Friday, August 28, 2015

Frances and Joan (Thank God for Life)

Today, two stories about survival, a lighthearted one by Frances, a heavy one by Joan, both reminding us to be grateful for this big, crazy, amazing thing called Life. Speaking of which, happy weekend... live it up!

Frances Bryce
Surviving Early Childhood with Four Brothers

I was born in a home that had four brothers. As was the custom in many black families, the oldest was in charge when the parents were away, and did most or saw that most of the chores were done. The oldest boys were glad when I was born, now a girl would do most of the things they had been doing.

My nemesis was the one that was two years older than me. He was the kid that would brush up against me, because there was no hitting the girl (me) in the family. He teased me when he had the opportunity, which was often. One day, he ran after me with a garden snake on a limb, of course my parents were not home.

The fact was that no one else could do mean things to me at school, playground, or anyplace else. He was very protective. When I was old enough to date, all my older brothers decided who could come to the home to see me.

An incident that was most entertaining was one afternoon a boy was on the way to my home, when one of my protective brothers asked where he was going. When he replied to see me, he (my brother) said, “No you are not,” and sent him on his way.

I did manage to get a stamp of approval of a couple of boys. I learned that the guys that my brother knew often were aware of their character because they had been traveling in the same circle. They taught me what kind of girls that were respectful so I learned a lot about males from them. What enabled me to make decisions about chasing the ones that were character driven, with morals and ethical values.

Joan Bunting
Thank God For Life

Do you ever wonder what happened to people you grew up with or attended school with. I do. Many of the girls I knew (and boys) are gone. And I mean they don’t inhabit this earth any longer.

I am so very grateful that God has kept me here this long.

I often go back into my past and truly realize the things that have caused me not to be here and it’s very scary.

I’ve had a gun pointed at me twice, point blank. God protected me from what could have ended my life.

I came very close to getting hit by a car but God said, it was not my time yet.

When you’re young and have not really come to know fear, you take lots of foolish chances, dangerous things or even fatal outcomes could have overtaken me but God blocked it. That’s why I’m still here.

I thank God everyday and night for keeping me from all hurt, harm and danger. I’ve also learned not to take life for granted.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Elliot (What I Fear)

You know what Elliot’s stories remind me of? The powerful summer sun. Whenever I am looking for a life lesson to illuminate my day, I can always count on my bud Elliot. I love that his stories tell it like it is, shining a light on life’s bumps and twists and complexities. But the real twist is, even when he talks about his fear of the darkest alleys, it’s his bright mind and piercing wisdom that we really see.

Elliot Doomes
What I Fear

I have heard people say
That they fear nothing.
People who fear nothing
Scare the hell out of me.
They disregard danger signals and pay no attention to their senses which often times sends us warnings in times approaching danger.
I fear dark alleys and strange neighborhoods. I tell myself that I'm just being cautious, but I'm really afraid. I fear crowded subways when school lets out. Them teenagers rage in the subway, they have no sense of responsibility. They push and shove, swinging heavy book bags. Once a teen broke a girl's nose by punching her because she kept hitting him with her book bag. I fear big dogs walking without a leash. People will say "Oh, he won't bite" when the dog is bigger than me. I asked a man does his dog eat meat because if so, he needs a leash. I am alright with my fears as long as they remain reasonable.

Elliot Doomes
I Always Had Money

I can remember when I was a child. We lived in a 2 room flat. The kids slept in the kitchen. I remember never having enough to eat or clothes. I worked for a man named Mr. Arder, tying bundles of wood and baskets of wood. I always had money. I would sell wood on 9th St. I would shine shoes on Locust Street and on 8th & South I made a lot of money shining shoes. People said we were poor because of the way we lived. But we didn’t know. Maybe my parents knew, but us kids didn’t. We would collect paper and glass bottles. I always had change in my pocket. There was no allowance, the radio was better than TV, we had nothing, but we were happy. We never complained. People complain too much today. People can get by today on what they make, but they complain anyways. If I came into money, I would not buy property in the South. Definitely not in Philadelphia. Like I said, we never felt poor. We didn’t even know we were poor. We played kick the can, hide and go seek. We made our own fun. We didn’t live with a lot of fear.

