Walk Away

This past week, each day at the same time, I sat in a waiting room. With folks who were waiting for chemotherapy and/or radiation. Or waiting for their loved ones who were having these treatments. I was waiting for someone.

They all know each other. Like a club. I told my brother it’s like they have their own clique thing going on.

Day One:  I walk in and find a chair. Don’t say anything to anyone. I don’t know the drill. I did give a sort of a half smile. But I didn’t feel much like chatting. The previous week had been a long one so I was welcoming a short rest of nothingness.

Day Two: I hear bits and pieces. I pick up names and spirited conversation about college basketball between a nonagenarian and septuagenarian. Georgetown, Villanova (pronounced Villanover by one of them), P.C., Kentucky and others. Predictions on who will win and who will lose. I hear terms like dark horse, sweep and seed.

Day Three: They say hello to me. I respond in a cheerful manner. Then sit back and absorb the background chatter.

Vic is ninety two years old of Italian descent.

Ron’s grandmother had Russian background. Sounds like his dad’s side were Swamp Yankees.

Vic has two children. A daughter and son.

Ron, seventy nine years old, lost two siblings at young ages. I think one was forty nine years old and the other in her fifties.

Vic walks three miles a day.

Vic has an older sister in her nineties who was in perfect health until she fell. Now she is in a nursing home.

Ron is there for treatment for kidney cancer. One was removed.

Vic accompanies his wife. She put off seeing a doctor because she was scared. She acknowledged that was a big mistake.

Vic said he does things/jobs around the house but never, ever tells his son. His son doesn’t want him doing anything.

Day Four: Same. Nice greeting. There are other people that are a part of this daily group. But Ron’s the loudest and I like that he asks everyone lots of questions. Saves me the trouble while also satiating my curiosity. I now know a lot about the folks in that room. And just how many chemo or radiation sessions everyone has left.

On this day I hear Vic telling Ron, “I always walk away from negativity. All my life I just walked away from it.”

Ron laughingly responds with, “And that is why you are ninety two and in great health!”

Vic says, “Even if guys are arguing about sports I just tell them that they’re right. And I walk away. Because you’re never gonna change their minds.”

Ron said, “You’re absolutely right. You’ve got a great attitude.”

I have been thinking a lot about the waiting room conversations.

You’d think it would be one of the most depressing, negative places in the world.

It’s not.

We know life is funny. And not always in a “ha, ha” way.

It can slap us around a little. Or maybe even a lot.

We can’t avoid the slaps but we can choose to walk away from some of the negativity that surrounds them.

Remembrance

Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been eighty four.

I am sharing an old blog posting that I incorporated into the following eulogy for his service at the cemetery last week.

I called my Dad when I moved to Malaysia. 

I said, “Dad, do you know what I am afraid of?” 

He got concerned and said, “What???” 

I told him, “Driving on the left side of the road.” 

He said, “Ah, no. You already know how to drive. You’re a good driver. You can do it. I give you twenty four hours.”

I said, “Really?”

He said, “I promise you. Twenty four hours. You just follow those in front of you. You just go with the flow of traffic.”

My dad was 100% right. Of course, every phone call after that began with him asking me if I was driving.

He knew that I needed to overcome the fear and also that driving would give me a freedom that I absolutely needed to navigate new and unfamiliar territory.

So, now, during this great loss of my family’s, we will try to follow those in front of us and go with the flow. My mother, brothers and other family members will need to navigate a new and unfamiliar territory without him.

I want to briefly share something I wrote about my dad. This was years ago and he’s read it. The only thing that has changed since I wrote it in 2009 is that he is no longer with us. My brothers share my sentiments. 

Dad-written March 12, 2009

I was thinking that I would write something about my dad. Too many people wait until someone is gone before they write about them. Don’t worry, my dad is not going anywhere…he is alive and well and enjoying life in New England.

My dad is and always was a simple man.  He was born to a life that was probably pretty typical for Irish immigrants. His parents came to the U.S. for work, met in New York, married and had four children (one set of twins) and then they all went back to Ireland. There would be three more children born to the family once they were back in Ireland. Dad did not complete his education and joined the U.S. Service before he hit adulthood.  He was discharged to the U.S. and never really went back to Ireland for any extended period of time.

So he lived with an uncle in the U.S.  and as luck would have it,  the woman who would become my mom, babysat for his little cousins.  I guess the rest is history.

I guess the coolest thing about my dad is that he is living a really good life.  Maybe even great.

He is a one woman man and he married that one woman. As he says, “She was a bit of alright”.  He didn’t swear. He never overindulged in anything. I have never seen my dad have one too many.  He quit smoking as a young man. He exercises, he reads the newspaper from front to back page and he loves cutting the lawn or shoveling the snow on his small patch.  He loved working and never missed a day of work that wasn’t necessary.  He had three children. As much as he loved work he also loved retirement.  He had a namesake. He has grandchildren.   He paid his bills. He attended Mass. He gave blood. He voted. He was a good citizen. He didn’t argue with my mother. He was never violent. He was never weird. He never bought anything he couldn’t afford. He loves working in the vegetable garden. He is not fussy. He will eat anything you put in front of him. He loves the Cape.  He loved his two weeks vacation every July. If you ask him what he wants for his birthday he will say, “my health.”   He is satisfied. He lived the American dream. Not the overinflated, glitzy, Hollywood dream but the real, honest to God, American dream. Which is to make a living, buy a house, raise a family and then enjoy those things later on.

