Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Joe (Vera)

I am privileged to have heard thousands of senior stories in the my youngish years, each story exhilarating in its own way, but never before had my jaw dropped as wide open as it did when I heard Caitlin read this story out loud for Joe. Madi, who has grown up with us since she was 15 and visits every week every summer break, was sitting at the opposite side of the room and she looked like a mirror image of me. We just looked at each other and mouthed omg, omg through the entire story, unable to contain our happiness for Joe. Needless to say, the split second after Caitlin finished, the crowd went wild. At the end of class, when the transportation staff came to walk Joe to the van, Norman slipped out and said, "Hey, Congratulations!" I just happened to be at the classroom door and heard him. All of it, the speechless, wild, classy cheers, are the soundtracks that I will keep alongside this better-than-Hollywood story.

Joe Garrison

It’s been a long time, it seems like it’s been a while since I wrote about how lonely and depressed I’ve been five years ago.  But for six months, I’ve been secretly romancing a young lady by the name of Vera.  A friend of mine introduced her to me, and I’m glad she did.  She was looking for someone to take care of her.  She’s really serious about wanting to be someone’s wife.  And, I’m all for that, we both have the same goal.  We’re hoping to get married by early next year, and we really just enjoy being with each other.

She’s made me realize that a person can still be happy no matter how much they’ve been through, and I really believe that regardless of a person’s age, love can still happen.  I feel as if I’m proving that today.  I feel like I’m on top of the world with Vera.  I’ll never forget about Deborah.  It took me a while to heal from her death but recently I realized that Deborah was, and Vera is.  I don’t make any comparisons.  They’re two completely different people.  Deborah was yesterday, and Vera is today, and I think Deborah would want me to be happy with her.  She fills the void in my life, and she looks out for my best interests, and she’s a very loving and affectionate person.  That’s what I’ve needed for a long time.  It’s great to feel as if you really have something to look forward to, even in everyday life, to have someone that fills the empty spaces.

Deborah, I hope you’re having a great time up there, and I hope you’ve found someone who makes you feel as wonderful as I did with you.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brenda (Po People's Fun)

Sometimes, when the weather is gorgeous out, you just gotta have a little story like this to make your day even better. Love of life, love of people. Who knew such massive things can radiate from two little paragraphs?

Well, it’s time for me to get up from this laptop and take a walk (incidentally I AM heading over to the senior center to see my senior buds for this week’s class now!)… to see what fun things I spot along the way. You know it - I will be imagining Brenda by my side, saying “Look! Look!”

Brenda Scantlebury
Po People’s Fun

Years ago and even today, folks whose income level is not the best, they look for ways to have fun or entertain themselves. Now that the weather has changed leaning from warm to hot, they're outdoors more. I was passing through a neighborhood in the greater northeast of Philadelphia, I saw people gathered in a cul-de-sac drinking beer and having fun. Another area I saw people playing cards, checkers and dominoes. Some neighbors were engrossed in conversation talking about sports and politics.

Last week, Thursday, as I was at my granddaughter's prom sendoff, when I stood on the porch I saw a large multitude of people cheering. They roared with praise, ooh'ed and ahh'ed when both my granddaughter and grandson made their grand exit to go to the prom. I was so excited! They each had their own exit song. The music proceeded them leaving and continued until midnight as we danced, laughed, cheered and had fun! The event turned into a big party!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Norman (My Vacation to Georgia and Mississippi)

Last month, Norman "played hooky" from class to see his family in Mississippi and Georgia. First vacay in eight years, can you imagine? I love it when our seniors play hooky for good reasons BTW!!

I don't know what's sweeter - the anticipation he showed in the story he wrote before he went, the contentment he showed in the story he wrote when he got back, the loud "Welcome back!!!!" cheers he got from the group, or this precious "family picture" of Norman surrounded by pictures of his daughter, granddaughter, niece and her fiancé, and great niece…

Or, this story that Mo wrote in honor of Norman, in his absence ;)

Mo McCooper
Thank you for Norman
Thanks for inviting Norman into our class.

After he became a regular member, he told me that (prior to joining) he had been so irritated by the attitude and behavior of the young people in Philadelphia that when he saw a few of them entering our room among the seniors, he lost his curiosity about our group.
Norman was using the computer in a nearby room, when a friend convinced him to try one class and when he did, Norman not only enjoyed the stories and good humor of the seniors, but was happily surprised by the courtesy and talents of the students and other young visitors coming to our writing class.
Norman and I have become good friends, and enjoy many conversations, mostly about various opponents and teammates over the years in the local basketball world. Thanks partially to the enthusiasm and added perspective of the younger folks, we also discuss some history and cultural influences.

(Click Here to read more about Norman’s self confessed pre-judgment of young people prior to joining our group.)

