While visiting my son Jon and his wife Jenifer in Fl. for Thnksgvng, we went to visit Jon's grandparents, my ex in-laws, in a nursing home. He is Johnny, she  Marilyn. Both people who need love and care. This is my acc't of the

Visit at The Hawthorn House

He was gaunt and thin and
untouched by a shaver against his grizzly face.
His blue eyes now are covered in milky cataracts.
His pure white hair sticking up, uncombed,
where waves used to lay handsomely styled.
Blue jeans falling, ever falling from his
thin waist past his bony hips.
He wore two belts: one through his belt loops
and one wrapped around his vanishing waistline
to be held by the nurses' aide to help keep
him from falling. His shoes with Velcro, now
worn down by his scooting gait.

She standing there at the door
barely able to see because of her diabetes. 
With hair white and wild around her face she
was waiting, waiting for a glimpse of someone
she knew who was coming.
Her pants stretched around her plump belly
with an unadorned sweatshirt and, down
below her pants legs, she stood wearing only
one 15-year-old shoe and two slipper socks.
White whiskers grew from her chin like a
daddy-long legs pointing the way where
the horses went --every direction.

They were together again after 3 weeks of
separation living in a nursing home in
Ocala Florida, both in the dementia ward.
One with alzheimer's, the other in denial
and delusional. Husband and wife.
My mother-n-law and father-n-law.
Yes, I divorced their son but not them.

He once was a Vice President of a very
prominent bank corporation on
Miami Beach, Florida. Very handsome in
is fine suits and ties, a strikingly good looking
man at age 50 when I first met him.
He was stern, intelligent, humorous, focused,
and fun to be with.

She was a stay-at-home mom with an
immaculately clean house, magnificent meals
and a fine painter of water colors. She sewed,
washed, mended, ironed, cooked, gardened, and
loved her husband very much. She doted on him,
making a home for him and their 3 boys.

They loved boating, deep sea fishing, the
Rocky Mountains of Centennial Wyoming,
and the vast warm water ocean of the beautiful
Keys in South Florida. They owned three homes
at one time. Then two. Then one. Then none.

Now alone and neglected by their three boys,
they linger in the nursing home without visits
from friends or family. They are old and sad and pitiful.
When I went to see them,the day after Thanksgiving,
with my son and his wife who live in Florida,
I cried as did my son and his wife.

I was sad, angry, and full of compassion for these
two whose lives have come down to this.
This misery. Their own children have left them
to the State and never visit, or call, or care.
Yes, there are reasons, many reasons. But now,
at the endof their lives, I wonder why these boys,
these men cannot forgive some harsh words from
a mother who is suffering from psychosis.
Why can't they just love them?

As I entered with my son and daughter-n-law,
my mother-n-law bent as she was, reached to hug me.
I leaned down and put my arms around her to let her
cry on my shoulder. I wanted to cry too but I didn't.
I wanted this to be a happy visit.

My son, his wife, and I ate lunch with them.
My father-n-law was sometimes with us
in his mind but mostly he talked of things
of long ago, mixing up his working days
with his fishing. All I could do was listen and be
tender with both him and her. He did find some
humour and laughed and we all laughed
except for her. She just looked sad and scared.

She did ask that my son play the piano
for them during lunch and he did. She was so proud
of him as was I, though his grandfather had no idea
that music was even playing.
He rose up and turned to go into the kitchen.
I asked where he was going. "In here."
I asked him if he was the cook. He laughed and said,
"You better hope not." He continued to try to get in
the lock door. I asked him if he was the dishwasher.
Again, he laughed. and turned away from the door.
Success. We then took a walk to the outside patio and
listened to her cry and watched him fiddle with the
lining of his pocket.

My son, my daughter-n-law, and I left for a short trip
to the local department store. I had asked if we could
please buy them some clothes and whatever they needed.
He had no answer. She answered,
"Oh, I don't deserve this."

After we shopped we brought back two large bags
of clothing, undergarments, socks, and shoes.
He was agitated wanting to leave and go home
when we walked into the room. He took his new clothes
and folded them as if he were packing them.
He handed me a pair of socks, a piece of paper, and a letter
as payment. He thought it was money. I accepted them.
He would not or could not sit down. He grew more
and more angry and cursed at her and at the aide.
He wanted to go home.
"God Damn it, why can't I leave?"

She was patient with him. Saying, "Please take my hand.
Please. Please!" And she wept. We all were doing
our best do keep things up but we were on a very
slippery slide going down, down, down.
It was a very grueling day.

Soon after when we left, I went to her and she cried
and held on to me as she sat on the bed and
I bent over to embrace her. She looked at me and said,
"When he dies, I will be all alone."
Through my own tears, I assured her that
I would see to it that she won't be alone. And, I will.

I will because she deserves it. I will because they both
deserve respect, compassion, and love.
Kindness will help soothe the brokenness. I hope that
with the help of my children and my family,
we will not let this go on again.

My heart aches. My mind is raging with anger
at their children. And my soul reaches out to touch
theirs as much as is possible, especially with him.
In reality, who he was is already gone and what
is left is a little boy in a sunken man's body.

We said our goodbye's with hugs and love.

I will always remember her looking into my eyes
and saying to me, "We are two lost souls."

I will do my best to find her and him,
these two lost souls, and bring them a
little happiness again, if only for a moment,
a day, or just for a few seconds
of the rest of their lives.

If only I had the power, I would make
everything all right, even erase the angery words
spoken between them and their children.

If only I could change the world...

Words by Kathy Lockhart
Read 1784 times
Written on 2008-11-30 at 03:06

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Yes if only I could--A lot of things would be different that they are.
Alas somethings can't be changed; unfortunately, age and what comes with it is one of them. You have a tender sould my friend. I love the way that you write, and I love the way that you told this particular event. I enjoy visiting older people that relive the past, but only when they know they are reliving it, and we can enjoy it together. Unfortunately alzheimers and dementia don't let their victims enjoy it when they are reliving it, because they don't even know they are.

I am glad for you and for them that you and your son visited them. I took it that they hadn't met the daughter-in-law before, but even so it was good that she got to meet them before they died. They are more than just names in her husband's past now.

Great Work my dear friend!

very emotional text and very well written.

I read this with tears Kathy. What you describe, I see every day. (Or night, as I work as a night nurse with dementia patients.) Every day is a living hell, and an insult to what these people once were. What makes it worse is, (in this country,) carers are paid the lowest wage,so caring is a contraditction in terms. I am full of anger at times at the things I see, ignorance, selfishness, etc. And this neglect meted out to people who secured our freedom and endured such hardship during two world wars! I work as a staff nurse, but with current "rules of employment," my hands are tied. Basic needs are forgotten...you mention the hairs on your mother-in-laws chin, you should undress her and see what neglect you find there!
I applaud the sentiments you still hold for your in-laws. You are a good person, but, I do believe that a living will is necessary for all of us, and the legislation passed for us to be "put to sleep" once this terrible torturous illness hits. In spite of our wisdom and "civilisation," we do not know or want to know how to look after these people, we are far too sophisticated.

oh, Kathy...this hit me so hard. i hurt. i have tears in my eyes. you are one of the most gifted writers i have seen and i can see through your words that you are also an amazing human being. this write is an inspiration to me. i can't properly convey to you how much power your words have for me; all i can do is thank you for this heartbreaking write, and for taking care of these people the way you have.