by Brad Nelson 6/9/16
The day before yesterday my 85-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. She’s likely in surgery for a partial-hip-replacement even as we speak. Your well-wishes are assumed. Gaining sympathy is not the point of this post.
Her physical prognosis is good. Long-term prognosis not so much because she’s an old, stubborn, somewhat vain person who will not use a cane. I’ve told her time after time, “You don’t want to live out the rest of your life as a hip patient.”
Well, the break wasn’t too bad and they will fix it up. If she’s willing to go through a little pain (reminiscent of our current cultural problems…generally she is not), she can be up and walking again in as little as a couple of weeks. The wonders of modern medicine. But medicine can’t always save us from ourselves.
Spending time in the emergency room is no picnic but is becoming somewhat routine. This is my third time with her in the last couple of years and this time at least wasn’t bedside hell. I won’t go into the details. But “the greatest generation” is sure a cranky one. I get the same story from others with elderly parents.
So, juggling work and ER time (and hospital visitation time..and even blogging time) is no picnic. And whatever is going on, the tomatoes must stay watered. Thankfully some other family members and friends have picked up the slack, including her wonderful pastor, and have spent much time visiting her in the hospital. If I ever went to church, I could do worse than attend this pastor’s church. But going to the same church as my mother is not an option.
Well, when it rains it pours. I was out taking a breather yesterday afternoon, watering my garden (which is outside my office) when the neighbor from across the street calls me over. He lost his wife recently. They were a cute, although somewhat odd, couple. A few weeks ago, Bill gave me a set of four plants he had received as a bereavement gift. He had no use for them. Being right across the street from my jungle, he knew I could likely use them so he offered them up to me. I’ve given him some of my tomatoes in the past as well. I planted the lily (one of the four) in plain site of his front window in honor of his wife. The other plants I had to find room for here and there.
Anyway, I know Bill in passing but not much more than to say “Hello, how about this weather?” But he flags me down yesterday from across the street and I came over to see what he wanted. Bill told me he didn’t know where he was supposed to be or where he lived…this while standing in front of his house in his front yard. He didn’t know where his wife was. He didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing in his life. And those are about the exact words that he used.
I may be a friendly neighbor, but those are big questions and above my pay grade. He was very friendly and cordial about his state of confusion and he knew he was confused. He wasn’t panicking. It was a matter-of-fact conversation as I tried to assess what was going on. He seemed stable and in no discomfort. He just seemed simply to have a sudden case of amnesia.
I looked inside his wallet (with his permission) for a name of someone I could call. I found the card of his pulmonary doctor and gave their office a call to see if they knew anything perhaps about any medicines he was taking (or not taking) that could be the cause of this…or perhaps who to call before resorting to 911. Of course, the person in the pulmonary office was of little help.
So I called 911 (as I had for my mother the day before) and told Bill that some people were coming to try to sort things out a little. While waiting, I chatted with Bill and he told me some details of his life. He worked in a community college for 17 years or so, although I’m not sure in what capacity. This was after he had retired from the Navy where he served on several ships. He was then, as he usually did, wearing a navy blue Navy cap with gold scrambled eggs on it and the name of some ship. His stories were lucent although punctuated here and there by some oddities. But he was in good spirits as he told me of his life.
And when the paramedics came after about 10 minutes, Bill told them that he had tripped inside his house. (He knew at this point, I guess, that he was standing in front of his house.) He had no visible signs of trauma and I overheard the paramedics saying his O2 levels were fine. I hung around a while and answered a few questions, but I knew very little about Bill. The paramedics simply wanted to know if this behavior for Bill was normal. And I was a bit chagrined because, yes, the man is a little odd under normal circumstances. But I didn’t know what normal was for him.
In retrospect, it could be that this was the normal. I have no idea how much his wife might have been steering him in the right direction, keeping him on the strait and oriented. Perhaps he had gradually become like this and she smoothed things over and Bill thus always knew his place, where he was, and what he was supposed to do. I have no idea. I told the paramedics I barely knew him, which was true. I couldn’t tell them what was truly normal for Bill.
But how many people look you square in the eye and tell you, “I don’t know where I’m supposed to be and what to do with myself”? And Bill’s case is Bill’s case. This may be how he is now or perhaps he had a sudden medical issue. I hope to find out next time I see him. But I can’t help thinking that this kind of amnesia and incoherence is being thrust upon us by a Progressive culture as a supposedly good and normal way to be. For Bill, it may be something to endure. For the rest of us, why did we choose such incoherence? Why are we intentionally forgetting our own cultural past? Who can tell the future Bills which way is up if we all are confused?
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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