Monday, November 13, 2006

Senior Slippage

Not about me -- this time.

I spent a couple of hours with Jinny at Laurel Creek in Pleasant Valley. Actually, I may have spent a couple of minutes with Jinny, and I'm not sure about that. There was no indication that she spent even a second with me.

She was asleep in her bed when I got to her room, turned away from the television set playing a black and white British war movie. The nurses said it was fine to wake her and get her up. It took two of them to get her up and out of bed and into some simple garments, her wheel chair and her wig. Arthritis, old age and senility have taken away any personal control over her body and its functions.

She sat easily in her chair, facing the TV set and seeming to see what some of the characters were doing, but her quiet and occasional comments did not, to my mind, relate to anything I was seeing on the screen or had any knowledge of or reference to. She mentioned Postie in the present tense, but I didn't get the context and was reluctant to pursue her thoughts and respond as if, I too, thought Postie were still alive.

Her soft chuckle after a couple of her comments was the only sound she made that carried a hint of the sound of her earlier days. I could look closely and directly into her pale eyes and blank face, and she would shift her gaze back to me from the TV with no sign of interest or concern.

The doctors may know what is the state of Jinny's mind; it was well beyond my comprehension. But she did reply to my questions that she was content, comfortable and without pain. Scientists and philosophers have long discussed and debated both the essence and value of life. Most of us have referred to a quality of life that would determine our choice of how long to live and when to die. And most of us would rate Jinny's current status as below an acceptable and livable standard. And maybe, at some earlier point in time, Jinny would have agreed to that standard.

But now, Jinny seems content in some place beyond our reach. And as long as she stays comfortable in that place, I can only wish her well. It would seem that what she doesn't know, can't hurt her.

About the time the British Navy saved the world from the threat of the marauding Hun, the nurses carried in Jinny's lunch tray. She invited me to join her. I lifted the lid over the main course and saw three different colored dollops of pureed nutrition. Curiosity did not get the better of me so I thanked her, kindly, exchanged a good-bye kiss and eased my way out of Pleasant Valley, probably never to return.

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