Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Above is a picture of the Island Market, formerly Scrooch's Market, on Gwynn's Island. On the left is the Grimstead Post Office. There are two post offices on this tiny island and that strikes me as odd. They aren't located more than a mile or two apart. Speaking of odd, does anyone find the name Scrooch odd?
Today I drove the Gwynn's Island Meals on Wheels route. I covered three areas, the Glebe, Redart (that's Trader backwards, by the way), and the island. There were also three trends I noticed among the people I visited: death, dementia and loneliness.
Delivering food to these folks is so much more than just bringing them something to eat. They look forward to having someone, even if it is a frazzled, tired, forgetful, scatter-brained 43-year-old, check in on them, talk to them, and help them out with anything that needs doing.
Back to the three trends.
Death. It's no secret that these folks are waiting to die, as blunt as that may sound. They are unable to leave their homes without assistance, and most are in varying degrees of physical--and in some cases mental--decline.
The first lady I visited down the Glebe will not be alive the next time I run this route. I'm no doctor, but anybody could see that her frail body just will not last much longer. She lies all alone in her bed with the TV on in the adjacent room.It broke my heart to see how much she has deteriorated since the last time I saw her, but on the other hand she will be able to leave this life peacefully, in her own home, rather than in some sterile nursing home or hospital. She is aware of her surroundings, and they are familiar to her. Her last moments will be in a comfortable environment.
Dementia. Another lady suffers from many physical ailments but is also losing her mental faculties, asking the same questions over and over again, and saying things that are incoherent. Her home health care worker met me at the door but not until after I heard a good dose of the patient's ranting and raving. The poor person helping her looked frazzled. I understood completely. I identify with frazzled. I also identify with demented. It so happens I am fluent in incoherent.
Loneliness. The last lady I visited met me at the door as if I were an overdue dinner guest or a long-awaited family member. After a brief introduction, where it was determined that she didn't know my family but did know my best friend (in Mathews, when you meet someone, you must talk until you have identified a person you both know, then you can move on to the next topic), I set the food on her table and started to make idle chit-chat since it was my last stop, and she seemed to want to talk.
About 3 minutes into our exchange, imagine my surprise when she proceeded to lift up her dress. Not exactly sure what she was going to do next, I stood there, wide-eyed, glancing nervously from the ceramic chickens on her kitchen shelf to the wooden fork and spoon on her wall. There was really nothing I could have done to prepare myself for what she was about to show me. No, she did not pull her plastic britches down. Instead, she showed me what she called her hernia, which looked like this:
Jeeminy Christmas, I've never in my entire life seen anything like what was coming out of this woman's mid-section! It looked like she was pregnant with an alien life form, and she was approximately 3 months overdue.
After this, of course we were best friends. She had broken the ice by pulling up her dress and showing me every possible thing she had--and then some. We had a very nice conversation and she showed me around her impeccably clean house. It wasn't until the end of our visit that she mentioned her age: 94. She lives by herself, is fully functioning--alien pregnancy and hernia notwithstanding--and is as sharp as a tack. She said her son wanted her to move to Florida, but she didn't want to die in some strange place in some strange state.
She wants to die right here in Mathews, where she has lived her entire life.
And she will.