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Gray Area

Published on Thursday, May 4, 2017

By: Gary Pettus at 601-815-9266 or

Published on May 04, 2017

As she peers into her doctor's face, she lies on her back in a clean, neat room of paneled walls hung with a handmade sign - “JANNIE G. LEFLORE HOUSE” - as if to reassure her. Near it is a photograph of the late husband she believes is still alive.

Dr. Mark Meeks, professor of medicine and director of the UMMC Division of Geriatrics, hovers above his patient's sickbed, asking her a question that seems to stump her: “How old are you?”

Two weeks earlier, she celebrated her birthday. But she doesn't answer. “Seventy-nine,” says her daughter, Janyce Leflore Jenkins, at last.

Jannie Leflore stirs in her bed. “I ain't no 79,” she says.

Some months ago, it took Janyce hours to coax her mother out of the car at a house she thought was a stranger's - her own.