Growing Older, Staying Strong

My paternal grandmother was a tough woman. She raised five children in a small farmhouse and often cleaned other people’s houses to make ends meet. After years of walking with pain, Grandma had hip replacement surgery when she was 69. Not long after, she learned to drive a car. As a child, I was amazed by her canned peaches and rhubarb pie – both made fresh from her yard. As an adult, I am amazed by her strength and endurance in the face of life’s challenges.

Memories of my grandmother have been very clear in my mind recently because of Martha. Martha is 81 years old. She walks with a limp, but that doesn’t seem to stop her from getting where she needs to go. Martha moved into Calvary just before the holidays because she could no longer afford her housing. Her limited income didn’t cover the rent on the apartment she had shared for years with a family member who had recently died. Martha had sold off her belongings as long as she could to pay the rent and utilities. Finally, with nowhere else to go and only a small suitcase in hand, Martha came to Calvary.

Martha has a certain standing with the other women in the house, including the staff, because of her age. She is respected for having come this far and well-liked because of her lovely personality. Martha’s stay at Calvary will likely be brief. Her case manager has already helped her get on a list for subsidized senior housing and enrolled for food benefit assistance. As she waits to move, Martha is taking care of medical appointments and offering her insights in a daily group for women.

Though there are differences in their stories, Martha and Grandma have in common tremendous courage and fierce determination. Even in the later years of their lives they have taken on great challenges and not been afraid to ask for help when they’ve needed it. I can only hope I live to a ripe old age with the same strength and resolve. I hope in some way I will have inspired those around me, as these two women have. I also hope one day I’ll finally master that rhubarb pie recipe.

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