Diaries through the decades: Rita looks into past, all she sees is God

At 78 years old, Rita Szymanski is making one of the biggest transitions of her life.

For over 40 years, she lived in Elma, N.Y., near Buffalo. Three months ago, she left her house, friends and all that was familiar and headed for Morgan Estates Assisted Living Facility in Geneseo.

Szymanski is now faced with a situation similar to many college freshmen. She is in a new place, far from home. She must adjust to a new routine, make friends and cope with memories of her home. She said she believes, however, that she has help.

A devoted Catholic, Szymanski said she finds solace in her faith. "I wouldn't be able to do this alone," she said. "I need God."

Szymanski grew up in Buffalo and attended school of the Felician Sisters. She said this gave her a strong foundation for life's challenges, and God has been with her since. "God has given me all these steps and places to be in that I find satisfying," she said.

Szymanski also credits her guardian angel, Peter, whose presence she has felt in decisions and situations beyond her control. "He's there all the time - works overtime for me!" she said.

She believes God led her to Morgan Estates. Through stressful circumstances, she suffered a physical collapse and realized that eventually she would have to leave her home, where she resided alone.

Szymanski said she is pleased with her new surroundings. "Everything in here, I like," she said. "I like the people, I like the food, I like the place, it's clean and neat - just wonderful." Her favorite thing is that the staff - some of whom she has never met - know her face and remember her name. She also said she finds the other residents welcoming. A warm and positive woman, Szymanski has had no trouble making friends.

Next is the task of emptying her house in Elma. Finding a place for the things that surrounded Szymanski and her three children is an emotionally heavy task. As she now has one room instead of an entire house, she brought little with her. Small articles she has carried, however, such as her bedroom set, comfort her in this new place. She also finds repose in thoughts of her family, particularly her eight grandchildren. "They're the jewels in my crown!" she said.

Szymanski is taking this transition in stride. "I made up my mind I'm not going to cry over this," she said. "I will return to God what He has done for me."