One of the things care providers of dementia patients here again and again is that we should not ask questions centered around provoking a memory. So, starting a question off with "Remember when...?" or "Do you remember...?" is off the table. Well, no one has told Lyn that as if she starts off a conversation with "Remember when...?", we stop and listen.
"Remember when you and I went to that dance and it was the biggest one? Bigger than any other that we went to?" She asked me when we skyped this weekend. I thought for a moment as she continued "They had lots of music and lights and it was the biggest dance we went to."
I've not been to nearly as many dances in my life as Lyn has and was able to quickly go through my mental list of dances I've attended, quickly sorting them into two columns. Did I attend with my sister? Yes or No. Only two ended up the in Yes column.
In our joint senior year of high school, we both attended a school dance. Was it a big dance? No. No dance is big when you're graduation class is 45 students. So, that left the other dance.
When I was 15 and Lyn was 17 or 18, we had a Special Olympics weekend together. I'm fuzzy on her age because the weekend was during the Winter games which would have been within a month of her birthday. She competed in down hill skiing then. I was invited to be a chaperone for her team. Now, whoever thought a 15 year old girl would make a sound chaperone for her disabled sister and teammates must not have factored in the fact that the majority of volunteers were coming from the local Air Force base. Let us not even go into the fact that the athletes were being housed in the barracks on base with more volunteers.
One of the well established traditions with the Special Olympics is that there is a dance connected with the weekend games. These particular games were no different. After opening ceremonies, we found ourselves at a venue on base where the Air Force had set up for a dance. There was a DJ. There were lights. There were refreshments, coaches, volunteers, chaperones and athletes dancing all over the place. It was big. Lyn's right. It was the biggest dance I think we've both ever attended. I am not sure if the athletes outnumbered the coaches, volunteers and chaperones. Let's just say the ratio was nearly 1:1.
Lyn had acquired an admirer from another team. He was highly manipulative and predatory. I had acquired an admirer from base. Lyn's admirer was setting off so many red flags for me that I never really relaxed that night because he was trying to sneak her off to a quiet corner. He had gotten her outside and was behind the van starting to kiss her when I confronted them (again). The guy got very angry and tried to use his size to intimidate me. I wouldn't back down and kept telling them to go back inside to the party. When they finally did, I was mad enough to punch the van. My admirer pointed out that I had just punched government property.
So, Lyn's "Remember when...?" triggered this cascade of thoughts in the time it took her to get through about three sentences. I just smiled at her and replied with "Yes! I remember that dance. It was a big one with lights." Mom looked confused because she wasn't making the connections. "I chaperoned once out on base during a winter games," I explained.
You know... I am not sure I ever told Mom about that dance and that guy who was getting fresh with Lyn. So, Mom, if this story is new to you, just know that I kept that guy out of her room later that night too, at one point, sitting in the hall with a book for over an hour. He's the reason why I decided being a chaperone was hard work and never did it again. I didn't want the responsibility if anything had happened.