Well, the Bennett household in the 2000’s started out with a bang. I was a little late in realizing that Hailey J. Marie Bennett had decided she needed to join our family. One day, in fact, September 30, 2000, I was tired and had laid down on the bed. I felt something move inside me. I had no idea I was pregnant. She joined our family on January 18, 2001. Once again my in laws treated me as if I were their daughter, rather than their daughter in law. I felt so bad that my own mother, who’d already passed away the year before, wouldn’t be there. Maxine was there for me, just like she’d been both other times.
I think the Bennett’s were so shocked that Hailey didn’t look like either of the other two kids. Both Taylor and Jacques and in fact, the entire Bennett Clan, including all of their grandchildren, had blue eyes. Hailey came out with big brown eyes, black hair and was just beautiful. She looked like I did, as a baby.
Everyone doted on her and it was clear she was going to be spoiled. Hailey, too, spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house.
By 2003, the Bennett household had once again returned to normal. There were Sunday night dinners, Christmas with Lloyd playing Santa to everyone and drop-in care, when needed. Lloyd, Maxine and Bea often took day trips and had visits with family and friends after Lloyd had retired.
By June of 2003, Paul had gotten a ticket in the Modesto area. He wanted me to go with him to court (he disagreed with the ticket) so I asked my inlaws if they would mind watching the kids. My own dad was ill, in a rest home, and not eating. When Paul and I returned to town, we stopped and got my dad something with crab in it, hoping to lure him into eating it. We returned to the Bennett’s house early evening and sat and visited with Lloyd and Maxine on the back porch. We sat there for a long while and just talked. Before we left, we offered the scrumptious dinner that my father had refused to eat to Lloyd. He took it gladly and was pleased to have it.
We took the kids home and that night, at about midnight, we had a phone call, saying Lloyd was at the hospital. My sister picked up my kids and we left for the hospital. When we arrived, we were told that Lloyd was already gone. Paul and I went into the room and sat with him for a while.
The life we’d known as a family changed that night. It was such a difficult time. Lloyd had eaten the dinner we brought him but was then feeling ill. He decided perhaps there was something wrong with the food and simply went to bed. He’d been in bed for a while when he must have realized something was wrong. I think he must have had a major heart attack and in fact, that was probably why he was feeling ill. I don’t think it was the food at all. But one doesn’t know things like that as they happen. It is only after reflection on an event, can we see more clearly. I suspect he’d had pains that he must have ignored, to have a major heart attack like that. It was very difficult to tell Bea what had happened and she’d been given a sedative only to have her walk out and ask for Lloyd again, forcing us once again to explain the awful news that Lloyd had died.
Lloyd is buried in Lodi at the Lodi Cemetery. He was the most patient, pleasant man you would have ever had the good fortune to meet. He left a loving family and returned to his maker’s arms.
Bea declined quickly after Lloyd passed away. She died on December 18, 2005. She is buried in Salt Lake City with her love, Bill Bennett, just as she requested.
We moved next door to Maxine as way to keep track of her. That way, I would cook dinner and she’d come over for a short visit, eat dinner, then go back home. She was definitely “losing track” a bit, and soon, she was having a difficult time remembering what she’d done, what she had eaten or where she’d been. By 2010 or so, she couldn’t remember what the driving rules were and thus couldn’t pass her driving test. But we were right next door, able to take her to the store and her running around.
Maxine had a dear friend that lived around the block by the name of Liz. Liz relied on Maxine, as she couldn’t leave her home, so Maxine did errands for the both of them. Finally, Maxine had a few incidents like leaving the stove on and it was decided she shouldn’t live alone any longer. Maxine had been given a choice, she could move in with whomever she wanted to, or she could move into a care facility where she could still have some freedom. She choose to live at Somerford, a residential facility for Alzheimer’s patients. She enjoyed it there and had the opportunity to have her hair and nails done (not something she was accustomed to.
We saw her a lot but it still wasn’t as much as we liked. We would pick her up for holidays, take her to our homes, then return her. She had an active role at Somerford and they called her their Choir Director. As she had at her church, she loved to lead the choir.
Maxine had received a diagnosis of Dementia/Alzheimers and time took its toll on her. Eventually, she could no longer get up and about. She’s always had such a good appetite but ultimately the care facility started feeding her mushy food and she wasn’t eating. She could no longer leave her room and I couldn’t be there as much as I wanted. We needed to find her a new room.
My sister in law called and said she would start looking for a new place. I had volunteered to help her search but I really didn’t have my heart in it. Taylor had just graduated from UC Davis and I asked her if she’d be able to stay at home for a bit and help if we took grandma in. She agreed and then we had a fantastic idea. We knew it would be necessary to have one more person to help. Taylor and I both worked during the day and we needed someone we could rely on for that additional assistance. Enter my best friend, Tammy Lender. We also had assistance from Hospice visiting nurses. Couldn’t have gotten by without them.
As soon as I got Maxine home, I started feeding her real food again. She perked right up and ate like a champ. They’d been worried about her “choking” but really, i think they were worried about the liability of choking. She started to put a bit of weight back on.
Maxine was 89 years old and her memory of current events had faded but she spoke often of her childhood. She would call down the hall, “Miriam, where are you?” There were times when she’d look at Taylor and call her “Carol”, her daughter’s name.
One of the hardest fallouts having Maxine in our home was that she was constantly looking for her children in “childhood” form. She’d ask me for Paul and I would point to him and say, “He’s right here.” She’d get a look on her face and say, “Not that one. I want the real Paul”. She was looking for the face of a twelve year old. Often, I’d tell her that he’d gone to a sleepover. She’d continue to fret and ask for him. Eventually, I had him call from the other room haha. She bought it but seriously, she was intent on finding him.
