Mama doesn't know who Obama is. She doesn't know who Romney is, either.
But she does know that Richard Gere should be president.
Mama (my mother-in-law) has Alzheimer's. When she sees a movie with Richard Gere in it, she always asks if he is the president.
"Well, if he isn't, he should be," she says.
We are fortunate because unlike some of our friends, whose parents became violent and disagreeable in their later years, Mama is funny, sweet and in spite of her constant repeating of questions, is a joy to be around. She is grateful and thankful for everything, especially when I run her bath water.
"I've never had anyone run my bath water before. That's so nice."
She thanks me every single time.
When we get ready to go to church: "Where's my purse?"
"It's on your arm, Mama."
She looks down at her arm. "Oh yes, there it is. What was I thinking?"
There are a lot of phrases she repeats:
"I bet you're tired," she says to me every morning. "How are you feeling today?"
And when my husband and I are in a disagreement she leans into me and says, "Men are something else." She always takes my side.
Our conversations are pretty much the same each day. She doesn't remember what we did the day before, or where we went shopping, or what day of the week it is.
"Where are the boys?"
"They're at school, Mom."
A minute passes.
"Where are the boys?"
And so it goes.
Alzheimer's is funny sometimes. Some people think I'm warped for thinking so, but in order to cope day to day with its inconvenience, I choose to find humor in the things she does and says. Such as when she's talking back to the answering machine, or when she mistakes the twins' boxers for a shirt while folding a basket of laundry.
"Isaiah, whose shirt is this?" Mama holds the boxers high and examines them.
Isaiah, playing with his Kindle Fire, shoots her a grin and looks back down. "Those are my boxers, Grandma." He says it softly so no one can hear.
But I hear and watch them together and smile in admiration. My 17-year-old twins have autism and developmental delays. Watching them help their grandma navigate a day is touching and sweet. The beauty of acceptance and love between them fills my heart with a kind of awe that's hard to put into words.
One morning Isaiah opened up Mama's high-calorie breakfast drink and sat it in front of her on the table. "Drink this all gone, Grandma." He gently squeezed her upper arm. "It will give you muscles."
I think having children with autism has prepared me well to care for Mama. I've learned not to sweat the small stuff, to have patience answering the same questions all day long, and the importance of keeping life simple.
I think Mama's politics are spot on. It's too bad she can't vote this year.
But I can.
Maybe I'll write in Richard Gere for President.