I interviewed my grandmother, Barbara, for my elder interview video project for my healthcare management course long-term care. Barbara is a strong female whom I interviewed in the comfort of her own living room in Warrior, Alabama on Monday, September 24, 2018 at 10 A.M. She was born in Adger, Alabama in the month of November and is currently 77 years of age. She has been married to her husband Dan, who was in the military, for 55 years. In her earlier years she worked for liberty national life insurance as a supply clerk. She and her husband moved to Tokyo, Japan shortly after their marriage, where she worked for the air force as a coupons operator.
After having their first daughter they moved back to the Birmingham area into their current home in Warrior, Alabama. She then applied for and worked with social security from then until she retired last year. Her mother was a schoolteacher, while her father worked multiple labor jobs, they had seven children, Barbra is the second oldest. The neighborhood she grew up in was in the country with houses far apart, and your playmates were more often than not always your own brothers and sisters. An interesting fact about her family is that her great great grandfather was an herb doctor and on her paternal side a riverboat captain was part of the family.
After her children were grown, she significantly enjoyed her time of travel to Europe and the Far East, with her sisters and their husbands. She is of the Baptist faith, and believes that Jesus has died on the cross for our sins and rose again. She is a firm believer that as long as you have faith you will be taken care of. She was blessed with three beautiful daughters, 8 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren so far.
My favorite part of this interview was gaining insight into the life of someone who is living a long and meaningful life, with a positive outlook from not only her past but also the future. To her the term old means, health problems along with limited mobility. She loves to travel, but as she has aged it has become more difficult due to factors such as arthritis and eyesight. She has had multiple surgeries on her eyes, including a few cataract surgeries; she currently has one eye that is sewn up, that the doctors will gradually open back up over the next few years.
Throughout the interview, one of the most important things I learned was to enjoy life at my age now and travel as much as I can, through the interview I discovered that she regrets not traveling more getting to see and do more things when she was better equipped or able. I have gained a whole new perspective on life because of this interview, so much so that I have already planned to take a trip to Greece within the next few years. When I asked her what the best thing about being her age was, she stunned me, in the fact that she really struggled to answer this question not know at all what to say.
After she stumbled across her words to find the statement she was trying to say, when it came down to it, she realized that there was nothing good about being her age, in her personal opinion. Health problems seemed to be the culprit to many questions related to older age and where she is in today’s modern society. She did, however, add a positive twist adding that her children are now grown and she hopes that they are happy. “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years”(Ausonius Quotes). One thing I noticed that she seems to regret was the fact that she worked a decent amount through the week and did not get to spend as much time with her children as what she would have liked.
I realized through this interview that when I do have children one day that this is a regret that I do not want to have when I am her age. I did however; understand where she is coming from in that she needed to be able to provide for her family. Throughout life there are so many obstacles, challenges, and regrets that we face and I thought she handled hers with a significant amount of grace and poise, this being one of the key reasons to why she is my biggest role model in life. During the interview I forgot it was even an interview most of the time and felt as if she was directly speaking to me about life in general and my future.
Tuesday’s With Morrie, is a novel beginning in the year 1979, as the narrator Mitch Albom recalls his college life, and is now a sports newspaper reporter who graduated from Brandeis University sixteen years ago. He is now a loving husband who decides to go back to one of his favorite professors, Morrie Schwartz, who right after graduation he presented with a monogrammed briefcase. Mitch promises to stay in touch after graduation, but as only time will tell he fails to do so. “Morrie’s favorite hobby is dancing, it is his passion, but has recently discovered that he has been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gherig’s disease” (‘Willow Springs Theatre Guild presents ‘Tuesdays with Morrie”, 2018).
Morrie begins to sense that death is in his near future, and decides to jot down ideas/philosophies about life and death on small scraps of paper. Morrie’s friend decides the writings are too good to go unknown and decides to send them to a Boston Globe reporter. After getting attention from his featured story on a Nightline show, Mitch quickly recognizes his professor and calls him to arrange a time to come and visit with him. For months, they have an arrangement to meet every Tuesday, where they discuss multiple topics such as love, life, and death. Morrie’s disease gradually becomes worse, and Mitch grows extremely saddened as he has to watch one of his favorite professors lose his ability to be able to eat solid foods and his worst nightmare come true of no longer being able to wipe himself after using the restroom. The powerful conversations tend to have an increasingly high effect on Mitch as time passes so quickly.
After listening each and every week to Morrie’s outlook on life and the things he regrets, Mitch decides to try his best to reach out to his brother Peter who refuses help from his family for his pancreatic cancer. I was able to relate a lot of key factors that were discussed with Morrie throughout the novel with my grandmother. I saw how they both had similar positive outlooks on life, but was also hesitant in the fact that old age has created many health problems for them both. While Morrie is described by Mitch as a religious mutt being born into Judaism, but then turned to agnostic during his teenage years, Morrie takes ideas from many different faiths and beliefs, adopting them into his own personal unique way of thinking.
My grandmother is a firm Baptist believer and knows that God is here to take care of her. Personally, I believe that Morrie, has a better concept of death than what my grandmother does. He has come to the conclusion that it is going to happen one day and it is something he will have to accept, he believes he has lived a long meaningful life. On the contrary, I got the impression from by grandmother, when she spoke about her near death experience in 2011 during the video interview that she has not yet grown to accept the fact death can happen at any time. Which is okay because every individual has their own personal outlook on life overall. Morrie had a more straightforward approach as he stated, “Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it.”
This whole interview process was really an eye opener for me, for many different reasons. It gave me a whole new perspective on life; I now understand how important it is to spend time with your loved ones while presented the opportunity to. We cannot let sickness and disease define who we are, we must learn to overcome these challenges throughout life one step at a time. In one of the readings a specific quote really stood out to me, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,”–Benjamin Franklin (Elder Rights Guide for Alabamians, 7). In this quote to me, Benjamin Franklin is saying that it is easier to stop or kill off an illness before it begins, then it is to correct once it has begun. One day children and siblings will be gone, and not necessarily just speaking of death, they will be leading their own lives with their own families and we will miss lost time with them while we had the opportunity.
I could feel my grandmother providing me personally with life advice throughout the interview, she was speaking directly to me as her granddaughter through her eyes and words. What surprised me the most about myself throughout the interview is how I have neglected to as my grandmother about her past life before now. I regret that I waited until this interview to truly dig into her past and learn about exciting adventures she has had while traveling the world and living in Japan. I intend to be more considerate when it comes to speaking to the elderly and really dig into their past because the majority of the time they really enjoying talking about their lives. I also plan to travel while I am young more than I had originally planned. I learned a lot of valuable life lessons through this whole process that I intend to carry with me throughout life, and I am so glad that I will now have this video along with sweet past memories of my sweet grandmother to later be able to look back on.
- Ausonius Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/ausonius_390441?src=t_old_age
- Senior, A. D., Services. (n.d.). Elder Rights Guide for Older Alabamians. Retrieved from https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/homehealth/assets/elderrightsguide.pdf.
- Willow Springs Theatre Guild presents ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. (2018, May 09). Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://www.areawidenews.com/story/2511400.html