Thursday, February 16, 2006

Close to Nowhere
By Linda Jones

Hard decisions

Way back when “Pop” and I were first married, I will admit now, that I really didn’t know everything in the world.

Being young and knowing everything as I thought I did, naturally, my own mother couldn’t tell me anything. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized she was smart enough to breath on her own.

Fortunately, when I married, I not only got a good husband, I was very lucky with his family. I came from a very small “just us” family and all of a sudden, I had loads and loads of family — everywhere!

For many years, my mother-in-law stepped in and loved and supported me — first, when my mother and father moved away to Arkansas and then after my mother passed away at a very early age.

She and I did everything together. We painted and redid several houses that her son, her grandchildren and I moved into and later, she and I supervised while her son rebuilt and redid her house.

We shopped and laughed and cried together. I spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices with her and she returned that service by going with me to doctors’ offices when our son was born physically handicapped.

One doctor’s office visit is still vivid in my memory — I made most of our children’s clothes and there was a string or something hanging from our son’s pants leg. She decided in her infinite wisdom to just burn it off with her cigarette (you could still smoke everywhere then). I sat and watched as his pants leg caught on fire. No injury, no damage, except to the string and a seam, and we laughed about that for many, many years.

As often happens when people get older, she began to change. During her fifties, she suffered what is politely called a “midlife crisis,” and went bonkers for a bit.

Things weren’t the same, even after she “recovered,” but it really didn’t matter. She had been as much my mother as my own mother and you don’t abandon mothers when things don’t go to suit you.

Jimmie, my mother-in-law, is now bedridden, in a nursing home in Memphis, with senile dementia. She is not going “quietly into that good night” but arguing and fighting the entire way.

And, we who are left of that large and wonderful family, have a very tough decision to make.

She will no longer eat anything other than dessert. She has always loved sweets more than anything and somewhere, in her mind, she’s decided that she can’t and won’t eat anything else.

The doctors want to put in a feeding tube —this would keep her alive — bedridden and helpless; and deprive her of the only thing left in life she can enjoy.

I wish I still knew everything...

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