I always felt safe with him.  He would always do what I considered the “lock up” at the end of the night which meant checking our bedroom windows before he went to bed. If it was too cold he would shut them or if it was warm he would make sure they were cracked open a bit.  He would then go downstairs and the last thing I would hear before he went to bed was him turning the lock on the front door.

I remember his friend had a boat and Dad would take us along for the day.  The boat would be anchored some way from shore and we would all have to swim to shore.  I remember being so frightened of the water as a  little one but he would put us on his back, our arms clasped around his neck and he would swim us to shore.

I have no issues to resolve with him. He owes no apologies.  I hope I am a little bit like him. I enjoy him. I am proud he is my father and I will always love him.

This priest at the beginning of Lent told the congregation that we need to take a good look at who we are.  Are we defined by the degrees hanging on the wall? Do we say “I live for my spouse” or ” I live for my children.”  What happens when something happens to the mind, the spouse or the child? What is your core? Who are you?

And I was thinking if God is looking down at my dad right now He would say, “His core is a bit of alright”

When I was moving to Malaysia nearly three years ago and getting ready to leave his house for the airport, Dad got emotional and said, “But it’s so far.”

Little did he know, at the time, that I would be plunking down at his house all summer for the following two years.

Each and every time, probably for the last ten years, whenever we said goodbye he got choked up and said, “We love to have you but we sure do hate to see you go.”

Dad, Papa, Uncle Pat, Patsy, Patrick, Pat…..we loved having you but sure do hate to see you go. Safe home, Dad, safe home. 

Blessed

My father died on March 8th. The days since have been an absolute blur. I guess that’s a good thing.

I will probably be writing a lot about him on this blog. So forgive me in advance.

Lots of lessons picked up in the last ten days.

Here’s one.

The day after his death my older brother and I had to visit some offices to report his death and gather some paperwork.

My brother told the woman at the Teamsters Office, “We’re not sure exactly what to do or who to talk to. This is the first time we have had to do this. We’ve been pretty blessed.”

As heartbroken as we are (and we are- even though none of this has hit any of us yet) there is an awareness that we have been blessed. That the death we are reporting is that of an 83 year old man who lived a good life. Who was loved and who loved. And had many, many years of this.

Our loss is great. I really wish he was still with us.

But we were blessed.

Giving Blood

I remember, when I was young, accompanying a friend who was donating blood. Her grandfather was in the hospital. I sat with her and when she was done with the bloodletting she sat at the table to have some juice. She immediately passed out, slumped in the chair and hit her head on the table as she was going down.

I thought then that this was no easy thing.

In the years that have passed I got over that. I have donated blood. Pints and pints. Certain drives for people in need. After 9/11 my husband and I sat with veins exposed because we didn’t know what else to do. And many other instances.

Once you get on their list it tends to become a habit.

It’s easy.

Most likely this stems from memories of my father when I was a young girl. On so many Saturday mornings, after a long week of work, he would come home from blood drives sporting stickers saying “I gave blood today.”

My dad is not feeling well at the moment. And he will soon be having blood transfusions. I am far away from him but like to think that this is a cycle. He, who gave life, not just to me :) but to many others by giving up just an hour of his time, will be the recipient of some new blood.

This week I am going to donate my blood once again.

Because it’s the easiest thing in the world. And because my father taught me well.

Not by telling me what to do. But by his example.

 

Six Years

I just received a notification from WordPress wishing me a “Happy Anniversary.” Apparently it’s been six years of blogging.

Seems hard to believe.

Started the blog (okay, Annie helped set up the blog) because I realized I had too much to say and a Facebook status was not going to cut it. I’d lose virtual friends -left and right -if I let my blathering loose.

Was also in the process of quitting smoking at the time and I had a bit of nervous energy I needed to dispel.

So the blog was born.

I soon realized it was a fabulous place for me to document everything I wanted to share.

Hopefully, my kids can look back one day and know exactly how their mother felt about so many things.

It’s a bit of a mishmash. This blog incorporates memories of my family, friends, and old neighborhood. It includes jobs, travels, life lessons, relationships, current events and so much more. Sometimes the postings are happy and chirpy. And sometimes they aren’t.

That’s life.

But this is definitely not a fictional account. And it is the world according to Mary. The only faulty thing on the pages is my memory. Not as keen as it used to be.

Every single posting is here for a reason.

Many thanks to my email followers, fellow WordPress bloggers and those that might just stop by once in awhile. I really appreciate you reading along and I value your feedback.

Sincerely,

Mary

Keep Trying

I never posted this although I wrote it more than two years ago. Not sure why. Maybe because I wanted to respect his privacy. It seemed so personal. I suppose it still is.

