Creole Style, Part 2

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I eventually fell in love and married a nice man that worked with my daddy at the factory. Many of the colored people that moved up from the South couldn’t read or write. My husband almost gave up all of his rights to a pension if I hadn’t been the one to catch his employers latest “benefit” package. Many of his co-workers were told by some smooth talking representative that the form they were about to sign was just a formality and to go ahead and just sign it. What that representative didn’t count on, is that I was formally home-schooled and thanks to Eddie I knew how to read through any contract! 


To help generate some income, while my two children went to college, I began to work at the local nursing home after my daddy passed away. It was in that nursing home that I saw things that just broke my heart. I just couldn’t believe how some children could just leave their parents all alone in a nursing home. I understood that some of the residents didn’t have any family to come visit them and they seemed like the nicest people I ever had the pleasure to take care of. I eventually learned that it was better not to judge what appear to be the failings of other families. In the African American (that is what we call ourselves now) families, we tend to take care of each other. In the white community, families tend to put their elderly family members into a nursing home. Some of my co-workers had said that one of the meanest residents we have used to be a Klan member. 


Every now and then his children will show up to replace the tiny Confederate flag they hang above his bed. Usually their visits end with him yelling and cursing at them. Most people speculate that he was drafted and his wife moved north to be with her family to seek employment. When he got out of the war, he took over her job in the factory and settled in Detroit. I try to treat all of the residents fairly, but some of my other co-workers aren’t so nice. Considering most of the people that work in this nursing home are African Americans, it is a strange twist of fate how someone who used to be a Klan member now is at the mercy of the people he once tried to destroy. 


During the next three years, I had become considerably close to one gentleman that had just arrived at the nursing home. He only uses the initials E.J. to be addressed by. Many times I would help him to the dining room and noticed we had a strange connection. E.J. was bound to a wheelchair because a stroke had left him slightly flaccid on his right side. It was difficult for him to feed himself also. I began to work seven days a week and always had myself assigned to E.J. He had such a familiarity about him that I couldn’t quite figure out. Every month a man wearing a suit and tie would come and visit E.J. briefly and then leave.


All of my co-workers knew how attached and dearly I felt for E.J. Whenever I wasn’t around he was always well cared for, as if, I was right there. E.J. loved it when we had group exercise time because I would always play traditional jazz tunes. His eyes would meet mine and I could sense the joy he felt. I shared my life with him and talked about my husband and my children. I knew he hadn’t any children of his own because he could nod his head in response to yes or no answers. His pride wouldn’t allow him to talk in babble as some people do after they have a stroke. I told him all about my childhood and how I grew up in New York from the age of eight. I told him all about Eddie and my daddy. I felt like E.J was the grandfather I never had. I cared for him as if he were my own family. 


I arrived at work and was met by my nurse supervisor. I was afraid that maybe I had done something wrong and was about to be fired. My supervisor pulled me into her office to inform me that E.J. had passed away in his sleep last night. She began to make a gesture for me to take an envelope that was being handed to me by the man that always visited E.J. for the past three years. I didn’t want to seem impolite but I had so many questions. How did E.J. die? I asked. My supervisor replied, “He had another stroke in his sleep.” She went on to say that he didn’t suffer and that he just never woke up this morning. I looked over at the man wearing the suit while I was now holding the envelope and asked him who he was. He replied that he was E.J.’s lawyer. The lawyer went on to tell me that all my questions will be answered once I open the envelope.     


The letter was addressed to me personally by the nickname that my daddy and Eddie used to call me. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, because I never shared that with anyone. It turned out that E.J. was Eddie! That wonderful, dear, sweet man that I have been caring for as if he were my own grandfather for the last three years was Eddie! Behind the letter was a check in my name for $250,000. Apparently, Eddie came to Detroit to find my father when he suddenly suffered a stroke. Eddie wanted to give my father his royalties of an album that Eddie had recorded one night when my father used to play at his jazz joint. Only fate would have it that Eddie would end up in the nursing home where I worked. 


You see that is how karma works. You never know how life can take you on a journey even though you may feel you are in complete control of it. It is my conviction that every ounce of energy that a person puts into this world can be directed back to them one way or another. If it is of negative energy, then negative energy flows back to them and likewise if the energy is positive then it comes back as positive. 


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