Despite Challenges, Seniors Let Love Flourish
FOR Alberta and Oswald Heath, the old adage “age is just a number” is quite fitting. She was 59 and he was 33 when they met and fell in love. That was 50 years ago in Parottee, Black River, St Elizabeth. the traditional ’til-death-do-us-part vows they exchanged on September 14, 1967, were no joke.
She is a nice lady, a kind person and mi love har. Mi really love har. I will always take care of har,” Oswald, who throws his net in the Old Harbour Bay sea for a living, said.
The animated graduate of Parottee Elementary School, born April 24, 1902, who lost her sight more than five years ago, was no less lucid.
“Him love mi and mi love him,” she said bursting into laughter. Reminiscing, she said: “Mi used to give him a hard time when wi just meet, but when mi realise dat him is caring, mi decide fi give it a try, and wi still together today,” the senior, who spent most of her working life as a fish vendor, said blushingly.
The couple left the Breadbasket parish and relocated to Old Harbour Bay in the 1970s to live with Alberta’s son, Donald Wallace. However, they resettled in Succaba Pen in Old Harbour 14 years ago, this time on their own, on a plot of land belonging to Wallace’s son. But, over the years, poor weather conditions have impacted the one-room house which the Heaths occupy, causing the structure to deteriorate.
Yearning for better
Wallace, 64, said he yearns for better living conditions for his mother, but he, too, is struggling to survive.
“I am a fisherman because is a family tradition and is two boat engine dem thief fi mi out a Old Harbour Bay, and it really hard. Sometime mi can’t even buy gas fi go a sea. I want fix up back my mother’s house better, but me can’t manage it,” he explained.
Like Wallace, David Simmonds, president of the Burke Road Senior Citizens’ Club in Old Harbour, is concerned about state of the centenarian’s abode.
“A couple years ago, somebody told me about this lady who is 100-and-odd, and me, [along with] the secretary and some other guys from the club, went to look for her, and when we saw her place, the house was in a terrible condition,” said Simmonds.
He added: “There was no proper sanitary convenience, so we had to get together and dig a pit. The councillor (Esworth Frankson) helped us to set it up. Neighbourhood Supermarket on Ascot Drive bought material and put on the roof and wi get board and wi do a little repair.”
However, Simmonds indicated that there is much more to be done.
“Wi want to give dem a kitchen, a bathroom, and fix up the house, the floor, that they can be more comfortable. A lady [of] 109 years deserves to live in a better house. We wouldn’t mind if we could get some help from Everald Warmington, the MP, or anybody for that matter,” he pleaded.
Still, Annesta Ellis, secretary of the Burke Road Senior Citizens’ Club, said there are others who ensure that some of the golden agers’ needs are satisfied.
Community lends a hand
“She gets free check-ups from Dr Orlando Thomas. If she gets prescriptions, Solid Care Pharmacy in Old Harbour fills them without charging. The last time Dr Thomas checked her, he said her heart is a bit weak because of her age, but she doesn’t have any other ailments. Neighbourhood Restaurant in Old Harbour also ensures that she gets a meal every day,” Ellis, who is also the nurse’s aid at the National Council for Senior Citizens, St Catherine branch, explained.
And when she is able, Alberta’s daughter-in-law Claris Wallace does her part to make the golden ager happy as well. She believes that it is her generosity and genuine concern for people that have caused her longevity.
Undaunted by her living conditions, Alberta said she was grateful for the attention and assistance being given to her by the business community and the senior citizens’ club, particularly, by David Simmonds, the epitome of a son.
“Mi thank all a dem. The Lord blessing mek mi live long and mi used to eat whole heap a food – banana, yam, breadfruit and all of that – and me thank God fi dat,” she laughed exposing her warm but toothless smile.
Eighty-three-year-old Oswald Heath and his 109-year-old wife, Alberta, of Succaba Pen, Old Harbour, St Catherine, are still very much in love despite living under trying circumstances.