Thursday, August 30, 2018

Summer's End (Ellie)

Last week was Ellie’s final week volunteering with us. For those of you who don’t know, Ellie’s the striking young woman dressed in all black who’s popped up in our senior selfies. I first met her in early August and she said she was working at the Philadelphia Senior Center for the summer. It was only for the summer because she had to go back to Temple University to get her Masters’ Degree.
Ellie was an amazing volunteer, adeptly writing for anyone who needed it, setting up the room, talking with all sorts of older buds—even the ones outside Best Day—and coordinating some of the senior selfies! Every Thursday, she’d go home and tell her daughter all about Best Day...and she said she wanted to come to the workshop too!

Because of the time frame of Best Day, it’s hard to find volunteers who become regulars, especially during the school year. But every volunteer who comes leaves an indelible mark on the older buds. And every volunteer has their own story to tell.

Ellie Scicchitano
Roller Skating

I first decided to try roller-skating in January of 2017. I bought myself a pair of rollerblades since they reminded me of my childhood when everyone used rollerblades. I remember the kids in my neighborhood would glide around on blades and it looked like fun.
I bought my daughter a pair of regular skates – we call that style “quads” in roller-skating culture – and we paid a visit to our local skating rink. My daughter and I are fortunate enough to live near a roller-skating rink in a city that has so few of them.
First, we practiced at home on a tile floor. We learned how to stand up on our skates and keep our balance. Once we felt comfortable, we took our humble skills to the local rink.
Roller-skating requires more than a fair share of bravery. The floor of our rink is
hard and unforgiving and there are other skaters around of varying skill levels.
There is een a huge sign above the entrance to the rink in the lobby that warns skaters of what could happen to them just by skating. It is a participation sport and it is risky.
Still, my daughter and I bravely put on our skates and stepped onto the rink. At first, I was afraid to look away from my feet. I watched my skates as I circled the rink, hoping to anticipate a fall and stop myself in time. There was also the issue of keeping my balance, not leaning too far back or two far forward. Speed wasn’t even a concern at this point – only staying upright was!
Thanks to my practice at home on the tile floor, I was able to hold my own pretty
well – and being young, my daughter took to skating very quickly. The first problem I had was amazingly recognizing when I was too tired to continue. On rollerblades, one’s ankles take a lot of stress. At one point, I fell and landed on my tail bone. It hurt so badly that no medication could dull the pain. I said I would never skate again.
The most wonderful thing about roller-skating is how it parallels life: When you fall, you learn to get back up and keep going. And I did: The next day I returned to the rink and tried again and kept trying. Each time, I got a little better.
Eventually, I switched to regular skates and my daughter switched to blades. I kept practicing though at one point, I had to take a break due to schoolwork, but I took it up again recently. And I found that my learning curve had gotten faster and I learned how to fall “safely”; landing on muscle or on my hands in a push-up position, to spare my knees. I also learned a move called the crossover for turns and I can skate backwards, though not very fast.
I’m still nervous about falling when I step onto a skating rink, but it’s gotten a lot
easier. And if I do fall, I know exactly what to do: Like everywhere else in life, I pick myself up and keep going.

Thanks for all your support, Ellie. See you soon!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, August 23, 2018

National Senior Citizens' Day (Ledice and Jose)

This past Tuesday was National Senior Citizens' Day, a day to honor the seniors and older buds in our lives. Since Best Day was inspired by a conversation between Benita, our founder, and Mei Chiu, Benita's grandmother who came to the United States from Hong Kong. To celebrate that incredible journey Mei made, and the stories that came with it, I've devoted this post to stories from our immigrant older buds. Please keep in mind that American English is not our storytellers' first language. We've kept the grammar and word choice intact, except in rare cases where leaving it out would make the story more confusing.

Ledice McKnight 
My Arrival to the USA 

I always remember when I arrived at the United States in 1981.
I was very excited coming to the United States, my purpose was learning English to an intermediate level to pass the TOEFL or the Michigan test. However, my happiness very soon turned into a nightmare. I arrived at Metro Airport in Detroit, Michigan and the person that was supposed to pick me up never showed up. I had to venture at 9:00 PM into a town that I had never been before and I did speak very very little English. 
I went from Detroit Airport to Ann Arbor at 9:00 PM. I showed my papers to the cab driver, my passport, and student visa. Since it was very late, he dropped me off in a little motel called Harmony House. I did the best I could to explain to the motel’s owner that I needed a room. At this point, my head was about to explode. I had a horrible headache. I left my country at 6:00 AM and more than 12 hours passed and I had not eaten anything. When I got a key to my room, I sat down in the bed and I cried and I said to myself I took so many English classes at Venezuelan American Institute and I did not understand a word of English.

