It’s hard to imagine that Hildegard has lived in the same one-bedroom apartment for over fifty years – a spotless kitchen, windows without curtains, a sparsely furnished living room. Other than a single photograph with her late husband, her Stuyvesant Town home reflects only the absolute essentials – like the pill bottles which cover a small table.
Now 86 years old, Hildegard was born in Switzerland and grew up working on her family’s farm. After laboring in the sun for hours, she and her ten siblings would return home each day covered in blisters.
Hildegard moved by herself to New York in the 1950s for a job as a nanny with a family living on Riverside Drive. Soon she met Peter in one of her English classes. Although normally reserved, she was motivated to learn, so she could communicate with her new love. Of those early days in New York City, Hildegard simply says, “It was wonderful.” The two were soon married.
It’s not easy going on, but I take one day at a time.
Hildegard took a position as a secretary at American Express, and Peter worked in a mailroom. They enjoyed going to the movies and, Hildegard says contentedly, “We had a quiet life.” After decades of work, the two retired and Peter began collecting stamps. “Sometimes I thought he forgot about me,” Hildegard chuckles, as she remembers how engrossed he became in his pastime.
Hildegard’s memories turn melancholy as she recalls Peter’s decline. After going through heart surgery, he was never the same. And she misses him terribly. With no children, Hildegard feels more alone than ever. Although one of her sisters does live in New Jersey, she suffers from glaucoma and can no longer drive to visit Hildegard.
A fall a few years ago has limited Hildegard’s mobility and she depends on a walker to get around. After trying to eat a small breakfast, she often is so tired that she makes her way back to bed, her tiny frame enveloped within her flowered robe.
“It’s not easy going on, but I take one day at a time,” she explains. Thankfully, Hildegard has been receiving meals for over a decade. Calling the service “wonderful,” she especially appreciates Sky, her dedicated meal deliverer, who always provides a nourishing meal and a warm smile.