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Saturday, September 26, 2009


behind the wheel

Today was the day of the parade getting rained on. At the radio station this morning I was reading the weather on the half hour. The forecast for this day was the worst (for rain) of any around it. I thought it might be kind of interesting to have everyone in the parade carry an umbrella and everyone watching the parade with umbrellas. That would be quite a spectacle seen from the air. I recall a rain at a Wayne Henderson fest. A field of multi-colored umbrellas. It being a middle class event, very colorful synthetic clothes. It's the same at Merlefest. It's the cool tshirt showplace. Everybody wears their cool tshirt. And many of them really are.

This morning I played some Dock Boggs to get started. He played banjo and sang the old songs from Norton, Virginia, same place Ralph Stanley's bass player, Jack Cooke, lives. Worked in coal mines. The recording came from a concert in 1966 at ASU in Boone. Then some Wade Ward, who lived in or around Independence, Virginia. He played with Charlie Higgins and Dale Poe for much of his adult life. Played Ward picking banjo. Then Ola Belle Reed from her radio show recorded live in her country store, I think Oxford, Pennsylvania. She has a special way with songs of the heart. Like I'll Wear A White Rose, or Lamp Lighting Time in the Valley. Her voice doesn't have a great deal of range, but she can get the feeling across. The NC news wasn't on--they were playing what sounded like an infomercial, so I went back and played a song by Roscoe Holcomb of Hazard, Kentucky. And last was the best, Great Speckled Bird recorded in a holiness church around Hazard, beautifully sung.

This morning was the first time I came close to calling Sue and asking her to cover for me. I was not in a mood for it. I wanted to brood. On the other hand, I looked at it as a chance to get out of the house. We had a rough night last night starting at 4am. I was not able to get back to sleep, afraid I'd oversleep and miss the radio show on time. Must be on the air on time. The ordeal in the night was not a matter of mess to clean up, but seeing how far away Jr has gone over the last few days. It's not another decline. Now it's a continuing decline. And just a few days ago he drifted over into pitiful. The kind of pitiful that makes me want to cry, that frustrates me like crazy, and finally I end up in sorrow, where I just about stay now.

Jr discovered last night that if he backs the wheelchair into the pottie chair, knocks it over and puts the wheelchair on the spot where it stood, then the wheelchair is the pottie chair. A whole lot easier than before when he had to struggle out of the wheelchair into the pottie chair and then back, and then back to bed. I could not reach him. I tried to explain as simply as I could that it doesn't work like that. It was like I was telling him something that simply wasn't so. He knew it and looked at me wondering why I didn't get it. It's obvious. What's the big deal? He had it all figured out. And it's still that way. I've had to plead with him to use the diapers he's wearing, and he may eventually, as it gets more and more difficult for him to get out of the bed.

This morning, in acute frustration that helps me understand elder abuse, not that I have any inclination to be mean to him, but, oh boy, it takes some self-control, getting with myself and saying, Why so upset? It's like getting upset over a baby crying all night. It comes from such innocence, from outside guile, that it can only be regarded with patience and understanding. Without patience and understanding, I really do understand how some old people get taken away from their homes by Social Services and put into nursing homes, where it's actually better for them.

One time a few years back, a block-headed smart-mouth, who knew no need to back up anything he said with fact or anything near it, had heard some BS from a major BSer and came to me, hands on hip attitude, and said, "You're hurting Jr!" He meant by letting him drink when he wanted to. The only thing I had to say was, "That's not possible." It was a totally unprovable charge, one of those moments that to say, who do you think you are, would be redundant. Like now that Jr is really outside himself and acting like a baby, I can't get upset over his behavior. All I can do is go on making things as easy for him as I'm able.

A few weeks ago a couple of the angels from Hospice advised me that he's entering the stage where he will become frustrating. He's there. Yet, while I really do get frustrated, I don't allow it to motivate any of my action. Even though Jr doesn't seem to be in there anymore, I still know the Jr I've appreciated all these years is still in there, he's just trapped in a body and a mind that don't work anymore. It is still my friend, Jr Maxwell, in there, an observer and not much else anymore. I told him back when he had his mind that I'm with him to the end. If he gets beyond what I can handle, I'll learn how to handle it.

When I look at him he looks like he is trying to figure out who I am. I smile to him and he smiles back. He dislikes the shape he's in much more than I do. If I think it's frustrating for me, it's something way beyond frustration for him. Knowing his inner observer is the same now as when he had his right mind, I continue to treat him as I always have, with respect. That respect breaks through the frustration and makes it manageable. I couldn't do this with somebody I didn't know and care about with a great deal of respect. It's respect that will always be there between us and guide my action.

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