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(I got voted off Survivor Island. sniff)


December 11, 2000

What constitutes death? My aunt is dying. Oh her body is doing just fine at the moment, but her Alzheimers is progressing and we are watching this marvelous, bright, witty, intelligent person fade away. It’s so terribly sad. She has good days and bad days, but her “normal” days are long past.

My uncle called today to ask about a news story he’d seen last night. A new MRI study is underway, under the auspices of the Department of Psychiatry at UC Berkeley. They want to test Alzheimers patients and my uncle thought this might be a good thing for them to investigate. Unfortunately, my aunt has been having regular seizures as part of the horror of this terrible illness, and that automatically eliminates her from participating in the study. So we just sit back and watch her continual decline. It’s so very sad.

My aunt was a writer. Not a professional one, but she kept the family entertained for years with her observations on life, especially her own life. I love her writings and always aspired to put things to paper with the same wit that she had. Sometimes I do, but never with her consistency. I looked for something short I could put in my journal that would remind all of us who know her and those who are hearing about her for the first time, of what a talent she had. The best ones are too long, but I found the following which is part of a very long story about her hospitalization many years ago. Enjoy:

It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog
(c) Barbara O’Donnell

Hospitals are demoralizing dens. I lost all sense of shame and modesty after those monsters had me in their clutches for a time. Take the lowly enema. At best, it’s the work of the devil. The enema of my childhood was a white enameled can, with a red hose and a black nozzle attached. This hung on a hook on the bathroom door and served as a deterrent to anything that I might consider getting into. I was subject to this in case of warts or bad behavior, or anything else that might come my way. Castor oil was always applied at one end and an enema at the other. How could I go wrong with a hookup such as this!

We have progressed!

First frozen food, then disposable diapers and now a canned enema. These precious things come in cans such as shaving cream and bug spray. I’ve had a pet hate for this sort of packaging since the time I sprayed my arm pits with toothpaste, thinking I had the shaving cream. I never knew whether I would end up shaving my teeth or brushing my armpits. The only thing that these canned enemas have that resembles the old fashioned type is the nozzle. Below this, is a little button, which is pushed after the nozzle has been inserted. Once pushed there is no turning back. It’s all or nothing!

Since I was paying a premium for my supplies, I suppose they wanted me to get my money’s worth. What the contents of the cans consisted of, I wouldn’t venture to guess, but the sensation I got was that they had procured a tire pump, shoved the hose up my rear end and gave forty or fifth healthy pumps on it.

My lower bowels have always been in perfect condition. My upper bowels have never given me a bit of trouble either. They both need very little coaxing to do their respective jobs. This I attribute to the castor oil and enemas of my youth. As a matter of fact, a suppository is all I would ever need. As a matter of fact, I told the nurses so, but as usual they knew more than God did, so under protest I was awarded the order of the canned enema.

These saintly sisters were nice about it; they did allow me to lie on the bed while they did their dirty work. After much sucking in of breath and blowing out of every nasty word I could remember, I managed to take into my upper and lower quarters all that the damn can had to offer. When it quit blowing and sputtering, they removed it and told me I could trot to the john and sit for awhile.

Knowing my physical reaction to such things as enemas a little better than they, I knew that these ghouls were living in a fool’s paradise. The bathroom door was twenty feet from my bed and I suspected that the minute I stepped foot on the floor, my backside would explode. I suggested that perhaps it would be better all the way around if they brought me a bedpan. This, they said, was out of the question. I was mobile and anyone who is mobile could not have a bedpan. “Mobile,” I learned, meant that I had both legs--whether I could have moved them or not made no difference. They were there and, by God, I had to use them.

By this time, I hated them all so thoroughly that I didn’t much care what happened. I got out of bed and started for the john and it was then that my latent talents came to the rear. I never before realized that I could interior decorate--but there it was.

By the time I had reached the bathroom door, I had sprayed the most beautiful wainscot along one wall and, to my eternal delight, had painted the nurse in the process.

* * *

So sad to see a mind like that fade away. We love ya, Barb!


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created 12/11/00 by Bev Sykes