Jose Dominiguez 
My Wife Farewell

Taking Maria to the emergency hospital was not a surprise. For 3 or more years her health was diminished month after month day after day. At 64 years of age and 40 of marriage this looked like the prelude of a farewell. She always had something to say and her advises were on natural healing and to surrender ourselves to the will of God. Nevertheless she, as always, looked powerful so sure of her recovery, so sure of her will of power but that Sunday she was so week that immediately was transferred to a IC unit. The infection was touching her blood and that means sepsis. To give her a chance of breathing, she was hooked to a respirator. Her life was in decline, the doctors told us that there was no hope. I took her hand and at the same time that I touched her dear face I muted slowly: “Maria you are going to make your final trip. Your soul will leave free from your body, you will be in an indescribable area because of its beauty and peace and at certain point you will hear a voice calling you ‘Maria, I was waiting for you this is your eternal dwelling. From here you were ushered at Earth and now you return to your real home here, time, pain, suffering, attachments those not exist.
You are welcome dear Maria our dear daughter.’”
She did not reacted and a few moments later her heart stopped.

If you liked these stories, then pass them around. Stories are meant to be shared, and Best Day is as successful as it is because of word of mouth. Thanks for your support, and Happy Belated National Senior Citizens' Day!

 Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, August 16, 2018

In Memory of Helen

I’m sorry to announce that older bud Helen Claybrook has passed away in July. She was always a diligent member of our group. Even when her health got worse, she would stop by once every few months to write another story. I remember holding onto a copy of a story she wrote a few years ago, because I knew she’d come back. I finally gave it back to her on November 9th, just a few hours before Best Day’s Happy Hour fundraiser. And she took our name to heart, too! I can’t tell you how many of her stories started with some variation of “The happiest day of my life was when...”

She was a tough but loving mother who worked her butt off to provide for her kids. They're full grown now, but she still continued to take care of her beloved cats as well. Helen was also invaluable to her friends, and fellow older buds. Older bud Loretta was actually the one to tell us Helen had passed. Neither of them had been able to come to Best Day lately, but both of them valued us enough to keep in touch.

I went through the blog and noticed that not all of her stories were posted. Today, I intend to fix that by sharing as much of Helen's work with our readers as possible. Here's to you, Helen. We miss you.

Helen Claybrook
Where I lived

I lived in Eastern Shore, VA, the landscape was wild. There were pine trees, potato farms, grass everywhere. There was only seven houses on about forty acres or more of land. No street lights. There was just endless roads, blackberries were along the road. Apple, peach trees, the Atlantic Ocean was within walking distance from my home. There was also a very large and deep hole - was several miles between the road and Atlantic Ocean. No supermarkets, McDonalds, no doctors, hospitals, only five miles into Maryland. There was also a hospital in VA one hundred miles away.
Now, they have a hospital fifteen miles into Salisbury, MD, doctors you can visit in two towns over. The farms are no more. People work at Perdue or Tyson Chicken factories. They live in houses, mid-level homes, double-wide trailers. There is a supermarket, Family Dollar, State store and Pizza Hut.

Helen Claybrook
Going to the Hospital

I am going to the hospital when they call me and I am a little scared. I have not been feeling well for a week. But I keep pushing myself to do what I have to do to take care of my apartment and cat. My apartment is only three rooms, but it is a lot for me to keep clean. My cat makes a mess every day. Somehow she finds the caps off my diabetic needles and pushing them under and out the door. I hope she is alright while I am in the hospital for four days.

