|Anita, Sibyl, Jay Lee Webb & Elaine at the|
Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Nashville, December 1967
A few weeks ago, I visited an old friend in a rehab facility. By old, I mean in terms of the longevity of our relationship, because Sibyl and I have been friends since high school. We’re the same age. But her health is declining, mentally and physically, and it’s breaking my heart.
Sibyl and I were country music buddies. As teenagers, we listened to the same radio station, followed the same stars, frequented the same record shop — Rumore’s Record Rack in downtown Birmingham. We started going to concerts together. Back then, it was fairly easy to get backstage at the Boutwell Auditorium, and one day the manager of Rumore’s introduced us to our heroes, the Wilburn Brothers. We were in heaven.
I have so many memories of our travels and concert-going over multiple decades, many of them captured in photo albums. We visited Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry several times, and followed our favorite singers to other cities as well. We were Alabama representatives for the Loretta Lynn Fan Club, and hosted Loretta and fellow members for a barbecue in my back yard. We started a fan club for one of Loretta’s brothers, Jay Lee Webb, and attended his funeral together a few months after my husband died in 1996.
As if in honor of our friendship, my youngest daughter was born on Sibyl’s birthday.
We had so many good times together.
Neither she nor her younger sister, Anita, ever married. They lived at home with their parents until the parents died, and now maintain the home themselves. A few months ago, Anita emailed to say Sibyl had fallen during the night while trying to get from her bed to the bathroom. Anita had to call the paramedics. Sibyl was always overweight, so there is no way Anita could pick her up. After two more falls, Sibyl wound up in the hospital, and from there, she went to rehab.
I could tell she was slipping mentally when I spoke with her by phone after one of her falls. Then I visited her twice in rehab. The most recent time, I took some of the many photo albums of our trips and concerts and we laughed over not remembering who some of the folks in the photos were. During that visit, she asked me how Jack liked our log home. “Jack died almost 20 years ago,” I reminded her. “Oh, I didn’t know,” she said. “Yes you did, you just forgot,” I replied, as gently as possible.
Sibyl was always neatly dressed and well-coifed, so it hurt to see her in a wheelchair in sloppy sweats and stringy hair. No need to have her hair set, Anita says, because she lies in bed most of the time.
She has been taking what she calls her “memory pills” for a couple of years, but Anita didn’t realize until recently exactly what that meant. Sibyl is in the early stages of dementia. She is incontinent, and she isn’t getting any better. She wants to go home, but Anita can’t take care of her. Anita is overwhelmed with decisions about where to put her and how to pay for it.
About all I can do is call Anita from time to time and listen, maybe gather some eldercare resources for her, take her to dinner, and visit Sibyl.
It seems so little for a friend who means so much.