Thursday, and it is my day to visit residents at J. Michael
Morrow Nursing Home. I arrive promptly at 9:30 -- trying to imitate Auguste
Pelafigue, aka “Nonco.” He was a man who
walked the countryside visiting residents and delivering leaflets of the League
of the Sacred Heart. Today, I am
distributing Nonco Prayer Cards with a relic.
Many believe he is a saint; and certainly, I do. Sometimes I feel like such a fake, trying to
imitate Nonco; but, still, I am drawn to the nursing home. I love these people. They are my friends and they are always eager to visit
Jeff Zerangue is sitting outside enjoying the sunshine before the rain. He asks if I will be there for a while and I
tell him I will and he sits outside for a while longer. When I enter the dining
room, several of the residents are sitting around the tables chatting away so I join in the
conversation. Mr. Bruno Quebedeaux
passed away during the night. Everyone I
encountered today talked about Mr. Bruno.
Our deepest sympathy to the Quebedeaux family. From what the residents told me today, he was
a special person who will be missed by all.
I am happy to visit with Neva Marks who had been in the
hospital but now is happy to be back home.
She tells me about the “lifter.”
She did not like the lift which was used to move her while she was
hospitalized. She said she told Dr.
Elliott: “No more lifter.” She said that scared her more than anything
she had done before. She had us
Next is a stop to see St. Therese volunteer, Lou, and I am
happy to report that she is doing well. I think she will probably be at St
Therese’s next week! Hard to keep those
Down the hall, I deliver a CD to Heda Hardy Kidder from Mary
Agnes Hardy dela Houssaye Belleau. It is
labeled “ LE CHAPELET D’UNE FEMME BY LOIS
Mary is the daughter of Florent and Agnes Hardy from Cecilia. She is a distant relative of Heda's. Mary recites the rosary on
the CD and it is beautiful. She has
given the Nonco Foundation a few copies to raffle for the Nonco Annual Meeting which will be held
in December. Come join us for the meeting and to learn more about Nonco.
Some time ago, my sister Mavis Arnaud Fruge told me about a
lady in the nursing home by the name of Priscilla Guidry. Priscilla knows how to “tat.”
Tatting* is the craft of making lace. The
tatter wraps the thread around one hand and manipulates a shuttle with the
other hand. No tools other than the thread, the hands and the shuttle are used,
though a crochet hook may come in handy sometimes. The lace is beautiful as you can see from the photograph above.
Well, I set out to find Priscilla Guidry and I had a lovely
time visiting with her and Cecil Guidry, her husband. Cecil’s nickname is “Cha Bou.” Their home is in Cecilia in the area across the
highway from Cecilia High School. Priscilla says that she has two Cecils—her husband
and her only son, also named “Cecil.”
Cha Bou still lives in the family home but he comes to be with his wife
every other day except he comes every Saturday and Sunday. They are enjoying a cup of coffee, sitting
across one another with Priscilla’s tray used as a coffee table. It is a lovely time. Cha Bou is related to the Freddie Duplechin
family and he has many relatives and friends in the area. Priscilla is a
Boudreaux from Leonville where her father was a school bus driver. She remembers visiting my aunt Evelyn Mistrot
and her daughter, Shirley Chautin.
Sometimes she would accompany my aunt on a visit to my mother’s home. No wonder she looked familiar to me. We knew
each other as children!
I remember the tatting and ask Priscilla about it. She explains that she suffers with arthritis now
and she had to give up tatting. She
learned the craft from a nun who lived in a nursing home in the vicinity
of the old Lourdes Hospital off of St. Mary Boulevard in Lafayette. Priscilla remembers the smell of that
nursing home and when she realized
it was time to find a nursing home she would like, she visited five
before she found J. Michael Morrow. She
said it is the cleanest and the best!
She is a happy resident in Arnaudville.
We have had a good visit when one of the nurses came in with
meds and I bid them goodbye. I fear I
have stayed too long but, it sure was a nice visit. I will return…
I normally spend about an hour in my weekly visits and it has
already been an hour and a half so I
head toward the dining room. In the
hall, I meet Sybil Stelly. I asked her
if I could give her a push and away we go.
