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My name is Mary-Ann Smith and I am 70 years old. Many years ago I married a man who’s wife had passed away when his children, a daughter and son, were 8 and 3, but they were now 10 and 5.I had a son who was 5 too from a previous relationship and ironically the boys birthdays were a week apart, which took some explaining when people asked their ages.We had 3 more children of our own, 2 boys and a girl so it was a yours, mine and our’s family, but a happy one non the less.My husband was tragically killed in a car crash when he was just 45 years old, and although he had his own business, the two eldest boys were only nearing their final year of school and were not nearly old enough to take over.We tried to manage the business between us as best we could, but eventually the bank repossessed the house, the car, and everything we owned and on my small salary from the post office I barley stayed afloat.
I moved to a small town in South Africa and became the Post Mistress for this little town in the Drankensburg, it was a job I loved doing.I managed to pay rent for a little granny cottage on someone’s property, and the children all had to fend for themselves.Finding jobs to make ends meet, but not living with me.Paying their own way.I developed Parkinson’s disease in my late 50’s, as well as other medical issues, but managed it through medication.I retired from the post office with a government pension, which basically only covers my medical aid payments to ensure I have the expensive medication that is required to treat my disease.I had to move into the local school hostel, as hostel mistress.This came with free food and board, but no salary, but I could still cover my medical expenses from my government pension. I took care of those children, doing homework, cooking and baking, and having a purpose in life again.The children all called me Apple – you know because I was Granny Smith.
A few years ago, the decision was taken to close down the hostel in Underberg, and I had to move into an old age home, as by this stage I needed care for my Parkinson’s and my other medical issues.The home was expensive and so my children who were able to pay were having to pay for my lodging.Not all my children were able to help due to not having the financial means, as they were also living from day to day.Subsequently my children have hit hard times 2 of which lost their jobs within months of each other, and the remaining are now just trying to survive.As a family we have built up a debt to the old age home of R28 000 for my lodging at the Victoria Memorial Home in South Africa.This was one of the cheapest homes we could find when looking for a home for me.We are happy for anyone to phone the home and check out my story.
I am now having to forfeit my medical aid just to keep a roof over my head, but I will not survive long without my medication, as I now have full time care.I am in a wheelchair and battle with every day simple tasks.
I am a very proud person, and this is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I would be forever grateful for help to just be able to live out my last days in dignity.
God bless you all
- Darlene Smith
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