Things are seldom what they seem

W.S. Gilbert might have been writing about patients when he penned this lyric:

Things are seldom what they seem; 
Skim milk masquerades as cream.

For several decades I have cared for an elderly and very religious woman who has outlived 3 husbands. She attends Mass several times a week, does volunteer work at the local parish, and participates in a number of Catholic community service groups. She is well educated and soft spoken and always dresses quite formally. She objects if any member of the staff addresses her by her first name. 

The first time she showed me a different aspect of her persona, I was taken by surprise and uncomfortable. But I grew to accept and then expect it. Now I rather enjoy it. At the end of every visit (I’ve learned to leave her a little time) she asks the same question. “Do you have a moment? I have a funny story to tell you.”

And then it comes. The joke. Always told with a perfect poker face, always clever, and rarely suitable for work. And always accompanied by her intent scrutiny, looking for signs of embarrassment on my part. (She is often rewarded.) This week it was about the woman who received a call from her failing husband’s doctor, telling her that his lab tests were inconclusive, but that he either had Alzheimer’s or AIDS. In response to her question about further testing, the doctor suggested that she drop him off downtown in the evening, and if he can find his way home, she shouldn’t sleep with him.

I look forward to her infrequent visits, and my staff eagerly awaits my poor retelling of her joke after she leaves. They enjoy the joke and I take great pleasure from the fact that she has accepted me as accepting her.


Links to more on this topic::