A Veteran’s Dream of Freedom

“I need help for my mom.  She’s 92 and hasn’t been out of our home since before Thanksgiving of last year.”  The call from Chris Wyrick came in early June and the nightmare of his words shattered my idealistic view of aging in the home.  When we all think of our parents (and even grandparents for some), we want to find comfort in knowing that they are living the last years of their lives comfortably and with the ability to accomplish every day tasks with ease.  The idea of the aging population not being able to do simple things due to accessibility restrictions, like leave their own home, is an reality that CHS is fighting to prevent on a daily basis. 

Shortly after Chris’ phone call, Executive Director, Gene Brown went to visit Ms. Betty on Longfellow Drive.  Upon returning to the office that afternoon, he excitedly boasted, “Laura!  You’ve got to go meet Ms. Betty.  She has an incredible story!”  And so, I went.  Ms. Betty and her son, Chris, changed my view on what freedom looks like.  They caused me to re-define the word and its conceptual application to life. 

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CHS staff and volunteers install Ms. Betty’s temporary ramp

As our construction staff and volunteers were installing a temporary ramp outside, I stepped inside of the immaculately kept home on Longfellow Drive.  I sat down on the sofa and began to talk with Ms. Betty.  The walls and shelves were decorated with pictures of family and friends that had been accrued and framed over the years.  In the corner, there was a chair with one lone teddy bear sitting in it.  Ms. Betty told me that Chris brings her a new teddy bear on every special occasion.  The mother of two boasted her gratitude for her son; their relationship was special, that’s for sure.  Ms. Betty, the youngest of eight siblings from Toledo, had lived in this home since 1956 and made a life there with her husband and two sons.   

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Portraits of Ms. Betty and her husband on the wall and one of Chris’ teddy bear gifts on the chair

Ms. Betty and her husband are both veterans of the U.S. Military.  Ms. Betty served in the Navy, and her husband (now deceased) served as a Marine.  They met in Washington.  “We had a good marriage for 55 years.  That’s a long time, but we really loved each other,” remembered Ms. Betty.

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Ms. Betty (now 92) holds the military portraits of her husband and herself

I began to ask Ms. Betty about how she had survived the last eight months without outside access.  She told me that she really enjoyed listening to books on tape and that Sandra Brown was her favorite author.  She also enjoys crocheting.  Additionally, Ms. Betty had found companionship with staff from Stephen Ministries and nightly phone calls from a representative with Mobile Meals.  “It’s just me and Chris now.  We’re all each other has.  We depend on one another and are hopeful that this ramp will improve our lives,” stated Ms. Betty.  “I used to love being outside and doing simple things, like hanging clothes on the line.  I have waited so long to get a ramp and it feels surreal that it’s actually happening,” she finished.

Freedom, in the case of the Wyricks, meant providing a ramp (temporary aluminum for now, permanent to come), so that Ms. Betty would be able to breathe the fresh air and get out of the house.  What is Ms. Betty most looking forward to?  I’m glad you asked.  “Chris made me an appointment to get my hair done at a salon and then we might share a meal at the K&W Cafeteria,” stated Ms. Betty.  It’s the small things that really mean the most.

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Ms. Betty and her son Chris pose proudly on their newly installed temporary ramp

(Photos and story by Laura Berkstresser, Community Engagement Coordinator – lberkstresser@CHSHousing.org)