Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Not long ago, my friend Penny and I visited a former workmate who was in Hospice.

Her name was Mary. Meg, her sister, sent me a message on a Sunday morning letting me know that Mary was very ill. So, the next afternoon, Penny and I went to sit with her for a little while. The transition had already begun and she passed away the next day.

Too young. Too soon.

I hadn’t seen Mary in years. Her job led to travels in Asia. I had invited her to make a pit stop with me when I lived overseas but our schedules never meshed.

That’s not why I am posting.

A week later I was clearing out some of Mom’s books at my childhood home. Not because I have OCD or anything but I check EVERY single book before putting it in a pile. I can find significance in the least little thing. Like the funeral card of my cousin Terese used as a bookmark in a story with the title “Family” in it.

Anyway, I grabbed a book by Anna Quindlen (who I love) and cracked it open. This was her first novel called, “Object Lessons” and it’s a coming of age story. Young Maggie Scanlan trying to navigate object lessons from her grandfather.

And on the inside cover, in cursive, was Mary’s mother’s name. How did I know it belonged to Mary’s mother? Because Mary’s surname was unique. Not a “Smith” or “Jones.” Unique as in Lithuanian unique.

I just found it interesting. My Mom did not know her Mom. But this book is in my Mom’s cellar and I find it a week after Mary died?

I texted Meg with a photo of her mother’s handwriting and asked if she wanted the book to find its way back to her. I thought it was a sign.

Her response:

“I love that it’s out there floating around and definitely a sign. I’m so glad you shared with me! I have many of my moms books so pass this one along too. Who knows where it will pop up next? But, we know my sister is watching over us. 

I replied, “It’s like a message in a bottle.”

So, I took the book, filled with yellowed pages and object lessons, and read it.

And now I am passing it along.

The definition of an object lesson is using a physical object as a discussion piece for a lesson. Or a practical example of what you should or should not do in a particular situation.

I’ll use both.

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I am sometimes enthusiastic when meeting new folks. Just have to hear their story. And usually share bits of mine.

Was in Narragansett some time ago and visited a kayaking place.

While talking to the guy I detected an accent. Not the Rhode Island or New England local parlance.

I patiently waited the recommended obligatory time before plunging in with that cringe-worthy, tired old phrase, “You’re not from around these parts.”

Not even in the form of a question. Just a “putting it out there cuz it’s true” statement. Not said, though, in any mean-spirited “you don’t belong here” vein.

I know it totally sounds like something you would hear in the South. “Son, you ain’t from around these parts, are ya?”

He said, “No, I am not.”

I ask, “Texas?”

He replies, “Close.”


Anyway, we began chatting. I was accompanied by my friend, Karla  (who I met when I lived in Dallas) and my youngest daughter.

Karla says, “I’m not from Rhode Island but I live here now. Mary’s a native.”

I exuberantly exclaim, “But we first met each other in Texas!”

And proceeded to tell him our “it’s a small world” story.

Later, I texted her and said, “Oh my gosh, I just realized. The way I described our meeting that fellow must have thought we were a lesbian couple with an adopted daughter!”

Not because Karla was sporting a short, new haircut but because of my enthusiasm for the relationship.

She immediately texted back, “The ones who thought “lesbians” were the authors at the book signing last week. When we asked them to autograph the book beginning, “To Karla and Mary.”

I literally laughed out loud.

Who does that?

It’s true though.

In this particular scenario, it was simply a case of us being cheap, avid readers. Not lesbianism. I can certainly understand the confusion. Lesbian couples would totally share a book.

If it looks like a duck. If it quacks like a duck. And all that.

But it might not always be a duck.

Surround yourselves with friends who truly make you laugh and enjoy the rest of your week!

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My Dear Aunt

This year is not manifesting itself according to my vision. My, oh so powerful, vision!

My Auntie Pat died at the end of January after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. I was fortunate that I was able to catch a flight to Florida and whisper my thanks and my love in her ear before her transition a few hours later.

She was my Mom’s youngest sibling and so incredibly dear to me.

Her service was a simple affair. Non-denominational. Weird for a former nun, but hey, not my decision. All the same, it was nice. A gathering of family and a sharing of our memories.

I needed to verbalize (in front of God and everybody) who she was to me. What she meant to me and my brothers. So, I was approaching it from the viewpoint of a niece.

But, like all of us, we are not just one thing. If we are lucky, we are many things during this lifetime.

