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A Survivor's Story

March 16th, 2009 at 03:37 pm

I have a friend who is 92 and an inspiration to me. I'll call her Rose, although it's not her real name. Rose is a very independent woman, a widow, and she lives alone in the beautiful home she has owned for 50+ years. And, yes, it does concern me that she still occasionally drives her well-maintained, new-looking 1985 Honda to visit her older sister who is in a nursing home, but she is still a good driver. But at her age, we know that reflexes diminish, so neighbors and friends help out by driving her on her errands whenever possible.

Rose is spry, intelligent, and personable and she has impeccable manners. It amazes me she can still walk at a fast clip in heels, something that would challenge much younger folks. At 92, Rose is the same age my mother would have been had she not died so young and I'd like to think my mother would have been like Rose.

I am convinced Rose's diet and work ethic have helped her live this long. She loves to drink tea and eats a healthy diet with little meat, but lots fruits and vegetables... and she enjoys a glass of red wine with dinner. Rose has several fruit trees in her yard and still grows a small garden each summer, although she is slowing down a bit in this area. About six years ago she relented and hired a gardener to mow her lawn and prune her trees.

Rose and I have lunch together about once or twice a month although I check in on her more frequently, and I always enjoy our chats. What is remarkable about Rose is her positive attitude and a resilience that enabled her to survive a host of challenging events in her life, events she tells me about with stoicism and sometimes even with humor.

Rose was a teenager during the Great Depression. Everyone in her family pooled resources and worked to bring money to the home. Rose and her siblings took turns being out of school to work in a cannery to help put food on the table. She had one pair of shoes and two dresses, one for everyday and one for Sunday and special occasions. Her dresses were hand-me-downs from relatives that were better off. This is quite a contrast from what many of today's teenagers make do with.

I asked Rose what she remembers from those years that has remained with her to this day. Here is what she shared:

~ Never waste anything - buy only what you need
~ Try to do things for yourself instead of paying someone to do it for you
~ Wait to buy something until you have the money to pay for it
~ Take care of your things so they will last
~ Save money so you will always have something to fall back on
~ Work hard and get along with people - it could mean you will keep your job


Can you imagine rebuilding your life after the Great Depression only to have everything you've worked for taken away again? This happened to Rose. In a future post I may share Rose's story about her experience as a Japanese-American in the Tule Lake interment camp starting in 1942, but this was a time in her life that was difficult and the good memories are few. She did meet her beloved husband of 50+ years at the camp and they married in 1945 when they were freed. To their disappointment, they were never able to have children but she helped raise and support several nieces and nephews over the years. I admire that Rose is not bitter or angry about the events in her life and I am convinced her positive attitude has been another factor her longevity.

4 Responses to “A Survivor's Story”

  1. Retired Syd Says:

    Wow, I loved that post. I think you're right, her longevity probably has a lot to do with her positive attitude. (I can't believe she was mowing her own lawn when she was in her 80's!)

    I look forward to more of her story.

  2. scfr Says:

    What a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. frugaltexan75 Says:

    Wow, what an incredible story. I too am looking forward to the rest of it.

  4. Sylvia Says:

    What a fabulous posting. We all have a lot to learn from Rose these days I'm pretty sure. Having retired just as the financial crunch hit home has been in some ways an unfortunate alignment of events and in some ways it has really forced me to follow Rose's advice. I'm guessing it's time that we all took a deep breath and realized that living in a way that's so out of touch with global realities just isn't sustainable.

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