Hazel Beverly: 3-23-21 Through 8-25-11

At the time you’re seeing this I am in Rochester NY as the funeral is about to start for my grandmother, Hazel Beverly, who passed away last Thursday at age 90 in her sleep. I thought it was important enough to take a break to talk about her on this day.

I hate to say this, but my grandmother’s side of the family is steeped in mystery; at least for me. Just last Thursday, after she passed away, did I learn that I have Cherokee Indian blood; of all things. I knew I had native American blood in me from my grandfather’s side, but no one knew which tribe he was from. The next day I learned that my grandmother’s only surviving sibling, who we were lucky enough to track down from the airport an hour before he was supposed to be going home, had a son along with the two daughters I knew about already. And it’s not that he’s ashamed of his son; it’s just that, in general, they all come from a generation where no one talks about anything without some reason for it to come up.

That’s how it was with my grandmother, who I always felt had Dean Martin cool about her. She was unflappable, even though a life that had its ups and downs, like most lives. She just went with whatever came up, and only having one daughter and one grandson to keep up with, felt life was pretty good.

She was proud when I graduated college, seeing as how she left school in the 8th grade. She was proud to know I played piano and sang because the did the same. She thought I was the funniest person she’d ever met; I loved to try to make her laugh. She was the one who introduced me to beets, red hot dogs, biscuits and syrup, grits, green pea soup with ham sandwiches and peanut brittle.

One of those strange memories is that she used to take me to church with her when I was 10 years old, living in Kansas City. She was devout but I think she took me for the entertainment value and to get me out of the house. It was my introduction to and probably my only experience with black churches and pretty much church in general. It was interesting because people would scream out, sing out, jump up and start dancing at almost any time, and the choir music… well, if you’re not used to traditional black church beats, which are based on 16th notes rather than quarter notes when you want to get people juiced up, still resonate in my mind more than 40 years later; I never learned how to play any of this type of music unfortunately.

But my grandmother didn’t do any of that. She wore the same Sunday dress every week she went, the same hat, and she had this quiet dignity that kept her from acting out. When I questioned her about it, as we were surrounded with all these other people that were, well, really into it, she just said “Every person gets out of it what they feel they need to get into their lives”. That was it; in her mind, nothing else needed to be said.

And that’s really one of those lessons that, from time to time, I hope I learned from her. She was pretty quiet; she only spoke when she felt something needed to be said, or when I’d ask her questions. She was sharp until the last 5 years of her life, when we’d talk about the weather for 30 minutes at a time because she couldn’t remember what I’d just said to her. But her long term memory was always there until the last few months, and she told me a few things here and there that I’ll never be allowed to disclose, but helped flesh out the family history just a little bit more.

I thank you Miss Hazel, my grandmother, for my mother, for allowing us to have a place to live while Dad was in Vietnam, for giving us a great laugh and story when you got “bus left”, for my Kansas City Chiefs jacket, for my crocheted bowling ball and pin, and for just being you, steady and cool. I’ll miss you for the rest of my life.
 

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When Concepts Don’t Match Up

Some of you have probably noticed I’m not writing at the same pace that I normally do. Once again life has gotten in the way, this time with my grandmother falling and breaking her hip and my having to be out of town to support my mother.

It’s been interesting, frightening and frustrating over the last bunch of days. The interesting part was when I called 911 and they sent the fire chief and two firetrucks before the ambulance arrived; my grandmother would have loved watching that spectacle if she could have moved as she loves sitting in the window watching the day.

The scary part was first trying to figure out just how badly she was hurt, learning she had a broken hip and required surgery, and trying to determine what kind of surgery she needed. Turns out it was only the hip and a fracture, which only required 2 screws, and the surgery and initial recovery only took about 3 1/2 hours; whew.

Then the frustrating part, which leads to the title of this post. I went back home because they said all was going to be well, so to speak. Then the next day I get a call saying she’s nonresponsive and won’t eat. This is frightening because she’s 90 and hadn’t eaten in 3 days. I drive back to get Mom and go back to the hospital, worried that these might be the last days for her and wondering if anything could have changed things. Not that she’s been the physically strongest person over the last few months but this just seemed to come on really fast.

We get to the hospital and she’s sleeping. We let her sleep while trying to let a few people know what might be going on. Then the nurse finally shows up and says they tried to get her to eat but she wouldn’t respond to them and wasn’t talking. So I try and indeed she’s not talking, but she’s responding to yes and no answers with, well, yes and no sounds. I ask what we can try to give her and after hearing it all I suggest we run with the lemon ice, since I know she likes lemon.

I get it open, put a little bit onto a spoon, say “Miss Hazel, here comes something you might like” (yes, I call my grandmother Miss Hazel; she likes that), put the spoon on her lips, and she opens her mouth and takes it in.

Mom was stunned; the nurse was stunned. I wasn’t stunned. What I was is frustrated and irritated because of the scare I’d had with the phone call. See, something that working in hospitals teaches you is the patterns of people with certain responsibilities. My mind had been thinking that something nurses really don’t fully understand is that sometimes a person just can’t feed themselves for whatever reason. The talking is one thing, but as I said, she’s 90 and hadn’t eaten in 3 days, has had surgery and anesthesia and was kind of weak to begin with; what were they expecting, miracles?

Actually, yes. See, hospitals aren’t equipped to be nursing homes; it’s not in the make up of the people that work there, nurses or anyone else. They don’t think about trying to feed people; they don’t have the time. But I knew I had to give that a shot because it would tell me whether she was alert or whether she had decided it was her time. She consumed the entire cup of lemon ice; I had my answer.

So here we are at the dilemma stage, although it’s kind of a foregone conclusion. She has to be moved to either a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home. She needs rehab, but right now she also needs someone to feed her. Mom can’t handle either of these at this stage, and hospitals aren’t equipped to do it either.

Everyone at the hospital has been nice and everyone has played their role the way it’s supposed to be played. But I need to now make them step up and make themselves seen, as the only doctor I’ve seen in the time I’ve been there was the surgeon; that’s not going to get it done. But I know how to do it; funny, but there’s a swagger one can have when they work in certain types of places, and I noticed I had that swagger yesterday, as if I was still at a level to demand and request certain things without question. What a feeling!

So, I’m hoping I’m close to not being as sporadic with so many things as has been the case over the past week. I’m so far behind on work and blogging, but family always takes precedence. And I hope through this little story I’ve given you a little more education on how hospital people think.

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