Monday, January 28, 2013

Theresa, Aileen, Brenda (New Friendships)

Theresa and "Daughter" Gloria looking on as "Mommy" Aileen reads
Brenda looking on as her best friend Go Go reads

Following Loretta’s generous gesture of love and friendship in the last blog post, here is a tribute to the love and friendship that fills our classroom like the most massive and stretchiest balloon. It’s a new year, and our classroom balloon is stretchier than ever with new friends. It’s so awesome to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yet so much a part of yourself.

Theresa Son Lee
Beginning of My Retirement

I retired a year ago.

The first few months were fine: sleep late, eat whenever I pleased, etc, etc. But after six months I realized that I had no human contact and therefore no social life. I googled Senior Centers and found this place. What beautiful people I met. Lots of people I’ll continue to meet.

Thank you all, love Theresa.

Aileen Jefferson
New Friendships

The welcoming of new friends. There they are!  An entire class of friendships that are new.

And I’m thinking, they look familiar, then I realize this is my writing workshop, of course.

New friends here.  We all are from all over the city and we are congregated with various interests, mainly about improving our relations with each other and communicating with each other.

The fellowship of our peers is important to us.

Brenda Scantlebury
Go-Go’s Visit

Today I’m happy because my friend for over twenty years has joined me in the storytelling and writing class. We have had many adventures together. We have hoped, prayed for each other’s children and families and shared desires and dreams. We belonged to the same church congregation some years ago. She taught the younger children and I helped. There were other auxiliaries that we both served in that we enjoyed being a part of. As a matter of fact we came to the ministry about the same time. We have similar interests, enjoy each other’s companionship. We talk and discuss the many life issues. She’s my Sounding Board and is always ready to give a critique. I can say she is my best Earthly Friend. We have a love and a mutal respect for each other. Her name is Jenny but she is called “Go-Go.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Loretta (About My Mommy)

"I want to write about my mommy.  Beatrice’s story about her mother reminded me of my mommy.  That’s what I called her."

Loretta is outgoing and thinks and talks very fast. But she didn't just open her mouth and tell this story right after Beatrice read hers. She waited one month, then asked me to write it down and read it out for her. When Beatrice heard this, I could see that it made her really happy.

I mean, isn't THIS how all of us should be listening to our friends' stories? First, you wait till your friend has all the space she needs, then slowly you open up and tell your own in response. It's a special kind of self expression, because it's ultimately mutual. It's not venting, it's a very, very sensitive sharing.

In some way, I feel like this story gave Beatrice closure to her unresolved questions about her mom. It's not just the content Loretta shared. It's the fact that Loretta really listened.

Click Here to reread Beatrice's heartbreaking story. Read on for the heartwarming story of a loving daughter and friend.

Loretta Gaither
About My Mommy

I want to write about my mommy.  Beatrice’s story about her mother reminded me of my mommy.  That’s what I called her. 

If my mommy was living today, I wouldn’t be in this situation.  The place I live at is a fire hazard with wires hanging everywhere. 

My children are trying to help.  We reunited because of this class and my stories on the website.

My mommy was a strong woman just like I am.  She talked a lot with me.
I always helped my mommy with cooking.

She was paralyzed on one side.  She had a stroke when I was 5 years old. 

She would tell me, “Be strong” when I was in my 20s and things weren’t going right.
I would call my mommy every day and she would talk to me.

When my mommy went to heaven, I was 53 and I had nobody to talk to.  So, when I was around 63, I asked Carol Mack – an older woman I was close to whom I would talk to at the senior center – to be my Godmother.

This writing class gives me people to talk to.  And I talk to the Lord above, too, to keep my mind together.

It helps me to have people to talk to.  My friends in this class listen to me.  And I like listening to everyone here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hattie (Never Say Never)

Alright – pop song pop quiz!! What does Hattie and Justin Bieber have in common?

You know I had to do this… I can’t help myself… What better time and place to bring back the Bieber’s “Never Say Never” video than here and now? BTW check out the appearance of the plane in both the video and Hattie’s story!

Hattie’s story actually started a great discussion among our senior buds. It was 50-50.

