As I enter the home and meet Ms. S, she leads me up her staircase gripping a wobbly hand rail. Her home smells like baked cookies, and a pine. I see Christmas decorations; a table lay out with a beautiful deep green table cloth and evidence of children, but for now things are quiet.
We started the visit by taking pictures of the different concerns she has for her home. I take note of the multiple electric heaters being used in lieu of her broken one, the cracked floor tiles, and the extension cords running around her home to utilize the few sockets that work in her home. She and her family have lived in the home for 20 years and have done what they can to maintain the home. Between her, her granddaughter and great-granddaughter, maintenance has gotten harder.
She first moved to San Francisco in 1965. She had always wanted to come to California, and after a visit from her aunt living in San Francisco she decided to make the move. She packed up everything and left Mississippi, taking her 3 children, the youngest being 9 months.
The transition was rough at times; Ms. S remembers being intensely home sick and her children being unhappy. Mississippi was the only home they knew and leaving their family and friends was hard. She admits that she almost decided to move back, but is thankful she stayed.
Being in San Francisco allowed Ms. S the chance to go to school, and become a nurse. She is glad she stayed and was able to take advantage of the opportunities available. She also feels that being in California gave her children a good environment to grow up in.
As Ms. S reminisces about San Francisco back then, she remembers how different the neighborhood was. She misses the kind people, mentioning, “it was okay to leave your doors unlocked”, and safe to walk around at night. Nowadays, it’s just different and she is scared to be out at dark.
Currently Ms. S spends her time reading, studying the bible, and participating in church fellowships. She hopes to travel more often, but it has gotten harder for her to move around. She suffered an injury and was forced to retire, but she wishes she was still able to work.
The past ten years have been hard on her health because of the 1999 injury that prevented her from walking for 9 months and forced her to use a cane from then on. Even with her disability she is so grateful to be as mobile as she is saying, “thank the lord he allowed me to walk again” and “ain’t nobody knows how it is until them in it.” In the past two years alone, she has also fought through two heart attacks and struggles day by day with diabetes.
Ms. S hopes to leave a legacy for her family because she feels strongly that it is her responsibility, before she moves on. When she had the funds, she loved to make centerpieces and flower arrangements for events and friends. Her dream is to start a flower shop because it was one of the hobbies that brought her happiness.
As Ms. S thinks about her dreams and plans for her future, I can sense her fervor for life and the challenges she’s overcome as she tells me that “life is whatever you make it to be, if you lave desire to achieve a goal you will be able to do it.”