Wednesday, August 26, 2015
4:23 pm edt
Working at Kenny's is emotionally and physically exhausting. Yesterday
was especially so, or perhaps it's just catching up with me. As his niece, her husband and I worked to clear, organize
and clean the living room, Kenny sat in his red truck clutching the steering wheel and undoubtedly wishing he could drive
away from the invasive scene. But, alas his keys, like his independence have been taken away, so he sat dreaming of
happier days on the open road as we riffled through his stuff deciding what to keep and what to discard. What a horrible
fate. While the work is necessary according to ‘authorities' for him to remain safely in his home I can't
imagine how awful it must feel to be so stripped of control.
This impotence may explain his unusual wardrobe of late.
Yesterday he wore huge work boots with no socks or laces, overalls that were overdue for the laundry, a snap-closure cowboy
shirt and a jaunty suede sport jacket. On top of his current favorite chapeau, a fleece-lined, Kelly green
bill cap with ear flaps (down) sat a tweed cap which imparted sort of an eccentric British countryman look.
The Kenny of
today hardly resembles the hundreds of old photos I've found immortalizing a life from when he was a baby sitting on his dour-faced
mother's lap to an ungainly boy working in the fields.
Today's frail wasted Kenny is but a shadow of the beaming
graduate with dark slicked-back hair standing next to sister Ethel who was rather pretty in her youth. There's Kenny
next to a car (his first, maybe), Kenny on a tractor, Kenny next to a cow, always looking strong and robust. Pouring
through these old pictures feels like an archeological dig, each image revealing a bygone era.
There are several identified as Tag the
dog; Tag as a pup, Tag at sixteen years. Tag must have been a much-loved pet. These days, no one names a dog Tag. The
neighbor's new pup is called Shelby.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Before & After
7:13 pm edt
The big storm that took down many trees and did so much damage here
about two months ago demolished the arbor that greeted visitors and supported a lovely porcelain vine. It never occurred
to me that maybe that wreckage was a blessing in disguise, but in retrospect, it was!
I love the replacement version which
replicates the design of the pergola. Tim's construction work was my birthday present and I think he did a super job
on the new one. Even a few remnants of the porcelain vine survived and hopefully by next year this time the new and
improved model will be covered with its delicate foliage.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
4:52 pm edt
Cornflower blue eyes stared seemingly sightless
from his unlined waxy face. His blond hair was tousled as if he'd just woken from a nap, which in fact he had. On the
television which was turned up annoyingly loud, an ancient Laurel and Hardy video flashed black and white across the screen.
This was the scene I walked into when on impulse I stopped to say hello to my old friend T.
It hadn't been an easy decision.
I'd driven past the familiar house dozens of times, choosing not to stop because I knew the dismal situation inside.
T. had lost his mind. I'd seen the beginning of this decline a couple of years earlier when he, M. and another friend stopped
by the farm for a visit.
"He sleeps until noon, eats something and then it's time for a nap," said M., his longtime partner
now his sole caregiver. "That's how it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year. Jee-zus Kee-ryst,"
he added as if that explained it all, and I guess it really did.
Upon seeing me enter the room T. went into what appeared
to be convulsions. It looked as if he were being electrocuted. He grabbed my hands and pulled me down to the sofa, hugging
and kissing me and for just an instant my friend of so many decades was back.
"I'm happy to see you," I lied.
Or was it a lie? It seemed so, for being in the presence of someone who had been part of so many chapters of my own
life, yet who now was just a shadow of that person was devastating and awkward. He tried to speak, but only disconnected words
spilled from his trembling mouth. Through the entire visit he clutched my hands as if he never wanted to let go.
M. launched into
a litany of daily trials delivered in a gruff and resigned voice interspersed with frustrated profanity. I looked around
at the tidy surroundings, the artwork I'd known for so long and the friends I'd known even longer and didn't know what to
T. rambled on, struggling to put two words together that might make sense and I wondered if his mind could
possibly be okay and perhaps only his body had betrayed him. Out of T.'s earshot I asked, "What's wrong with him?"
M. assured me that the condition was totally hopeless and it was just a matter of time. He didn't really offer
When I left that place of gloom and doom it was time to deliver Kenny's dinner. Suddenly my own life seemed
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Not a good day.
9:06 pm edt
A few months ago when Kenny was found disoriented in a distant city
and taken to hospital, he was diagnosed as being very diabetic and as having a heart that was only functioning at 20%.
Being totally opposed to any and all conventional medicine he refused treatment, planning to "manage" his condition
with herbs and supplements. The prognosis looked grim, but true to form he rallied. No doubt the regular meals
I deliver each day are helping and certainly his clean and improved home condition are factors. Things were on a pretty
even keel-until yesterday.
He was convinced that a popular furniture store was going to be serving free corn on the cob and ice cream
starting at midnight. Clutching a newspaper from two weeks earlier, folded to a Dear Abby column about lesbianism he
insisted that what it said verified the free corn and ice cream. No amount of reasoning had any effect other than to
infuriate him more. Who could have guessed that my old friend even knew so many cuss words!
