Name: Harriet Hodgson

Age: 84

Occupation: Author

Where we found her: Email message

We met when you sent me an email.What prompted you to reach out? Mary Jean Whalen from HOM Furniture. My husband and I were getting ready to move to Charter House, and I was trying to determine what furniture I needed. She said, "I recognize you!" from publicity for my books. So my furniture buying turned into a very sincere conversation. She said I should get in touch with you and she put me in touch with a woman named Kathy Kasten. Those are good leads, so I followed them. I never dreamed it would lead to collaborating on a book—but I met with Kathy and we wrote a children’s book about leadership.

Did you always want to be a writer?I had a Bachelor of Science in early childhood education from Whelock College, which was part of Boston University. I taught for a dozen years, and I loved teaching. Loved it. I started writing articles for education journals and I thought, "Well, this is fun and there’s my name in print!" I finally quit teaching and thought I’d try this new career.

What do you write?I started with books for children. I’ve written on grief, on caregiving. A lot of people have no idea that I write books, but with the three in production, that’ll make 41 books.

What prompted you to write about grief?In 2007, four family members died in a row. Our elder daughter, Helen, died from injuries sustained in a car crash on Highway 14. Surgeons operated for 20 hours and could not save her life. We became guardians of our twin grandchildren, who were 15 at the time. That same weekend, my husband’s father died. When I opened the Post Bulletin obituary page, my daughter’s and John’s dad’s pictures were on the same page. I just sobbed uncontrollably. Eight weeks after that, my brother, my only sibling, died. That fall, the twins’ father died of a car crash.

How do you go on?I wasn’t sure that I could grieve for four people and raise teenagers. But life doesn’t always give you choices. I said, "I can do this. I will not fail my family and I will not fail myself." I realized it was up to me. You can sit around and wait to be rescued, or you can say, "I have the strength to help myself." And I have a good ending, by the way. A lot of people don’t have good endings, but we do.

What’s your good ending?Our twin grandchildren both graduated from Century High School with honors. My granddaughter graduated from college with high honors. In March, my grandson graduated from Mayo Clinic Medical School. People keep saying, "What would have happed to the grandchildren without you?" I can’t answer that question. All I can say is being a grandmother is the best thing I’ve ever done.

And now that they’re on their own…?My good ending is that I’m still creative. I’m still productive. So while I commend people who enjoy bingo, I will not be there. I will be working on a book or an article or something for a website.

What’s your latest book?The children’s book about leadership—it’s the one with co-author Kathy Kasten. When we met, I immediately liked her. And when I said, "Let’s write a book together," she didn’t even blink.

Where are you from originally?Great Neck Long Island, which was the original home of the United Nations before it moved to New York City. I went to high school with some of the delegates’ children, which was interesting.

How did you meet your husband?We met on a blind date. I was in Boston and he was at Dartmouth. He was in pre-med, and later applied to U of M. I found a teaching job in Edina when we moved.

How long have you been married?62 years. We think it will last.

You recently moved?We moved to Charter House. The people who had our apartment had lived there a long time, so things needed to be replaced. I redid the entire kitchen. I turned the second bathroom into my office. We’re on the 18th floor, and I’ve positioned my workstation where I can see the top of the Plummer building. We see the helicopter land on the helipad at Methodist hospital. It’s a whole different view of Rochester.

You mentioned in your email that you recently had surgery?As of May 5, 2019, I’m the proud owner of a pig valve in my heart.

How was recovery?I was up and at it in about five days, resuming my life. Fortunately I can work from home because I am my husband’s caregiver. He’s a paraplegic.

Had he had an accident?John’s aorta dissected. He was losing blood at a tremendous pace and had three emergency operations. During the third operation, he suffered a spinal cord injury.

Caregiving had to be especially tough while recovering from surgery.I wasn’t supposed to even lift a jug of milk. Our surviving daughter lives in the Twin Cities and she came down, and that was a true feeling of love—to have her come down for a month to help.

What would you say to someone entering their 80s?Your life is not over. I get up every day and ask: How can I make the most of the miracle of my life?