Uphill Climb

Published in the 2007 Edition of Western Kentucky University’s Mountain Workshops Photojournalism Book

Uphill Climb_Web_001Sunrise barely brushes the rooftops of Parksville, KY when Connie Johnson makes the first of several walks up the hill from Connie’s Restaurant and Deli to her house to check on her mother, Laura, 86.

Her mother, disabled by arthritis and pulmonary disease, depends entirely on her daughter for care. Some family discussion focused on placing her in a nursing home.

“I said no,” said Johnson. “She doesn’t deserve that. As long as I am alive, I’ll take care of her.”

Uphill Climb_Web_004With her husband, Jerome, Connie raised four children and looked after Jerome’s elderly mother until diabetes and kidney failure made full-time professional care a necessity. Now Johnson, 52, a grandmother and great-grandmother, runs a busy restaurant seven days a week, tends to Laura and deals with the arthritis that wracks her hands and spine.

Uphill Climb_Web_002Uphill Climb_Web_006Although she can’t imagine a day without cooking, she knows that eventually her body won’t be able to take the long hours at the stove. And the Johnsons will have to give up the restaurant.

But for now, “I am told I move to keep myself from becoming stiff,” Connie said. “So I move. I move as much as I can.”

Uphill Climb_Web_005Uphill Climb_Web_007Uphill Climb_Web_003Connie’s secret recipe-meatloaf and Jerome’s signature chili dogs join a list of popular items at the restaurant — open every day — where small children call the owners “Nana” and “Papa,” and patrons feats on more than 75 pounds of mashed, handmade peeled potatoes each week.

What keeps Connie going at home and at work?

“I love taking care of people,” she said.

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