Half of them immediately said with a sparkle in their eyes, “Oooooh - I loooove flying! It makes me feel so free.”

The other half responded with equally big but totally appalled eyes, “Not me – makes me feel the opposite! I HATE flying!”

It was a passionate and fact-filled debate but everyone was laughing so hard because clearly no one was gonna change anyone else’s perspective. What I loved the most about the debate was how freely everyone spoke but how respectfully – and happily - everyone agreed to disagree. Hattie’s story is awesome because it is about conquering fears. What made it even more awesome is that it turned into a second story – about people respecting each other even when their perspectives are different. I don’t know which story is cooler. 

PS. I am not embarrassed to say – I do think Justin Bieber is pretty cool too.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Never Say Never

On Wednesday, November 7, 2012, I found myself at Philadelphia International Airport boarding a plane to Atlanta, GA.  The trip was only one and a half hours.

My son, Keith Lee Ellerbe, took me and his sister Karen to see my sister Alberta Lee Settles and her family.

Back in 1986, I flew from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, five hours nonstop, and declared I would never fly again.

Well we had a lovely time.  My sister and her family were all well, and we had lots to laugh and talk about.  We took lots of pictures, ate lots of good food.

After boarding a flight back to Philadelphia, I once again sighed… I will not fly again.  I really mean it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Surrounded by So Many

In the previous blog post, Madi and I shared some of Miss Mo’s most memorable stories. For class last week I printed out the blog post so our senior buds could have copies to take home. Meanwhile, Hazel had sorted through our class photos through the years and brought in the ones with Miss Mo in it – she had organized them in little palm sized photo albums. And, Beatrice and Norman dedicated their stories to our very dear friend.

It was the second week in a row that we discussed Miss Mo’s passing. Our volunteers who were visiting our seniors told me they couldn’t believe how well the seniors handled the news. It made me so proud of my senior buds. As I type this, I can see Miss Mo beaming with pride, too.

I learned something new these weeks. I learned that even grief, in the company of true friends, can be warm and sweet. It’s a lesson I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Beatrice Newkirk
Surrounded by So Many

Surrounded by so many but yet so few.  We are surrounded by my friends and also many people.  When we are here in this writing class we are with a lot of friends.  We hear their stories and we learn about what has happened in other people’s lives.  Some of our members have so much to write about, it doesn’t have to be to be about the past, it can be what’s happening now.  We have lost a good member of our class.  Her name is Miss Mo Grier.  She was 92 years old.  To hear her stories was very entertaining because she has come a long way.  Her stories always made us wanting to hear more.  We will miss her not being here.

Norman Cain
Remembering Mo

When I first started coming to the senior center, I could not help noticing a short, dark, energetic, feisty woman who was always engaged in conversations, debates, giving out historic tidbits and kernels of wisdom.  While this woman who departed was affectionately known as Mo, her given name was Missouri, and she was named according to her Native American roots.

There are two things that stand out about Mo to me.  The first thing that I will forever recall is her oral storytelling and the second, her moving through the rows of tables during tea time telling those giving conversations during a medical presentation to shut up.

She had to fight to claim the mantle of authority.  She was one of the oldest if not the oldest member at the senior center, and had been a member for over twenty years.

We will miss you, Mo, but we know your spirit is still here.

Dorothy Leung, Copy Editor

I am very sorry to hear about Ms. Grier's passing.  I very much enjoyed "getting to know her" through her stories.  She seemed like a wonderful person!

My best,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Memory of Missouri "Miss Mo" Grier

Hi Readers, I have some very sad news to share. A core member of our class passed away in her sleep a few days after Christmas. "Lil Miss Mo" Missouri Grier was so bright and vibrant all the way to her last days. She was 92 but you could never tell because she always moved about and lived out loud like she was in her 60s. In her later days, she used a cane but it never slowed her down. If you have been to some of our events such as Seniors’ Storytelling Day in 2010 and Our Best Day So Far launch party in 2011, you might remember seeing her. She has been a part of our family for years.

She was one of the seniors who would stay behind after class to give me advice in our group's early days, when I didn't know how to handle all the mental health issues of newer individuals when the group first started getting bigger. She would tell me not to be overwhelmed and to focus on telling and sharing stories, and the individuals' mental health issues would resolve themselves in the comfort of the group. And they did.

