This is a true story. At the age of 96, my husband's grandmother faced the difficult task of learning to walk again.
Grandma was the daughter of a rural physician. She lived all but eight years of her life on a farm. She married a farmer/cotton ginner. They raised three daughters and one son. She had much happiness and, until age 95. she was very active. She often said, "We never had any money We just had a good living. Raising most of what we needed on the farm, we didn't have to spend much money." But then, with a wry grin, she added. "But we didn't have nothing to buy with anyhow. Things are a lot different from what they used to be . . . but they're not supposed to stay the same." she said.
At the age of 95, Grandma could no longer live alone due to some health problems. This bothered her because she had to give up housekeeping and move in with a daughter. Being independent and self-sufficient was very important to her. Although she lived the last three years of her life in a large city, she never complained. She adjusted well, but she did wonder aloud about why she was still living even though her body was wearing out Her vision was so poor she could only read newspaper headlines. Her hearing was so poor people had to yell at her to be understood. The circulation in her feet and legs was inadequate. She had peripheral vascular disease and was also a diabetic. The circulation in her right leg was so inadequate that amputation below the knee became mandatory.
This spunky woman, just four years shy of that magic 1 00th birthday, was confined to a wheelchair postoperatively But she had a new task in mind that would keep her very busy - she was going to learn to walk again!
Grandma could not bear the thought of being totally dependent on her family. She insisted that she be checked into a rehabilitation center.
Her request was that an artificial leg be fitted for her and that therapists teach her to walk. She wisecracked, "It is just so worrisome to sit all the time. It just wears your sitter out."
In less than three weeks, experts made her a leg and a therapist was busy teaching her how to balance herself while wearing the artificial limb, and gradually how to take some steps with the aid of a walker. During this time, the therapist was prepared to use positive methods of motivation. However, she soon realized that her methods were not necessary because Grandma was self-motivated and most determined. Following instructions to the letter. Grandma worked hard in therapy and soon learned to walk with her prosthesis.
Grandma's "grit" and determination showed most when she talked about her accomplishment. "Now I'm not quite so much trouble to people. If I have to live, I want to walk. "At age 98, she developed a heart block and needed a pacemaker. Grandma decided against the pacemaker insertion and chose to remain at her daughter's home, where she stayed fairly comfortably, using portable oxygen as needed.
Grandma remained alert and spry until her death. She talked about life candidly, even philosophically.
Grandma epitomized Eric Erikson's developmental stage. Ego Integrity. Having developed a strong sense of self-worth, she was able to place value on her past life experiences. She continued to have something to offer others. Feelings of despair were overcome. Despair was not a word in Grandma's vocabulary.
Yes, Grandma is missed by family and friends. Yet, they are grateful for the lessons that her life taught - the uncomplaining bearing of one's daily load, quiet courage under physical and mental stress, and sharing beauty and goodness with others.