Although Kate appreciates humor, she has never been one to joke or kid with people. It has only been in the latter stages of her Alzheimer’s that she has taken an interest in kidding me. I often think of kidding as an “art.” Not literally, of course. What I mean is that it requires the kidder to have a sense of when and when not to kid, who and who not to kid, and the way to kid. That is something Kate hasn’t mastered. What has happened is that she has lost her ability to filter what she says. Fortunately, I am the only one she kids, and I understand that she never means to hurt me. She is trying to be playful in the same way that I have been with her.
That does lead to her kidding me in a way that an observer would interpret as sometimes “mean-spirited.” That is especially true in her comments about our last name as well as my looks. One example that comes up frequently is when she asks my name. If I only give her my first name, she asks for my full name. When I tell her, she gives me a painful look when I say Creighton. She has a strong preference for her maiden name, Franklin, and says something like, “What was I thinking about?” Sometimes she says, “Richard Lee sounds all right, but Creighton?”
It is much more common for her to say something about my looks. Yesterday at lunch, she said, “You know, you’re a nice guy. You’re not handsome, but you’re nice.” She got more specific and mentioned my nose and receding hairline. About that time, a man in a hat walked by our table. I told Kate that maybe I should wear a hat. She said, “That won’t help. If it weren’t for your personality, you would still be living off your parents.” Should I have counted that as a victory?