The First Verse
When my grandma, Dora or Grandma Brown, was around 15 years old, her and her sister were walking along the railroad tracks and encountered a couple of guys. My grandma’s sister started talking to one guy, which meant that my grandma was stuck with the other guy. In her own words, “I didn’t want to talk to that big head boy”. Little did she know, that boy was Ezell Brown, and she would spend the remainder of her life building a family with him and loving him. After some time passed they were married and moved to a housing project in Detroit. At this point, they had 11 children and in 1971 they moved to a three bedroom 1 and a half bath house on the west side of Detroit.
It’s common knowledge that my grandfather Ezell, known as Big Ez, was hard man. As a World World 2 vet, I’ve always wondered if that is where his hardness came from. Based on stories I’ve heard, he had low tolerance for things that weren’t in order, and he didn’t always treat Grandma Brown right. His job at Ford Motor Company kept him busy and sometimes he was not a very nice person. Regardless, she stood by him and her family. Kids moved out of the house, a few of those kids passed away, and eventually Big Ez’s health started to take a turn for the worse. He had glaucoma, and was severely close to completely losing his vision. He was declared legally blind and could no longer drive. It was in this time that he prayed to God.
“If you give me another chance, I will spend more time with my family”.
A Beautiful Chorus
With his second chance, Big Ez stayed true to his words. Not only did he spend more time with his family, he used this opportunity to revitalize his relationship with Dora. They became like young lovers again, holding hands, taking walks, courting, and from what I understand, it was like they were on a honeymoon. This lasted until 1988 when Big Ez passed from a massive stroke. I was born in 1989, so I never got the chance to meet Big Ez. Despite not knowing him, his presence was always around.
My grandma still stayed on one side of the bed, she still kept his closet locked, and for many years she kept his favorite chair in the living room. Even after a bunch of grandkids and great grandkids, we still knew who Big Ez was. My grandma never remarried. She always honored her husband and their relationship. As Grandma Brown got older, she became sick. Dementia and diabetes became overwhelming on her body. We had many scares and knew that her time was limited. So, we began to ask questions. Every time we got together as a family we would ask her about her life and especially about Big Ez. She would tell us as much as she remembered until she could no longer remember much at all.
In November 2013, she had a massive stroke which left her hospitalized for a few months. It was during that time that we had to deal with losing our matriarch and biggest support system. For a while her health seemed to get better. She started to recognize and remember everyone. Family from out of town came to visit, and we had hope that she would recover. That hope was soon diminished when she started to have difficulty breathing. During the times that she was awake, she would often call out to her mother, my cousin, and of course, Big Ez. Eventually, a breathing tube was not enough and she had to get a tracheotomy. On the second Saturday of February 2014, Grandma Brown was hospitalized for the last time. She was still having trouble breathing on her own and because of the trauma her body was enduring, it was decided that she would be taken off of life support.
The Final Verse
It was during this time that we really internalized that Grandma Brown was going to pass. We were even told that she would pass that Saturday night, but by Monday morning, she was still alive and still breathing. I remember sitting in her room when the doctor’s told us that she would have to be moved because they were no longer treating her. A moment of panic came and went when a social worker came in with a solution none of us saw coming.
“Did someone in your family work for Ford?”
Big Ez had insurance for end of life care in the event that him or Grandma Brown would need it. Not only did he purchase the extra insurance, he had the highest plan possible. Within two hours, Grandma Brown was taken to one of the best hospices in the state. People paid thousands of dollars to stay in this facility, but my grandma stayed for free because her husband thought ahead. Even after he was long gone, he still honored and took care of his wife. She spent the next 5 days treated like a queen. On a daily basis she was donned in silk robes and cared for with immense kindness.
In the late night of Saturday, February 15, Grandma Brown passed away. This weekend marks the anniversary of her passing, but I can’t help but think about her and my grandfather’s love story. It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but when it mattered, even after death, they were still connected. A few months ago I went to visit them both at the cemetery. It is comforting knowing that their bodies are so close to each other.
The ballad of Ezell and Dora will always be my favorite love song.