“You look like a wicked broad!”

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Joan was the second British woman who had lived in one of my dementia care communities. She had moved to the US after meeting her husband, an American soldier, in World War II—a story similar to the one that I heard from my first British resident.

If you asked Joan, she could still tell you the story. “We met at a dance,” she’d offer. “They used to do these dances so that we could meet young American soldiers.”

You’d ask her how her husband was at dancing. “No, he wasn’t any good. Americans can’t dance,” she’d reply, a shadow of a snarky smile crossing her eyes. 

That was my favorite thing about Joan: her sense of humor. Her moods were unpredictable, but she was always funny—and she knew it. Her humor was stereotypically English: dry, sarcastic, witty.

I’d often tell her that I studied abroad in Bath, England. and this delighted her. Of course, the story was always new, and so was her reaction to it. “Ah! Bath. Yes, a nice little city,” she’d offer.

Joan often responded well to me over other staff members. So, one day, when it was time for dinner, I offered her a seat. Joan was in a particularly bad mood that afternoon, though, and was not interested in sitting down.

“No, no, no,” she repeated. “I do not want to sit down. I won’t do it.”

“It’s okay, Joan, we’re about to have dinner,” I said, gently.

“No,” she responded, then looked up at my face. “You look like a wicked broad…” she snapped at me.

This really cracked me up. I’d never been called “a wicked broad” before, and I started to laugh, showing my teeth.

Joan paused her criticism of me. “…with beautiful teeth!”

I started to laugh even harder, and that snarky smile began to cross Joan’s face; she was enjoying this bizarre interaction.

“I want your teeth,” she continued. “Please give them to me.”

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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