We meet Camille Deviller and Florina Martin already sitting in the
dining room and Sybil and I join them.
Conversation is easy. Florina tells
Camille and Sybil that her dad, Anicet Tauzin, and I had a special bond. I use
to ride Ruby Gill Broussard’s bus from my home until the Anicet Tauzin Store on
Highway 31. There, Rosie Hardy Rivette picked
me up to travel to Opelousas where I worked for Calvin Woodruff Insurance Adjusters. Anicet and his old cronies sat on a bench in
front of the store. One morning, Anicet
asked me if I had a boyfriend. I
confessed that I did not. He quickly
replied: “Savais ça!” Tu connais pas
comment marcher.” (Translation: “I knew that.
You don’t know how to walk!”) And, there began my education on how to
swing my hips. Anicet stood up and demonstrated and then I had to practice. That
went on for a few weeks until a guy I had met stopped to pick me up. When we drove off, cheers erupted from the
bench warmers. Years later, I met Anicet Tauzin at a funeral. He reminded me that I should thank him
because had it not been for him, I would have never found a husband. Florina
loves that story.
I tell the ladies that the rain is coming. They are not concerned. They tell me not
to worry about that. It is safe in the nursing
home. They don’t even hear the rain. But, I must go and
Sybil asked why I was in a hurry. They
are having meatloaf and they agree that it is so good. I tell her I have to cook lunch. I have a husband waiting at home. I jokingly tell them that I am not like the
queens sitting around the table waiting for lunch to be served. Sybil laughingly said:
“Stop and buy him a hamburger.” No big deal. They are so much fun.
The last person I encountered was Mr. Joe Kidder. He is looking good; though he is sad to have
lost Mr. Bruno Quebedeaux.
I could have stayed all day. I will be back next Thursday. Anyone can join me. I promise you will be rewarded abundantly.
*Learn more about Tatting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatting
I've been calling Bingo on Mondays at 2:30 at J. Michael Morrow Nursing Home. It is so much fun for me and the wonderful residents seem to enjoy every minute. At first, I struggled to hear their "Bingo" calls. So, on my second visit, I explained that I, too, was old and my ears were not as good as they once were. I asked everyone to shout BINGO!! And, they did. We practiced several times. Next, I told them about my stiff fingers and several admitted that they too had stiff hands and fingers. So, a few hand exercises and stretches (and lots of laughs) followed and then everyone was ready for that first Bingo game.
But, although I love to call Bingo, today, August 7, 2017, I had something else in mind. I asked the Activities Directors, Mary and Andrea, if I could visit Lena Miller instead. Of course, they agreed and they happily called Bingo Monday.
Facebook is an amazing way to connect with people. Tracy Petit Frederick sent me a message via Facebook regarding a picture of Cecelia Elementary School children.. Tracy's husband, Craig Frederick, is a nephew of Lena's. And, Lena and Craig share a birthday, August 10th. Tracy told me that Uncle Luther, Aunt Anna and Craig were taking Lena to Little Big Cup, a restaurant in Arnaudville, to celebrate Lena and Craig's birthday last week. It would be Lena's 88th!
Tracy said: "Since she (Lena) has been in the Nursing Home, we have made an annual tradition to take her to lunch. Her brother Luther and sister Anna come with us and we are occasionally joined by other siblings when they are available."
The contact with Tracy made me want to write the Lena Frederick Miller Story. In addition, Tracy volunteered to send pictures and bio. I was on my way!
On Monday, I walked to Lena's room. There are two beds in the room. The first bed was empty and a lady slept peacefully in the other. I walked back to the Nurses Station and asked if Lena Miller was in the second bed? She confirmed that was Lena's bed and so I went back and sat in Lena's comfortable chair for about 15 minutes. She did not stir. She continued her soft, easy breathing. I wrote her a note on an Apostleship of Prayer leaflet for August, left it on her bedside table and decided I would have to try again another day.