Helen Claybrook
My Miracle from Jesus

The best day of my life was when my great granddaughter was born in 2016.
I was given until morning to live in 1972. I had to have a total because of P.I.D.
I think it was from using Johnson body powder. Then I was told I needed a cardiac cath because I had C.H.F and it would only get worse as I got older. They perfected the cardiac cath and invented new medication which has helped me live longer. Then twenty-five years ago, the doctor who is in charge of Presbyterian Hospital told me I had a year to live if I continued to live like I was living. I was a falling-down, pisses drunk. I worked everyday, but had to use money for drinks and bills. Twenty-five years later I have not had a drink of liquid for over twenty-three years, four months, twelve days. I drank two years after the doctor told me I would die in a year, stopped drinking after I went to another doctor. He circled blood alcohol level as 3 times the legal limit in Pennsylvania. I drove there to the Doctor’s office. Now they say I have five years to live on kidney dialysis. My friends said you did the math: 125 years x 5 years ; 68 – how old I am now = 193 years til I die.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! 

Helen Claybrook
A Good Day

The best day of my life, this year, was yesterday when I found out my insurance will pay for my dialysis treatment. My kidney has been failing for twenty-five years. My doctor, Dr. Shepard told me I had one year to live if I continued to live like I was living. I drank for two more years and finally stopped twenty-three years ago. I like to travel to the eastern shore, Atlanta, Georgia, and San Francisco. I am hoping I can also still go to Puerto Rico. I would also like to go on a cruise.

Helen Claybrook
Nursing School

One of the best days of my life was when I was accepted to Nursing School.
I was left by my husband to raise our two sons. Lawrence and Frank.
I went on public assistance. I didn’t like it. Everyone in my family worked. So I asked, did they have a program to help me pay for school. The answer was yes. I went to school to be a licensed practical nurse.
I worked from 1972 until 2006. I wasn’t not happy, but it paid the bills.

Read more stories by Helen Claybrook:

Thursday, August 9, 2018

More Good Press (Joe and Ann)

It is my pleasure to announce that two more of our older buds had their stories published in the latest issue of Milestones Newspaper, and you can read Joe and Ann's stories right here. And while you're looking for more Best Day themed publications, why not check out Norman's work here and Eugene's work here? And for even more stories from your favorite older buds, why not buy a copy of the Best Day of My Life So Far book right here?

In honor of our published authors, we posted two brand new stories from Joe and Ann right below:

Joe Garrison 
The National Anthem 

Right after World War II, it was standard procedure to play the National Anthem at games.  It was just standard for us to show our Nationalism or pride in our nation.  I used to be a big fan of what they call the Friday Night Fights, and they’d play the National Anthem before the fight as well as at baseball games too.  Aside from Canada and maybe Britain, no other countries plan the National anthem at the beginning of a game. 

I’ve been hearing about the controversy with athletes kneeling and refusing to salute the flag during the National anthem at the NFL.  I think the easiest solution, the way to stop the protests and make it not a big deal, is to stop playing it at games.  At this point, its old hat, it doesn’t need to be done.  We know that we are a mighty country and we’re comfortable with who we are.  Now it’s just turned into something you do at games, nobody is paying attention to it anymore they are too busy hanging on their cell phones and crap.
Nobody needs the anthem at games anymore.  Just get rid of it and focus on the game. 

Ann Von Dehsen 
Car Crash 

When I was about 7 years old, my older sister, Ellen, was walking home from Sunday school when our neighborhood babysitter pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride home. Though we were only a few blocks from home, we were excited to ride with Carol who had just gotten her license. 

When we got in the back seat, my door did not close and often we had drive a short time, it flew open causing my sister to yell, “Carol, Ann’s door flew open!!” Being a new driver, Carol forgot she was driving and turned around to close my door as the car crashed into a tree. 

In the days before seatbelts, my sister and I flew into the back of the front seat. I hit my mouth bashing my front teeth into the roof of my mouth and Ellen, my sister being taller, ripped her chin open. We looked at each other and screamed. Bloodied, but not seriously hurt. 

The local cop who arrived at the scene thought it best to drive us home to our pa parents. As we pulled up to our house, my father was calm as he mowed the lawn, was shattered at the sight of his 2 bleeding daughters running out of the car and into his arms. The cop kept yelling, “They’ll be okay, they’ll be ok. They were in an accident.” My shaken father led us to the back door where my mother was in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner. She too was shocked and badly shaken, but as the adrenaline kicked in, she was able to sit us down and tried started cleaning us up.  

Suddenly, it seemed that neighbors appeared out of nowhere giving us all comfort. At one point, someone said, “Get Jean (my mom) a cup of coffee” and someone else said “Get Paul (my father) a stiff drink!” 

