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Vicenta has lived in the same apartment in a high-rise building alongside the East River for the past four decades—and she’s not going anywhere. The 85-year-old considers herself a true New Yorker, though her life began on the other side of the Atlantic.
Born in southern Spain, Vicenta was raised by her grandparents. She admits she was a rebellious teenager, headstrong and fiercely independent. When she was 15 years old, she was sent to a convent in Germany for schooling, in hopes the discipline would improve her behavior. It didn’t. Instead, Vicenta terrorized the nuns, often ending up in detention.
It was in church one Sunday that she met her future husband. He was a good man, Vicenta says. Most importantly, he respected her independent spirit. It was one of the things he loved about her. The couple had three weddings—one in the church where they met, one for their friends in Germany and one for Vicenta’s family in Spain. Soon they had two children, a boy and a girl, and the young family had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States, eventually settling in New York City.
As a mother and homemaker, Vicenta once raced after her children. Now she struggles to navigate her tidy apartment. Asthma and arthritis make for slow going. Vicenta uses a cane and wheeling walker to get around. After an emergency trip to the hospital, she had a pacemaker inserted to stabilize her heart. Her condition leaves her dizzy and light-headed, so she often retreats to the couch.
On days when Vicenta has to venture out for a doctor’s appointment, it’s a relief to know she has a nourishing meal waiting for her. Citymeals has been delivering to Vicenta for two years now and she raves about the weekend meals and holiday boxes she receives. No longer able to grocery shop without assistance, she relies on home-delivered meals to continue living on her own.
It’s been more than 25 years since Vicenta’s husband passed away. Her daughter moved down south, but Vicenta has no plans to join her. And while her son lives nearby, he and his wife work long hours.
But Vicenta isn’t entirely alone. Three days a week, soon after school lets out, she gets a knock on the door from Jenna, her 8-year-old granddaughter. The little girl is a spitfire and loves to tease Vicenta about the wrinkly skin on her arms. Vicenta musters the energy to fix a snack, listen to Jenna’s stories from the day and unwind by playing Barbies.
Without Vicenta, Jenna would have no place to go. For a hard-working family raising the next generation, a grandmother’s care can make all the difference. Vicenta is grateful she’s still able to do her part and to keep her independence. She wouldn’t be herself without it.