Lydia Hand Bowen Roper, age 90
Youngest son, Albert Lonsdale Roper
Although this book has tremendous local interest, I am not a native of either Norfolk or Virginia and, until I moved into the Lydia Roper Home, had never heard of the Ropers. My intention was something else. Looking for Lydia; Looking for God is a story for anyone who is getting older, for anyone with parents who are getting older, for anyone afraid of getting older. It is a story for everyone.
“It is a Wednesday morning in April of 2014, and I am looking out my windows, old casements in a 1928 building in an urban neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia, waiting for a door-to-door car service provided by the area’s public bus company. If I’m paying attention and see her coming, my driver will pull up just as I walk out my front door, and we’ll begin the fifteen minute drive to another ninety-year-old building, which, since its construction in 1920, has been a Home for elderly women,,and where I have spent one morning a week for over a year talking about the Bible with a group of women in their ninth and tenth decades.
This is the story of a miracle, although not one of those miracles where statues weep and holy faces appear in tacos.”
It is a memoir. It is a spiritual memoir. It is a confession. It is a family saga and a cameo of life in a southern city after the Civil War. It is the mystery of a nineteenth-century woman, come from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, the year the War ended, and the story of the mysteries that don’t get solved and the questions that don’t get answered.
It is, throughout, the story of the transformation of a group of women in their eighties and nineties who have come to live in an assisted living facility. They have not come there for a new lease on life, but that is exactly what they get.
As you read, you will fall in love with a small group of women as they discover the Bible, each other, and themselves. This is their story.
They show up one winter morning for a new “devotion” at their assisted living facility, and there I am, depressed, angry, bruised from a severe fall, hanging on by a thread, proposing to talk about women in the Old Testament, assuring them that Eve was a hero and Adam was a fool. This is my story.
In Chapter Two, I confess:
“I don’t think I could have told you the name of one member of that pioneer crew; now I see their faces when I close my eyes. I came to the Lydia Roper Home sick and I left well. I arrived with no hope; I left with a sense that I still had “promises to keep.” The ladies with whom I spend my Wednesdays have pushed open their minds and hearts to an old text, to each other, and to new ideas; they don’t stop asking questions. We look for answers together. The mystery of how all that happened is really what I’m after here.”