Here comes Freda!
She doesn’t walk anymore, not far anyway. It takes all of her will and strength to stand up and take the few steps between her bed or recliner and her wheelchair. Inevitably, there are grunts and groans, a few winces, maybe a heavy sigh when she sits. There are, however, no complaints.
She doesn’t complain. She never did.
As soon as she emerges from her chambers, she is cheerfully greeted. Hearty good mornings, sincere inquiries into her health, hopeful invitations to some activity or other. She is honored, valued, and loved. She won’t fail to check on her people, grant a warm embrace, to offer a word of encouragement. She is in her element and everything is better for everyone around her when Freda is on the job.
She was once a west Texas dark-haired beauty. She caught eyes. She turned heads. She was strikingly beautiful but down-to-earth, a farmer’s daughter. She could pick cotton, play the piano, compete on the basketball court, and laugh at your stupid jokes while never laughing at you.
There goes Freda!
She married a wavy-haired boy, a friendly, engaging, funny, loyal boy before she left her teens. They started a family right away. They started with me. They were married in December. I was born in September. Math is hard but not that hard.
She never lived a life of ease. In the earliest days of their marriage, they were all but nomadic. He was chasing a dream that veered between business ownership and church pastoring. When the stars aligned, he got to do both and that was pretty close to right for him. Meanwhile, the money was meager, the stress was high, and the stability was lacking. They skipped across Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana like waterbugs on a dead-still pond on a midsummer afternoon. They zigged. They zagged. They settled in. They had three more children and lots more residences.
She didn’t complain. She never did.
Watch Freda rise!
They were west Texas born and bred and comfortable there. But he died in east Texas. In 1991. He was only 51. She was 47. He left behind a business, a 19-year-old son, and a 12-year-old daughter, along with my other sister and me, both of us already grown. Mom was suddenly, unexpectedly overwhelmed with the head-of-household burden. She had mostly been a Mom and an administrative assistant/bookkeeper to her entrepreneurial husband. She had no education beyond high school. No resumé to dust off. Just the true grit of a West Texas farm girl, raised with a cotton sack in one hand and a bible in the other.
She went to work as a cook for an elementary school. In no time, she became a favorite of the kids, the teachers, and the staff. Later, she managed a Burger King, where she mentored kids just finding their way in the hard-boiled, cold-hearted world of impending adulthood. She helped them navigate those waters, always with a steady hand and a tender heart. I know this about her. Firsthand.
She would finally settle into a job for a government-contracted company, where her empathetic people skills opened doors in the hardest parts of the meanest towns across the land.
She worked until it became physically impossible to do so. Her health failed. She had a stroke. And then a series of strokes. Not sure how many. She had to work to get her speech back. Taking care of her became too much for my sister and her daughter and Mom was not leaving Mt. Pleasant to live with me in the Metroplex. That was home and that was that.
Still, she didn’t complain. She never did.
After her strokes, she was sent to Greenhill Villas nursing home for several weeks to work with therapists. She wanted nothing more than to be home. Eventually, she got to go home. Once there, she saw the stress it caused for her daughter and granddaughter. They wanted to take care of her but their work schedules and their physical limitations made it difficult.
One day she said to my sister, “Take me back there. I want to go.”
She didn’t really want to go. She felt she needed to go for their sake. Everything has always been for the sake of her kids, her family, her friends.
Go, she did.
She didn’t complain. She never did.
Meet Freda, Mayor of Greenhills Villa.
Once at Greenhill as a permanent resident, Mom settled in. She established a circle of friends, a ragtag group, some castoffs or castaways, some like Mom giving everything they have in them to get out of bed every morning and face another day.
I went to see Mom the day before Mother’s Day. Just daysprior, I had received the following text message from Tammie, my baby sister: “The nursing home just called and they are taking mom to the hospital. They said she has critically low hemoglobin and might need a transfusion.”
Tammie said Mom was playing dominoes when the ambulance scooped her up against her will, took her to the hospital, kept her all night, gave her a blood transfusion, and sent her back to Greenhill.
Mom was in high spirits and, as always, so grateful for the visit and the gifts I brought. While we ate lunch with Tammie and her crew, one of mom’s friends, the lady with the walker, who is, you better believe, a walker, whipped past us. Dorothy (that’s her name) motors and weaves about that large facility from stem to stern and back again day after day. Mom noted she was especially unsteady that day. She seemed distraught. Mom called her over.
“Happy Mother’s Day, baby girl,” Mom said to this woman who is her contemporary in age.
Dorothy burst into tears.
“Oh, Freda! I miss her so much. I miss my momma.”
Mom pulled her friend into a hug.
“I miss mine, too, darling. I will be your mom today. We can be each other’s Mother.”
Presently, the tears abated and she hugged my Mom closer.
“I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
When my visit was about done, some of Mom’s people were assembled for a game of dominoes. She wanted to join them.
“First, take me to Wanda’s room. I haven’t seen her all day. I know she is sulking and feeling sorry for her herself. Her husband just told her he was divorcing her. Her kids don’t live nearby. She is feeling abandoned and alone.”
And so Mom went to rescue a friend in need.
Once I had her settled at the table, the man who loves Mom and cannot hide it showered her with praise.
“She takes care of us, all of us.”
As he was saying this, Mom was passing around the box of Mrs. See’s candy I brought her.
“My son and daughter-in-law bought us this,” she beamed. “It is the best chocolate candy around.”
Actually, we bought it for her. I should have known we really bought it for them.
That’s my Mom, the mayor of Greenhill Villas, still serving the underserved, remembering the forgotten, and loving the unloved. Just like always. Just like that.
True to her name, she brings wisdom, discernment, and peace to dire straits and desperate people.
She won’t, however, have mercy once a game of 42 commences…unless she senses someone else needs to win a hand way more than she does.
When I was a little cowboy and you were my world, it was a peaceful and safe place. Still is whenever you are near. Thanks, Mom. You always inspire me to be stronger and do better.
In the Mom department, I got no complaints. I never did.