Some bad news I received yesterday about a good friend’s 3rd and 4th stroke took me back to the time at the beginning of 1999 when I lost my beloved aunty Kay.
Kay and Ray, the aunt and uncle that I lived with until 1976, retired in 1977 and moved to a property they had purchased in a remote part of Maine.
Dexter itself is not all that remote, although getting there from Long Island was always an all-day affair, whether by car or by air.
Dexter is about 40 miles northwest of Bangor. If you ever heard of Dexter shoes, that is where they came from. At least that was where the company was founded in 1944. Eventually, they had factories elsewhere as well.
Sadly, because of overseas competition, the company was forced to close in 2001, which will have been a difficult time in a state were employment is not that easy to find.
Dexter may not have been exactly “in the sticks”, depending on your point of view, but my aunt and uncle’s place was outside Dexter, right at the end of a little dirt road.
In many ways, it was fabulous. They had a view of Mt Katahdin in the distance that was to die for, especially in the fall.
There was an abundance of wildlife and not another human being in sight.
Which is all very well when you are young and fit. It has it’s complications when you have all the problems associated with aging. But Kay and Ray stuck it out for 20 years.
Toward the end of those years things got really rough. Ray had a heart attack one winter and the ambulance had to wait for the snow plow before he could be reached.
After a stay in hospital, he came home but it was the beginning of a slippery slope.
Another time, in mud-season, Kay went out in her old car and somehow ended up overturning in a ditch. She wasn’t seriously injured, although her face was severely bruised, but she was quite badly shocked by the accident and it undermined all her self-confidence.
Ray started to develop dementia and the man who had, at best, been very temperamental, became extremely difficult. Kay was berated constantly for every thing she did. She had a very good friend that she used to visit, but she never dared to stay away too long because when she got home Ray would give her hell.
Social services began sending nurses so Kay could have “respite”, but no-one explained to her how it was supposed to work. In any event, Ray would have been angry if she had left him alone with the nurses that he automatically didn’t like.
I stayed in touch with Kay as much as I could and tried desperately to think of things to tell her that would cheer her up. Her own health was not good as she was diabetic and had high blood pressure.
I was in a shopping mall one day and saw some stuffed animals that I could never resist. I picked up a Cocker-Spaniel that looked like so many of the dogs Kay had had and I sent it to her. I knew she would like it and I hoped it would cheer her up. But I realized long after that that there had been another niggling idea in the back of my head.
Obviously I should have paid more attention….