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Two of Us Together Again: Mother-Daughter Duo Share Days at Menig

  • Sherry Rogers of Bethel, left, talks with her grandmother, Della Allen, center, as Allen's daughter, Barb Reynolds talks with her brother, Dick Allen through Skype at Menig Nursing Home in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 16, 2013. During the warmer months, Dick Allen visits his mother and sister every day, and when he moves to Florida for the winter, he'll skype with them every Saturday with the help of Sherry Rogers.  <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Sherry Rogers of Bethel, left, talks with her grandmother, Della Allen, center, as Allen's daughter, Barb Reynolds talks with her brother, Dick Allen through Skype at Menig Nursing Home in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 16, 2013. During the warmer months, Dick Allen visits his mother and sister every day, and when he moves to Florida for the winter, he'll skype with them every Saturday with the help of Sherry Rogers.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • RNA Marica Eaton, left, and RN Judy Libby, right, administer daily medications to Barb Reynolds, left, and her mother, Della Allen, after breakfast at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 5, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    RNA Marica Eaton, left, and RN Judy Libby, right, administer daily medications to Barb Reynolds, left, and her mother, Della Allen, after breakfast at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 5, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sally Davidson, right, combs out Della Allen's hair in the Hair Salon at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 16, 2013. Davidson, who owns her own hair salon in Northfield, comes to Menig weekly to cut and style residents' hair. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Sally Davidson, right, combs out Della Allen's hair in the Hair Salon at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 16, 2013. Davidson, who owns her own hair salon in Northfield, comes to Menig weekly to cut and style residents' hair.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Della Allen writes a letter to her sister in her room at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 13, 2013. At age 100, writing isn't easy for Allen, but she still takes the time, sometimes with help, to write to her sister often. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Della Allen writes a letter to her sister in her room at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 13, 2013. At age 100, writing isn't easy for Allen, but she still takes the time, sometimes with help, to write to her sister often.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • A large portion of Della Allen's room at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., is covered with family photos. Allen is visited often by family, and received dozens of Christmas Cards from those who can't visit. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    A large portion of Della Allen's room at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., is covered with family photos. Allen is visited often by family, and received dozens of Christmas Cards from those who can't visit.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sherry Rogers of Bethel, left, talks with her grandmother, Della Allen, center, as Allen's daughter, Barb Reynolds talks with her brother, Dick Allen through Skype at Menig Nursing Home in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 16, 2013. During the warmer months, Dick Allen visits his mother and sister every day, and when he moves to Florida for the winter, he'll skype with them every Saturday with the help of Sherry Rogers.  <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • RNA Marica Eaton, left, and RN Judy Libby, right, administer daily medications to Barb Reynolds, left, and her mother, Della Allen, after breakfast at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 5, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Sally Davidson, right, combs out Della Allen's hair in the Hair Salon at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 16, 2013. Davidson, who owns her own hair salon in Northfield, comes to Menig weekly to cut and style residents' hair. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Della Allen writes a letter to her sister in her room at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., on Dec. 13, 2013. At age 100, writing isn't easy for Allen, but she still takes the time, sometimes with help, to write to her sister often. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • A large portion of Della Allen's room at Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph, Vt., is covered with family photos. Allen is visited often by family, and received dozens of Christmas Cards from those who can't visit. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Randolph — It’s almost lunchtime, and the smell of chicken and biscuits fills the dining room at Menig Extended Care Facility. Mother-daughter duo Della Allen, 100, and Barbara Reynolds, 82, sit in wheelchairs at the wooden table they share with two other residents.

Longtime Vermonters, the women know what they like. Reynolds isn’t too interested in lunch, although she will eat a cookie, she said, a tiny can of diet Coke on the table in front of her. And rather than the scheduled evening fare, they will have what they have almost every night — grilled cheese sandwiches.

When she was 21, Reynolds married and moved to Sharon. She and her husband had two children, Connie and Steve, and Reynolds had a long career in banking. But in 2007, more than half a century after Reynolds left home, she and her mother found themselves living under the same roof once again.

Allen and her husband, Wendell, raised their children, Barbara and Richard, on their dairy farm. In addition to farm work, Della Allen worked at a plywood plant, lifting heavy sheets of plywood into a dryer.

“I liked it, but it was hard work,” said Allen, whose husband died in 1993.

She moved into the nursing home in downtown Randolph in 2001, followed by Reynolds in 2007 and her husband, Stuart, in 2010. He lived at Menig until his death in 2012.

Losing her husband was very difficult for Reynolds, her daughter, Connie Durkee, said, but having Allen nearby was comforting.

“She finally admitted she needed my grandmother,” Durkee said.

Over the years, the women have established a routine. Reynolds visits Allen in her room sometimes and checks on her if she’s not at their table at the regular time, said Terry MacDougal, Menig’s activity director. “She definitely keeps an eye on her.”

In the dining hall, they eat together and talk with friends. Allen is hard of hearing, but if Reynolds shouts, her mother can understand her, Reynolds said.

“It’s terrible being deaf,” Allen said.

On a recent morning, Allen talked about her mother, who died at age 80, and whom she still misses.

She’s surprised to have lived so long, Allen said. “I didn’t think I’d ever go to 100.”

Of all the activities she and her daughter share at the nursing home, bingo is their favorite. They attend monthly tea parties through the Red Hat Society, an international women’s organization.

Before Christmas, they helped the Baptist Fellowship of Randolph pack gift boxes for poor children around the world.

They also have their own, separate interests.

“Della likes to watch the people go by” outside the window, said Sherry Rogers, who is Allen’s granddaughter and Reynolds’ niece. Allen is also fond of watching birds at a feeder outside her room, MacDougal said.

Allen takes part in exercise classes now and then, but Reynolds is a regular. “I go, but I don’t like it,” Reynolds said, a playful smile breaking over her face.

Reynolds also attends church services and a prayer group, “for something to do.” Otherwise, she travels up and down the corridor between the living room and dining hall, she said.

The friends they have made at the nursing home are like family, Reynolds said. And she and her mother visit frequently with actual family members, who have found creative ways to keep in touch.

Pam Brown, Rogers’ sister, usually brings her son and daughter, Allen’s great-grandchildren. To communicate, they write on a white board in letters large enough for her to read.

“She loves it,” Brown said. “It makes her day to see everybody.”

Rogers helps Reynolds and Allen Skype with her parents, Richard and Darla Allen, who winter in Florida. Della Allen can’t hear much of the conversation, but “it makes her feel better that they can actually see each other,” Brown said. “It’s just good for her to see them.”

Allen and her last remaining sister, who lives in Connecticut, correspond by letter, with Rogers as Allen’s scribe.

“She can’t see too well,” Rogers said, “but she knows what she wants to say.”

Durkee, who lives in Sharon, said her grandmother “lightens right up” when she sees her.

During her visits, Durkee and her mother usually spend a few hours together catching up.

“It’s like my time with her,” she said.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.