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Please Don't Take My Sunshine (by Auntie Joye)

I must tell you of my first memories since they are connected to Mary Allan. When I was three my mother had a Bible study in our home. It was what became Bible Study Fellowship. The children would play on our screened-in porch and mimic our mothers by praying. This became a big part of my life as I wanted a baby sister more than anything. There were several little girls who lived close to me and their mothers were good friends of my mother and visited our home often. I would hold prayer meetings and we all began to pray for baby sisters. When I was four,  I was not at all surprised when my parents told me we were going to have a baby. I had known we would and that it would be a baby sister. Her name would be Sunshine. My Sunshine.  From the time I was told she was coming, I told everyone I saw that I was going to have a baby sister named Sunshine.

 On June 1, 1951 my mother’s water broke and she went to the doctor. He told her to go home and wait for contractions because she had RH negative blood. He was afraid to bring the baby unnaturally. Now we know this was probably a mistake by the doctor. I was shipped off to my Aunt’s house in Kensett and 10 days later a phone call came from my Daddy. I heard my aunt say, “ A baby girl, and her name is Mary Allan.” I instantly felt betrayed , her name was supposed to be Sunshine. How could they have done this to me? At not quite five years old, I made the decision that she would be Sunshine to me, and My Sunshine she has been for 57 years.  My paternal grandmother didn’t like the name Mary Allan and always called her Jan, she thought that sounded better with my name, Joye. When Mary Allan started first grade she began signing her name, Mary Allan Jan Sunshine Dickey. She knew she was my Sunshine.

Mary Virginia has asked me to write about when I first noticed that there were changes in Mary Allan. I think I first noticed that she became a little “scatterbrained.” I just attributed it to the stress and normal tasks of mothering three children so close in age. She had home schooled all three, was active in her church, George was into sports, and the family's world revolved around all his games. We all noticed that she had lost the ability to clean her house. It gradually became worse and she began hoarding. I would offer to come and help her clean, but she would almost get frantic about it. She would cry and say she knew she needed to do better. It only got worse. Then, she started forgetting things. Things like signing Eleanor up for softball, re-enrolling the kids in school at LRCA and PA, and paying tuition checks. She would think she had bought something and couldn’t find it, or was supposed to be somewhere and would forget to go. She would talk to me about it and would say, "Please don’t tell anyone." I would tell her it was stress. I thought that was what it was. She was so young, this was only about 10 years ago or a little more. Eleanor, eventually, would begin calling me and say, “Gigi, there’s something bad wrong with my mom.” I would tell her it was just stress, that things would get better, she would cry and say with persistence, “ No, you don’t understand, it’s really something bad.” Eleanor was like me, really dramatic, and I just thought she was overplaying it. We would have better times. Mary Allan would seem happier, less scattered. I seemed to notice more problems when there was a lot of confusion or at times like holidays when there was a lot going on and a lot to do. One year, I believe 2002, we were having Christmas Eve dinner at Mary Neal’s house and everyone was bringing a dish for the buffet. The Baindidn’t come and didn’t come. I finally called and Jim said they were on their way. When they arrived at the house Mary Allan wasn’t with them. Jim said she was home, upset and crying, because she couldn’t remember what she was supposed to bring. I called her and said we didn’t need the food, we just needed her to come right then. She did come and asked me to go to one of the bedrooms with her. She cried and said she thought she had Alzheimer’s. I said I was sure she didn’t  that she was just stressed and needed a physical, that she could see the doctor as soon as the holidays were over. The same night when we were giving out gifts, she couldn’t find hers, she said she had misplaced them at home. She never did find them and I suspect she never bought them, but really thought she had.

 The first part of January I called her and encouraged her to call the doctor and make an appointment for a physical. She said she would. This is the part I feel so guilty about because I just kept asking every couple of months if she had made an appointment. Each time she would say, "I’m going to." After about a year, or longer, of this answer she finally told me that she had tried to make the appointment. The problem was that she had to push a button to be connected to her doctor’s receptionist and that button on her phone was broken. I told her to use a different phone. She said she would. Another length of time passed and I noticed more and more alarming behavior. When I asked again if  she had called the doctor she told me the truth. When she called the number you had to push "2" if you wanted to make an appointment and she had lost the ability to sequence any thing by then. She couldn’t follow directions and she didn’t want anyone to know. This was the first time I really got scared. She told me then that she couldn’t tell time and she couldn’t write a check, that Eleanor had been covering for her for quite a long time. It was the first time I allowed myself to even think the A word. How could this happen? My baby, My sunshine. I cried myself to sleep that night.    


“You are my Sunshine my only Sunshine.

You make me happy when skies are grey.

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you,

Please don’t take my Sunshine away.”


  1. Mare, what a sweet and saddening entry from Joye. That hits so close to home for me with my two sisters and I know it does to you as well with El. I'm praying for you and your wonderful family. Love you so much, Ki


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