“I wasn’t sure what was going on. I seen her down there by the road talking and laughing and throwing her hands up. I reckoned she must be shouting, you know praising the Lord. Eh law, I never thought about her having a nervous spell and going a little off.”


Overheard: snippets of conversation I overhear in Southern Appalachia

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  • Reply
    Nancy schmidt
    August 24, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    Mustn’t forget that now many more folks live to be really old, so naturally there will be lots more persons with dementia . Having said that, it is true that this kind of dementia is now very much more common than even 30 years ago. Bewildering and so sad for all of us.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 24, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Henry Gardner “Red” Gibson was “off in the head”. Here is what the State of North Carolina had to say about that!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Christensen Bennett
    August 24, 2019 at 11:56 am

    I too had no idea of the true impact of this disease until the last few years. My mom and my best friend’s husband both have it. Sending love and comfort to everyone affected by it.

  • Reply
    August 24, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Every little town or community has had their unusual characters that became an integral part of daily living in the town. At one time they were accepted and just left alone to meander through the streets muttering, preaching, or maybe repetitively asking for money. It was always understood they were protected by townspeople who were basicly good folks. Occasionally a group of young people would poke fun or laugh, but then go on leaving them alone. Your post today somehow brought them to mind. I was remembering Chris with his amazing blue eyes, carrying his Bible, stopping on street corners to preach with a conviction I have never witnessed in a church house. Was he a modern day prophet, or was he just “tetched?” Then there was Cliff, the cigar smoking old man with his heavy coat Summer and Winter. He asked every passerby for money for cigars in a muttering under his breath sort of way. A town artist painted a picture of him recently and many recognized that ole man from decades ago. Ury could still be found a few years back quoting scripture and praising the Lord to any and everybody. Yet, I hear he was digging his wife’s grave alone until others joined in to help him. This makes me wish I could go back and learn more about these folks that once were a regular, but important, part of every community. I supposed society has seen fit to place them in care facilities nowadays!
    The greater problem now seems to be the problem of dementia, as Jim Casada mentioned. More and more families have members that are diagnosed with a disease that, frankly, the medical community does not fully understand. I find myself getting “nervous” when I misplace my keys or climb to the top of the stairs forgetting what I came after. Then I reassure myself by thinking I am just going back through the stages of life, because that was exactly what I did as an addle headed young teen. Old folks used to proclaim we just went back through each earlier stage as we grew older. They described it as getting old and becoming “childish.” What if all those old folks were right and just way smarter than all these scientists studying dementia! Maybe they based it partially on an old proverb, “Once a man twice a child.”

  • Reply
    August 24, 2019 at 9:15 am

    There was an old lady who lived with her nephew in my hometown and nearly scared us children to death. Everyone called her crazy. Her nephew said she was ‘teched’ in the head.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 24, 2019 at 8:28 am

    I probably shouldn’t do it, but I tell people, “Well, I’m off and besides that I’m leaving.” Apparently in the medical fields folks are taught that nobody is normal, that is ‘textbook normal’ which is the average of many.

    As to Jim’s point, I expect our ancestors kept good health into old age much better than we do now because of diet and exercise. Their old age came after an entire life to that point having been active. And on farmsteads there continued to be a daily round of work taking care of animals and crops and fires and equipment and fields etc. There was work of some kind scaled to abilities, whether of children or elders. That is one reason I keep gardening against all the discouragements.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 24, 2019 at 8:03 am

    I love this comment. It is exactly the language of country folks. My grandmother would have said it exactly like that!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 24, 2019 at 7:39 am

    During my boyhood “Going off a little bit” was one of numerous ways I heard what in today’s world would be described as dementia. Other phrases were quare (or quair), “she’s not quite right, you know,” strange, addled, and cattywampus in the head.
    Still, as someone whose family life is directly and devastatingly impacted by dementia, I do wonder whether it was anywhere near as prevalent in yesteryear as is the case today. If so, I was blissfully unaware of it.
    Jim Casada

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      August 24, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Jim, I have wondered the same thing. Partly I think people used to expect old folks to be a little off. I remember Granny having spells of being a “little bit off”, and we just said that she was old. We have also been impacted by this terrible disease.

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