‘Luv ya, luv ya, luv ya’ Melba

Published on Sunday, March 08, 2009

By Ted Morris

Our community has suffered a loss.

Melba Vickery, 84, a true friend of the Herald/Review and other institutions and many individuals in the community, passed away last Saturday in the Life Care Center. She had been ill since right before Christmas. The last e-mail I got from her was dated Dec. 5, with a subject line of “egg hit fan again.”

Her computer failed after that, and when Melba lost the ability to e-mail, that was like cutting off her oxygen. Until Dec. 21, Melba lived independently in her own home on the city’s east side.

I became friends with Melba in July 2007. We were pen pals most of the time. Melba’s e-mails were so creative and zany, that early on I decided to save them all. I collected more than 550 of them. They are classics. She was fearless and would send e-mails to people such as Sierra Vista Police Chief Ken Kimmel, while sending a blind copy to me and goodness knows who else.

Melba often told people when they did a good job, but she also was not bashful about speaking up when she was displeased by something.

On July 3, 2007, Melba and I crossed swords via e-mail over some trivial issue that I have long since forgotten. We cooled down on July Fourth when I suggested we meet sometime.

We made a lunch date for Aug. 10 at the Peacock. We had never met face to face before. She described herself in an e-mail: “I’ll be the 5’4” 82-year-old saggy sack of 85 pounds o’ bones, driving a 2003 white Toyota Prius,” she wrote.

It turned out to be a lot of fun, and we had lunch several more times in the months that followed. She was a good sport and agreed one time to meet me at McDonald’s even though it horrified her because she was so strict about salt and sugar in her diet.

To this day, whenever I sprinkle cinnamon in my oatmeal, I think of Melba. She claimed it was a natural remedy to help tame my unruly blood sugar. Melba was full of wisdom like that and always encouraged people to eat right.

My mother died in 1982, so I asked Melba if she could be my “surrogate mom.” She was flattered by that and agreed.

I teased her like a son, one time e-mailing her that I was eating a big honkin’ hamburger and fries.

She scolded me like a mom might.

“You know very well that your kidneys are screaming for dilution of the sodium overdose,” she replied in an e-mail. “Don’t be surprised if your tongue is stuck to the dry roof of your parched mouth, and your lips are cracked and peeling tomorrow.”

It is impossible to describe how Melba continually sprinkled clever witticisms into her messages. She had a way of affecting a Southern drawl into her keystrokes and was a merciless teaser. She cracked me up all the time.

In the end, it was hard to keep up with Melba. She was moved between the Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, Hacienda Rehabilitation and Care Center and Life Care Center like a pinball.

In her prime, Melba had worked as a nurse anesthetist and had stood shoulder to shoulder with surgeons in the operating theaters of decades past.

On Valentine’s Day, I found her in the Life Care Center. She was not looking too good. I took her a handful of fresh tulips.

We parted with both of us reciting one of her favorite farewells, “Luv ya, luv ya, luv ya!”

On Feb. 28, my birth mother’s birthday, Melba died. I thought, how fitting. The Lord has bestowed a nice gift to my mother.