Norman Cain
My Trip to Mississippi

I will be absent for the next two sessions of The Best Day of My Life (so far) because I will be going to a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi for two weeks to see my daughter and her family (especially a four year old granddaughter named Genesis that I have not physically seen). I’m looking forward to the trip which will start on Monday, May 13th and extend to May 24th.  I will be going by bus.  The trip will take approximately 30 hours…which I do not mind because I love to see various parts of the country.  If I can arrange it, I will also visit Atlanta to see my sister.  I’m looking forward to seeing my family as well as the barbecue that will be in abundance.  I will miss the two sessions and the guys, but will return with a story of what happened during my vacation. 

Norman Cain
My Vacation to Georgia and Mississippi

Between May 13 and May 29, 2013, I was blessed with an over-due vacation. It was my first extended trip in eight years.

I was fortunate enough to visit relatives in Jackson, Mississippi and Atlanta, Georgia respectively. I was able to feel the intensity of spirituality, taste succulent barbecue, hear the songs of the early morning birds, and see the marvelous wonders of nature…its trees, rivers, flowers.

The first leg of my journey was in Brandon, Mississippi, a suburb of Jackson where I was reunited with my daughter, her husband, and her two-year-old child that I saw for the first time.

My daughter’s mother and two sisters as well as a niece from their clan also live in the vicinity. They all made me welcome and I was especially happy to have the opportunity to spend the days with Margaret, the matriarch of the family. We had not been a couple in 36 years but have remained friends. She had been sick for several years and our reunion was dually therapeutic.

While in Mississippi I attended two church services. The first was at a Mormon Church that was hosting a Gospel Concert. The choir count was 100 strong and overwhelmingly Caucasian, but surprisingly echoed a top echelon Afro-American ensemble. It was directed by none other than Gladys Knight. Yes, she is a devout Mormon. She did sing one solo so that we could hear her beautiful voice, however the emphasis was placed on her astounding choir. She leaded well and her oratorical skills matched her singing skills.

The second visit to a church – which was Baptist and my daughter’s home church – was small, had a great yesteryear choir, old-fashioned preaching, and featured prayers that honored its graduates from kindergarten through college. It was a heartwarming experience for me.

On the 27th of May, I arrived in Atlanta, Georgia with my sister. There I was reunited with her daughter, grandmother, great-granddaughters, and grandson. My sister showed me the house where many of Tyler Perry’s productions were filmed. She would point out the people that she knows personally that appeared in them. Tyler Perry believes in using locals in his productions.

In summation, I can say that I was disappointed that the news straight through highways prevented me from seeing the scenic country and small towns that were a given phenomena years ago. But that is progress.

And progress has changed the complexities of its cities from Norman Rockwell quaint to microcosms of New York, miniature skyscrapers stretched into the sky. Also it seemed that the farms have increasingly been replaced by the likes of McDonalds, Rite Aide, and Family Dollar.

It was a good trip, one that I’m looking forward to repeating soon.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Web, Snacks, and a Lil Song and Dance

Today we started a new monthly tradition in class and it was a Blast!! Every First Thursday, our seniors will be taking a break from handwriting new stories, to reread and discuss stories that they have written in past sessions... over snacks of course! Who knew hanging out in the computer room could be so much fun?

Watch as we get rowdier and rowdier... haha what other group would start singing and dancing uncontrollably in a computer room?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Joe (Kids Say the Darnest Things)


Lately Joe has got us all in giggles… especially his writing bud Caitlin!

22-year-old Caitlin not only works behind the scenes on our volunteer team as an Editorial Assistant, but also comes to class every week to help Lea (my fab co-facilitator) and I with, well, everything - from carrying a toteful the paper and pens to the room, to handwriting for seniors who can’t physically see or write as they verbally tell their stories. After writing, she would read out loud the stories she had written on behalf of their senior authors.

Part of why I love about this story of Joe’s isn’t just that it is funny, but that Caitlin was so happy when she read it out loud - you can see it in the photo above. I remember when I snapped that picture that I realized something: Caitlin’s smile is bigger every week. And Joes’ stories have everything to do with it.

PS – the other photo here is of Joe, Caitlin, and Marshall the van driver who we all think is so nice. He comes up to our classroom and always lets Joe hear one more story or take one more class photo before walking him downstairs. Most of the time he ends up being our photographer and taking our class photos for us, but this time we turned the camera around and made him pose.

Joe Garrison
Kids Say the Darnest Things

I don’t know if I ever told this story before – I hope I didn’t! Back in the 1940s, 50s, they used to broadcast an actual wedding on the radio or the TV called “Here Comes the Bride.” I was 8 or 9 years old, and every time the priest came on, I thought he said, “We join this man and woman in holy macaroni.” And I asked my mom, “Mom what’s macaroni have to do with weddings?” And she said, “No, he said matrimony.” So I learned the meaning of the world at an early age. There was another time when I saw ads for this old headache medicine called BC and they said it came with a secret ingredient called “acetophenetidine.” This was around Christmas so I said, “Mommy, I want a set of Phoenetiga for Christmas!” I thought it was a board game! I thought they gave away board games with medicine, like checkers!

It’s so good to hear things clearly now, since if you don’t hear a word clearly you come up with the craziest ideas & assumptions! I think my next story will be about names and what’s in a name, but for now I just want to say God Bless and listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “There’s a Bathroom on the Right.”