And Then What Happened?: ‘Dang those fragile hips’


For the Recorder
Published: 9/28/2020 4:39:15 PM

Andrew Kinsey was outside the other evening and heard Norm Nye building something in his house — not uncommon for Norm, he was fixing something made of iron, it seemed. A little later, Andrew noticed Norm had turned the television on and was watching some sort of flashy light-show thing — bright and bouncy.

But then, Norm went back to building and Andrew decided to saunter over and see what old Norm was up to, banging around late at night with the TV on.

He knocked, went in and found Norm lying on the floor next to the wood stove, a shovel and a flashlight in his hands.

“I’ve been here a few hours,” Norm said, “but don’t call an ambulance. Glad I got your attention though. My phone’s over there and all I could reach was this shovel and the flashlight.”

Andrew called out to his wife, Jackie, to indeed call an ambulance, but then caved to Norm’s determination, and told her to cancel it.

Ashfield Fire Chief Del Haskins doesn’t just cancel a 911 call to Norm Nye’s house, so he and his crew brought their ambulance over anyway and helped him up. Norm declared he wasn’t going to the hospital, it couldn’t be that bad, he’d just tripped while he was burning some trash in the wood stove and he’d be fine.

Del declared that as soon as Norm showed that he could walk like normal, they’d leave him be. Well, he couldn’t, so they took him in the ambulance to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. Norm found that he’d broken his pelvis in two places when he fell, and that he might not be walking at all for a spell.

Despaired at Norm’s future prospects, breaking his pelvis just a month short of his 94th birthday, I remembered Mary Leue, who at age 96 fell down the stairs in her house at 2 in the morning. Like Norm, she preferred to live alone, and, also like Norm, had no use for those annoying buttons people wear to alert their families when they fall down the stairs at 2 a.m. Mary crawled to the phone for the next few hours, and was finally able to call her sons to say, in fact, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Mary lived to tell her tale; that was four years ago and now, at age 100 she is Ashfield’s oldest living elder. Fretting about Norm, I called Mark and Helene Leue, Mary’s son and daughter-in-law, to see how she fares these days.

“Well you heard about her latest adventure, didn’t you?” Helene asked.

No, I hadn’t.

In May, while waiting for her granddaughter to come and help with some planting, Mary ventured out to the garden on her own. Now pretty blind, she stepped in a ditch and fell down, out, alone in a field with nary a wood stove to bang on. She resorted to old-school yelling, “Help!” until her son, Tom, heard her and came running.

Mary went to the hospital and learned her hip was broken (dang those fragile hips!) but was back home by Monday. Faced with the worry of nursing home care in the time of COVID-19 with no visitation allowed, Mark, Helene, Tom and the rest of the Leue family decided that, with the help of a visiting occupational therapist, there were enough Leues around to give Mary all the care she needed.

I called Mary. She cheerfully described her gardening accident and said how nice a time she’s having otherwise. With little pain anymore, she’s enjoying her world just fine, listening to audiobooks for entertainment in what she calls her New Life of Luxury. I asked if she was still living single, six months into her 100th year, and she said, “Well, it’s not illegal is it?” I admitted it wasn’t, and inquired as to her future plans. She said her daughter in Missouri plans a move in about three years to begin spending summers here, and Mary is very excited about that. “I have no intention of dying anytime soon!” she told me, “I have a lot to look forward to!”

Which gives me hope for Norm. I asked if she had any advice for him, but Mary said he would figure out his own method of healing. And knowing Norm Nye, I am certain he will do just that.

If anyone would like to write to Norm or Mary to wish them speedy recoveries, happy birthdays or to just say “hey,” write to them care of me at P.O. Box 365, Ashfield, 01330. I will get all correspondence to the rightful receivers as they look fearlessly forward, figuring it all out in the most stalwart, old-fashioned New England way.

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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