1999 Christmas Letter

Following is Mother’s 1999 Christmas letter, mailed in January 2000, for anyone who did not receive a printed copy.



Dear Friends and Relatives,

I’m writing for my Mother this year. A lot has changed in the past year so I’ll try to bring you all up to date. She is still living in her own apartment in Monterey and until October she was getting along with just some help with meals, housekeeping, and some personal care. She took a turn for the worse in late October and another in November. About the first of December we determined that she could no longer reliably get up and move around by herself even with her walker so we now provide round-the-clock care. She fell a couple of times but thankfully nothing broke.

Jeanne Reedy is our “Chief of Staff,” supervising a team of about eight ladies. Jeanne is not a nurse but she has worked in a nursing home and has training in geriatric care. She started helping Mother 2½ years ago, just a few hours a week and is now almost full time. Peggy Hiner has been cleaning for Mother for six or eight years and has now taken on additional duties. Dr. Billingsley, who has looked after her for years, is a good old-fashioned country doctor who makes house calls cheerfully at all hours. You donít find this type of care much anymore. The others have all signed on since December first. Everyone takes a shift getting meals, cleaning up, administering meds, assisting her to the bathroom, and just generally keeping her company. Char and I share the night shift and fill in where needed.

Despite her weakening physical condition, Mother remains constitutionally strong. Her mind is mostly alert but she does suffer from periodic episodes of confusion and delusion. This morning she was concerned about something all mixed up at school even though she retired from teaching thirty years ago. Her only regular medication is to control anxiety. She likes to hear from everyone and has enjoyed all of the cards and letters at Christmas. I will not try to respond to each of them individually. We see that she reads every letter received or we read it to her when she is alert. It is fine to call also but be aware that she no longer answers the phone herself and she may be sleeping or unable to talk at any given time. Even when she is able to talk it must be kept short. Mornings are usually her strongest time but afternoons are often OK. She has supper about 5 p.m. and is often asleep by 7 p.m. so donít call in the evening. Her address remains:

Mary Heath Sweet, Box 493, Monterey, VA 24465     540-468-2807

You may call or write to me at any time for an update on her condition.

The photo at top shows Mother on the front porch of her apartment with her cat, Roamer, in August 1999. She is in apartment 3, the number just visible beside her bird feeder. Her front room window is behind the tree limbs at right. She can sit at this window to watch the birds and squirrels as well as the comings and goings of neighbors.

Best wishes for the New Year from all of us in Virginia.

John