Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Loretta (The Seniors Are Coming)

So guess what? Our seniors caught the event bug. We had so much fun at our Black History Month event last month that we are planning a followup event for Older Americans Month on Thursday May 7th. Details to come soon but we will be signing copies of our storybook (which you can preview here) too! One great question my senior buds brought up is, what stories are we going to focus on this time? It’s silly to just talk about being old; what we really want to show people is that being old is not one thing, but many, many diverse things, things from long, long way, and things from today, and diverse opinions on those things.  As I looked through their recent stories to draw some inspiration, I came across Loretta’s stories below, and I realized maybe the “theme” could be this: “Memories from the Past, Wisdom for the Present.” What do you guys think? This Thursday when I see my buds again, we will spending some time to plan out our event.  I will let you know what we come up with!

Loretta Dotson
Fruitful Labor

I learned at an early age you work for what you want and need. In order to help out I would after school scrub steps and earn 25 cents. There was a couple from Germany struggling to learn English. I would for three days after school spend time teaching and tutoring them for $1.00 an hour plus they would give me a banana sandwich on buttered rye bread.

Ground beef was not expensive about $1.50 a lb. Long grain rice was 10 cents a lb. I would buy dinner about two nights a week. My mom and dad were proud of me for helping out. My older sister married and my older brother were in the service. It was no problem helping younger sister and brother with homework and assigning chores.

There were 10 of us and we were very close. Because of the responsibility patterns we grew up and it was easily transferred to our adult life. Some of our younger relatives haven’t quite seen in our way yet, but we’re hoping. When you work for something needed or wanted there is a sense of joy and pride. It might be something you cherish and plan to keep or it could be a gift for someone special. When you earn is it’s a keepsake in your heart.

Loretta Dotson
The Listener

You would be surprised by how much you can learn by being a listener.

Try to keep an open mind as you listen. I find it exciting to hear the thoughts and ideas of others. To me, problems or dilemmas others have experienced, and they share with me how they worked it out and avoided a worse situation. It is up to the listener to accept or deny the information. I remember sitting with my great aunt and she told me many stories of incidents which occurred in her early life and how she coped and overcame. She exhibited amazing strength to me that was called survival. When folks want to confide in you or share a personal story or opinion try to be a good attentive listener. Sometimes, they will often sharing ask you “What do you think about that?”

Well, I hope you were listening.

Loretta Dotson
The Seniors Are Coming

There is so much offered for Seniors. We have better access to enjoy more activities. So, forget about us just sitting in a rocker or watching T.V. all day. We are very active. We have planes to go, things to do, people of all walks of life to see and meet. Or the Phila Senior Center the main branch; the staff are helpful and informative. There’s computer class, digital photography + more. There is always something going on. We have various levels of exercises. T’ai chi is smooth and improves balance. In Silver Sneakers classes we do things with hand weights, small balls and ropes that will tighten our biceps. Jewelry making is colorful and charming. There are multiple types of serious card games. Watching the domino players is very very interesting. The checkers and chess players are very intelligent; you may watch, but be quiet. There are boxes and boxes of jigsaw puzzles.

Want to learn another language? We can participate in French, Italian or Spanish. Trips to the Casino and other interesting places are so exciting. We have access to social services four our personal needs. They can and do answer medicine questions concerning prescriptions. Bible study, which is relaxing and informative. The meals have been planned to meet our nutritional needs.

There is so much to enjoy as we gather together and share our spirits and life styles. I have learned about the writing class “The Best Day of My Life So Far.” I am really enjoying the opportunity to write about life as I have lived and seen it. It is so nice to hear the thoughts and ideas and experiences of others. The volunteers here are friendly and always ask, “Are you alright?” The good ol’ days, some were then, some are occurring right now. So don’t count us out. We are very much active and in the running.

Well, got to run. Meet you in the gym.

B.Y.O.W. (Bring your own water)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mo (The Family Bar and the Parlor)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – have loads of fun and be safe tonight! Here are a few stories from the proud Irish among us, our bud Mo! Don’t these make you feel like a kid again, at the most fun Irish family ever? Come on into the parlor, squeeze into a chair or pick a spot on the floor, and sing and dance the night away!

