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Thursday, August 6, 2009


Big day today. Jr took in genuine nourishment over a period of 6 hours. I wondered if he might be going into hibernation. He mentioned he hadn't eaten in three days, which is close. He had an ensure each of those days. When he's unable to eat, he cannot eat. I've been reminding myself today that he knows himself and his needs better than anyone else, certainly better than me. A few minutes ago he got up from the bed, came in here, drank half a glass of water and wanted something else to drink. I brought him a Gatorade fruit punch in his drinking cup with ice and a straw. In three different servings he drank the 20oz bottle of the Gatorade and a full cup of water.

I've been worrying over how to get him to drink some water or eat a little something. No. He's told me he feels like he's going to throw up when he eats. He can't get it down. Today he's eaten twice, plus his ensure and a banana. First banana in a week. I take it a window opened in his gastrointestinal channel, he saw it and used the moment to fill his tank. I've been telling him for weeks the benefits of nourishment and water. I'm starting to feel like a Jewish mother. You want to walk, drink water. You want to be able to take care of yourself, drink water. In the course of a day he'll sip enough water to take his pills morning and evening. I don't like water, he says. I say it's not a question of whether or not you like water. It's a question of whether or not you like to walk and stand on your feet. A while ago he asked me what pill it was that is for his mind. I told him aricept. He tried to say it. I told him I also got some herb capsules of ginko that helps memory too. He wanted two of each. He took them and went back to bed.

My friend Robb dropped by while Jr was in the bed. We sat on the porch talking, Jr heard somebody talking and got up. I have instructions to wake him when the phone is for him and when someone comes to the door. People stopping by to see him the same as breathe life into him. He waits like a fisherman on the bank of a lake anticipating a bite. Robb worked with old people before retirement and has a special understanding. He had Jr talking of old times making music with Robb's uncle Otis, a Galax old-time/bluegrass fiddler. Jr's memory was flowing as everything came back to him, places they played. And Robb's dad Jay, a guitar picker and flatfooter, was an old picking buddy of Jr's.

It was beautiful for me, sitting here with wet eyes hearing Jr talk about those times. It's as clear to him as if it were now. He was speaking so freely, never having to pause to try to remember something so long he forgets why, animated, hearing well, pert and in tune. Robb kept him talking, and he flowed without a pause looking for something that was gone. Invariably people dropping in will ask him questions. Questions make his mind go blank. Then he's gone. He can't get back. What it takes is to start talking with him about a person, place and time, and when he sees it in his mind's eye, he's there and can talk like it's happening before his eyes.

Jr told Robb of a time he was making music with Uncle Otis at some place out on a country road in Grayson County. Jr remembered a grandaddy longlegs spider walked onto Otis's fiddle strings. Otis was blowing at it. When he said that, Robb laughed and Jr laughed, both seeing it. Guitar picker Vick Daniel bent over laughing when Otis dispatched longlegs with a sweep of the bow. Robb laughed and Jr was so tickled he'd been able to cause a laugh he looked at me with eyes lit up to say, I aint dead yet. I look back to say, good going. From what I've seen in the course of this last week, 7 days, it was especially heartening to see his spirit back. The whole week was like a downhill run on greased skis. I'm back to looking in on him when I'm up in the night to see if he's breathing. In the morning, that's the first thing I look for. It was a joy for me to see Jr laughing and animated.

I have to learn to trust that Jr's body knows its needs better than I do. Now that he's purged his tract of all but ensure, he had a feast today. He had such a good time talking about good times he almost had the feeling he had his mind back, but knew better. Trying to remember some names bluffed him, such that when he asked me for the memory pills, he said, I can't remember names. It's hard for me, because I know Jr the self-sufficient, independent man. Seeing him a shut-in creeping about with a walker brings to my mind the black panther in the Kansas City Zoo when I was a kid. He walked back and forth, back and forth, a steady lope, a life sentence in solitary confinement for no reason except he was caught in a trap.

Jr is in his confinement because he simply lived too long. He, too, paces, bed to couch and back, bed to bathroom and back. Several such journeys in a day. He says that's his exercise. I already know what I tend to doubt, that is that Jr is aware of his own needs. Though that's debunked by the times he ended up in the emergency room dehydrated. I'm always looking for that line to walk in between believing his body knows best its needs and the evidence that it does not. My suspicion about the feast today is the body was starved and had a hunger spasm. That's a form of knowing what it needs.

It's the body shutting down, the natural process of old age. I search daily for the balance, as it's constantly shifting, wondering if I'm prolonging his process by seeing to it he has at least minimal nourishment against his will, or is it what I believe it is, that I'm helping make it possible for him to leave this lifetime as comfortable as he can be in his own home? I simply believe he deserves that, for so many reasons there's no way around it.

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