MARTHA CRAIG and Charlene Richardson share a bond that’s grown stronger over time. What started with Craig cleaning for Richardson in her home blossomed into an endearing friendship as the two spent more and more time together.
Throughout their lifetime, mothers and daughters often speak daily about the big and small details of their lives. It’s a special relationship. After Craig met Richardson, her mother began to decline with dementia, challenging communication and limiting Craig’s ability to share her life with her mother. As her mother worsened and later passed away, Richardson’s listening ear and caring heart filled the void created by her loss.
Craig said, “I was cleaning for Miss Charlene when my mother got dementia. It changes their personality and everything. I didn’t have anybody to talk to anymore, so Miss Charlene was like a second mother to me. I could talk to her about stuff I couldn’t share with Mama anymore. I just grew closer and closer to her, and we’re real close, or I am to her.”
In the spirit of true friendship and without missing a beat, Richardson, who is 101, joined in. “She’s no closer to me than I am to her. I hope I’ve helped her because she’s helping me.”
Craig has become Richardson’s helper and friend, cleaning for her, running errands, taking her to appointments, and styling her hair. But it’s a mutually dependent relationship with each needing the other and appreciating the gift of the other’s presence in their seasons of life.
“She takes really good care of me,” Richardson said.
Being taken care of is a change for Richardson. She raised two daughters, Sandra Bagley and Marcia Fowler, and worked for years as the office manager of the Fayetteville Water Department after moving here from Nashville in 1960. Her mind and sense of humor are strong; hearing is her main limitation, and even that is minor. There are many people younger than her who hear more poorly.
Richardson agrees, “I feel like I’m doing real good for my age. I’ve made a lot of very dear and close friends along the way. As time goes on, a lot of those friends have passed on, and it’s very nice that Martha is here to help.”
It’s a help and comfort to Richardson’s daughters, who don’t live as close as Craig. Craig communicates with Richardson’s family about ways to help her and updates them on what’s going on in her life. In an emergency, Craig can reach Richardson quicker than the family. Again, it’s a great comfort to them all. Craig has gained the friendship of Richardson’s family as well.
“I’m usually here one day a week, but when she needs me, I’m here. Anytime she calls, she knows I’ll be here if she needs me,” said Craig.
Craig, a Lincoln County native, lives only 30 minutes from Richardson and is happy to come when Richardson calls. She and her husband of 31 years, Wayne Craig, live in Elora, where they stay busy in their pottery shop.
They both have large families, giving them plenty to talk about. Craig has three children: Brian Rutledge, Chris Rutledge, and Carla Rutledge. She also has eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Richardson has two grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and one more on the way. Together, that’s a lot of greats and grands enriching their lives.
As we waded through accounting for all of their family during our conversation, we soon felt as if we were herding cats. Richardson, waiting patiently, laughed, “I’m going to be anxious to read this.”
I’m going to be anxious to read this.” In a time that has seen us isolated and resorting to communicating more and more online, the value of their friendship is greater than ever. The companionship is priceless. The natural question for Richardson is: What’s the secret to her longevity? “It’s to have a sense of purpose and a sense of humor,” she said confidently. The pair are clearly living out their purpose, and their banter is full of heart and humor.
What a beautiful picture of friendship! GN