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We never know when or where we will make a new friend. Salina Hall and I met around 10 years ago when our kids became friends. We lived in the same apartment complex and although our children are no longer friends she and I are still going strong.
I have fond memories of lazy afternoons poolside chatting while our kids cannonballed into the pool. Ms. Marcia was always there with us. She was Salina's grandmother. She was suffering from Alheimer's and Salina was her very loving caretaker. "You look so pretty." Ms. Marcia would always say to me. She was just so sweet. Honey on earth personified.
September is Alzeihmer's Awareness Month. In honor of her amazing grandmother's life, Salina, in her own words, shares Ms. Marcia's story and legacy.
My grandmother's name is Marcia Fuller, best known as Mom to our family. She was born during the Depression on May 29th, 1931. She had 3 brothers and a sister. When their mom died an announcement was sent over the airwaves to locate their father. He came to get his children only to put them up for adoption because his wife did not want them. Mom was adopted by Elaine and John Easley (Momma Lane and Poppa). They lived in Kewanee, IL, where my grandmother would grow up.
From an early age my grandmother loved airplanes. Her role model was Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to hold a pilot license. Her love of airplanes led her to the home of Duane Cole of the Cole Bros Flying Circus that performed around the country. They did aerobatics with planes and had one parked in their front yard.
She told them she would clean their home, yard and babysit for a chance to learn how to fly their plane. She was given flying lessons in exchange for babysitting at age fourteen. Years later one of Cole's sons recognized her from across a room. She undoubtedly left an impression on him.
Flying planes took Mom to great heights in life (no pun intended). She had several positions in her career. One was being a member of the California Civil Air Patrol. She assisted in several search and rescue missions of pilots who went down in rough California terrain. She was a member of the San Fernando Valley Chapter 99's. It is a woman's pilot group founded by Amelia Earhart. She was also made a honorary member of the Tuskegee Airmen in the early 1990's.
It's probably not a surprise that our house was next to the Burbank Airport in SoCal. She would frequently run out the house and look to the sky whenever she heard a plane engine that differed from the regular planes taking off.
She could tell you the type of plane by the sound of the engine. We always knew if it was a special plane because she would let out a loud, "Woooooo", when it flew over the house.
Mom loved to learn also as much as her deep love for flying planes. She studied at USC and earned a degree in Biological Science to become a registered nurse.
She was a part of an essential team of nurses that were assembled during the crack era. Data showed that babies born addicted to crack had a higher survival rate if they were exposed to human touch. Most babies addicted to crack were abandoned by their mothers with no one to hold and love them. Survival rates are low for these babies. So, that team of nurses would hold these babies and expose them to human touch to ensure their survival. Mom eventually left the nursing field because the casualties were becoming too taxing for her mentally.
She ended up in careers that involved her first love........flying. She worked for American Airlines and FedEx and flew all over the country for free by "jump- seating"( free stand-by for employees). She was able to sit in the cockpit with the pilots until 9/11 changed all that when jump-seating was discontinued.
She earned her pilots license at the age of fifty-five. I believe racial barriers may have played a role in her having to wait to obtain her license later in life. Mom went on to earn two masters in Aeronautical Science from Embry Ridde Aeronautical University. She was in her 60's. She did this to remind us that you're never too old to learn. "Knowledge is the one thing they can't take away from you.", she would always say. To this day, I still haven't met anyone who is able to watch Jeopardy and get 98% of the questions correct. I think I had only seen her miss maybe a handful of questions over a number of years. She was sharp when it came to the mind.
In her 70's, we noticed that Mom started acting out of character. She would frequently call me or my uncle because she couldn't remember where she parked her car. It happened enough to prompt me to show up at one of her doctor appointments and inform her doctor. Unfortunately, her doctor brushed it off as old age. We noticed her forgetting a lot of things and doing things she would never do. She would order a slew of products from infomercials. She would get upset when they were delivered, because she had forgotten she ordered them.
She became very hostile any time someone went against anything she said. Even if it was logical. Again, I showed up to her appointment. This time it was a geriatric appointment. I let them know everything that was going on and what the family and I have noticed. It was an uphill battle to finally have to the doctor sign off on Mom being too incompetent to handle her affairs, because she aced those dementia tests for years.
After working closely with the social worker and geriatric doctor, it was finally done. My uncle and I were made her POA. We moved her into a couple of home based senior facilities that didn't work out. I eventually decided to take care of her with my family's help. There was some concern, because I do have Lupus. Being a caretaker for someone with a mental disability is very stressful and hard. However, I really felt the Lord was telling me to do this and I knew he wouldn't let me fail.
I took care of her for the last 4 years of her life. The last year was a gradual decline. She stopped walking altogether and could no longer help with her transfers. She remained bed bound because it became difficult to put her in the wheelchair. I began to blend her food so she could drink her meals rather than chew it and she was no longer communicating. A couple of months before she passed, she stopped eating. Those few days before her passing were the hardest. I watched a woman that was stronger than Wonder Woman wither away to a shell of a human being.
My 15 year old daughter had to be my rock and support. My mother must've known the end was near, because she came over after work and would stay very late before going home. Mom loved jazz and it would play in the background in her room everyday. By this time, she wasn't opening her eyes. She passed peacefully at about 8:30 am on September 21, 2016.
Mom was a God fearing woman who would give the shirt off her back to help someone. Family was always important to her and wanting to keep us together. Education was extremely essential to her. The 99's started a scholarship program in her name and Mom was able to meet the young lady who was awarded the first scholarship. Another young lady was awarded the scholarship after the passing of my grandmother. My mission is to keep the scholarship going to help other young women achieve their flying dreams like Mom. I think she definitely would love that.
Salina resides in California with her daughter. Her family is close by and indeed very close.