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Sunday, September 6, 2009


the blue tractor

Paul came to see Jr again today. I met him on the porch and told him Jr is having a good day. He's in bed, probably not asleep. Even if he is asleep, he wants to be woke up. Paul walked into the bedroom and called to Jr loud enough to wake him if he were asleep. He sat in the wheelchair and Jr gradually sat up in bed. Paul really comes to see Jr, not me, so I busied myself washing dishes and folding clothes out of the dryer. Jr had just eaten half a spicy chicken from Burger King, kept in refrigerator overnight and warmed in the microwave, and drank a dram of apple juice. He'd had 2 ensures in the day and 1 DanActive. A little bit of white bread and processed chicken for bulk. It will keep him going since he doesn't do anything but lie in bed.

This morning I was looking at the lawnmower, a Simplicity, 15 or more years old, runs perfectly, and noticed the right front tire was flat. All the way flat. Last time Jr mowed he complained it was hard to steer and I'd noticed it cut one side closer to the ground than the other. He spoke of getting somebody to look at it to see why it's hard to steer and doesn't mow right. The whole time I mowed I noticed the right side cut much closer than the left side and sometimes shaved the top of the ground. I noticed it was hard to steer. But it wasn't until I'd mowed twice and was looking at the mower one day and saw the tire was flat the whole time. It made me question my awareness. It's getting slack. I'm not paying enough attention.

Riding mowers, like chainsaws, tractors and motorcycles, require fixed attention. Let up the attention for a split second and you're vulnerable to whatever might occur. There is a bank that goes straight down 6 or 7 feet full of Queen Anne's lace, red clover, Black-eyed Suzies. There is room for one swipe of the mower around a 15' blue spruce with that bank the other side. Nothing dangerous about it, but like on a mountain road with a dropoff on one side, you keep it in the road.
Two times I mowed the lawn with the tire flat and never once noticed. It's been a quarter century since I was last on a riding mower. That's no justification. I was prepared for it to be hard to steer and cutting odd from Jr's report, so I didn't look into it, just accepted it. When I told Jr that we both mowed with the right front tire flat, he said, You can only mow two times before you have to fill it up. It's been flat a long time. I'll get an air compressor and fill it for next round. It's not even a justification to blame it on white hair. If that was an IQ test, I fail, bottom 30%, among the white men that listen to Rush Limbaugh.

I can't even imagine how Jr feels, unable to think, actually. His mind has lost the ability to think. Like to think about a given topic like your check book. About all he can do with his mind is drift in images from the near and far past and respond to questions if he understands them. His hearing is going away. Sight too. Everything is a blur to him. He recognizes me, but mostly from familiarity. Someone comes in to see him and he can't see them well enough to recognize them.
All of his faculties are drifting away and right now, the last few days, he's come to see he's not going to make it. He's not believed it all along through his decline. It's during this full moon that he's looking at dying as irreversibly in the near future. I don't mean to imply the moon has something to do with it, because I don't know. It may or may not. Even as close as he's been before this time, he has not believed dying was near, until now.

I carry a complexity of feelings, such as hoping for his sake the agony doesn't last much longer. But at the same time I don't like controlling somebody else's destiny by wishing something "for his sake." I've seen so many times how we do something for somebody else's sake and it's not of any use, help or anything. I want Jr to be able to make his decisions as long as he's able. When he says yes or no, that's what goes. I don't look to the day when Jr Maxwell will be absent from this world; we need more people like him on this earth, not less. I see him received with wide open arms and Jimmy Martin welcoming him to the sunny side of the mountain.
I don't want to hold him back and I don't want to urge him on. I want my part to be to smooth the wrinkles in his path and allow him to go in his own time, at his own pace. With all the service facilities we've been through, I have insisted he be regarded with respect. I didn't realize respect was so rare, then along came Hospice. I'm finally at peace with the health care assistance we're getting. It's even better than what I insist on, because I only insist on the barest minimum. Evidently that's hard to come by. AMA needs to rethink and restart, ready to serve living, breathing human beings with lives. The issue is: the bottom line is profit. Hospice has nothing to do with that thinking. Hospice's idea of profit is giving meaningful service.

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