August 1, 2022
A few of us gathered in Daniel’s room at Park Place Assisted Living in Reno, NV: me (his son Dylan), my wife Ann, and Brook (daughter of Daniel’s nephew Jon). The anticipation of events like this seemed to enhance the effects of Daniel’s primary Parkinson’s medication, Carbodopa-Levadopa. He was in good spirits with a lot of dyskenisia, the involuntary lurching, swaying movements that go along with these “up” periods. It seemed a little risky giving him his birthday cupcake with a lit candle on it, as he didn’t realize how much the things he’s holding dip and wave around. So we encouraged him to blow it out quickly, but he played us mischievously and made a show of nearly burning off his mustache. That got him in the mood to ham it up, and he went on to give us a slapstick demonstration of adjusting his hospital bed. Jerking up and down, legs and torso whipping and flopping, all amplified by wild dyskenisia.
He loved slapstick. I’ve rarely laughed harder than watching him watch good slapstick theatre, almost unable to breathe from laughing. Especially when the actor played some flailing old geezer. It was bittersweet watching him play up his own ailments, but showed the humor he brought to his struggles. At other times he could deliver it so dryly that his caregivers or others around him often didn’t catch on. “Even the bravest efforts can leave one unmoved,” he might say when being lectured on preventing constipation. Who knows how many jokes he delivered with himself the only audience in on it? When I was around sometimes he sneak a little smirk to me and I’d wink back, but I never knew when I was the clueless one unless I could catch him giving himself the smirk. He’d do that sometimes when describing his hallucinations, another symptom that grew over time, and I’d wonder if he was exaggerating for fun.
Later his memory of the night was jumbled. He misremembered who was there, or who had given which gift. I was never really able to tell if he remembered his own humor, but it always came again in some new form.