My Tall & Handsome’s mother passed away on March 16th. She was living in Rochester, MN at the time and unfortunately we were locked away in the extreme Southeastern US at the time, bound by duties and circumstances that kept us in place.
We last saw Hazel in November 2009 when we went up for Thanksgiving with T & H’s family and to also spend what we thought was Hazel’s 90th birthday. (We now think it was probably her 89th, but what’s a year among friends and family, especially at that age?) Her short term memory wasn’t too good, but her long term memory was holding in there. We had a great visit and I was so glad T & H had that time with his Mom.
In the time since then, her health started to decline, especially fast the last couple of weeks. T & H had just tried to talk to her the Sunday before her final decline. The conversation didn’t go well. He kept loosing her after the phone was passed to her. I think I knew then that things weren’t good. His sister called a few days later with the news that Hazel was in really bad shape. She hadn’t eaten in five days and was coughing up blood. As someone who had been through this before (with my sweet dear Mrs. (Lola) Lovelady) I recognized immediately what was before T & H and us.
I knew Hazel for the last eight years of her life. She was a sweet, soft spoken Southern (Texan) lady. She was devoted to her children and she adored animals…a trait she passed along to both of her big hearted children. When she spoke of my T & H she always talked about what a sweet “boy” he was…which just goes to show you age is relative and all a state of mind.
I don’t know if Hazel every remembered my name. I know she knew I was Reggie’s wife. And, she knew I was Southern. I think we bonded over that. She missed her South and when I was around her I tried to honor her “southerness” because I knew, as a steel magnolia myself, how important our southern roots are to us. They are roots you just can’t extract…no matter where our short term memory may take us. I also wanted her to have the place of honor she deserved as T & H’s mother when she was around, so I always offered her the place by him in the car or at the table. It seemed just the right thing to do.
Before Hazel moved to Rochester she had lived in Flagler Beach, FL. In her little mind, for years she held on to hopes of moving back there. She had been active there and had friends there. She was President of the women’s group at her church, had been active in the Junior League, played bridge and was, of course, a member of the Daughter of the Confederacy.
This past weekend we drove down to Flagler for a bittersweet visit. It was T & H’s way of paying respect to his Mom. We drove by her former home, took her obituary to her former place of worship and just visited some of the places she would have visited.
Even though T & H had been born in New Mexico, he spent many of his formative years in the South. His Dad had worked at Mission Control at Cape Canaveral during the early years of the space program. So many of those years were in Florida. He graduated from high school in Florida and attended Florida State University. T & H was on the swim team in high school, was a surfer and was a lifeguard. He still, to this day, loves to visit Ron Jon’s.
Somewhere in the background, there should be a Beach Boys song playing…
© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.