Seasons and lives change
September ends; October begins. It is a sure sign that summer is over and autumn is getting started when the leaves start to turn. The first frost is eagerly anticipated and the days until deer season are marked on the calendar. Loads of grain and potatoes pass by the windows moving from field to plant or field to storage. Color begins the fall season. Leaves change and clothing change in a timeless rhythm. Suddenly blaze orange marks the outdoors and mirrors tales of the birds seen and deer spotted. It is getting colder.
Dialysis is an unforgiving reality. While it makes life livable it requires a great deal of patience to manage. There will be days when all seems well and then days when one wrong brings another, and soon your mail is coming to the hospital room. At a time when one feels alone, finding friends and neighbors who can share some of the support for fighting back against the disease, the community of dialysis patients become a second family.
Twelve to 15 hours a week are spent with a machine that scrubs the blood of toxins and excess water. One shares time with all the specialists in the area. Heart issues, lung issues, skin issues and issues of the mind connect through the kidneys. The machines help to keep the rest of the body running. In time, though, the body begins to decline. It is a slow process. The goal of every patient in the clinic is to stop the inevitable long enough to enjoy life and share a laugh.
Elaine was one of the first patients to meet in the early mornings at the County Dialysis Clinic. She was a character. Curly white hair framing a fragile figure, she challenged the world with demands for fairness. A long time ago she grew up on Dudley Road in Castle Hill, down the hill from Ma Dudley’s homestead. She knew the families and the stories of a place now forgotten, families long gone and now replaced by other families. She saw it all and remembered times and places from long ago.
Elaine’s driving habits were memorable. Arriving at the clinic, she parked in one of the handicap spots assigned. Adjusting her jacket and grabbing the proverbial handbag, she would walk around the vehicle giving it the once around inspection. Drill sergeants for the Army would be advised to study her technique for their own white-glove inspections. Time came when Elaine depended on taxis for some of her visits. Always a tough time and heaven help the poor driver who failed to treat her as the lady she was. She kept pushing to live on her own and keep enjoying life — an example of faith and pride for us all to follow. Shy, but with a graciousness and temper to match, she kept the world’s interest.
Fall comes, taking the green of spring and summer into the bareness of winter. At times the brilliance of the colors rivals the finest flower beds before those leaves fall brown and join the soil leaving the trees bereft of covers. Clear blue skies contrast with the brown earth. The world prepares to sleep.
Elaine now sleeps, no longer caring about the car; the yard work that always needs to be done; and, the names and numbers of families and friends; leaving behind a long wake of memories and joys. A gracious woman now enjoying grace profound; a friend who welcomed many into this place.
Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.