Dementia is a cruel illness. My father-in-law, Frank, has done everything he can to protect his health in an effort to beat back the illness that robbed his father and brother of their keen minds and wit. I can’t imagine what we would do if he had developed dementia, because he is the constant companion to my mother-in-law, Jo, who, despite working at good health, developed the same disease which stalked her aunts.
Despite Frank’s best efforts, and those of a part-time caregiver, my mother-in-law has managed to slip away. The first time, during the night, the police returned her. Earlier in the summer a family friend, Mike Logue, and his co-worker at Washington EMC, James Brooks, also hunted to return her safely.
But last week’s escape illustrates just how special rural communities are. The alert was sounded by Joe Meeks, who saw her out on the courthouse square. He alerted Susan Lewis in her office there, who called me. (Susan seems to be our “go to” person. She played a critical role in helping Sterling Everett and Jack Schellenberg in Macon when they were heroes last spring).
Susan then set out to look anywhere she thought was a likely destination, like the Geneology Museum, where Jo spent many hours helping chronicle the history of Washington County residents. I ran into Queensborough National Bank and Trust, where Candy Edwards and Ashley Benfield said she had been, but left. My father-in-law checked at the George D. Warthen bank down the block. Geraldine White at the Washington EMC, still further down the street (but on the way to the house where my mother-in-law grew up), hadn’t seen her come in their building but would call me if she did.
As it is in a story with a happy ending, Jo made her way home on her own, but unable to tell us what she was doing except trying to “live her life” and run an errand. The errand had taken her to Queensborough Bank, located in what was the post office Jo knew in her youth. The young tellers don’t know my mother-in-law, but when she needed to buy a stamp to mail her letter, they kindly sold her one, and then assured her they would mail her letter.
I hope when these types of scary things happen in bigger cities that the lost folks find a kind and patient person to help guide them back to safety.
Fortunately for us, so far, her memory leads my mother-in-law down a small town sidewalk where people who know her will contact us and try to engage her while we race to get her. In the mean time, my father-in-law gets up every day and sets the bar a little higher for every spouse to reach.