Milas Grows Old (A True Story)

Milas Grows Old


By Elton Camp


            Any who have read my previous stories about the Old South will recognize Milas as my grandfather, a stern and distant figure not only with his grandchildren, but also with his children.  Rather than some version of “Grandfather,” if we called him anything at all, it was “Mr. Camp.”  Although he lived until the year I finished high school, he never said a word directly to me.  It wasn’t anything personal, just his normal way.


            When Milas entered his late seventies, he began to decline both physically and mentally.  He became gaunt, his eyes receded back into his skull, his skin discolored and wrinkled, and his hearing became increasingly less acute.  Belle finally had to announce his condition to the children. 


            She wept as she related, “Thet renter house thet Mile give me wuz causin’ problems.  I asked him ’bout hit, ’n’ he jest said he couldn’t advise me no mo.’” 


            Belle had been accustomed to him seeing to all business matters.  She’d noted his gradual decline in ability, but explained it away until she couldn’t continue to deny what had happened.  He was no longer the competent and capable man he’d been all his life. 


            “Yore paw needs t’ see a doctor,” she explained to Leon.  “Hits got t’ whar I don’t know whut t’ do fer him.” 


            At that point, a young doctor named Martin came onto the scene.  A recent medical school graduate, he was enthusiastic about the power of medical science.  Within a short time he had Milas taking several powerful medications.  The results were catastrophic.  Although remaining physically strong, the drugs caused him to become mentally unstable and unpredictable. 


            Belle could no longer manage him alone.  Most of the family gathered at his house for a general meeting to decide how to handle the situation.  The long-established custom of the family had been to care for elderly people at home. 


            “We can’t put Paw in some institution,” they agreed.  “He took care of us when we were young and now it’s his turn.”


            The children arranged a schedule for the various ones to come to his house a day at a time to tend to him.  As the numerous medications took a firmer hold on him, the situation worsened. 


            “Who’s thet old hag?” Milas asked one of his sons as he stared at his wife.  “Whut’s she doin’ heer?  I’ll make her leave.” 


      Although she knew he wasn’t responsible, Belle sobbed at the cruel words.  “I jest don’t know how Milas kin talk ’gain me like thet,” she lamented.  “I’ve always done th’ best I knowed how by him.”


            “That’s Belle, your wife,” one of his daughters said.  “You remember her don’t you?”


            He glanced at his wife and children with a blank expression.  He didn’t, at that moment, know who any of them were.


            The following week, he attempted to choke one of his daughters.  From that point, it became necessary that two men be with him at all times.  Although having problems with his mind, he was dangerously physically strong in his hands and arms.  


            One day when Leon was taking his turn caring for his father, he realized something was unusual.  Unable to locate him anywhere in the house, he looked outside just in time to see him drive his car into the street.  Leon jumped into his own car and followed the slow-moving vehicle.  Milas drove to town and circled back toward home. 


            He pulled into the garage, but was unable to stop the car in time.  It burst with a crash through the back wall.  Leon rushed to his father’s assistance and found him shaken, but uninjured.


            “Paw, don’t you think its time you gave up your keys,” he asked.


            “I reckon so,” Milas replied.  He never drove again. 


            Leon related the incident and other instances of aberrant behavior to his siblings.  “I’ve decided on something I have to try,” he said.  “I’m going to take him off all his medicine no matter what the doctor says.  I think that’s a big part of his problems.”


            Dr. Martin was indignant.  “I certainly don’t recommend that!” he said, miffed that his advice was being disregarded.  “If you do it, you’ll have to be responsible for what happens.  Do you want to kill your father?  He’ll die if you take away his medicine. What kind of son are you?” 


            Despite the young doctor’s opposition, Leon carried through on his plan.  Within a few days, Milas greatly improved.  His mind returned, not enough for him to take care of business, but sufficiently for him to function normally at home.  For a period of years, he and Belle lived alone without need of help from the children. 


(To be continued in a subsequent posting.)

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Once a robust, capable man, my grandfather went into serious decline.