Imagine living a quiet life for nine long decades in the house where
you were born. You never married, but worked the land, albeit in a rather lazy fashion, caring for your cows, casually
to be sure, but oddly they thrived on spelt bread. You bothered no one and except for the time thugs broke in and beat
you up, no one bothered you.
Then imagine that simple life turning upside-down almost overnight. That's
what has happened to my eccentric old neighbor Kenny. Granted, the misfortunes that have befallen him over the years
have inadvertently been of his own making, but as we who are involved in "helping" Kenny live more comfortably and
certainly more safely these days, the old bachelor farmer only sees intrusion. Sadly, it can't be any other way.
You may recall
he has had a good bit of trouble with the law this year; driving the garbage truck so slowly through town where the speed
limit is 25 mph that he tied up traffic. That drew the sheriff's attention, but then they discovered he was driving on a suspended
license (it was that hit-run incident...) and so the first court date was set. He pleaded not guilty.
"I got a
letter from the sheriff asking for some money, so I sent them a donation and they sent me a little sticker for my truck.
If you put that sticker on, then you don't ever have to worry about getting arrested," he reasoned. He had not
put the sticker on, but felt he was home free if he could just find that damned sticker.
"Kenny, it doesn't work that way,"
I explained, but he was not convinced. Off to court he went again, this time before a judge. "Not guilty,"
he insisted. The judge ordered him to return a third time. (The judge was probably frustrated.) No attorney was
present for any of these events.
Finally the judge, reluctant to jail the old coot fined him (having no proof of insurance
added to the costs...) and suspended his license for an additional six months. The court seemed to ignore the fact that
Kenny did not feel that little card (driver's license) had much significance, so away he went in the red truck. The
last time he was picked up he landed in the hospital where he was diagnosed as a diabetic--one who firmly refused to take
medication or advice. ("My Amish doctor will take care of things," he told the hospital.) Back home
things have gone steadily downhill.
Someone wisely took the truck keys leaving him homebound and not very happy about
it. As if all this were not bad enough, his buddy W. had fallen and broken his hip and is now enjoying life in a nursing
home. "I get lots of attention and the free food is great," he told Kenny, urging him to adopt the same new
lifestyle, but Kenny is not game.
So, now I deliver meals to him and his Kitty daily. Kitty is fat and healthy,
but my old pal is not. Many days I find him wandering about barefoot, or sitting behind the wheel of the red truck with
or without foot gear. Considering the conditions in his home, this is not safe. Sometimes he's found wearing two different
shoes; one boat shoe and one gigantic winter boot. Hygiene and grooming were never high on his priority list, but the
untreated diabetes is making his age-related mental confusion worse, hence bathing is only a distant memory, something he
may have done when he was young.
I've brought home a good bit of laundry, especially his cowboy shirts as these have
snap closures rather than buttons. He can manage the snaps, but buttons are hard. Although the temperatures were
near 90 for days on end, Kenny clung to a heavy red plaid wool jacket which he wore as a shirt. "Isn't that terribly
hot and uncomfortable," I ask to which he replied, "Oh, it's not too bad."
Phil, another concerned person in the
area convinced him to "wash up" at the sink now that we've re-established water where none has run for several years
and to don some clean clothes.
It would be disrespectful to post images of my old neighbor in his decline or pictures
of the mess he calls home. Things go from bad to worse almost daily, but a few of us are doing the best we can to insure
that his final wish is granted: He wants to die in the house where he was born.