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Saturday, May 16, 2009

WILEY P MAXWELL JR




The picture above is Jr three months ago. Today he's in the nursing home in Independence where he's been for about three weeks, and hospital a week before that. He's improving a little at a time and may be able to go home. He has spells when he gives up and sinks into despair, but next day is back. He can't stay down for long at a time. Overnight usually takes care of a depression. He thinks all night and will think his way out of it by morning.

The hospital rehydrated him and the nursing home is getting him back on his feet with physical therapy and food. He's not eating much, but enough to keep him going, which is more than he eats at home. Like usual, he went to the hospital this time dehydrated from never drinking anything but maybe half a glass of milk every other day or so. Force him to eat or drink when he's not able and it comes right back up. Most of the time, nearly all the time, he's not able. When he is able, look out, something's wrong someplace.

I can't visit him less than every day. I skipped yesterday and don't feel right about it. Sure, it's great for me to have a day I don't drive to Independence. But that means he has a day when potentially nobody stops in to see him. I go to be sure has company every day. It's horrible living in there forgotten by everyone. He was taken out of his house by ambulance unconscious and woke up at the emergency room. He didn't have a chance to say good-bye to his house. First weeks in the nursing home his spirit sagged. He'd get a false promise in his mind he could go home, then it would be dashed. It was disheartening. By the third week he sees he survived this long and might make it. Now he's on a program in his mind to eat and drink and exercise, get his strength back up the best he can and entertain hope to go home. That doesn't mean he's eating much. But he's able to get up and walk to the bathroom and back of his own power.

I like to stay with him two hours a day. After the first half hour we don't have a whole lot to say. Over half a dozen years talking every day at the table with our drams of the best white liquor in these hills, he told me his life and I told him mine. By now we're so caught up we're down to one day at a time. My days are about as entertaining as his to tell about, so we don't talk a whole lot. I tell him the temperature on my mountain and in town, what kind of rain it is when it's raining, how far you can see the yellow line when it's foggy, what the wind is doing, what the clouds are like, a little bit of the forecast, what the traffic is like on the highway and in town. I make him a mental picture of the day as he'd see it through his window at home. A little something to ease his confinement, at least a report of what it's like outside. The walls are so insulated he can't hear the rain. His whole life has been working outdoors. He is still connected with the weather though he seldom leaves the house.
That nursing home has a loving feeling in the air. The people who work there give attentive care to every individual in there. Junior is in such good shape compared to nearly all of them he doesn't feel like he belongs in there. Unfortunately, his body is going quicker than his mind. He gets to know the people who work there. They all take to him. He's comfortable, and that's the most I dare ask for. Sometimes I think of Junior a ship sinking with all its lights on.

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