Elliot Doomes
Lost Children

When I was a young kid growing up, it was about sports and dancing and school – it was about social activities. There was always something to do. Kids today don’t have those options. Today kids are interested in money and getting it as fast as they can. And the vast majority of them are dropping out of school with no occupational skills. Making an honest living is out of the question for a lot of them. So where do they go? They deal drugs. It’s fast and easy with no labor put into it. They’ve closed down all the social places I used to go. I seriously believe we’ve lost a whole generation of our children, could be two. Instead of institutions of higher learning, their final destination is one of 3 things: jail, mental institutions, or death. But I can say that my grandchildren are all graduates. All of them. Two of them are working and earning a living. The third is looking. And the youngest is in 9th grade, and already had a summer job as a cashier. She wants to go to college. And she’ll go.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mo (The Most Wonderful Gift in the History of Birthdays)

In my years of working with seniors, I have seen many of them muster up the courage to repair broken relationships with long lost family and friends – those are spectacular, groundbreaking moments. But the quieter moments take my breath away too, like when I realize that they have been slowly and steadily deepening the relationships with these family and friends.

Every first Thursday of the month, our group puts down our pen and paper and get on the computers instead, to recall stories that we, and our friends in satellite groups, have written. Each senior scrolls up and down this blog and our satellite blogs, and takes turns reading a friend’s story out loud. Yesterday, Joe picked out this story from Mo’s from 2010, which got us to go onto Youtube to look at this unforgettable video that the story was referring to. Mo works and has to arrive late some days. He walked in almost right when the story ended, and we thought it was so funny.

But what made us gasp was when he pulled out a book from his tote. The cover has a black and white photo or a child and the words, “A Boy Named Skippy.” Skip is one of his many ;) nicknames. Turns out that his daughter Kathleen, the same daughter who was in the Youtube video that we had just happened to pop open, made him this book recently for his 80th birthday. It contains the stories that he had written in our group, so far ;) Mo had tears of joy in his eyes the whole time when he was showing it to us.

As the story of Mo and Kathleen continues to deepen, I feel like it’d be fun to do a lil’ throwback. Click here to read Mo’s story “Only Child” and my blog post in October 2009 about the Mo I was just getting to know. It’s been six years, but it feels like just yesterday when he told me, "I've never done this before. Writing or anything like that. Not even in school. This is my first time."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Norman (Things My Mother Said to Me)

Norman wrote a story about his mom recently. It’s so moving, because you really see what a great mom she was in every single phase of his life. There’s probably no higher honor a mom can ask for than a story like this from a son. When I read it, I was reminded of another equally moving but different story he wrote a while ago. I had to dig it up. When I put the two stories together, I felt like the original story instantly became a hundred times more precious. Talk to a senior in your life and hear what they’d like to share about their mom! Tell us about it here:
Norman Cain
I Feel Good

I am far away from being egotistical but there are times when compliments make me feel good. 

I felt good when my father said, “You are a man.”

I felt good when my mother told me that I did an excellent job as the emcee for a family reunion.

I felt good when my uncle (a South Carolina Farmer) who I worked with told me that I was dedicated.

I feel good when the neighborhood guys in their forties call me Coach.  I had them as a champion basketball team when they were 15.

Norman Cain
Things My Mother Said To Me

My mother was a short giant of an "absolutely no nonsense" women whose self proclaimed position of boss was never challenged. She would tell anyone (no matter the time and place) to do something, and what she demanded was done without resistance. For instance, I've seen her break up many corner crap games; likewise, I can recall several instances when she actually went into the streets' gambling den and told the hardened card players to curtail the vile noise that the entire street could hear. And they complied.

She did not waste words on idle gossip, trivial matters or to hear herself talk; to the contrary, when she spoke it was for a relevant reason, and those who were within hearing range definitely listened. Including myself. I listened to her – partly, because I did not want to encounter her anger, but mainly because of my respect for her and her information, advise guidance, dictates, etc. that she dispensed.