Several of my friends were sitting in the hallway and I shook hands and got hugs and I just hated to leave. So, I decided to visit with Bertha Powell and Rita Bouterie down Hall A. As I entered their room, they were trying to open the water pitcher to get ice for their cups. I joined in the action. Soon, problem solved, I was sitting on Bertha's bed and we were visiting like three teenagers. I took my phone out and showed Rita and Bertha their nursing home website stories and pictures that Sandy Esteve and I had written and a whole hour passed in friendly conversation and much laughter. I got my goodbye hugs and started down the hall and without thinking I was at Lena's door. She was sitting on her bed. I introduced myself and soon another hour had gone by.
It is easy and comfortable to talk with Lena. It was like I had known her all of my life. She grew up in Parks, the second child of Arista Frederick and Edia Guidry. After Lena married Joseph Miller, they continued to live in Parks. Some people call Joseph "Joe" and some call him "U.J." and Lena calls him "J." The couple had two children: Lisa Kay and Lonnie. Lisa, like her parents and grandparents before her, lives in the Parks area. Lonnie and his family live in St. Martinville, but not far from New Iberia. Lena lovingly sings their praises. She is a much-loved mother, grandmother, aunt, great aunt, sister and friend. She told me she had been at J. Michael Morrow for two years. Then, she said: "Two years here and nine years a widow."
For some, the above words would be uttered with sadness; but, not for Lena Miller. It is evident how much she misses her mother and her husband, a sister, a brother and other loved ones she has lost. But, Lena has courage and she makes the most of her life at J. Michael Morrow Nursing Home. Her family has helped her make the adjustment from home to her "Home Away From Home." They visit and bring her lots of pictures of her loved ones. Some of the pictures are in beautiful frames on her window sill. Having those pictures are very important to her and that helps her keep loved ones fresh in her mind. Lena keeps up with her large extended family.
While I visited, I started taking picture off of her bulletin board over her bed and I would ask her to tell me about the person in the picture. One was Lena pictured with Emily and Mary, two of the nurses at J. Michael Morrow. When she looked at the picture, she kissed it. She explained that Emily and Mary had gotten her to walk again after a bad fall and hip injury. It became necessary for the nurses to bathe her in bed and she was so very grateful. When I turned the picture over, it was labeled: "Restorative Grad, 6-16-2016." Lena's courage helps her deal with whatever comes her way, even injuries that require long hours of therapy.
So, how did Lena meet a boyfriend back in those days? Lena met "J" Miller through a girlfriend. Lena and "J" enjoyed a long courtship. "J" became "Joe" to his Army buddies while he served his country in the Korean Conflict. When he came home on leave, he wanted to marry Lena; but, she chose to wait until his military service was over. She doesn't exactly remember the details; but, it was the custom at the time for the man to ask the father permission to marry his daughter. Lena is certain "J" asked her Dad for her hand in marriage and in a few months, the couple was honeymooning in Port Arthur, Texas. It was the farthest Lena had traveled from home. "J" had a brother, Francis, and his wife Merilla Miller, who lived in Port Arthur and, as that too was the custom, the newly married couple honeymooned with Francis and Merilla.
Tracy wrote this about her husband's aunt: "On May 2, 1953, she married Joseph Miller, called 'U.J.' at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Parks. She and U.J. lived next door to her parents in Parks." Tracy explains that the genealogy comes from two other members of the family. Lena's sister in law Grace, the wife of Steve, and, Lena's daughter Lisa Kaye have done a wonderful job researcing and writing stories about this close extended family.
Lena explains that she was petite and for her wedding, she chose a light blue suit which was purchased from La Parisienne on Jefferson Street in Lafayette. The suit did not open in the middle but was shaped in a large scallop on the left side and had many tiny buttons for a very special look. Her hat was the prettiest she had ever had. It fit Lena perfectly. Most hats were large on her head but her wedding hat was comfortable. There were many beautiful tiny white and pink flowers over the matching light blue hat. Lena is proud of the many compliments she received on her wedding day. She explained that the hat had cost almost as much as the suit.
With much enthusiasm, Lena recalled a trip to Nashville, Tennessee! Lena and three or four friends visited Nashville and had a wonderful time. She loves country music and in her lifetime, Lena loved to sing country music. That brought her great pleasure and she lights up just thinking about it.