A torrent of profanity spewed from his
almost toothless mouth (remember, he still has that one tooth...) as he ordered me and his relatives to "Go to hell!"
Stomping from the house he headed toward the infamous red truck for which he thankfully has no keys. There he sat pouting
and pouring over the old newspaper and presumably learning how to deal with any lesbians he might encounter in the future.
I was stunned at his anger for this was a side of Kenny I'd never witnessed.
Sometime later his nephew in law asked
me if I'd turned my truck radio on. No I had not! Not only did the enraged old man fill my truck seat with newspapers,
but he had turned the key and cranked up the radio. It's a miracle the truck hadn't jumped forward for it would have
crashed into his other non-functioning vehicle. I removed the keys from the truck and in a placating effort offered
to take him for ice cream at a popular ice cream stand and he eagerly accepted, so off we went in my truck.
It took a long
time for him to travel the few feet from the truck to a picnic table, but he made it. I was surprised he was able to
consume the big bowl of vanilla, but he did, then wiped the plastic spoon, wrapped it in the napkin and tucked it into his
overalls to take home and ‘save.' 'Easy to see how his house and truck had become consumed with so much clutter.
home he was still very confused, but I got him safely inside and headed home, happy to be finished with my angry old neighbor
for the day.
Later I told neighbor Sandy about the dreadful day and she explained that unreasonable fury is something
that can happen when a diabetic's blood sugar drops dangerously low. "You should have given him some orange juice,"
she advised. You can bet I'll remember that.
I don't think I ever appreciated quietly sitting on my porch, surrounded by these
beautiful flowers more than I did yesterday. Home never looked so good.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
My old friend.
7:54 pm edt
"Kenny," I said, "I'm going to
clear the dining room table and put all of your books there so you can see just what you have."
He replied, "Oh,
that won't be easy." That was the understatement of the year, so instead of the dining table, a bookcase was hauled
down from the second floor and every shelf has been filled. There are still more books for Kenny is a voracious reader.
His clear blue eyes don't even need glasses.
His literary tastes for the most part deal with natural health remedies, sustainable
agriculture and a few things that are best left unmentioned. I recently found him engrossed in a book whose cover I
couldn't see, but the chapter that held his attention was ‘How to Clear Your Driving Record.' I did not tell him
it's too late for that. His days behind the wheel are over. He's now relegated to being a passenger.
He is also reading
some ‘afterlife' books and forced one on me. "Here, take this home and read it," he ordered. The
book is a very poorly written, self-published memoir by some preacher who claims to have died and literally gone to heaven,
but then decided to come back to earth to write about it. The author described gold-leafed trees (real gold, not autumn
colored foliage), celebrations with dead family members and I'm sure other fantastical events. I tried to decline this
offering, but he insisted that I take it. It's on my coffee table, but after the first chapter I could read no more.
I don't believe
such stuff, but have found it best not to discuss spiritual or political views with others, especially when the ‘other'
is ninety years old, something that may explain why my old friend is considering this chapter of his life. Each day
brings a new dimension to our relationship.
Today I scolded him for not eating the meal I'd delivered yesterday. It was
still sitting on the table with a party of gnats swarming above the plate When I pointed out that it was "buggy"
he said he didn't care. "I'll eat it today," he insisted.
"Not on my watch," I said,
tossing it out in the field for some hungry night critter.
I was pleased to see that the portrait I did of Kenny milking
Cow, something I gave him for a holiday gift several years ago has been unearthed from the mountain of stuff on the dresser
at the foot of his bed. I'd like to think that this picture once had a place of honor and that its premature burial
under clothes, newspapers, books, empty food containers, mail, various electrical devices and who knows what else was unintentional.
visit offers a surprise du jour for Kenny and for me. What will tomorrow reveal....
Sunday, August 2, 2015
11:36 am edt
Each day after my morning swim at the local Y, I stop at Kenny's to
feed his cat and then spend a few hours clearing out decades of trash and trying to create some small semblance of order.
Later in the day I take dinner to him. It might seem that he would consider all of this change in his daily life
invasive, but that's not the case. He seems to enjoy it and he never neglects to say "Thank you" which makes
it all worth the effort.
I love driving down the bumpy wildflower-lined lane where Queen Anne's lace, chicory,
Joe Pye weed and some yellow flower I keep meaning to look up create a garden prettier than any of the ones I struggle with
here at home. At Kenny's farm it's easy to forget that the rest of the world with all of its ugliness exists.
It's a joy being there despite the exhausting and challenging work.
Back at home I head to the porch to relax and marvel at
the volunteer pumpkin plant that is trying to invade my own home! This ‘kudzu' thing sprouted in the Knock-out
roses (which are now literally knocked out) and began heading west in front of the porch. No doubt about it, it's lovely
with its enormous leaves and bright yellow blossoms, but in addition to smothering the rose bushes, racing at alarming speed
across the south lawn, it made its way onto the brick porch, climbed the first chair, crept across the table like a living
centerpiece, grabbed a second chair and is now continuing its quest for entry to the living room. It grows an astounding
6-10 inches daily! Today I shall reposition the interloper, but it's been fun watching such vigorous growth.