Over the years, in her discussions that she has conducted with me, she has issued mandatory mandates, rendered perceptions, engaged in serious discussions and has given me tons of well needed counseling. I will never forget those sessions. She could be quite the disciplinarian. I can remember coming into the house after a pleasant day of playing and immediately being the recipient of the whipping that I was promised earlier, a whipping that I had escaped my mind.

Between the painful licks from the belt and my pronouncements of I-ain't-gonna-do-it-no-more, my mother would say didn't I tell you not to? Those whippings hurt, but there was something called a "Good Talking To" that would have me sobbing from the soul, boo-hooing with pain. The "Good Talking To" would consist of phrases like "I'm ashamed of you" and "You know better."

I remember my mother religiously lining each of my four siblings up and staying in a stern voice "What do you say when you speak to a grown person?" We would chime "Yes Sir" "Yes Ma'am." And during the holidays when children were required to say poems (which were called pieces) in church, she would line us up (my four siblings) and urge us to use our hands, eyes, hesitation, pronunciation and enunciation for the best presentation effect.

My mother also had a humorous side. When I received the award for being the top student in my sixth grade special education class, she said "If Norman is the smartest kid in the class, God help the rest." Before breaking out into a prolongued uncontrollable laugh. Whenever she had to inform me about something she knew would be disappointing news for me, she used a love filled gently voice. "Sissy's house caught fire last night. Sissy is dead." Sissy was the first girl that I had ever been romantically interested in. I have never forgotten her untimely death; however, there were more romantic interests.

Once, when I was a teenager, she looked me in the eyes and said, "I know what your problem is – girls." And she was correct. A few years later, when a serious heart break had me in a state of depression, she said to me, "There will be other girls." She was right. When I became older and seemingly a veteran of heartbreaks and homeless separations, my mother adamantly said "Get your own place." She was right.

When I left my parents' home on the morning of July 5, 1965 to report to the army, she urged me to hold my head up and a year and a half later when I came home on leave, she touched me and said with a tone of relief in her voice, "You came home." During what I surmise was my mid-life crisis era, my mom constantly told me to not throw away my gifts.

And when I told her about a dream I had about her father, mother, and uncle, she said that they were urging me to keep the faith. During a period in my life when nothing was going right and I was making wrong decisions, my mother would constantly tell me to not discard my gifts. When I told her that I had had a dream about her parents and her father's brother, she said "They are telling you that you can do it." If one did a wonderful deed, my mother would not necessarily congratulate them, as she felt that they were doing what was expected of them.

So whenever she told me "You did a good job," it meant a lot to me and encourages me to strive as hard as I possibly could. There are of course many other things that my mother said to me, and everything she said to me was in love, and if the tone of her delivers were sometimes harsh, it was merely to display "Tough Love" and to leave an everlasting message.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Helping the Elderly

It's hot beyond belief here in Philly – hope it's cooler where you are! If you've been with us here on the blog for some time, you know about the elementary school essay that I go back to once in a while – it completely predicted my passion for working with seniors almost two decades before I knew it, and I first shared about that essay on this blog back in January 2011. Today, hanging out at home (in fully pumping AC), I got thinking about how significant that essay is. Check out my reflections here and tell your Best Day story here if here you agree that a world with "really, very happy" seniors is worth fighting for!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hattie (Watching My Family Grow)


POW!, as Hattie says, life moves fast. How did I suddenly grow up? And how are my kids growing up so fast? Today is my husband’s and my 10th wedding anniversary (woohoo!) and tomorrow is my 35th birthday (yay!). Can’t call myself “young” after this week ;) which is perfectly fine because you all know I am a senior-wannabe. I think age is an awesome thing – the bigger your number, the more awesome you are. Got your own story or one that a senior in your life has told you about how “growing up” feels like? Share it here:

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Watching my Family Grow

It’s amazing how I remember just being a little girl, minding my own business, playing kiddie games and learning the facts of life. Then “POW!” I grew up. This was in spite of the fact that I wanted to stay a child and play-play-play. Needless to say it has been wonderful watching my three children grow up. They have given me:
•    8 grandchildren
•    8 great-grandchildren
•    3 great-great-grandchildren
Boy what a life. In all my 82 years they have brought me much joy.