Myrtis married my father, Carlos Vinson, when she was 18, and he was 28.
America still was reeling from the Great Depression, and they felt the brunt of it.
However, they managed to stay afloat and, also, managed to have six children of their own. The oldest died at birth, and the youngest died at age two, leaving me their youngest child living.
At the age of 50 , after her children were grown, mother – who had worked for years as an aid at local hospitals, here in McMinnville, Tenn. – got her GED, went to Licensed Practical Nurse school, and, in fact, did get her LPN license, an accomplishment I attribute to a die-hard work ethic.
In addition to putting in her time as an LPN at various hospitals and nursing homes, mother also sold Aflac insurance for a few years.
However, my father, Carlos, developed some serious health problems in the mid-‘70s, and mother cut back on her career and started staying close to the house, looking after dad.
On Feb. 14, 1980, my father passed away, and mother, 62 at the time, resumed her career as an LNP.
Spring of 2001, at age 83, mother had a knee replacement, a major medical procedure for any age, much less someone 83-years-old.
Concerning the knee replacement, the surgeon told our family that mother would have to take strong pain medication to endure the recovery process, and, too, the pain medication would affect her memory.
Mother recovered from the knee-replacement surgery remarkably well. As the surgeon had forewarned, though, her short-term memory was, well, a bit bumfuzzled.
In 2007, around mother’s 90th birthday, it became abundantly clear that her mental capacity had deteriorated to the extent that it no longer was safe for her to live alone. One sister is a seasoned registered nurse, and she noted that mother was exhibiting early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Though mother still was in good physical condition and could get around in the house and out in the yard, a decision had to be made.
Since I was the youngest, single and had no children to raise, my two sisters, brother and I agreed I was the most logical choice to look after our mother.
I readily accepted the responsibility.
Thus began my journey of being a layman caregiver to an Alzheimer’s victim; I was up for the job, no problem – or so I thought.
Par for the norm, I had to listen to her incessantly repeat herself.
She would become fixated on a particular event or individual, and I would have to endure the same story hour-after-hour. That said, though, there were intermittent intervals where she would be as lucid as ever, and it was like having back the Myrtis of old.
However, those intermittent intervals of mental clarity, generally, were for short periods of time, and, as time carried on, they became less frequent.
As the years wore on, mother’s Alzheimer’s condition worsened, and caring for her became more difficult.
There were times when she would be in bed at night, eyes closed, and talk to herself nonstop until the sun came up.
It would have been downright spooky for anyone unfamiliar with the situation, because it could have been construed that mother was holding a “séance.” She would carry on a conversation with someone, obviously, not present. For example: “You’re that little girl who used to walk to school with me, “ followed by a few seconds of silence. Then she’d respond with something like, “You say your name is Gertrude? Yes, I remember you!”
In late 2011, mother, 94 years old, had become so frail that it no longer was in her best interest to care for her at home.
In early February, my family was fortunate enough to place mother in NHC Healthcare Nursing Home in McMinnville.
Without offering too many “flowery” kudos, the McMinnville NHC has been nothing short of a godsend. Mother has received top-notch care, the family can visit her minus much ado, and everyone sleeps well at night.
Since nursing homes often are on the blunt end of criticism, I felt NHC needed to be recognized for a job exceptionally well done!
Mike Vinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.