Miss Peggy’s Story
by Robert Benson
This is the story of moving Miss Peggy to a new place to live, to a new way of life, to a new kind of reality. All of which became necessary because she has begun to live a life colored by a disease called dementia. All of us who love her have begun to live that new life with her. Some of that story is here as well.
Peggy Jean Siler Benson is her name. She will answer to most any combination of the four. She will also answer to Miss Peggy, Peg, Mother, Mom, and Gran–a collection of names used by her sister, her in-laws, her children, her grandchildren, and her friends–all of whom have come to love her. There is no other category with Miss Peggy–the only people who do not love her are the ones who have not yet met her.
This is only some of her story. It’s certainly not her life’s story, it is the story of the beginning of the end of her life.
This part of her story is a part in which Miss Peggy has been a champ, though by the time some of you read this, she will likely no longer know that she has been such a champ, no matter how often we try to tell her. She may not even recognize those who have been walking along beside her for many years. She may not even remember that this story was told, or that she wanted it to be told.
“You are going to write about this, aren’t you?” she asked one day while we were out for a walk. We had been talking about her sons and her daughter and how the gathering up around her in the previous few weeks and months had drawn her children closer to each other. Her children are separated by some twenty years from oldest to youngest, by the fact that they live in four cities spread across three different states, and by their having chosen to make their lives and their livings in very different ways. We are not the only crowd of children for whom such things are true.
We gently told her that the story of these days of growing darkness in her life was a story that belonged to her and no one else.
“You have to tell it for me,” she said. “If we can, we ought to try and help some of those old folks.”
To this day it is hard to know whether she was giving a permission or making an assignment. Miss Peggy has always been tricky that way, most mothers are.
For those of us who love her, the pages of this book are not our favorite part of her story. But it is a part of her story which has made us very proud of her.
It is a part of her story that is not easy to tell, for many reasons.
The emotional difficulty is obvious.
Chronologically, the struggle came with recording so many things happening at once over the space of a few short weeks and months; bits and pieces of the story had to be compressed in order to make any sense at all.
Technically, the telling is difficult as well. We are not professionals caring for a patient; we do not know all the language of professionals or have run this course time and again. We are just a crowd of folks who love Miss Peggy and set out to do the best we could to help her move to a new place, help manage her affairs, and help each other along the way.
We do not know exactly where her dementia will lead. Is it solely dementia? Is it going to lead to Alzheimer’s? Can it be slowed or turned around? No one knows at this stage, not even the professionals.
However, she said this story was to be told, and so it shall be.