So, the first time I met Freddie, I knew she was a force to reckon with. Partly, it was because of the fact that within the first five minutes of knowing her, she had her hula hoop out and was showing it off…asking me to videotape her while doing so. She introduced herself to me as “Rowdy G” or, in other words, “Rowdy Girl.” We hit it off immediately.
Freddie was referred to me as a client in the early days of Ruby Care. She was presenting some behavioral issues in the independent living environment where she was living and the community felt she might need more of an “assisted” living type community where her medications could be regularly monitored. She did have some emotional issues that were making it difficult for her to live independently. However, Freddie was physically healthy and strong and didn’t see herself needing any type of care. In fact, when I met with her the first day, she wanted to show me that she could easily walk up the two flights of stairs to her apartment…WITH ankle weights, no less!
I chose her as our “Senior of Significance” this week because her impact on me was fierce and still affects me to this day. She changed the way I worked with my clients back then and the way I continue to work with them. Her daughter actually gave me the dress she was wearing that day and sometimes I wear it to remind myself how the client’s whole package matters…the physical, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, occupational, and intellectual. I seek to take all these dimensions into consideration when working with each of my clients and their families because it all matters…the whole package. They all influence each other and are important in selecting the right living environment.
In the early days of my interactions with Freddie, she ended up in a local behavioral health hospital. Her medications were “off” and her caregivers were working to get her back to a place where she could be healthy. I would go see her and she would tell me funny stories of her early days. She loved to laugh and especially loved to make others laugh. I saved all her voicemail recordings because they continue to make me laugh and at times inspire me. Freddie was born in Little Rock Arkansas in March of 1949. She loved her family and her family pets. In fact, her nickname, “Rowdy” was the name of one of her favorite dogs.
She really never went by her given name of “Freddie”. For a long time, her daughter remembers her family calling her by her middle name, “Elizabeth”. By the time I met her, she was calling herself, “Freddie” which had been a nickname of a grandmother.
Elizabeth/Freddie married young and had two children – a daughter and a son. She had married a boy who lived across the street and she had been friends with his younger sister. She loved her kids with all her heart. She spoke with me about them often and was very proud of them.
As an adult, Freddie worked for General Dynamics as a saw operator. She was extremely good at crafts and had even received a patent for a yarn spooler she invented. That didn’t turn into “big money” for her, but she was quite proud that she had done that.
Freddie was also extremely loving, a devout Christian, and a poet. She read me a couple of poems she had written and they were beautiful.
As is often the case among those with behavioral health issues, many of Freddie’s relationships were fractured. That was true with her relationships with her kids. Early on, she had given me the names and numbers of her kids and asked me to contact them to let them know how she was doing. I was able to keep them up to date as to my interactions with her and what we were planning to do with regard to her living situation.
During this time, Freddie ended up in the hospital in a bad way. I remember visiting her and seeing her on all kinds of equipment that was helping her stay alive. I had reached out to her son and daughter to make sure they knew that her mom’s illness was very serious.
At that time, she had been estranged from her daughter for many years. However, after making that phone call, her daughter was able to go to the hospital and make peace with her mom. That very night, Freddie passed away. With all my heart, I feel she was just waiting to be able to have that moment with her daughter so she could leave this world peacefully, finally escaping the “demons” that were part of her mental illness.
To this day, I continue my friendship with Freddie’s daughter as I believe God truly brought these ladies into my life for a reason. I keep Rowdy G’s photo on my desk as a reminder of the preciousness of life and the importance of my clients and their “whole” package.