Other times, she’d call down the hall, “Momma?” That was always tough for me. One day I was home sick from work and I could hear Tammy in the other room, asking Maxine to sing her a song. She sang a lot. Tammy would read to her and took such good care of her, brushing her hair and washing her up on days when Hospice wasn’t due in. I was grateful Maxine was in good hands.
She did well for a couple of months but then in August of 2015, she took a bad turn. She wasn’t doing well. The hospice nurse said she probably wouldn’t last two weeks. But she got passed it and rebounded. I wanted her to make it to her 90th birthday. She had always talked about her father not making his 90th birthday and how bad she’d felt that he’d left this earth before that momentous day. By early fall, her condition was up and down.
We had a lot of crazy days with Maxine but no time was crazier than Halloween. I’ve always been a nut for Halloween, decorated my house with cute Halloween ghosts and witches. Sometime in late September, I decided to buy myself a Halloween costume for work and got a witches dress and hat. I showed it to Maxine.
Then Maxine began to act oddly. One day we were eating dinner and Maxine toddled down the hall. She wasn’t supposed to be walking about, so I had her sit in her chair and wheeled her down to the kitchen with us. She said, “Whom are we eating?” She was using a sing-song, lilting voice, a tone I’d never heard her use before. I looked at her confused, “Chinese food?” I responded. She said it again, this time with a little more force behind her words. “Whom are we eating?” I laughed uncomfortably. I decided it was just “crazy talk” and ignored it.
After that, Maxine would, at times, speak in a high, fake voice and say things like, “I’m going to eat you.” Now, I knew she was trying to scare me and inside I was scared haha. But on the outside, I used my stern voice and said, “You’re just trying to scare me. Stop it.”
She looked up into the thin air and said, “They won’t let me.”
Now I was starting to freak out. I said, “You’re just trying to scare me, and I won’t allow it.”
She continued speaking to “something.” Taylor said she could understand how some people can be thought of as “insane” as Maxine was truly believing of what she was saying.
I thought it was a momentary blip. It would be fine after a good night’s sleep. I was wrong. The next day, my son was walking down the hall and Maxine called to him. He stopped in her doorway to say hello. He had to walk past her bedroom to get to his own. He smiled and said, “Hi Grandma”. She grimaced and said, “I’m going to eat you.” Then she tried to stand from her bed as if she could levitate. To say Jacques ran from the room would be putting it mildly. He left and went to a friend’s house and I had to consider that this was a bit more than a momentary issue.
I really did think it would just be better after a couple of nights of rest but that didn’t happen. One day, Taylor was helping her eat her dinner and Maxine pinched her side. “You’re almost just right to eat.” she said.
Needless to say, I removed any hints of the holiday and it eventually stopped. By the end of October, she’d taken a turn for the worse. Her birthday was November 13, and that year, it would be on a Friday. Maxine’s 90th birthday on the horizon, and I wanted all of her children and grandchildren to be there for that night. I planned a simple pizza party with cake and had our family over to the house. Unfortunately, Maxine was out of it for most of the day, but she did recognize her girls as they sat for hours holding her hands.
Whenever Maxine was talking nonsense, I’d think, does she know me? But then I’d quiz her and she always knew it was me. I think I may have been her bit of reality, her bit of what was happening to her now.
So she slept through her 90th birthday. The momentous day I’d really wanted her to have and she didn’t get to enjoy it. By the next month, she was better. That is how it was, that year, just like a roller coaster. Just when you thought she was so ill, that she couldn’t possibly come back around and then she would wake up in the morning, asking for breakfast.
One day, about this time, I was laying in bed on a Sunday morning and I could hear an insistent prattling of speech coming from Maxine’s room. Her room was next to ours and anytime she moved, I’d hear her. I got up and went to sit with her a while. She was having a non-stop conversation with herself. She was saying all kinds of things, talking about a shelf up high, not waiting for an answer, not conversations, just words. It was difficult to follow. I expected that to not last very long but no, she went on like that for the entire day. At one point, I sat in her room during the afternoon and was just listening to her. She was looking up at the ceiling and says, “Oh, there’s a car pulling up in front of the house.”
This peaked my interest and I said, “Oh yeah, who is in the car?” She paused then said, “Oh, it’s Tim and Jubie.” That made me cry. I told her, “Tell my mom and dad I said hi.” I knew it was just in her mind but it also felt good that my parents were there, in her mind. The talking stopped about a day later and she had another low period.
By Christmas, my sister-in-law Anita had bought Maxine a new nightgown. I opened it up and put it on her, then told her that Anita had bought that for her for Christmas. Maxine’s response was, “Well, good for her.” She was so funny and always made me laugh.
My cat Marmalade spent long hours with Grandma Maxine.
By late February, 2016, Maxine had a fall. The entire time she lived with us, they did not want her walking. It was difficult to keep her down, She’d fallen and I could tell she wasn’t doing well. She was wily at times and she’d stand before I could get to the other side of the room. This time, the fall was too great. Hospice came in and she slipped into a coma. Sunday morning, February 28, 2016, I knew Maxine was much worse. I went and sat on her bed and called Hospice again. I could tell by her breathing that she wasn’t going to last long. I laid my hand on her hip and all three of my kids came into the room to sit with me. My husband choose not to come in but the kids and I sat with Maxine until she’d taken her last breath. This woman who had to work to accept that things were not always the way she would have preferred, that had taken such great care of my children, loved those children until her last breath, left this world with her family’s love. She took the skin she was born with and our love. Maxine passed away peacefully.
THROUGH THE YEARS