Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Birthday Wishes for a Special Nonagenarian

My grandmother is celebrating her 92nd birthday today. This makes her a nonagenarian, which is someone between the ages of ninety and 100. With the exception of my step-grandfather, she is my last remaining grandparent and has been since my adolescence. She is a remarkable woman who remains spry. In fact, she can run circles around me.

Born during the roaring 20's, she was the eldest of six children. She was raised on a working farm in rural Pennsylvania. From a young age, she and her siblings helped work the family farm. They helped care for the animals, tend the crops, and perform household chores. My grandmother used to cook on an old cast iron stove and use a wringer washing machine. When I was in college, I served as an intern at a Christian retreat for those recovering from addictions. The facility had only an old cast iron stove and wringer washer. I truly gained an appreciation for the time period in which my grandmother grew up.

My grandmother served as a nurse during World War II. Many women took on new roles during the war. Women served in the Women's Army Corp. (WAC)  and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Service (Navy WAVES). Times were changing. This is a piece of our American history and my grandmother's memories bring every era she's lived through to life in vivid ways. Through her eyes, I can see time periods and events that I had previously only read about in new ways. This is one of the reasons I focused upon our elderly when I was a Social Worker. They are such beautiful gems and need to be cherished. Their life stories are our history.

After WWII, my grandmother became a mother. Her 1st child was my mother. Then, she had twin boys. During a doctor's appointment, her fears were confirmed. My uncles had both been born blind and would never be able to see. My grandparents did everything possible to give them a good life and strong future. They sent the twins to a special school for children who were blind so that they could learn to read and write braille. Then, my aunt was born. My grandmother raised her four children while working fulltime as a nurse.

My grandmother became a widow when my grandfather, who was in his early 50's, succumbed to lung cancer secondary to platinosis from exposure to platinum and other chemicals during his work. Sadly, I was the only grandchild to have known my grandfather. My grandmother remained a widow for 28 years until she met and married a wonderful Christian man who has been a delightful addition to our family. In addition to my grandfather, my grandmother has also had to bury two of her brothers and one of her sons who died from ALS. Burying loved ones is a difficult task but having to bury your child is heartbreaking.

Indeed, my grandmother is a special lady who has lived a full life. Happy Birthday, Nana! I love you! I hope you enjoyed your day spent with family. May God continue to bless you. You may just be a centenarian in a few years.

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