EILEEN C. AGE 91
What I like about being older is having my independence. What you see is what you get. You dont have to get permission to do what you want. You just do it, like telling someone off if you feel like it!
I am very much into my religion. I go to Mass most days. Mass is at 12 noon, so that gives me an incentive to get myself washed and put my clothes on. Then I go to Shoprite, and do anything else I have to do. I am so glad I can still drive. I am tired by the time I come home, so then I relax and have a wee nap. I also love going to the casino once a month with friends. We go up to the Sands in Pennsylvania. We spend five hours there and its just enough time. Its a great deal--you pay $25, and you get $35 back in coins. Before you start using your own money, youre having a great time using their money!
Two years ago I got a knee replacement. I did wonderfully; I was a golden pupil. But it took all of the stamina out of me. Now I am very lazy!
We came to this country in 1958. I came with five children on the Franconia, and we were in Canada for five years before that. I was looking forward to coming. But I found this to be a very technical country and it was a bit intimidating. The five years in Canada didnt prepare me for coming here. But now I couldnt go back home. I have a sister who will be 94 tomorrow and a sister who will be 93 in March. Another sister is 85. All of my family is overseas, but back home wasnt that good. We went to Canada because my husbands sister married a Canadian and they lived right on the bay in a shipbuilding area. My husband, who was an electrician, was able to get a job there easily. Jimmy had another sister in America who sponsored us later on. We ended up in Kearney, NJ, a big Scottish, Irish, and Italian area. It was the best of two worlds--being in America but surrounded by Scottish people and Scottish food. We started a religious guild that raised funds for needy children. Our group put on shows to raise money; we even did the Can-Can! The place was always packed. I miss them all so much.
When I grew up in Glasgow people were very bigoted. Catholics went to Catholic schools, Protestants went to Protestant schools, and there were always battles. That made you stronger in your faith. Religion was thumped into you. I dont question my religion; I am old school. I believe in the saints and miracles, a higher power. A higher power has helped me through Jimmys death and with the troubles with my daughter. God was in my life.
I have a daughter, Patricia, who was born severely brain damaged. I looked after her until she was 48 and I was in my 80s. When I had to go out I would come back and say, Oh, if I could only just sit down. So thats what I enjoy most now, just coming in and looking after me. During the time I was taking care of my daughter, I couldnt really go out unless I could get someone to stay with her, which was not often.
But Jimmy and I would go out every Saturday night. We went dancing and had a lot of fun. That kept me going. And Jimmy bought me a sewing machine, and I sewed everything. I used patterns, but I was also good at figuring things out by myself. I didnt have to go by the rules.
I dont want a social life now. I used to have a great one, but now I just want to be with family. I will do things as long as they pertain to my family. Tonight I go to my daughter Marys for dinner, and on Tuesdays my son takes me out to dinner. I have a full life.
I do think about the past a lot. Of my three close friends, I am the only one whos left. Friends were very important in my life because when you meet good friends, they become family. Now I cant lift up the phone and say, Wait til you hear this
I feel that I have accumulated a lot of wisdom over the years.
I am of the age when you got married and became a homemaker, and that was your job. I always read, and knitted, and anything I did I did well. I do not have regrets about my past. I am at peace.
Fifty years ago was better than today. The dollar was very strong. Jimmy wasnt earning that much but it was enough, and everyone was in the same boat. That was a good time, I feel. Everything is not so good now. You are supposed to spend a lot of money here. It is nothing for people to go to dinner and spend over $100. I could never have done that. I never got a break. There wasnt a McDonalds and there wasnt a Burger King. Everything was expensive. The only thing we got sometimes was fish and chips. You would buy one to divide amongst you. But I was content in those days. Life was easier.
My advice to the young is: Stop reaching for the moon. Spend less. Try
to save a bit. Dont abuse things.
Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax
for this exhibition.