I’m sure most of us have heard at least one grueling story recounting the horrors of an innocent farm hand who accidentally caught a loose piece of clothing in a hay baler or perhaps it was a seed planter built completely of Ginzu knives. The story invariably turns ugly in the second paragraph, and by the end — after thrashing, yanking and terrifying screams — we’re left with a shirt collar and a prequel for a recurring nightmare.
Thank God this is not one of those stories.
In fact, to be completely honest, my great-grandmother was not actually eaten by a machine. She died of complications of pneumonia and heart failure. But that makes for a slow-witted title and a bored reader.(Or a prospective reader who skips over my story entirely! I can assure you, this does not sit well with the Pulitzer Selection Committee.)
Fortunately, I’m a savvy, sophisticated writer, and, thus, am allowed to use bait-and-switch headlines. We call the pick-and-lock sets that give us that extra “literary license”: metaphor, simile, euphemism, and allegory.
Back to G-G. The last time I saw her — the woman who introduced me to incense, Pecan Sandies and comic books — she was in a skilled nursing facility — restrained in a crib-bed, with sunken eyes that reflected her pain and terror.
That experience haunted me for the next half-century. And then there was the diagnosis of Parkisons 19 years ago. This is my eleventh year as a resident in an assisted living community. I live every day surrounded by more death, despair, disability and depression that most see in a lifetime.
But the days of the patient restraints are all but over, and I honestly believe the quality of life in Institutional Aging Communities is improving every day.
Incremental victories. A future with hope.