Playing the game "Sorry"

My mother-in-law, Anna Miklasevich Carty, turned 95 last birthday (June 27).  She lives on her own in a home down a dirt road near a pond in Umatilla, Florida.  She’s in great health, other than the fact that she can’t hear too well and was recently diagnosed with age related macular degeneration.  She deflects all entreaties to come live with us, citing the weather among other reasons, like not wanting to be a bother.  Once, while getting my hair done, I regaled the beautician with a story epitomizing my mother-in-law.  When I first met Anna 23 years ago, she sociably asked if I wanted to see her flowers outside the house, as she had to water them.  I asked if she wanted me to get the water hose for her.  She waved her hand dismissively and said she used rainwater she collected.  I followed her into the yard where five gallon buckets were placed strategically around the house.  She picked up a full bucket and proceeded to take me on a tour of her flowers and plants, tipping the bucket here and there where water was needed.  She was 72 at the time.  After telling the story to my hairdresser, I expected her response to mirror my amazement at Anna’s strength, which was the point of the story.  Instead, she clucked her disapproval, saying how much it sounded like her own mother, who lived in Bosnia and didn’t want to keep up with modern times and use a garden hose.

Anna’s father was a Russian emigre who met and married her mother and worked as a coal miner in Richeyville, PA.  She had five brothers and one sister.  Their life was hard.  Anna’s work ethic and uncomplaining attitude was forged then and continues today.  She never wants anyone to do anything for her that she can’t do for herself, and I mean anything.  She has outlived her husband, one of her own children and two of her grandchildren.  While we were discussing her diminishing eyesight, she stated, “Well, you can’t have everything.  I’m lucky, I really am.”

My husband (her youngest son, Robert) and I have mused many times over the years what it is exactly that contributes to Anna’s longevity.  Certainly genetics must play a role.  She also keeps her weight at a trim 105 pounds (she’s about 5 foot 3 inches and shrinking).  She has an upbeat personality and takes an interest in other people, always asking after extended family and giving us the update on her neighbors.  But the one thing we’ve noticed about Anna is that she never sits still for any extended period of time.  She’s up and about and coming and going, reminding me of a bird who lights here and there but takes wing at a moment’s notice.

My husband and I visit Anna often and when it’s time to leave, we all get a little teary.  She stands at the garage waving as we pull out of the driveway to make our way back to the Orlando airport.  As we drive off, one or the other of us sighs and says something to the effect that it may be the last time we see her.  We’ve been saying this since she turned 80.