God answers prayers where her Pop is concerned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2004

In my opinion, God is good and still in the business of performing miracles and answering prayers.

As far as the weather is concerned we couldn’t have asked for a better Father’s Day than the one we had Sunday. I also observed it was the very first one that our daddy, James C. Lee, and we children celebrated with him away from his home on Lee Street.

When your parents are young with no major health problems, you can’t comprehend them as being older later on in life. Not being able to do the things they once did due to disabilities may mean they have to spend their golden years in a nursing home.

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In the summer of 1998 our mother suffered a stroke in the throat, was hospiltalized about two weeks and then we were told that she would not be able to go back home because she had to be fed through a tube since the stroke left her unable to swallow. Now I’m beginning to realize that you have no control over

anyone’s fate anymore when they aren’t able to take care of themselves. Someone else will decide when they where they will go. Prior to the stroke, daddy was taking good care of her at home even though she was unable to walk very well because of arthritis.

In June 1998 she was transported to a nursing home in Portsmouth of which none of us ever approved. My sister, Earlene Banks, and I tried to have her moved to another home but she died after being there for only two weeks. From that day on, my daddy said, &uot;I’d rather be dead than go to a nursing home,&uot; So you will see why we dreaded what happened next.

In September 2002, he had a fall and was admitted to Obici. After a week’s stay he was admitted to Autumn Care Nursing Home. Just about every time we went to see him he would say that he wanted to go home. He was released in March 2003. By that time he was confined to a wheelchair and not walking at all because arthritis had struck.

My other sister, Shirley Lee, his main caretaker, has never left home and was having some health problems of her own. She had also already retired from her job on disability. She had nursing care for Pop about four hours a day, but he couldn’t be left alone and needed someone at all times to help him with personal hygiene needs. Whenever one of us couldn’t be with Pop, our aunt, Maddie Vann, who lived next door, would stay with him and also help Shirley with his personal needs when she could.

Now, there was a possibility that Shirley would have to have an operation on her leg and be hospitalized. And Earlene’s daughter was also ill and making plans to enter the hospital, which required Earlene spending some time with her during her recuperation while also working part-time. We hated to tell Pop that he might have to go back to a home, so we asked the nurse from the Suffolk Health Department to give him the news.

We were told that it would be hard for him to get into a home in Suffolk because there were no beds available for a male patient. I continued to constantly pray very hard that Pop would be able to stay in Suffolk. Since I got off work so late, Shirley doesn’t drive, and Earlene doesn’t drive on the highway and most nursing patients usually go to bed about 7 or 8 p.m. I wanted to be able to visit him at any time.

Then a voice came in my head and asked, &uot;Why don’t you pray for him to go to a home that is best for him and where he will be contented and feel at home?&uot; That is just what I began to do. About four days before Easter, we got word from the Suffolk Health Department that a bed was available at George Washington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Chesapeake, a 15- to 20-minute drive from Suffolk.

The Virginia Life Line Ambulance came to pick him up on Easter Monday morning. The day was a very rainy one and it broke our hearts when we had to leave him sitting there in the hallway as we went home. We were also told by a nurse that he sat up late that night because he thought that we were coming back to pick him up. However, that was the last time he said anything about coming home. Shirley, my son, Mark, and I tried to visit him every night that first week and at least three to four times a week ever since.

Also, after going to a doctor in Norfolk for about a year, Shirley sought the advice of another doctor, Dr. Howard Harris, a phoracic vascular and general surgery doctor at Obici Hospital. Under his care she immediately started to improve and didn’t need to be hospitalized at that time.

Pop plays the harmonica and I made sure that it was always with him. One night about a month later when he started playing, the nurses stopped in the hallway to listen. He was overjoyed.

I do all of his laundry, and one night as Mark began to put the undershirts in his drawer, it was full of pennies. When I asked him where they came from, he told me that he had won them during a game of Bingo. He was beginning to come out of a shell and I saw him begin to mingle with other patients, something that he didn’t do at the other facility.

On Father’s Day he got to see all of his children, grand- and great- grandchildren who were still here in Suffolk and then wanted to sit outside after everyone began to leave. Another patient that he met, Robert Leigh, told us that he would see that he got in back in all right.

Pop waved us good-bye and began to play his harmonica. As other patients came out and their guests began to arrive, he suddenly stopped as not to disturb them. Then one lady hollered out to him, &uot;Don’t stop now mister, that sounds good.&uot;

Pop smiled and asked, &uot;You really think so?&uot;

&uot;Yeah, keep on playing,&uot; she said.

Truly, God had definitely given Shirley a miracle and has answered my prayers to let daddy be in a place where he could feel right at home and happy.

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer and a regular News-Herald columnist. She can be contacted at 934-9615 or evelyn.wall@suffolknewsherald.com