My Dad’s Mother

tobacco-field.jpgWhen I was in third or fourth grade, I was awakened in the middle of the night to find out that my grandmother, who lived next door to us, had been rushed to the hospital. I never did find out what occurred that night to warrant the trip to the hospital. Over the few days, I was told that Mama (my grandmother) was very sick and had been transferred to Dorothea Dix in Raleigh. At the time, I did not realize what kind of hospital that was. We went several times to visit her, but were never actually allowed in to see her (that I remember). I remember sitting on a bench outside and being scared of some of the patients that were being walked around by nurses. Later, my grandmother was transferred to a nursing home in my hometown of Washington, NC. She never came home again and she was never the same again. Years later I found out that she probably had blocked arteries or hardening of the arteries, which at the time was diagnosed as mental issues. My tiny little grandmother was subjected to electrical shock treatments. I was never able to watch One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest without thinking of what horror she must have endured. She later died of stomach cancer, which I didn’t learn about until much later. I also never found out for sure what role my father had to play in helping to get my grandmother to the hospital and then to Dorothea Dix. I just know that it had a tremendous impact on him. Mental issues and memory problems terrified him. For years he served on the Mental Health Association Board in Beaufort County. He also volunteered for Alzheimer’s studies conducted by Duke University. Therefore the onset of dementia and the recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is a particularly cruel trick to play on him. At this point, I’m sure that it bothers me a lot more than it bothers him. That may be a good thing. But I want to use this forum to jot down memories as I remember them now, as a tribute to him. Every time I go to see him, he has slipped just a little further into his own little world. But he’s my dad and I will keep all of the memories that he has helped me make, alive and recorded for his greatgrandson and greatgrandchildren yet to come.

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