Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Back in Da Patch

We're back in Starkpatch, MS, for a bit and we just got in from a fabulous evening out with friends, dining at a great new Japanese restaurant (which is run by a bunch of Mandarin Chinese, as far as we could tell), scarfing sushi, crispy fried fish and hot saki. Good stuff. I can't recall the name of it, but it's on Stark Road, in case you're in the neighborhood.

We've spent the last couple days down in Wayne County, MS, visiting my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin and doing the late Christmas thing with them. We also visited my Mamaw, who is still in her resident care home. Can't say that this visit went as well as the one last month. I suppose it could have been worse, though.

It was not one of Mamaw's good days. Unlike last time, when she was semi-energetic and attentive, this time she mostly slept. When she was awake, she was kind of confused, though we did manage to get a smile out of her when we told her we'd helped clean her house and fiercely missed her cooking. It was not an easy visit for us, though. She's not doing well and is getting progressively worse. She had lost a lot of weight since even our Thanksgiving visit, and she didn't have that much weight available to lose in the first place. She is skin and bones at this point, wrapped up in blankets in her bed where she spends most of her time sleeping. Her Alzheimers has progressed to the point where she can no longer swallow properly on most days and she's not much interested in food to begin with. They're feeding her as many cans of Ensure as they can get down her, which is, again, not many on most days. Doctors have already begun discussing the possibility of a feeding tube with my aunt, which is a prospect none of us want to see happen. Mamaw made her wishes clear that she didn't want to wind up like that. We think she would hate it if she knew she was in the residence care home at all, which thankfully she doesn't seem to.

Mamaw was a terribly private person in life, very quiet and reserved and unwilling to be beholden to anyone nor to have people sticking noses into her business. Those traits as well as her hearing loss helped mask the extent of her condition for quite some time. No one was even aware she had any mental problems until she began forgetting names of close family members, or calling them by the wrong names, or imagining that she had house guests when there were none. Looking back, we can see that there were lots of signs, but most of these signs could also be interpreted any number of other, less harmful ways, so it's no wonder they were missed. You could chalk any number of things up to bad eyesight, loss of hearing or simple frailty, only seeing their true significance after the fact. I now look back on the conversations I've had with her over the past five years and I can see that even before the disease began they were much the same as after. The only time I can really pin down a major warning sign is when I called her in April of this year and she seemed to think I was my sister for a few seconds. (For those just joining us, I'm male and have a fairly deep voice, whereas my sister does not.)

I keep praying that God will call her home, reuniting her with the souls of her own grandmother (who Mamaw evidently cared for in much this same way when she was much younger--she's actually mentioned this in the past few months), her parents, her husband, her brothers and that of her daughter, my mother. Barring that, I pray that God will give her comfort in the days to come.

If you're inclined to prayer, how bout say one on her behalf. You can refer to her as Miss Bessie, if you'd like a name to use. Please say one for my Aunt Dora too. She's having to make most of the hard decisions here and I pray for God to give her guidance and wisdom.

While we're at it, please also say a prayer or two for my Uncle Chuck, on my Dad's side of the family, in Missouri. He just underwent double bypass surgery this afternoon. From what I'm told, he's doing well so far, particularly since the surgery was supposed to be triple bypass, but the surgeons scaled it back when they saw he didn't need all three. He and his family are going through the ringer on this, so they could all use positive thoughts and prayers.


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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.