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Faces of Toronto: Carmen


Our culture places so much importance on looking beautiful and appearing youthful that it's easy to forget the beauty found in our spirit. Carmen is nearly 100 years old, and still in good health with an active mind. Born and raised in Spain, she is the youngest of seven children and lost her only remaining sibling when her brother recently passed away at the age of 104.

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When Carmen was just four years old, her mother passed away. Her uncle was a priest and he took in the seven children and provided for all of them within the church. Her youth provides her with many happy memories and she speaks of her uncle often. She tells a story of how he'd given her a beautiful dress when she was a little girl. Her older sister did not receive the same gift and was jealous. Carmen felt special with his attention.

She is the mother of four children but has been a widow for over forty years. When her husband Manuel passed away, her daughter Virginia brought her to Canada so she would not be alone in Spain. She has lived in Toronto for thirty three years. Like many immigrants in our city, she has been immersed in her culture and still speaks no English. She talks about her homeland and would like to go back to visit.

Carmen likes to knit and crochet, and her favorite food is chocolate. She also enjoys drinking wine and beer. In an effort to make sure she does not drink too much, Virginia will sometimes substitute the good stuff with cranberry juice in Carmen's glass. While I visited, we shared some homemade cherry cognac and Carmen was given juice in a shot glass. She quickly realized and complained about the colour. When a little of the cognac was added she smiled, drank a shot and voiced her happiness.

Carmen's favorite activity is walking. The family must chain the door at night or she will leave unattended. Mother and daughter go for a walk every day.

Amazing as it is to live so many years, it is just as amazing that Virginia willingly takes care of her every day without complaint. Virginia prefers her mother close by her side and would never want to put her into a nursing home. Carmen is fortunate and well loved.

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