Hank Montgomery, Humans of Dementia Winner
Honorable Mention, College (University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC)
Ruthless We Are
A Great Depression youth, it marked you so well.
“Use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without.”
That old Yankee motto fit your generation soundly.
Frugal with their needs, they were quite willing givers.
I sit and I ponder your posed wedding print. You wear
a direct honest gaze, and pearl necklace. Seated you
are with your borrowed veil; a flower spray shields
a torso so very slender for your whole life long.
The smile on your young face, so slight others see not
that you’re smiling at all; even in an odd Mona Lisa way.
Avoiding cameras was a game you played well; is that why
so little smile? Or feared you a future that you could not see?
You posed for this picture when our world was at war.
Your fiancé’s heart made him unfit to serve, and you lost
him to death in under four years. Did he leave you alone?
No … he left you a child too young to recall him at all.
Just know I would love to have known that young woman
my father married so long ago. In fact, I would love to have
known him as well. To have attracted such a strong woman,
he must have been quite a man – all who knew him agree.
His brother, Uncle Bob, died in 1950. So you and Aunt
Bet, his widow, made a pact to move to Florence, roughly
thirty miles East, and share living expenses as you both taught
all day. Aunt Bet was thus another mother, but not my only
for between the two families, yours and my father’s, I was blessed
with many stand-in fathers and mothers. Farmers, entrepreneurs,
preachers and teachers; I had a huge family rich in love, and
was blessed to spend summers with them and with you.
Earned a Masters Degree and a great teacher you
were; and ripples from your work, your talents and
your brain, in students still flow forward through lives
unknown. Teaching new generations is a golden life-calling!
In my first homeroom of my High School career, the school where
you taught all those years, sat the prettiest girl I had ever seen. We
got to know one another over those three years. Lynda, so warm, yet
so unlike you; I fell ‘head over heels’ in love – and she felt the same!
As graduation approached I asked her to marry, but you had fits and
said if we did, you wouldn’t attend our wedding. At age eighteen
and legally able to decide, I made my move to make her a bride
but in secret we wed. Cowardly? Yes! I was not yet a man.
My father’s kin took you right in but I brought Lynda into your
life without permission. Somehow you overcame the burden
I’d placed on your heart. How fast you cleared that bar
is pure testimony but sadly, my marriage didn’t last.
Navigating life with a crystal ball, we could sail only
in lanes of joy, avoid shoals of pain; but such tools
are denied to me and to thee. We must pick our
best pathway and then deal with what comes.
Late in life you were diagnosed with Paranoia.
Now looking back, some evidence of that can be seen
when I was small. Yet despite that issue, you were strong
and reliable – a real blessing for others in your circle.
Three years ago your bank called; all were in panic.
You wouldn’t go and closing was near. Police must be
called if you didn’t leave. Your reason: illogical; that’s when
I knew dementia was here. Once my Guardian; my turn was honor.
Your death was hard; you lingered for weeks as you struggled to breathe.
Programmed to flee death is all life, so your body fought. But ready
were you, that was clear. Could not speak but arms would reach
for the ceiling; ready for Heaven, your husband was waiting!
Now looking back, I can see more clearly than ever that your
imperfect best was what you gave. What more could I ask?
And I wish I could tell you something I think that I never did:
Thank you for your life-choices; they helped form my life today!
Henry Junius Montgomery, Sr. (March 1, 1911 – October 14, 1948)
Lillian Ruth Greene Montgomery (November 30, 1919 – March 30, 2019)