So says Mabel Heidy, ninety -eight years old and as feisty and lively as she's always been. She's lived at her home in Mayfield Heights for thirty-one years and has come to know her neighbors and neighborhood well.
Mabel grew up on 32nd Street between Payne and Superior then "moved up" to 43rd. She attended Waring School on 32nd Street, St. Columbkiles at 26th and Superior (now a freeway) and then on to "The Mac", Immaculate Conception, also on Superior. She graduated from Ursuline Academy at 55th and Scovell. A young woman graduating from high school was the exception rather than the rule in those days.
She was one of three children with parents she describes as "good, hard-working people who earned respect" She remembers her father being hospitalized at St. John's Hospital when she was quite young. He stayed there for twenty-two months. (She's quick to add there were no HMO's in those days, and she's glad!). Her mother took the streetcar to visit him every single day. Mabel respects that dedication to family and the discipline that raising a family in those days required.
Her mother canned vegetables and fruits to be used in the winter. Every Saturday in the summer she would make seven fruit kuchens. In the winter the fruit would be replaced with brown sugar, but they were always there.
From the first time she was old enough ("and maybe before, but who's really counting at this point") Mabel has earned a living working outside of the home. After fifty-one years she finally retired, but not without a fight. She'd be happy to be working today; she's not one to idle her time away.
Her working days take her back to the beginning of tax stamps, The Retail Merchants Board (which included Mays, Higbees, Taylors, Baileys and Halle's Department Stores) The Cleveland Rams Football Team and The Consumer Credit Counseling Service. She was the beautiful lady with the big hat and gloves. "If you're going to work, you should dress the part. After all you are a representative of something special". And she was loved and respected by fellow employees, customers and supervisors alike.
Mabel married when she was twenty-eight. Her husband died when she was just thirty-four and left her with a family she says are her whole life. Her son, Jim and her daughter, Jackie, mean the world to her. They remind her of the values her parents taught her: family is everything. There is nothing she wouldn't do for her family or them for her.
She does not complain about raising two children by herself. She went and lived with her mother and had what she calls "a blessed life". "Did we have some problems? Well for goodness sake, of course we did. But so what?!? God's been good to me, whatever He sends me I'll deal with. Like I've got a choice!" Then she laughs her hearty contagious laugh and you have to smile right along with her.
Mabel did marry again. After being a widow for thirty plus years, she married her husband, Ray, just two days after Thanksgiving. Tragically, he died the day after Christmas, less than a month later. "No, it wasn't about money. I had no idea he was going to die, neither did he. And anyway we weren't married long enough for me to collect anything, but it makes a juicy story for the gossips doesn't it?"
Unfortunately, Mabel fell and broke a rib not long ago. Of course she straightened up the house and had everything in its usual tidy state before asking the neighbor to call 911. She's a strong believer in "everything in its place". "Things are meant to be organized and neat. It's important to keep them that way. I certainly wasn't going to let the paramedics in with the house untidy!" Most likely it wasn't untidy anyway.
The doctor who gave her the exam was happy to report, with the exception of the broken rib, there was nothing wrong with this young lady. She's absolutely in great shape! She has her own teeth, doesn't even need glasses! She's got a memory that puts me to shame and a sense of humor stand-up comedians would die for.
So, I had to come right out and ask, just what where her secrets? What has kept her young and healthy for so long? Her answer" Well, start with God and if course, His Mother. I say my rosary everyday and I get up early and watch the television Mass every Sunday."
Good answer - but what else. Here's how that went:
Do you exercise?
Never did, never will. I was a charwoman all my life. Why would I need to get down on the floor and do sit-ups?
Do you have a special diet?
Yes. If it doesn't eat me first, I'll eat it. I love Italian bread and don't ever try to trick me with oleo instead of butter.
Do you watch television?
I am passionate about baseball. All I understand about football is the huddle. The rest of the television I can live without.
What about reading?
I read the Universe Bulletin and the city and neighborhood papers, but I've never been a fiction reader. Educational books sometimes.
Do you smoke? Drink?
No. I'm not even a pop drinker really, I don't especially like it. I have coffee in the morning, but that's about the only time.
So what am I missing? What's your secret?
There are a few things to remember No.1 - it comes back the way you give it. Whether it's parents to kids or kids to parents or friend to friend. It comes back the way you give it. And No. 2 - hard work is not the enemy. Earn it and it's yours. I never borrowed a penny in my life. I'm proud of that. Most important, I'm proud of my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"I've been knocking on St. Peter's door for along time. Eventually he's going to let me in. Until then, you just gotta have laugh!"