Sunday, November 30, 2003

Thanksgiving Part I

We got in late last night from our Thanksgiving holiday adventures. It was so nice to be back in our own, comfy bed, the covers pulled up to our necks, especially after our 12 hour car trip. I was even able to sleep well, despite our cat Winston's attempts to wake us up by meowing every ten seconds. This is typical behavior for the little kitty when we've been gone for a week.


The car held up for the rest of our journey, but our travels were not without incident. We made it to my Mamaw's house last Tuesday night (pausing only briefly to pick up my sister at the airport in Jackson) with no problem, but almost as soon as we walked through the door I was viciously attacked upon by my cousin Amy's pit bull mix dog, Sandy. It was my own fault, really. My usual tactic when confronted by a barking dog belonging to a relative is to bark back, just to annoy it. Usually I've met the dog before and once it recognizes me it stops barking and becomes friendly. Not so with Sandy. She didn't know me from Adam and didn't take too kindly of my dismissal of her presence and she tried to take a chunk out of the back of my thigh as I walked by her on the way to the kitchen. Hurt like hell, but got my attention. I didn't make that mistake twice and was very careful to make as little noise as possible on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


We visited Mamaw in her residence care-home last Wednesday. She was having a good day and was happy and talkative for most of the time we were there. She didn't seem to recognize any of us, though she did seem to think that I was my father. Her Alzheimer's had progressed far more than anyone knew before it was diagnosed. She is taking medication to dramatically slow the process, but at this stage it's only a mixed blessing. She often doesn't know her own daughter and while she tends to remember names she usually doesn't associate those names with their owners. It was an interesting visit.

I think I was feeling pretty collected about the whole thing until my aunt mentioned that Mamaw often seems to think that she's a young woman and is concerned with her own grandmother's failing health. That got me thinking about the cyclical nature of life in general and how I'm now in her position, worrying about my grandmother's failing health. Someday, perhaps, my own grandson (should my wife and I ever get around to honking out a kid who grows up to honk out a kid) will have the same concern about me. This line of thinking kind of put me in a funk that was hard to shake, particularly after we got to Mamaw's care-home and had to contend with trying to carry a conversation with her while avoiding one another's eyes lest we all burst into tears.

Our conversations with her were sort of limited. We would tell her things and she would seem to understand some of it but would gloss over for others. It was a lot like trying to carry a conversation through a bad long distance phone connection; we could understand one another once in a while but a lot of it was fuzzy on both ends. Once in a while, though, she would try to explain to us where she was in terms of her memory. She said that she didn't really know us but felt that if she stared at us long enough something might come up. She also said that while she couldn't remember people she could remember animals very well.

It was a sadly positive visit. It breaks my heart to see her like that, but I can see that she's in good care and good spirits despite her state of mind. I still pray that God will take her on home soon.

My night leafing through photo albums at my parents' house only whetted my appetite for things of the past. I mentioned it to my aunt and cousin at Mamaw's house and they broke out Mamaw's photo albums and we all started going through them. They were in poor shape, the pages barely holding the photos under their plastic covers. My sister the photobug purchased some new pages and redid all the albums that needed repair. It was amazing to go through them, seeing not only pictures of my sister and I as little kids, but also black and white photos of my mother and aunt as kids and of ancestors on both Mamaw's and Papaw's sides, almost all of whom have been dead for decades. A lot of that history is lost forever. Mamaw is one of the only people left who could have told us the identities of nearly everyone in the photos, but the chances of her being able to do that now are pretty slim.

We found a fantastic photo of my Papaw as a young man and took it to Wal-Mart, where we scanned it in and made copies of it that were superior to the water-damaged original. We each now have a copy of it. I wish there was a similar photo of Mamaw, but she was a terribly camera-shy person, who almost only brought out a camera for birthdays and then only to take pictures of her grandchildren.

Among the photos we also found bookmarks made of obituaries clipped from a newspaper and then laminated in plastic. It's apparently a service provided by the local funeral home, where most of my deceased relatives on that side of the family had their funerals. My mother's obituary was among them. How odd to read of your own parent's death, almost exactly 27 years after the fact.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.