alzheimer's organization in your city." We as the family caregiver, have the opportunity to offer this nice person who loves our LO, to offer them some options of how they can turn their affection into an act of service.
INTRO - J Smiles: 18:32
I mean, what we can't do is just let these folks keep walking around expecting to drop bombs of silly request around that people with Alzheimer's are like robots and will never be able to pick up. It's almost like a robot trying to pick up jello with a robot finger arms. That ain't gone work. But we can help it work. Our LO's cannot advocate for themselves. If your LO is in the very early stages of diagnosis, he or she may be able to speak up for themselves. But even in those instances, often, there is a bit of hesitancy to describe in real time what his or her limitations might be. Meaning, who wants to say, "Hey, you know, I don't really remember your name or your face. You tell me we work together. But I don't remember, or you tell me we went to college together, but I don't even remember where I went to college." Who in the world wants to say that while you're standing in the middle of the mall. Which just pitches it back to us as the family caregivers to bridge that gap. We have the most information, we have the greatest platform, and we have the most energy. As tired as we are, we have more energy, more passion, and more reason to keep fighting than any damn body else. Let's go!
INTRO - J Smiles: 20:39
The Snuggle Up. Number one, when someone from your Lo's pass approaches you, asking you to deliver a message of yesteryear, embrace it. It's coming from a place of love and affection. You might get frustrated, but do your best not to let it show. They don't know. They have no idea what you're going through, or how far along your LO has progressed with the disease. Number two, have the Parenting Up podcast link already set up on your mobile phone. Show it to them. That's a great way to make them a part of the Alzheimer's/ Dementia community. You give them the telephone number or the website address to the Alzheimer's chapter in your city. Better yet, take an ussie with them, that's a selfie when it's more than one person. And tell them, "Yeah, you know what, I'll show this photo to my LO." Doesn't matter if you show it to your LO or not. The person who you're communicating with will feel better. And that's the point, spread love. Number three, next time you're at a red light and you're getting frustrated about the traffic, take five deep breaths. In your nose, out your mouth. You're a mother freaking caregiver! Let's go!
That's it for now. Thank you for listening. Please subscribe for continuous caregiving tips, tricks, trends, and truth. Pretty, pretty, please with sugar on top share and review it too. I'm a comedian. Alzheimer's is heavy, but we ain't got to be.