As I watch our nation today struggling to deal with the problems of the elderly I often think about what we did in the past – in the days before Medicare. I recall Miss Crane. Miss Crane was an elderly woman we often drove to church. Our minister met Miss Crane when he came for a call only to find her in the backyard climbing an apple tree in tennis shoes. Now this was an age when women of 50 usually surrendered to old age and began wearing “sensible shoes” that instantly added dozens of years to their appearance. Miss Crane was making no effort to look younger only doing what you needed to do to better climb the tree to get the apples.
Miss Crane lived alone if you call living with twenty cats “alone”. A loyal supporter of foundling kittens, she gave home and food to felines in need. She was a member of the SPCA and gave us a subscription to “Our Dumb Animals” as compensation for her transportation. These magazines featured nearly no news – just pictures of cats and dogs lying about and playing. “Just providing a bit of education to the children.” she would say about the annual gift. During her rides to church you could always count on her taking the initiative to begin a conversation… in fact she would begin the conversation before she even got into the car. Efforts to get her to buckle the seat belt were useless – she had things to tell you for Pete’s sake she never had time to listen to “silly things”. “I’ll just brace myself, she would say. I’m always ready.”
Miss Crane was “sharp as a tack” and contributed to my father’s adult Bible study which I sometimes attended as an early teen. She had pointed comments to toss at the self-righteous or those who were “intolerant to Negroes and the unfortunates”. I imagine her as younger women taking up the cause of suffrage and brooking no nonsense. I imagine that in her time she saw a lot of changes and could lay claim that she had done her part to make them happen. In her old age she remained independent and strong. For her, the struggle of attaining rights went along with assuming responsibility. Few may have the courage to stand; fewer still are willing to climb the apple tree. Thank you, Miss Crane, for inspiration.