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Thursday, 05 January 2012

My Story

[EDITOR'S NOTE] Joanne Zimmermann is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place. A couple of weeks ago, she sent the story below with this explanation:

Recently, I met with my cousin who now has to make a difficult decision. She has independently resided in Florida for 25 years. Her doctor just told her she should relocate up north to be with family. She gave me the following life story, and permission to submit it to ESP.

She is eight years older than I and used to baby sit for me. In the park where she lives, she has held every position there - even swim coach. She has many dear friends there. I wonder what you would do if you were in her shoes.

By Marilyn Hartzell

I am 86 years old. I have led a full, adventurous life, 53 years of marriage and 14 years as a widow living alone.

I started life in the Great Depression, 1930s. I went to school in one dress, one pair of shoes. I tried learning to read from a newspaper.

School was almost too easy. I have that “positive thinking” or belief that God has a plan for you that leads you.

I worked at a lab, testing tire plastics and rubber, and saved for college. I was just 15 and had no money from my parents so had to let several scholarships go away.

I was valedictorian of my two classes, wanted to be an M.D. but ended in a class of 100 nursing students at Akron University. We were the first class to get college credits as we performed our practical studies. Labor and delivery was my specialty. I was in charge of night duty as a student.

I met my husband at school between classes one day. He was studying air force pilot training. He was a tall, blond, handsome man with a dimpled chin. He left for The Philippines for three years. After the war we had two children, a boy and a girl.

At the age of 40, my life changed. I ate a Ritz cracker as a snack at bedtime. I awoke in a hospital with one fourth of my stomach left from a perforated ulcer.

We moved 13 times in the next 20 years. Doctors made me into a bionic woman with metal knees, legs and shoulders. The wonders of donor body transplants have enabled me to still be walking.

Marilyn Hartzell

I now have 10 great grandchildren from nine years to six months old; the youngest are twins.

I have sung in choirs in several Presbyterian, Christian and Methodist churches. I needed a boost from God when cancer came to me at the age of 80. Radiation to my lung gave remission for eight months. Then a different, more aggressive cancer came to the same lung. God has been present in my life. Chemo is lengthy, but if you came with me, you would see why your friends and your God will help you look forward, not back!!

Keep busy. Keep friends. Keep God. He can do all things! God has something else for me to do for him.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting..]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


We all have to make that decision for ourselves, based on careful consideration of all the facts and figures. I planned for two years to move nearer my children and grands, but just recently re-evaluated my life and decided to stay put, where I have many friends, trusted nearby doctors and a full, comfortable life. I do have to hire more and more help as I become less able to do it all for myself, but so far that is workable. Good luck, whatever you decide, Marilyn (that's my given name, but I've been Lyn for 62 years.

Dear Joanne,
Thanks for sharing your cousin's life story. It sounds like she has adapted to and/or made the best of what life has dealt her, i.e. constant moving, part replacements and now cancer.
I think she answered her own question if she is still undecided about the move. Most important to her is keeping busy, keeping friends and keeping God. She could keep busy and keep God no matter where she lives. A long distance move would mean leaving friends that she has acquired over nearly 1/3 of her life. Not only are her friends important to her, she is important to them since friendship is an exchange and not one-sided. If she becomes unable to live alone, there is assistance available at whatever level is needed, probably close by. The friendships can continue along with being busy and being with God.
Please give your cousin a hug from me. I wish I lived close enough to be a new friend.

Thank you for sharing..Your life has been so good and you know what you want to do..You have a great relationship with God and he stays with us always and all ways..Hope you can keep writing wherever you decide to be, what you are living through all of us will face too if we get the good grace you have had to stay on earth..This is another one of those important life passages we are always treated to in intellectual terms, but real life has intruded. Love to hear how it all works out for you..

I have met Marilyn and she is such a dynamic person. Her life is fascinating and shows what determination and faith can accomplish. Good luck Marilyn. I vote for staying where you are.


I totally agree with everyone and vote for staying where you are.

I hope you are happy with whatever choice you make, Marilyn.

Marilyn is a strong, independent and lovely lady who I have had the pleasure of knowing for several years, while she has battled her cancer. I can certainly understand her family wanting her to be nearby - who wouldn't want to spend time with her? I fear that losing her independence will crush her beautiful spirit and I don't want that to happen. Whatever her decision, I will respect it - I love her dearly! Susan

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