Monday, February 24, 2014

Joe (Moonlight Memories)

Something that Joe said last week in our group gave me a lot to think about. I want to remember it here. There is something sad about the way the world sees him, but something so incredibly beautiful about the fact that he chose to speak these words to us. I think it means he knows that all of us at the table are just the thing he needs, and just the thing that everyone needs - true friends.

"Many people look at me and just see my disability - that and my age - and they ask me if I need help. I know they are trying to be nice, but I don't really like it when they say that. I want to tell them, I don't need a nurse. I need a friend."

I hope in these three stories (two of which are shared here as text, one as video) you see the Joe I know - a great person, a great friend.

Joe Garrison
Moonlight Memories

When I lived in North Philly, our postman knew a lot of people whom he delivered mail to in the neighborhood.  This one summer, he was selling tickets to an evening cruise on The Spirits of Philadelphia.  I decided I wanted to go.

I had never been on a dance cruise so it was quite an adventure.  It was on a Saturday night, early in the summer, the weather was perfect.  I was accompanied by one of the girls in the neighborhood.  I was in my late 20’s, not married.  I was excited.  It was my first cruise anywhere.  I kept anticipating, imagining how large the ship was going to be.  I believe I had a blue leisure suit on.  When I saw the cruise liner, I was amazed by the size.  When it was in motion, you couldn’t tell you were moving.  Dancing was just like dancing on a stationary dance floor.

I remember the music more than anything.  I was impressed by the music.  I made friends with some of the people on the cruise.  It was mostly slow dancing.  But I tried my hand at some of the faster dances too.  The “hustle” was a popular disco dance in the 70’s.  We danced all night.  The cruise ended at around 2am.  It started at 9am.  There was an intermission in between.  When you got worn out from the dancing, you could rest up for a little while.

I was exhausted at the end, in a good, happy way.  It was so enjoyable.  The experience of being on a ship, enjoying the music. What a memorable night.

Joe Garrison
Three Memorable Early Springs

Spring is here, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, the weather doesn’t show it.  I seem to remember a time when there were early springs, when the weather warmed up by the end of March.  I remember three springs in particular; one when I was 9, one when I was 16, and one in 2007.

When I was in the fourth grade, I remember when we looked forward to going to our annual trip to the zoo.  We loved to go to the zoo and see the animals, except for one year when they showed us this huge snake – they called it a king snake – and I touched it.  I don’t how this started, where this nasty rumor came from but everybody at school started saying “Joe kissed a king snake!  Joe kissed a king snake!”  No matter how much I denied it they wouldn’t stop.

The next early spring I was in high school, I went to my first high school dance.  I was enamored with this girl named Ruth and my thrill was going on a date with her.  Picking her up at the door and taking her to the dance; the whole idea of taking someone to a high school dance.

The most recent early spring was 2007.  To me, every day seemed like spring because I was so in love.  I was on one of those SEPTA local trains; I was going home from visiting a friend.  I sat down and started talking to this woman but it didn’t feel like she was really there.  It felt like I was talking to Deborah.  The force of my love for her was so strong in my mind; it felt like she was really there.

Memorable moments can come at any time of the year. No matter how funny or serious it is, every moment is precious and has a special meaning.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hattie (Happy Birthday to Me)

Today, a day before the official first day of our brand new group in Pitman, NJ – the first of 10 new groups that we are starting across America this year (yessss!!) I find myself craving some stories by Hattie. Hattie was one of the four seniors who attended the very first session of our original group, and still continues to attend today. Recalling childhood mishaps with humor, and living every day, no matter what it brings, with a radiant smile, that’s my bud Hattie!

PS - Apply to host a group by filling out our Application Form and send us questions at Only 9 spots remain!

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
Happy Birthday to Me

It was May 10th, 1944 and I had just turned 11.  Uncle Bill was coming down the street with his dog named Jack.  I ran up to him and started pounding his arm,

            Uncle Bill
            Uncle Bill
            It’s my birthday

Jack, the dog, didn’t think too kindly of this…. he thought it was an attack.  He grabbed my foot and sank his teeth into it.

As the blood sprouted, my over protective father cried, “Take her to the hospital… take her to the hospital”.

Grandma said, “Let me see it, I’ll wash it and put some iodine on it”.  “No,” Daddy said as he hailed a cab.  We got to Emergency at Hahnemann Hospital where they washed it and put some iodine on it.

Since I had been playing, the dirt showed on the cotton.  Daddy looked at it and said “My God”.  We walked all the way back home.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
More Memories

On a bright sunny day, I took my best friend, Bobby for a walk. I don’t remember how we got there, but I do remember to this day the location… It was 10th St. and Ridge Ave. This would have been clearly 3 ½ blocks from home. There was a beer bottling plant on 10th and Callowhill (at Ridge Ave.) where you could watch the bottles go around on a surveyor belt. This was fun to watch. It was fun until we realized that we were lost.

Bobby felt secure because I was older and we could find our way home. I was 2 months older… we both were three years old. My mother found us both standing on that corner, crying and confused.

All through life this was one of my favorite memories, and Bobby, no matter where he was, he was my first and favorite friend.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Elliot and Gogo (I am a Survivor)

Elliot’s story is a painful one, but his title is a brilliant, happy one. Gogo’s story is a simple one, but her spirit of happiness is an extraordinary one. I am reminded of a day a couple years ago when our group strung together these phrases:

Every day is a birthday.

Every class is a party.

Everyone is a survivor of one thing or another.

I'll always remember these words, but not only that... I'll always remember the day when they were spoken, not by any one person, but by everyone altogether, all around the table. A different word came out of a different person's lips, but somehow all the words joined together perfectly. You can reread that blog post here. It's moments like that and stories like Elliot's and Gogo's that makes every day worth living.

Elliot Doomes
I Am a Survivor

I have survived a system that wanted me dead.  Where I come from there are no rules, no laws.  I lost a brother to gun violence; I myself was shot down about a block from here. My father died when I was six years of age.  My mother was a working mom.  I had no one to guide me.  Everything I knew back then I learned on the street.  It took me a long time to grow beyond that street mentality.

Gogo Jenny Williams
Out of the Mouths of Babes

Every day when I wake up—first I’m so thankful to see a new day, as I’m growing older my expectations are growing.

If you see me there is not much to see, a short grey-haired lady.  Kind of round for lack of a nicer word than my hospital charts say.  This self-assessment does not bother me.

I’ve been given a special gift, along with thankfulness, expectation, there is mirth and joy or, to sum these last two, laughter.  Even when trouble and sadness pay me a visit, something deep down inside that tinkles and bubbles and escapes in spite of me. 

Today at my senior center, someone shared a story about one of her grandchildren—she said “Grandma went to daycare today.”  After the laughter died down, we decided, yes, we get to hang out with people our own age, we go way back.

We are well taken care of, a safe environment, good food to eat, even when we complain.