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Uncle Bronty and the Grim Reaper: I

Time was not particularly kind to Uncle Bronty. Nor to Aunt Pisces, either. Aunt Pisces developed a particularly nasty hereditary form of kidney disease in her mid-’40s, and needed to be on a dialysis machine three days a week. (Her father had died of the same condition at the ripe old age of 48 about 20 years earlier.)

After a couple of years of shuttling back and forth to the hospital, the chance came up for them to lease a dialysis machine at home. They made the financial sacrifice and Uncle Bronty learned the medical processes necessary, caring for Aunt Pisces and tending the equipment with the sort of devotion which mere money could never have assured from the professionals. Some years later, Aunt Pisces managed to get a kidney transplant, and their lives returned to a comparatively normal pattern for a while.

Gran was a casualty of the home dialysis period however.

One particularly unpleasant, but indirect, side effect of Aunt Pisces’s kidney disease (or, possibly, its treatment) was the degeneration of her knee joints (as well as some other joints) making staircases insurmountable, since her knees could no longer support her weight unless locked. One morning, after Uncle Bronty had left for work, she fell somewhere in the house, and couldn’t get up.

Evidently she could not reach the house’s only phone either, for it was some hours before the woman (nurse?) who regularly came by to check up on her found her, and got her up and settled into bed to recover. It was only after the woman had left and Aunt Pisces had settled down that she realized that Gran (at that time living in a small “granny house” on the back of the property) would normally have been up and about, and could have been expected to have found her earlier.

But Gran had not come, or indeed been seen all day, and the only phone was in the hall and she couldn’t reach it. As soon as Uncle Bronty got home from work Aunt Pisces told him that no one had seen Gran all day and she was worried about her. This worry was certainly justified, as Gran had just turned 90 and had already chalked up two minor heart attacks.

He went out to Gran’s house in the back of the property which he’d had built for Gran some 15 years earlier. The front door was still locked.

He found her on the bedroom floor, unconscious, still in her nightgown. Aunt Pisces had not been the only one in the family to have suffered a fall that morning.

Gran turned out to have had an osteoporosis-related breakage (not her first), and whether she had fallen and broken her leg, or if the bone had given way causing her to fall, we never determined. Although she was 90, she was otherwise in generally good health, and if she had been found earlier, might have made a full recovery.

But over eight hours on a cold floor, in pain, would have sent a much younger person into the sort of deep shock from which recovery is problematic. She never quite made her way back mentally, and in her case, without a clear mind, even a relatively healthy body wasn’t enough.

Uncle Bronty never forgave himself, although god knows he had nothing with which to reproach himself.