|Jane Walles, 88 years old.|
In that vein, one of the most challenging responsibilities that I have right now is overseeing (with the help of others) the care of my grandmother, who is 88 and bed-ridden in a nursing home in Beaumont, Texas. It's a difficult situation on a number of fronts. First and foremost, she lives so far away, and to see her requires a long trip: a round-trip flight from MSO to Houston plus a round-trip drive from Houston to Beaumont. Second, my father was her only child, and he is no longer with us, so Kadin and I are her closest remaining relatives. As such, she remains eager to see us both, and so we each have been visiting her twice per year (I just returned from a visit). In fact, it seems that she's merged Kadin, my dad, and I into one person. Which brings me to the last thing: she has dementia and so the visits are unpredictable and sometimes difficult.
A brief biography: Jane was born and raised in Miles City, Montana. Her father, William Leavitt, was a lawyer and Montana State legislator. He hailed from the East, got his law degree at U. Michigan, and drew straws with his best friend in law school to see who would take which of two jobs: one in Montana and one in New Mexico. Amazing to think that I wouldn't be writing this today if those straws were drawn differently! Jane's mother Emily, on the other hand, was born and raised in Miles City. Jane had many fascinating stories of growing up in Miles City in the 30's and 40's, some of which involved (literally) cowboys and Indians. After some years of college, she married my grandfather Barney in her early 20's and soon after had my father Scott. Barney and Jane raised my father in Billings, and then after Dad left for college, they moved to Texas, so that Barney could join in a business partnership with his brother Blythe. Within a few years after they had moved, Barney was murdered. Jane decided to stay in Texas until the shooter was found, which never happened. However she eventually ended up meeting her second husband Homer, a true character and southerner to the bone, and with whom she was with until he died five (or so) years ago. While I was growing up in Butte, Jane would visit Montana once a year, for two weeks. I always greatly looked forward to those visits, as she would bring presents, and we would always go out for at least one fancy steak dinner. However, she was really there to see my father: they would spend most of her visit smoking, talking, drinking cocktails in the evening, and playing cribbage. In an amazingly tragic coincidence, my father was also murdered in 1999, so Jane has seen a lot of tragedy in her life. However, she is also the most resilient person I know. Giving up is not in her make-up: she is a fighter and a survivor, right up to today.