They get along just fine
If you see one, you see the other. They are not joined at the hip, but they might as well be. Jennie Cobb, 61, and her mother, Annie Cobb, 84, are both residents of Whispering Knoll Assisted Living in Pine Bluff. The Cobb women are interdependent. Jennie is blind and Annie is nearly deaf. One supplies the eyes and the other supplies the ears. They get along in this world just fine, thank you very much.
How it started
It all started in the forties when Annie Crumpler of Mount Holly met Benjamin Cobb of Wesson. Though their hometowns were close by in Union County, it was not until they were both students at Arkansas AM&N that they met. Annie dreamed of being an elementary school teacher. Benjamin was enrolled in a two-year technical course. Their attraction was immediate and profound.
Their marriage followed and soon, Annie was expecting the next Cobb generation. Once she learned she was pregnant, she dropped out of school and returned to Mount Holly. Upon her arrival, her traditional father, Hezekiah Crumpler, chagrinned at his daughter's condition, grabbed his shotgun and asked where he might find the perpetrator. Seems the couple had failed to tell their parents they were married.
Once that issue was settled, and calm returned to the families, Annie eventually went to her in-laws’ home in Wesson where Jennie was born. After Jennie's birth, the Cobbs moved back to Pine Bluff where Benjamin graduated from his course and went to work at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. But by 1952, the siren call of good jobs in the automotive industry lured many a southerner north. Benjamin Cobb was one of those.
A move north
Cobb secured employment at the Fisher Body Works, Plant No. 1 in Flint, Michigan. In 1953 he moved his family to Flint. They remained there as residents until Benjamin's retirement in 1983. Annie's job was "stay-at-home" mom. Jennie and her late brother, Bennie James Cobb, grew up and were educated in Flint. Jennie graduated from high school there, went into nurse's training and became a licensed practical nurse.
After Benjamin Cobb's retirement, they packed up and moved back to Pine Bluff. They bought a home on State Street and set about being a Pine Bluff family. As a licensed practical nurse, Jennie found employment in the home-health field. Life was good and the Cobbs were doing fine.
Jennie never married and lived with her parents. Bennie, afflicted with multiple sclerosis, tried living on his on his own, but complications with the disease dictated that he return to the Cobb home. The Cobbs were truly a family that "stayed together."
Fast forward to the spring of 1991. Jennie began experiencing a burning sensation in her eyes, a condition that worsened. Jennie says that vision problems run in the family and that her condition was complicated by an adverse reaction she developed to a medication intended to moderate the problem. The condition progressed until she became totally blind in 1996.
Taking her condition in stride, Jennie says, " . . . there was just not a lot of demand for blind nurses." Not one to be overwhelmed by a problem, Jennie set out to learn Braille which she did with aplomb. Braille has two levels. Braille, Grade 1, is the basic alphabet, numbers, punctuations and special Braille characters. Braille Grade 2, Jennie explains, is a system where a series of Braille dots can represent a contraction, suffix, prefix or an entire word. "It is a much more complex system than grade 1."
Time for a change
Jenney mastered both systems. Even more impressive, she did it by correspondence. "I learned Braille from the Hadley School for the Blind," she said.
Jennie learned Braille and how to be blind and happy all at the same time – and life at the Cobbs’ home went on. Then, on his birthday in 2006, Bennie James Cobb died, leaving a blind sister and a virtually deaf mother living independently in a residence by their selves. Benjamin Cobb had died in 1998, 15 days shy of his 75th birthday.
Not long afterward, the Cobbs learned that space was available at Davis Life Care Center's Whispering Knoll Assisted Living, an ideal setting to accommodate their unique needs. They took the tour, completed their application and moved to Whispering Knoll in December of 2006.
Only one person can reside in studio apartment at Whispering Knoll. No problem. Mother and daughter made arrangements for two adjacent apartments. One is for sleeping and one is for general living. "It is the perfect arrangement for Annie and Jennie," says Nina Hunt, Whispering Knoll administrator. "They have all the benefits of assisted living and are never apart. If you see one Cobb, you see the other."
They complement each other
Annie Cobb is a quiet demure woman who never makes waves. Her daughter Jennie, on the other hand, is outgoing, gregarious, quick to enter into conversation, and smiles most of the time. The pair complement each other.
Each year, the four Davis Life Care Center care units nominate a candidate for Ms. Davis Life Care Center. A few weeks ago, as Whispering Knoll's candidate in the pageant, Jennie was crowned "Ms. Davis Life Care Center for 2010-11." As always, she was a gracious winner.
It's not every day one encounters a pair like the Cobbs. They encounter adversity, face it down, move on, and enjoy each other's company.