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Did you know that only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older? I didn’t either until my grandma who happened to die at 114 told me. She once said,” Alice, I’m a special lady. I’m very old.”
I never asked for more detail until that one day when she ended up in the hospital after almost suffering a horrible heart attack. It’s a good thing we egged her on to pay for an in-house nurse. Well, after telling me the fact about her and one other person living to be 116 or older, I was so intrigued I couldn’t stop with the questions. She was only giving me a one word answer until I asked one question that gave her the strength to tell me the story of her life. “So, how did spend your unusually long life?” that’s all I said. I expected her to say something that might bore me, but no she told me everything. So, I’m here to tell you her story.
It all started when her mom died when she was thirteen. Her dad soon became an alcoholic, so she had to grow up very quickly. She always taking care of her dad, keeping him well enough to keep his job. It must have been hard for her. Imagine that having to become the parent of your thirty-nine year old father. Well, back on topic so her dad died when she was fifteen, she had to move to her Aunt Kathleen’s. All the way in Chicago! It was hard for her; she was seeing a psychiatrist twice a week. Wow!
Well then coincidently when she was leaving from her usual meeting with the psychiatrist a kid from her school named Andrew was entering. The next day at school while she was quietly eating lunch alone he joined her. She glanced and gave a quick tiny smile. He smiled back and said,”So why are in the house for crazy people? I’m because my brother died.”
She replied, “My parents died, my mom died when I was thirteen. I still don’t know why. My dad died of kidney and liver failure. He was an alcoholic, you?”
“He was murdered.” he said in a hushed tone.
That was that, the beginning of a new relationship. She and Andrew soon became inseparable. Being together gave both a better understanding of death. She learned how to escape her anger and he learned how to escape his fear. She said, “He was my crutch and pain reliever. In a way he was my addiction.” They we’re supposedly obsessed with each other. After graduating high school they became married. They had a son four months later; he was born with cerebral palsy. They couldn’t afford him so he was put up for an adoption. She still doesn’t know what happened to him. Soon after her son was no longer with them to ease the pain she and Jerry went traveling. They backpacked through Europe, and went on occasional visits to Asia. Their last day in Europe they went hiking; he fell off the mountain and died.
She quoted, “My whole life I was surrounded by death. I was sure my time would be coming, I was actually about to jump off just so I could at least die with the man I loved, but something held me back. I think it was God, telling me there was more in store.” When she went to the hospital to identify the body the doctor asked to see her. The doctor looked at her asked her some questions and told her she was pregnant. I bet she was rethinking jumping off that mountain. She couldn’t get a job and she had no way of supporting herself. So she relied on welfare, and an occasional dip into the money her Aunt gave her when she died.
She decided to move into a smaller town because it was cheaper and to raise her daughter or as I know her my mother. She moved to a small little town called Oakridge Heights. When her daughter graduated high school and went away to college she once again traveled the world again. On her last day of being in Europe she decided to hike back up that mountain expecting to die, but she didn’t. She called it “a hike of emotions”. After leaving Europe she met a man on the plane talking about a yearly trip to The Philippines. She was on her way there after about two months. She ended up living there for about a year and a half, until her daughter announced her marriage. She was getting older and older day by day she was ready to give up after the wedding when decided to go on a cruise to Puerto Rico and realized photography made her smile once again. She traveled around the world for photography. Her pictures ending up on magazine covers getting her much more money than she could ever dream of. She said she had a little section in the Travel section of the newspaper showing her pictures weekly.
Do you remember that nice man (Edward) who went with her to The Philippines? Well, he saw her section and decided to pay her a visit. She said for what almost felt like forever they talked about their lives and everything from her new granddaughter to his new car. She said, “That night I realized I had learned to love again.” They got married ignoring their age knowing they weren’t planning on having kids. After a year of true, pure, innocent love he was diagnosed with cancer. He died after battling it for almost 4 years. She told me, “I wasn’t sad or upset. I was immune to death. It no longer affected me. Edward taught me to have a positive outlook on life. So the whole time during the funeral I kept thinking how when I enter heaven I will have one man on either side of me. Those men are the two men who I loved with my whole life.”
She returned to Oakridge Heights to live closer to the only family she had left; me and my Mom and Dad. After almost two years of that she was diagnosed with a heart problem. It seemed like forever she lived off of Cheerios, dark chocolate, salmon, nuts, fruits and garlic. In her case her tasty medicine. That’s when she had her first heart attack. After suffering another one while in the hospital, she finally paid for and in-house nurse. That nurse (Debby) became one of her only friends. She called Debby her young hot, hip best friend. Or the only one who was keeping sane. When my mother became pregnant with my little brother my grandma soon forgets about her heart healthy diet. The doctor warned her but liked she said, “Death has no effect on her.”
Four years and 6 months later she ended up here. She’s struggling for her last breaths while telling me her story. As I leave for two seconds to grab a snack, she has another heart attack but this was the one killed her. I sat in a chair crying while holding my mom. I remember what she told me about how happy she would be when she walked into heaven with the men she loved on both sides. So a huge grin covered my face thinking about her joy and excitement. I told my mom to keep it together, telling her not to mourn because grandma isn’t right now. She will always live in me and her story will be keeping me sane. I had never been closer to her until that moment. It wasn’t till her funeral I realized she had always loved me. She gave me all of her money (that I couldn’t get until I got into college; her terms) and a book she wrote about her life. I read it as often as possible. Why this is just a shortened version.