The immortal Wilson will be 72 on 7/25. For those of you unfamiliar with the history of comics, he is one of the original Zap artists who stoked the Underground comics movement. Several years ago he had a near-death experience--a traumatic brain injury--that left him in a severely diminished state. His wife Lorraine Chamberblain has become his full time caregiver despite her own medical issues, which are daunting. Her job description during these difficult years includes not only the physical and emotional work that must be done for Wilson's survival, but the mind-numbing task of dealing with the state medical bureaucracy. Though they live in a rent control apartment there are many other expenses besides housing that must be covered. In a recent letter which I will paste below, Lorraine mentions that "the trust fund is dismally low now, which worries me a lot. It pays for some medical bills, meds, the phone, cable, Internet and cleaning supplies & clothes, etc. Way more going out than coming in."By requesting that you contribute to his trust fund, I am challenging the concept of free content, which seems to tbe main currency of the internet. I will sweeten the deal by offering a FREE vintage 8-pager (the second ever published, my 1972 "Underground Cartooning Course") as an incentive. Go on to my Etsy site ScribeArt listed in the right column, and you'll see that it has a retail value of $20. Either buy one and I will forward the funds to Lorraine, or send a check to her directly and let me know. The check/m.o. should be made out to
S. CLAY WILSON S.N.T. (special needs trust)
P. O. Box 14854
San Francisco, CA 94114
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from Lorraine 7/17
Here's a photo I took of him in the back yard last week (shown above). It was a gorgeous day, and he was happy to sit and watch the little girls from upstairs have a tea party while I repotted a plant. We were out there for a couple of hours, and he smiled the whole time. Today, however, he is extremely wobbly, and nearly fell over twice on his way to the bathroom. He seems to be staring off, too, which is worrisome. I'm calling his doctor, as the shunt in his brain may need adjusting. Or maybe he is just a little tired today. I will make an appointment for him to get checked out.
He hasn't been able to draw for a long time now. He can do nothing for himself. He watches movies. That's it. I try to keep him cheery and clean and feeling loved, but when I put drawing materials in front of him, he usually just looks at it. A few months ago, he drew what may have been clouds, or possibly talk bubbles for a cartoon. They were kind of close together, pointing every which way. He used a red pen. After a couple of hours I took it all away, as it was making him a bit sad.
He understands more than most people might think, but if a person talks too much, or changes the subject too fast, he gets confused. One time, when we were walking along outside, I had been blathering, and I asked him if he understood what I was saying, or did it just sound like "gobbledegook". He answered, "Gobbledegook". Disappointing to say the least! But I continue to talk to him throughout the day, telling him what I've been doing, where I went, etc. He likes the attention. When people visit him, if they just talk to him like they would anyone, he will often smile or give a belly laugh. So I know he gets a lot of it. If a visitor is uncomfortable and tongue-tied, he will just stare off and refuse to smile or respond. That has happened a few times, making an old friend feel even more uncomfortable. But they shouldn't take it personally. He can be really grumpy sometimes. You just never know.
I encourage people to call him just to say hello and tell him what they're up to. He can't really talk, but he responds for a minute or two before handing me the phone. It always makes him happy, even if it's just for a minute.
He has become pretty frail. It is really hard to get him to cooperate and walk with me around the apartment, much less out on the sidewalk. Outside, the sounds of the traffic or people walking past sometimes scares him. It is almost impossible to get him to walk for more than a few minutes. He will just sit down. I have to bring the wheelchair when we go outside, and he wants to sit in it after getting only as far as the corner. The sidewalks are uneven and very dangerous, so he could trip quite easily. There is just no way to keep his leg muscles strong! When I have him pedal on the machine, I have to sit in front of him and nag repeatedly, or he just stops. He only does it for a couple of minutes before he stops no matter how many times I remind him to pedal. You can see the dilemma. He is getting weaker and weaker as the months and years go by.
But he is kind of happy a lot of the time. I spend a great deal of energy trying to keep him feeling positive and cared for. I never want him to feel lonely or sad. But of course, sometimes I want to just run into the street, screaming, as anyone taking care of someone with dementia must feel. A few months ago one time, when he'd made a terrible mess, I said "If you are playing a practical joke here, it is the longest-running one of all time and belongs in the Guiness Book of World Records!" He just laughed, then looked confused. Of course he's not faking! But he used to think other people, like his mother, (who died of Altzheimers and failed to recognize him in the end), were.
I am becoming a little more crippled myself these days, as now my right hip is going. I can't put my own shoe & sock on, and often yell in sudden pain when I am walking or sitting down or lying down or standing up or just BEING...you get the idea. I can no longer go up stairs with my right leg at all. I need hip replacement, but just when I could arrange it is still a dilemma. I would have to put Wilson in the hospital. He is only allowed to be there for 30 days, or SSI will not send our checks. Then we would lose our apartment, as we're already living on pennies. So I'd have to bring him home within 3 weeks and start taking care of him again til midnight every day. It's difficult to take care of him with the back & hip pain I'm already in. Plus, I prefer to go see him every day when he's in a facility. He won't let anyone else touch him or give him his meds 4 times a day! So I have to go help. (Although sometimes the nurse will call and put him on the phone and I've been able to talk him in to cooperating). Oy vay....so much to consider!
I've invited some of his friends over for a little birthday party on Sunday, the 28th. The real day is the 25th, but that's a Thursday. I'll give him a little celebration on that day myself. So he gets two parties this year!