It was obvious that we needed medical attention so a neighbor volunteered to drive my mother and Ellen to the emergency room for stitches. Another neighbor called D. Cowan, a dentist who lived a few blocks away. He agreed to open up his office. In the city and appeared in our driveway a few minutes later. His teenage daughter was in the backseat surrounded by stuffed animals and childrens books. She cuddled me all the way to the city alternately reading me stories and singing me songs. I don’t remember much about having 6 teeth extracted as I guess they used laughing gas. When my father and I arrived home, my sister was seated at the table with a heavily bandaged chin after receiving 20 stitches. Neighbors still buzzed around us preparing soft meals, mashed potatoes, pastas, etc. 

As Ellen and I recovered over the next few days we were treated to milkshakes, popsicles, and visits from neighbors bearing gifts of comic books and coloring books. We both decided our ordeal wasn’t that bad after all. As our bruises and swelling improved, my mom burst our bubble and sent us back to school. There too, we were greeted with kindness.
These events took place during a time when kindness, compassion, love of family and community were nothing unusual or unexpected. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems to me that these qualities are often the exception rather than the rule. I hope I am wrong.

Here's to several more newspapers featuring several more older buds for years to come.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Substitute Teachers (Joan)

When I go away on vacation, I can count on the older buds to pick up my slack. They know where the sign up sheets are, they know where the writing supplies go, they know how to determine the reading order, and they know when their fellow older buds need some extra help. The only thing I really miss are the Senior Selfies, and selfies are hard to shoot no matter how old you are.

I came back to find that no fewer than 7 older buds came to Best Day and wrote last week. One of the stories was so good that Frances requested her own copy. And Ellie, a volunteer who sat in the week before, contributed her own story this week. Joe did give the class a skip when he heard I wouldn’t be around. But he wrote two stories this week, so he made up for lost time.

Often when people talk about the disenfranchised they either frame them as too weak to do anything for themselves or too strong to deserve help. I am always willing to help our older buds with whatever they need, but I also trust them to run the workshop when I’m not around.

Joan Bunting 
Foster Care 

I was one of eight children. I look back at my life and see it as an interesting adventure. 
All eight of us were placed in foster homes. Three years old was I when we were separated from our parents, five girls and three boys. 
Our oldest sibling, Phoebe, two middle siblings, Bernice, Eugene and the baby of the family, Paul was immediately placed with their foster parent, Ms. Jackson. 
My sister next to the oldest, Bertha, my oldest brother, Theodore, another middle sibling, Doris and I was placed in the home of an American-Indian woman and her Afro-American husband, the Walters. 
My adventure started when I experienced eating foods that I was not familiar with. I believed to be Indian dishes. There were other meals we had that were familiar. We were given slices of bread according to our age. My sister, Bertha, would sometimes eat some of my food so that I would not get in trouble. 
We only stayed with the Walkers for two years because they weren’t as attentive to us as they should have been especially when Bertha and Theodore would go to my mothers house and Theodore would go to my father. Mother and Daddy were separated. Mother lived in South Philly and Daddy lived in Southwest, Philadelphia. 
Next we were placed in the care of Ms. Chamberlain. We didn’t live far from our mother and Bertha would send Doris and me to see our mother. 
Theodore kept running away, he was placed on a farm called Pomeroy until they let him go. Bertha left and was soon married to her boyfriend Monroe. 
Ms. Chamberlain was well educated and she instructed Doris to read to me. I still remember a lot of the nursery rhymes she read. Doris also had the job of combing my hair. 
By the time I started school, I knew my alphabets and how to actually write (not 
print) my name. By the time I reached the second grade (the first half) I was promoted to the first half of the third grade. Back then, it was one A, one B, two A, two B, etc… I was a very good reader and I learned math quickly. 
Doris and I stayed with Ms. Chamberlain for four years. We were removed from her residence because she sent my sister Doris to school with lettuce sandwiches. One of Doris’ girlfriends convinced her to report it to the school counselor.
We were then placed with Ms. Jackson and with Bernice, Eugene, and Paul. For me, that was a very happy adventure because being that I was the youngest (eight years old by then) of the girls, I was ale to play with the other children in the neighborhood. With Ms. Chamberlain, we were not allowed to run, jump rope, or join the other children in our block. 
Out of all eight children, I was the only one to graduate from twelfth grade. 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri