Sunday morning, July 7, the phone rang. It was my friend Jim in Grove Hill.
Mama had fallen.
Regular readers will know that my mama lives alone in the town where she was born 97 years ago. Her caregiver, Mrs. Fuller, comes out in the morning and gets her day started, then returns in the evening to get her to bed. Mrs. Fuller also gets her to the hairdresser on Wednesday, does her shopping for her, and gets her to doctors when she has appointments.
Friends take her to church and out to lunch on Sunday.
But Mrs. Fuller is not round-the-clock, so Mama had a Med-Alert necklace with a button she could push to tell folks she needed help. Jim was one of those folks.
Jim got to the house. Saw the situation. Called an ambulance and they took her to the local hospital. The folks in the emergency room evaluated her and made arrangements for her to be transferred to Providence Hospital in Mobile.
That is where I met her.
X-rays showed a broken left thigh bone just below the hip joint. Surgery was quickly scheduled and by 5 p.m. she was back in her room.
There were a lot of factors at work to make it possible for a 97-year old woman living alone in rural, southwest Alabama to get from the floor in her home to a hospital bed in a city 100 miles away — Med-Alert, friends, 911, a local hospital well-staffed, an ambulance to take her where she needed to go, and excellent and caring doctors and nurses.
It was an individual, state and federal collaboration that made me proud to be an American.
This was not my first time at a Mobile hospital.
Both Mama and my late father had been here before, along with other members of the family.
Mama is a better patient than Daddy was.
Daddy picked on nurses, who were invariably young and good humored. He’d sing:
“Just because you think you’re so pretty, just because you think you’re so hot.”
“Just because you think you’ve got something, that nobody else ain’t got.”
And they’d laugh at and with him.
Mama doesn’t sing.
Daddy also pulled pranks.
Once in the hospital, they brought him apple juice with breakfast. Daddy hated apple juice but he did not want to waste it, so he put the little container in the cabinet next to the bed in case someone else wanted it.
One day a nurse came in and told Daddy they needed a urine specimen. She gave him the cup and discreetly left so he could “go.” But he couldn’t. So, not wanting to disappoint, he poured some apple juice into the specimen cup.
The nurse returned, held the cup up to the light and said, “a little cloudy today, Mr. Jackson.”
Daddy asked to see and when she handed him the cup he said, “maybe we should run it through again” and he drank it down as the shocked nurse looked on.
When she recovered, he told her what he had done.
Before the day was over, he had become a hospital “character.”
And then there was the time we thought we were going to lose him. All of his health problems seemed to converge at once, and down to Mobile they took him.
He was lying still and unresponsive, with tubes going in and coming out, when Father Ahern appeared.
Father Ahern had been a priest at the Catholic Church in Grove Hill before he retired and moved to Mobile. Though Daddy was not Catholic, he got to know Father Ahern through a friend who was, and they became Poutin’ House buddies. Every time the priest went to visit his family in Ireland, he brought back a bottle of Irish whiskey for Daddy.
Well, the good father heard of Daddy’s situation and came to see him.
I recall the conversation.
“Harvey, this is Ahern,” the priest said softly.
Daddy indicated that he understood.
“Would you mind if I said a Catholic prayer?” Father Ahern asked.
Daddy opened his eyes and in a weak-but-serious voice said, “Catholic is fine. And if you can round up a Methodist or Baptist or anything in between, set them to praying, too.”
The others were not available, but Father Ahern was, and whatever he prayed worked. Daddy went home a few days later.
Mama now is in a rehab facility and we are working our way through something that so many others have experienced. She is weak and tired and has a long way to go. But she is hanging in there, and so are we all.
Keep the prayers going — Catholic, Methodist and any other you have handy.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.