To an outsider, Velma Pace’s life is overwhelming.
But you couldn’t tell it from her calm, upbeat disposition or her immaculately clean, dust-doesn’t-dare-enter red-brick home in Pflugerville or her meticulously well-organized daily calendar that keeps her on her very full schedule.
Pace is nothing if not neat and tidy, everything in its proper place. But she’s so much more than that.
The silver-haired, 83-year-old Lexington native goes about her day with not only a passion for orderliness and organization that would embarrass an accountant but also a caring heart and bottomless compassion for her family, with all their challenges.
Far be it from her to complain about her plight as the main caregiver for Johnny, her husband of 53 years who has dementia and congestive heart failure and who entered into hospice care in August after injuring his hip in a bad fall; and her 64-year-old, live-in son with intellectual disabilities from birth who is recovering from colorectal cancer and blood clots in his legs and has expensive, painful dental issues. Pace still is grieving losing a son to brain cancer a decade ago. Her own declining health has been compromised by a brain aneurysm and recent heart surgery as well as stomach problems. She also raised five children including three stepchildren with all the love of her own and done it all with a smile on her face.
Nothing slows this lady down.
"I’m still kicking," Pace says. "I’m a tough old girl."
That said, Pace has more than a few needs. She has no driver’s license or car.
"Ms. Pace has taken care of her biological son Howard full time for all his adult life," says caseworker Venishia Taylor of Meals on Wheels Central Texas, which supplies three meals daily to the Pace family. "Her husband is not very accepting about having cognitive issues and is in denial about it. She’s had major medical issues of her own the last four years, but she’s a darling. She’s so humble and super-organized."
Pace wouldn’t know any better. She knows a hard life. Always has.
Raised in the country outside Lexington as the oldest of six children, she grew up milking cows, feeding chickens and tending to her mother’s garden. She met Johnny and married in 1967.
She worked as a leasing agent at a number of Austin apartment complexes before retiring more than two decades ago to care full time for her husband and son. Heck, she even has a flip phone.
"My kids say, ’Mom, you’re an old fogy,’ " she says. "I said, ’Yeah, but it works.’"
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