She was never a passive bystander. She helped me make sure the group's atmosphere always felt right. She was a doer and fighter. And for me to see the spirit of a fighter in someone so tiny and so old is something really spectacular and inspiring. The seniors actually call her our group's security guard, because even though she was thin and under five feet tall, she would always protect the group, like if our room got switched at the last minute because an event needed our space or the room wasn't set up right - she would dash right to the senior center staff to report and fix the problem so I could run the class.

Sorry for the sad news. The seniors handled this well and and they were actually the ones who broke the news to me - gently. Over the years they have trained me to handle this kind of news more calmly, but I know it is always hard for us all to hear this. It is beautiful actually how the seniors discuss death. It is appropriately bitter but really somehow sweet and focused on life.

So here's a thought. Let's keep Lil Miss Mo’s spirit alive through her stories.

Our teen intern Madi has collected some of Miss Mo’s happiest photos and funniest stories (she always had a way of tackling the most serious issues in funny little story nuggets) here. I hope you would all join our senior buds, Madi and me in honoring and remembering our Lil Miss Mo.

All my best, Benita

Missouri Grier
Fishing for the Wig

My buddy, her mother, and I went bay fishing, down in Jersey.  We rented a boat from the boathouse.  As the tide was coming up, there also was a strong wind with it.  Mother was the first one to get a bite.  Just as she was bringing it in, she was so happy about it, she could not stop laughing.  All of a sudden her wig fell into the ocean and we no longer were fishing for fish and started fishing for the wig.  Half and hour later I had a bite.  It was the wig.

Missouri Grier
Don’t Give Up

If you try and don’t win the race, don’t give up.
A start is better than a non-start.
When things come out the way you want them to.
Life is not what you want but what you make of it.
You got the tools for success.  Use them.

Missouri Grier
The Great Haircut

I had a job at a beauty shop where my sister used to get her hair dressed. My father did not like girls and ladies getting their hair cut. In his world, only men did that. My sister got hers cut and he was very angry but said to her, she was a grown-up.

She suggested it was time I started to take an interest in how I should look as a teenager so she started me there to get my hair done. This went on for a year. One day she said, “Are you going to get your hair done today?” She gave me money to get it done, but did not say anything about cutting. I lied, told the hairdresser she said I could get my hair cut. I sat at the dinner table with a triangle on my head from Monday to Friday. My father looked at me and wanted to know why I kept my head covered, reached over and took the hair net asking “Where is your hair?” Answer: Upstairs. “Why is your hair up there?” I got it cut. He was so mad. He said I will never buy you anymore hats. At 14 years, who cared. Mother said let it alone, it will grow back.

Missouri Grier
My First Lemon Pie

I was 11 years old when I wanted to bake a pie.  It was my father’s birthday and I wanted to surprise him.  I found the cookbook and started to read hot to do it.  My cousin wanted to help – bad choice.  We put too much salt in the mixture and no one could eat it but my dad ate his slice and said, “If you never try, you will never succeed”.

Missouri Grier
Playing Tricks on Dad

My mother told me to go OUTSIDE and sit on the front steps.  I was told not to get off the steps.  Sitting there with nothing to do, I was thinking what to do.  Something to do while sitting there.

My father was asleep on the living room floor.  The only thing I could do was play tricks on him, so I went into the house, got my jump rope, tied one end to the sofa, the other to his foot, went outside, rang the bell. 

He tried to get up and could not.  It was funny to me but not to him.  He was angry but I did not get punished.  My mother stepped in—SAVED.

Missouri Grier
Driving at 12 Yrs Old

Mother sent me upstairs to get her pocketbook which was on the bureau, my father’s car keys were there too. Got the bag and the car keys. Mother sent me to the store. Instead of going, I went to the garage across from the store and got in my father’s car. Started the engine and the car started to roll and I could not stop it – I went through the door slowly. Not getting hurt. A man was coming down the street and saw the car rolling slowly out the door. He ran up to the car, thinking no one was in the car and found me behind the wheel. He got me out of the way and stopped the engine. Tell your father to check his brakes.