I dosed him with vitamin C in the form of Clementines, cups of sweet, hot tea and homemade elderberry cough syrup. He grimaced and muttered at all my attempts, so I gave up and went to bed. Later, I was awakened from a sound sleep by a cacaphonus hiccup accompanied by an echoing, hacking cough. “Arrrrgh-h-h-h!” I groaned.
“Sorry,” he whispered. He always attempts to be very quiet so as not to wake me. He twisted and yanked at the covers and finally settled onto his side. “HUH-HUHH-CK,” he said. “Sorry.”
He was asleep instantly, but the staccato sounds continued. I pulled my pillow over my head. “Try holding your breath.”
“To stop your hiccups,” I said, though from experience I knew it would not.
He didn’t even try. The bursts continued until I suggested that he might sleep better if he went into the other bedroom.
“Why would I sleep better there?”
“Because I won’t poke you all night!”
He clomped down the hall and I drifted to sleep. I knew I hadn’t handled that well, but, I rationalized, no one dies from hiccups.
Later still, Peter got up to use the bathroom, but forgot he was sleeping in the guest room. He returned to our bed, grabbed for the covers but instead got my arm which I’d flung across to his side. Both of us yelped. “What are you doing?” I said.
“Coming back to bed…I thought you were sleeping in the other room…”
“No, you were!” He plodded back down the hall.
Sunday morning, froggy-voiced, weepy-eyed, drippy-nosed and still hiccuping, he croaked, “Good morning.” His voice was in the basement.
“How do you feel?” I asked. He patted himself all over and grinned. I rolled my eyes. That’s always his answer to my how-do-you-feel question.
His symptoms continue to this moment. He’s in the next room watching television, hacking and sniffling and still hiccuping endlessly. When I asked how his cold was this morning, he shook his head and said indignantly, “Cold? I don’t have a cold. Sneezing a bit, that’s all.” He coughed hard enough to untie his shoes and knock his socks off.
And that, Readers, is how I discovered the cure for the common cold, at least at our house. Dementia, dementia, that’s the cure. Peter insists he is not sick, does not have a cold or a cough or a hiccough. Since he doesn’t have a cold, there’s nothing for me to catch.
Knocks the achoo right out of the Kleenex factory, doesn’t it?
— Judy Clarke
Judy Clarke is a wife, mother of two daughters, grandmother to two grown grandchildren, reader, writer and blogger in southwest Virginia. Her two non-fiction books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book and That’s all she wrote, can be found on her friends’ and family’s shelves, and she’s working on a novel, But why? (That’s the title of the novel, not a question to self). She placed second in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ 2016 writing competition, in the category of online, blog, multimedia under 100,000 unique visitors. This essay originally appeared on her Dementia Isn’t Funny blog.