Mo McCooper
The Family Bar

When my parents and/or various Aunts, Uncles, and cousins would come to the bar or my grandparents’ parlor, they would, after a while, all start singing, “Oh!!! A day at the ocean’s a wondrous delight but I’d just as well be at MAWHINNEY’S tonight!” When the first folks were starting to leave we would all sing, “We hate to see you; we hate to see you go. What the hell were you waiting for? We hate to see you go!!!”

Mo McCooper
The Parlor

The Irish homes in my grandparents’ neighborhood, East Falls, were mostly row houses with two stone steps leading up to the porch. Behind the front door was a small hall which led to the stairs to the second floor. To the right were the entrances to the parlor with windows looking out onto the front porch and the steep street out front.

As many as a dozen grown-ups and big kids would squeeze into chairs and a couch in that little room. The little kids would sit or lie on the floor.

My grandparents called that room, “The Parlor.” Storytelling, singing, and a little dancing went on there. One of my favorite childhood songs was, “If You’re Irish, Come Into The Parlor.”

Mo McCooper
Only Child

The man who delivered beer to my father’s bar was down on one knee asking my Aunt Nancy to marry him.  She said yes and they became one of the happiest couples I have ever known.
Nancy was my mother Katie’s little sister who entertained me and taught me to read from my birth until I entered first grade at age six.

Other than dropping metal soldiers from our 2nd floor apartment railed porch to the street below at the age two, the rest of my pre-school fun was accompanying my cousin Joey on various adventures within a few miles of the bar apartment where I lived.  All that walking from about tree years old prepared me well to become a playground rat for the rest of my life.

Visits in my father’s pick-up truck to my grandparent’s cozy rowhouse in Philadelphia’s East Falls neighborhood enabled me to become closer with about twenty other cousins some of whom became more like brothers and sisters to me.  At the time, I didn’t realize they were the best cousins anyone ever had.

Thanks Grandmom and Grandpop!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Elliot (Counselor-Guardian)

I've got a little story for you, by my bud Elliot. Elliot is awesome. I never know what he will write when he sits down at our storytelling table, but I always know whatever it is will sweep me away. I am not sure if he knows how powerful his thoughts are. If you just go by looks, if you just pass by him in the street, you may think he's a simple guy, but that can't be farther from the truth. He's a genius at making sense of life.

And so on the surface, the story you are about to read may seem fun and simple but its significance is huge. I will show you the story first and then explain...

Elliot Doomes

When Ms. Perez enters her little office in the basement, she takes on her secrete identity – she becomes the guardian.

Nothing will escape her vigilance.

I have seen her pick up her phone and put her two-edged sword to work. They put her on hold, they transfer her, but she holds on until she reaches the desired personnel.

She contacts doctors offices and hospitals to make appointments for me. For seniors who don’t have phones, she helps them to acquire call phones. She has helped me in a number of ways.

Don't worry, guardian angel, your secret identity is safe with me.
You see, a couple weeks before Elliot wrote this, Ms. Perez checked out our group's blog (hi there, Ms. Perez, if you are here with us again!) and saw another story I had posted by Elliot called "Real Wealth." (You guys can reread it here.) Elliot told her that he had been attending our group for some time now and casually gave her the blog's link. That story changed their relationship instantly.

She said to him, "I didn't know you can write like that. I didn't know you think like that." Elliot was beaming when he recalled what had happened to our storytelling group. "She talks with me now. She had never done that before. She used to talk to me but not with me. Before, she would just remind me of when my appointments are but that's it. Now she asks me how I am doing personally." She even printed out a copy of Elliot's story to keep at her desk.

And so, Elliot wrote this new story about Ms. Perez for a reason – it’s a gift for Ms. Perez to thank her for seeing him for who he is. Because what better way is there to thank someone for seeing who you are, than to tell them you see them for who they are too?

There's a big difference between ordinary day-to-day interaction and a meaningful relationship. And I feel like with just a couple "little" stories, Elliot and his counselor might have just made the giant leap. I am really happy for both of them.