Monday, July 4, 1994

Correspondence: December 29, 1993

December 29, 1993
Carthage, TN

My situation has changed somewhat. I’m in Carthage for awhile taking care of the old folks. My grandmother suffered a stroke on December 12, which was, ironically, just before my father’s vacation, and he had planned to come up here anyway.

My father’s sister has been up here looking after the grandparents since August, so she was on hand to call 911 and get Grandma to the hospital. Grandpa checked into the hospital on the same day so my aunt could keep an eye on both of them.

After a week or so, Grandma was moved to a rehab center in a nearby town. She had several setbacks (which I should save for a later story) and is now in a hospital in Lebanon, while Grandpa is still in the hospital in Carthage. My father, my aunt and I have labored to provide each with round-the-clock care. (That’s three people for four shifts in two cities.)

I was able to get down to Atlanta on Tuesday and planned to return today (Thursday), but my cousin drowned and my aunt had to get back to Georgia and I had to drive all night Wednesday in order to sit here in the hospital all day today.

So that’s the deal. I bought a laptop [486 w/200 meg HD and internal modem] while I was in Atlanta, so I have a way to compute, but I haven’t worked out a reliable way to get on the Internet. I’m waiting for Grandpa’s Valium to hit, and then I will see if I can utilize the phone jack here in the hospital room.

I don’t know if I will be able to check my e-mail on any regular basis. If you don’t hear from me for a while, rest assured that I will document the events of this bittersweet comedy as they unfold, and I will try to get them onto the net as often as possible.

January 17, 1994

Carthage, TN

We are still dealing with the aftermath of Grandma’s demise. Grandpa has improved some since he came home from the hospital — his memory seems to work better here. I don’t remember when I last spoke to you, but Grandpa and I didn’t go to the funeral. The weather was bad, so we kept him in the hospital. We didn’t know if he would be able to handle it, anyway. Pop took him to the funeral home the day before the funeral, and I heard that he took it pretty hard.

I sat with him on the day of the funeral. (I never saw Grandma after she died. I learned my lesson with Bob and Reba.) He was confused all that morning. He’d say, “When’s the funeral?”

“11:00!” I’d say. Mind you, I had to yell loud enough for him to hear.

“Who are they burying?”
“Your Grandma?”
“My wife?”
“Well, who’d they bury yesterday?”
“Nobody! You went to see her at the funeral home yesterday!”
“When’s the funeral?”
“I can’t go.”
“No, the weather’s too bad! We’re going to stay here!”
“Who died?”

And so on, all morning long.

Now he tells his story to everyone (usually two or three times in rapid succession), and he adjusts the facts to suit him.

“I only saw her twice after she got sick.” (He actually saw her quite a few times in the hospital, but only for short periods of time because she couldn’t talk well, and he got choked up.) “I saw her once in Lebanon” (I don’t know where he got that), “and I went to see her when she was a corpse. I didn’t even get to go to the fun’ral!”

Grandpa and BK
March, 1994


July 4, 1994

Carthage, TN

... I am still in Carthage where it is deucedly inconvenient and expensive to get on the Internet. Not only is everything a long distance call from here, but the grand-parental home has a rotary dial phone with one of those old kind of lines that goes right into the wall where wires are twisted around little screws, or some damn thing. There is no jack to plug the computer into even if we had touchtone service. Stone knives and bearskins! What I have been doing is going to Atlanta every month or so and downloading a month’s worth of mail at a time. It takes me a while to plow through all of it. ...

It has been unbearably hot so far this summer. My experience of this exquisite heat has been enhanced by living with an 86 year old man. (“Turn that damn air off — I’m freezing!”) Just about everyone has set their tobacco, and the earliest batches are just about to blossom. Many peoples’ corn is beginning to show tassels. I don’t see how these people can plow in this heat. I reel on the edge of consciousness just from shutting the bathroom off from the air conditioning in the rest of the house long enough to make use of its services. As hot and as humid as it gets in there, using the bathroom becomes almost like a Native American vision-quest without the peyote. A bowel movement becomes a religious experience. (I just touched the face of God! Somebody bring me some paper!)

I have been exploring different ways to combat boredom. This whole county is like a big sensory deprivation tank; I have to provide my own stimuli. I joined a science book club, and have read several intriguing books about quantum physics and hyperspace, etc. And, in the time-honored tradition of prisoners everywhere, I am learning to play the harmonica.

No comments: