Haunts and Jaunts: Conversations with my mother before she passed

By Rick Hinton

(From left to right) Rick Hinton, his infant son Kyle, his mother and Rhee, shortly before his death. (Photos by Rick Hinton)

My mother died in 2015. I was responsible for her caregiving. Even to this day, there are still those moments when I ask myself—“Could I have done anything differently?” 

Mom was a control freak and had always been, but I loved her regardless. In 1985 when my dad suddenly died her world went upside down…and into a direction no one ever wishes to go: dealing with suddenly being alone, insurance, finances, burial, and both my grandparents (my dad’s parents) very much still alive. I was the one that awoke them at 5:30 AM to the news that their son, and my father, had died. It was a surreal experience that I never care to repeat! They both rapidly deteriorated after that morning and it was my mom that had to care for them!

My grandmother Bessie eased into dementia, closely followed by full blown Alzheimer’s. We made the decision to remove her from my grandparent’s home after she appeared over my Grandfather Rhee’s bed several times in the early morning hours, holding a cast iron skillet and screaming, “Who are you!” My grandfather claimed he could take care of her, but he couldn’t. She became a resident of the Alzheimer’s wing at Community Hospital South where wackiness soon ensued.

Rhee, although physically challenged with a bum hip, remained in the house for a while. We tried to make it work for him. We had Meals on Wheels delivered. He didn’t go for that! “It tasted like cardboard,” he said. He became defiant and appeared to be gradually easing into dementia himself. After a hip replacement, my mother placed him into a room at Community South for rehabilitation. He died shortly thereafter, 12/27/1993. He simply gave up. Grandmother Bessie didn’t attend the funeral. Mentally she was already gone, living in another world of her own choosing. She died a few months later, 06/25/1994. My mother found her in her room with her mouth open and unfocused eyes directed towards the ceiling. No one should have to experience that, but my mother did!

A big chunk of my world abruptly slipped away. Rhee had taught me how to hunt, fish, drive a car, and harvest Ginseng. Bessie taught me about the virtues of Campbell’s Bean w/ Bacon soup, set up my first bank savings account, gave me my first Bible and expounded the virtues of the Lord. I wasn’t ready to let go, but then again, are we ever?

Bessie and Rhee Hinton.

With the responsibility of my grandparents behind her my mom tried to move on, but she couldn’t. She was lonely. She made some bad decisions. One was remarrying. I didn’t like it, but I wanted her to be happy. She retired from AT&T and decided to be closer to her family in Jamestown, Kentucky. My childhood home on South Post Road was sold and I helped them move to her new home on a bluff above Lake Cumberland. The marriage didn’t last and once again she was alone. Her house, and nearby family, became her refuge. I visited often and loved the house and location. However, it gave off a weird vibe from day one. I always felt that there were more presences present there than just us. Mom would smile slightly and ask, “Do you think it’s haunted?” Then I didn’t know…now I’m sure it is. My mother’s house is now MY house.

Life moved forward and all was well, until my mom got sick and her life spiraled into a different direction. And the house got even weirder. But that’s a story for another time…