August 28, 2012
‘Hard work’ takes Mt Greenan woman to 100

After she blew out the candle on her birthday cake, Martha Ryan flashed her family and friends her signature toothless grin, then waited patiently for her grandson to cut her a small slice.{{more}}

Despite a few protests that there was too much icing on her piece of cake, Martha’s grandson, Grantley Adams, allowed her to eat it all.

And rightly so. After all, it is not every day that you live to see 100.

Last Thursday, four generations of Martha’s family gathered at her house in Mt Greenan to help celebrate her newly-attained centenarian status.

Recent information from the Registrar’s Office suggests that longevity may be linked to location and diet. But Martha said that it is mostly “hard work” that has kept her alive this long.

“I worked hard all my life,” she said. “By the mercy of God, He keep me. He bless me, and I prayed to God to never send no man give me again!”

Martha’s eyesight has deteriorated significantly over the years, but her hearing, memory and wit are still in good shape.

She recalled having to take matters into her own hands when she unexpectedly became a single parent.

When the father of her six children abandoned them and migrated to Curacao, Martha said she was determined to provide for them in every way.

She was not going to let an absentee father ruin her children’s chances in life.

“Is me mind them alone!” said Martha. “I worked hard to mind all my children. Praise God for that.”

Martha, born and raised in Mt Greenan, recalled working many jobs to make sure she had enough money to keep her children clothed and healthy, and maintain a tidy house.

This included working on plantations, picking cotton, other labourer tasks, and even farming.

“I used to dig and heap the banks myself,” she boasted.

Despite that major setback in her life, Martha and her children continued to prosper — so much so that several of her children migrated abroad as adults.

In 1973, Martha decided to move to Trinidad to join three of her daughters who had emigrated there.

After several years of living there with her daughters and their respective families, she decided it was time to return to the land of her birth.

One of her granddaughters, Venice, recalled how saddened she was when Martha told her that she was ready to “go home to die”.

Venice said that she and the entire family are happy that Martha is still alive today, because she has had such a profound impact on their lives.

“She has been a blessing to her family and everyone who knows her. She is very loved!” she explained. “Many people can’t say that.”

Martha’s nephew Adolphus Victory also had nothing but positive things to say about her. He spoke of how skilled she was with her hands in her younger years.

“Is everything she could do: knitting, cooking, reading, singing, … everything!” he said.

After family members took turns singing her praises, Martha again recounted her younger years, recalling the things she used to enjoy eating, including breadfruit, green banana, ground provision, salted codfish, mackerel and herring.

When asked what meats she used to enjoy eating, Martha flashed another of her toothless grins.

“Meat?” she asked. “Back then meat been dey in?”

Nowadays, Martha’s diet has not changed much, but she identified two dishes that she is extremely fond of.

“I like boileen too bad, yes!” she said. “And ah love pork!”

Martha’s son, Eli Adams, said that he does most of his mother’s cooking although it is not an activity that he totally enjoys.

“I cook because she is my mother and I love she!” he said.

Eli also said he hopes to live as long as his mother, because he is not in the “business of dying”.

“I plan to live forever!” he joked.

Martha is the last surviving sibling of six children that her parents had together. However, she has younger half-siblings on her father’s side who are still alive.

With six children, 20 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren, Martha has lived a full life; and has a few words of advice for today’s youth:

“Live good … work hard … have all your children with one person, so your name ain’t have to call up with other people!”