Since the time of this writing I reconnected with Billy. He joined Facebook and sent me a request. I accepted.

There once was a boy in the neighborhood where I was raised. His family belonged to the same parish. We attended the same Catholic school. He was good friends with my older brother. He was quick witted and funny. Kept the nuns on their toes.

I always liked him. Some of my memories include him wearing his signature polka dotted hat, making crank calls to Monsignor (bless his heart- I think Monsignor was starting to think he actually did order the pizza) and singing the words to a Frankie Valli song, at the top of his lungs, in the middle of the football field near my house. “I love you, baby. And if it’s quite all right, I need you baby……”

He was one of the few kids in our neighborhood that went out of state for college. Sort of a big deal.

The last time I saw Billy was more than thirty years ago. We went downtown to an Irish pub together. I didn’t usually hang out with him since he was my older brother’s friend and I cannot recall how we got thrown together that night. But we had a great time. And he was a gentleman.

My brother worked for his father’s company for years. And they remained friends. But Billy ended up taking a wrong turn and he got lost. Everyone takes detours. But he couldn’t seem to find his way back.

Whenever I visited home I always asked my brother, “How’s Billy?”

Hoping that I would hear, “He’s doing fine.”

But they were out of touch.

And I never got the answer I was seeking. That he was getting well. That it was only temporary. That he would get it together and live a happy life.

He is now in a place that no one would want to be.

His father’s death this week prompted this posting. I was actually going to write about his dad but I got sidetracked.

I didn’t know his dad that well since most of his kids were older than me. But I do know he was an amazing man. Someone I would want to be like. He was a man of faith who demonstrated it every day by helping others. Visiting sick neighbors. Mentoring young people. Taking young guys under his wing. Many a young lad sought him out, instead of their own dads, when they needed help. He was a man of compassion. He helped people change their lives.

Anyway, I remember saying to my brother, “It’s heartbreaking. His dad touched so many but he couldn’t reach him.”

My brother looked at me and said, “It wasn’t for lack of trying.”

I thought about that. We always tell our kids to keep trying. Our employees. And so many others.

We need to keep trying to help others. It is not just about us. It is about living life, making mistakes, learning from them and then helping others. We need to be compassionate.

I hope the clever boy who once had an impish grin will one day find his way. I know it will require some help and some compassion. Until then, whenever I hear this song, I will remember him standing in the middle of a football field singing at the top of his lungs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGFToiLtXro&feature=related]

Update.

Billy found his way. On a good and healthy path. Recently celebrated a year of clean living. In Facebook messages he told me that the worst of his experiences led him to turn his life around and in retrospect he was grateful. I was happy for him and his family. He said that my obvious happiness in life made him smile. And called me “kiddo” in one message. Made me chuckle because even when we are in our 50s we still consider the people we grew up with as “kids.”

I received a message yesterday morning that Billy had been killed. Was stabbed outside a convenience store late Tuesday afternoon. I have no details other than that. They didn’t catch the guy who did it yet.

It’s just such a shame. It’s a shame that his father didn’t have the chance to see Billy trying. And it’s a shame he won’t have the opportunity to enjoy years of healthy and happy living. It’s a shame that his mom and family have to go through this heartbreak.

Every time I hear the song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” I will think of Billy Mc Kenna standing in the middle of the football field -just singing at the top of his lungs.

BillyMcKenna

Rest in peace.

All Different

I was at lunch the other day with a friend. We were discussing many things but one topic that came up was how we are all so different. What is pleasing to one person might not be pleasing to the next person. I was talking about the resale shop I had worked in for the last two months as a prime example. You never know what will appeal to a person. And the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is definitely true.

Then we moved on to gift giving. And how you need to do it with no strings attached.

In that same vein we also discussed accepting the fact that the recipient might not like the actual gift. Back to the no strings business.

How many times have we given someone a thoughtfully chosen present? And then we never see them use, display or appreciate it? And we get a little miffed?

There is a reason for this. They probably didn’t like it. Or need it. Or it didn’t suit them. Or some other reason.

Maybe it wasn’t as thoughtfully chosen as we like to think. Sometimes we choose gifts based on what we think others need, like, or want. And sometimes we are dead wrong.

I can think of plenty of gifts I/we have given to folks in the past only for them to sit unused and collecting dust.

So, another lesson in the life book for me.

Be truly thoughtful when giving gifts. It should be about them and not about us. And when we are truly thoughtful and they still don’t like the gift then accept that. I am sure they appreciate the present. They just might not like it. And that’s okay.

We are all unique and our likes are quite varied. Clothing designers are in business because they know this.

I thought back to my recent birthday. A few of my friends gave me a beautiful red lacquered Chinese box.

Afterwards, I remembered a conversation that one of those friends and I had about Chinese furniture. She mentioned that she wasn’t a big fan of all the lacquer. I said that I had never gone in big for it in the past but that it started to grow on me and I now really like it.

When it was time to shop she chose a present that she knew I would like. Not what she liked or she thought I should have.

It shouldn’t be about us.

 

 

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