Violet in the Old Folks Home. A Dirty Trick
June 07, 2007
They like Violet at the nursing home. She's good natured, always says "hi," and doesn't complain. She's lived there four years.
Once she presided over her own country farmhouse kitchen table, peopled with family and neighbors. Though they might not get along in all contexts, the table bonded them, cementing various degrees of familiarity, love, and dysfunction. Over the stove hung a plaque that read "Kissin don't last, cookin do"
Uncle Vic thought it a great joke when I "got religion." Over cards, he would challenge "you're prayin against me, aren't you Tommy? I'll bet you're prayin against me." I was only praying he'd take his turn.
Violet lived for years in that farmhouse after Vic died. Then she lived with one daughter, then another. When she got so she needed round the clock care, the daughters didn't know what to do. She fell a few times - no small matter for someone in their 80s. About that time she entered the nursing home. One daughter or the other visits her nearly every day.
Pop comes over from Rochester, 300 miles away, to visit his sister a few times each year. "Charlie, it's so good to see you! And Tommy, what a pleasant surprise!" On a pleasant day, we wheel her out to the front walkway, where she remarks on trees and greenery and family history. "Gram will be so disappointed that she missed you," she laments. "Violet, Gram's been dead for years," someone says. "Oh yeah, that's right," and she resumes contemplation. That's how it goes. She freely mixes several generations, some living, some dead. Sometimes we correct her, and sometimes not.
She used to caution as the afternoon wore on "It's getting late. You'd better be going." Lately she's been including herself. "It's starting to get late. We ought to be going." "Violet, you're staying here. You live here now." "Oh that's right," she says.
"So who's cooking tonight," she observes after a bit. "Do you want me to cook?" Pop again explains that the home will cook, the home in which she lives, but she's not so sure anymore.
"Well, we should be going Vi," he says. "Okay, I'm ready, let's go" "You're staying here, Vi. You live here now." "Not me," she says. "You do," Pop says. "You have a room here, for several years." "I know, but I'm not ready to go just yet."
She gets progressively resistant, then alarmed, then pleading, then angry. "Well, that was a dirty trick!" she charges. "I wouldn't have come with you if I knew you were going to stick me here!" In the end, the staff wheels her back.
That evening, sitting at the cousins' own long kitchen table, a table that Violet rarely sees now, Pop wonders aloud how tomorrow's visit will go. Maybe it will be unpleasant. "No," the cousin says, "she will have forgotten all about it." And it turns out just that way.
Until the end of the visit. After initial maneuvering, Pop and the cousin tell Violet we have to be going. But isn't she going too? "Oh no, you're not sticking me here!" she snaps at us. But the nurse distracts her. "Violet, we're having vanilla cookies with dinner tonight. Would you like to have a couple now?" "No thank you," she says. "I'll just wait till dinner and have mine with everyone else."
They all want to go home. But none of them will.
Wow. That's a great personal experience. When my grandmother had to be in a home during the final years of her life, she thankfully didn't have a decline in mental function.
Unfortunately, that meant that she was aware of her physical decline and her reliance on others. For a very indepentant woman, that wasn't easy. She had a hard life, and the end was anything but pleasant, but she fell asleep in death in the arms of her daughter (my mother), which is more than many people get these days.
Family visits were her favorite time. Whenever she had a fall or fell sick, bringing my daughter over seemed to always be a turning point for her, and she would start a rapid improvement.
She was a Baptist, and although her minister and congregation abandoned her when she stopped givnig them money for financial reasons, she stayed spiritual, which is more than many today even try to accomplish.
So I hope her rest is refreshing, and that God remembers her in the resurrection, because her life was a very sad and hard one until her old age, and she never lost her faith in a creator.
Posted by: Screech | June 12, 2007 at 07:07 PM
How can i get in touch with Violet? I would like to get info on Joe Jennette.
Posted by: Joe Botti | January 23, 2008 at 11:40 AM
She's pretty frail. Best thing to do is to get in touch with her daughter, and she is strictly snail mail. If you write to me at my email (profile page) & tell about yourself & interest in Joe, I'll forward it to her.
Probably she'll reply but I'm not sure.
The upcoming Fox sports show on Joe includes some material that the daughter gave them about Joe, or at least they interviewed the daughter.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 23, 2008 at 12:18 PM