By Helen Dickinson, our friend of many years:
Letter From a 93 Year Old Lady
living in a retirement home on the outskirts of Los Angles, California
You have been on my mind, triggered by just finishing “THE SERENITY PRAYER” by Elisabeth Sifton, daughter of Reinhold Niebuhr, the pastor who confirmed me at about 10 years old in Detroit:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Niebuhr, who left the church at 28 to teach at Union Theological Seminary, was very aware of the conflict between the clergy and politics.
The new administrator of our retirement home, a non-denominational institution, but under H.U.D. rules, is confronted so often by foolish rules created by H.U.D. He is then accused by some tenants for lack of wisdom. I worked with him in updating the rule book (he is a very intelligent, well read man, capable and kind). As a tenant, I sometimes hear unfair accusations, by some very unsophisticated folk. We are a U.N combination of cultures, colors, religions, happily not at war.
Your short story “THE MOMENT OF LIGHT THAT CAME AND WENT” (see its listing among the short stories above – click and read it!) expressed the problem so beautifully. Personally, I think it should be COMPULSORY READING FOR ALL TENANTS! Couldn’t resist printing the essay on my printer and giving a copy to our administrator. When I told him about the Sifton book (see above), he bought it for his personal library.
Lost my brother February 26th and the loss leaves a large hole in my heart. Thanks to my dear nephew, who provided me with a cell phone so I could make frequent calls. I could talk with my brother several times a week at the convalescent home. He was an avid reader to the very end, albeit with a thick magnifying glass, column by column. The last several months of his life he happily was able to follow the sailing adventure of Zac Sunderland (age 17) sailing around the world on the 30’ “Intrepid”. Zac’s birthday is Nov. 29, same as my brother’s. My brother had a wonderful attendant, and, on the huge map of the world his son had provided for his bedside, that attendant bought some red yarn and thumb-tacked it on the map so my brother could see the progress. Doesn’t that warm your hearts – mine, Zac’s mother’s and dad’s, who let Zac know he had a 96 year old fan.
I am now 93 and able to take care of myself. Drive short distances, never at night, only between 9 and 3 – less traffic – and my stamina is still with me! Reading is slowed a little bit, because I am due for cataract surgery in a few months. My license was renewed recently for another four years and I easily passed the visual and written test. Rest assured I would never get behind a wheel if I had one moment of dizziness. I do pay for a driver for any special doctor appointment.
This year, my next door neighbor, a ripe old 76, and I took a Ukelele 101 class, as well as Ukelele 102, and have the framed certificates to prove it. Keeps the fingers and mind nimble. However, fingering the chords is so much easier on the piano. Glad I had four years of piano. The scale is the scale, no matter which instrument. Our specialty is singing Happy Birthday as a duo for special friends. We even bought $2 plastic leis to do our gig.
I try to distract from my wrinkled face! However, I don’t mind the wrinkles, as long as my mind does not wrinkle.
I heard your son had lost his job. Hope he has found a new one. The right door will open! My nephew’s group of 70 was disbanded, but Citibank has said they will all be placed on other projects.
My nephew’s eldest daughter graduated from Baylor and is back in her home town in Texas working for Peace Lutheran Church. She has spent the last 5 years doing volunteer work in Kissimu, Kenya, and the slum area Obunga. Learned to speak Swahili, and assisted in getting a small congregation of 50 established for mutual support of the members, as well as a large water tank for the slum natives to walk to for clean water. She soon learned that if an American was involved, costs skyrocketed. She saw so much disease and death. Lived very primitively with the volunteer’s group leader, wife, and small daughter, who had never seen a white person before.
Love and Hugs and thanks for everything,
(Closing comment: Until just a few years ago, Helen had done many hours of weekly volunteer work for several charitable organizations! Her always positive, cheerful and supportive spirit makes everybody love her! When you get past 80 and need some cheering up, whether living alone or in a retirement home, read this letter – or pass it on to somebody who needs inspiration and cheer!)