As one of my brothers said, “Everyone is sharing their relationship with her. And all those stories are like pieces of cloth that make a quilt.”

I was not the only one who spoke. A handful of us did.

Maria, a dear friend of hers, got up to the podium (I am paraphrasing here) and said, “Pat was my elementary school teacher. She was so kind to me. My parents were getting a divorce and she knew how upset I was. She comforted me when I cried. Pat gave me a book called, “It’s Not The End Of The World” and wrote a note in the book to me. You know, she was right. It wasn’t the end of the world.”

From that day forward, Maria became a part of my Aunt’s family. Maid of honor for my cousin. My aunt was there when Maria took her son home from the hospital and first bathed him.

I mention this because the compassion, love and friendship demonstrated by my aunt had ripple effects in so many ways. The power of a teacher. A person. A genuine human being.

We would all do well to remember this.

Here are my words shared at the funeral. Wished I never had to say them.

Auntie Pat held many different positions during her wonderful lifetime. 

She was a daughter and a friend. She was a sister. A sister in her blood family as well as within a spiritual community. 

Auntie Pat would later go on to add the titles of wife and mother to her repertoire. 

But before that happened she was ours. The first and most important thing to my brothers and me, selfishly, was her role as our Aunt. 

She could have written the book on what it takes to be an amazing aunt. That tome would have been filled with pages of fun, care, compassion, good humor, generosity and love. 

Our cherished memories of her are why the three of us are here in Florida today. 

An aunt has a distinct advantage over one’s mom. She could be the cool and fun one while the mom is just the mom. But this person would still protect you and only ever want what is best for you. 

And yes, we have a photo of Auntie Pat with a lampshade on her head. 

I truly don’t know where to start as so many memories are buzzing through my head. 

Like the time she arrived at our house (with my grandparents) with a little brown puppy for us. Who does that? Auntie Pats do that. We don’t have any photos of that moment but it’s all up here. In my head. 

I remember, as a little girl, going to our grandparents’ house and being allowed to paint my nails. Auntie Pat’s collection of nail polish resided in the back closet of the living area on Randall Street. Totally awesome for a little girl. 

Then Auntie Pat got serious about a man and he was going to be brought around to us. Okay, it could have gone either way but that first time she brought Uncle Bill to Burgess Avenue to meet us went really well. He was helping us kids roast chestnuts in our oven. He was kind and gentle with the Lennon kids. 

So then she went and married him. I suppose she would have married him whether we liked him or not. Honestly, we will never know. LOL 

But our relationship with our aunt never changed and Bill became our Uncle. He liked us and appeared quite content to be absorbed into Auntie Pat’s family. 

It seemed she was just always there. Sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and grandmother-all drinking their coffees and smoking cigarettes. Really settling in to chat, laugh and solve the world’s problems. Or, at least, their own. And they talked on the phone all the time. I had my aunt and grandmother’s Pawtucket telephone numbers memorized at an early age. What they possibly could have had left to share I’ll never know. I honestly think they were the original inventors of the Phone Tree. Because if something happened to you (good or bad) it was over the phone lines in seconds flat. And the other Nana would say, “A little birdie told her.” Yeah, birdies named Pat and Eileen. 

My Mom happily handed me over to my Aunt many a weekend. At my begging and Auntie Pat’s welcome. She would help me with math. I can still see the flashcards in her kitchen on Greene Street. You can all thank Auntie Pat for getting correct change back from me. Any errors, unintended or not, are mine. All mine. She really tried.

Auntie Pat and Uncle Bill added two little ones to the mix. The babies were a fun and welcome addition to the family. I was soon of the age when I could babysit them. Auntie Pat trusted me with her children and I loved spending time with them. I remember one time Charisa was crying and wouldn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do so I called my mom. She spoke to Charisa and calmed her. Only because Charisa thought it was her own mother’s voice 🙂 

She was at every family occasion. Taking me shopping in Fall River for a raincoat (before I was going to Ireland) because my mom was working. Listening to me in my teenage angst. Always caring and compassionate.

I married at her house. Then some years later I moved to Texas (my going away party was at her house) and she moved to Florida but there was always the bond. 

I could go on and on. But I won’t. We don’t have the time. Auntie Pat knew she was special to me. And I knew I was special to her. That’s all I ever knew and that is all I need to know now. 

Everyone in this room was special to her. And many, many who are not here. She was special to so many.

I will share one more thing. My grandfather Thomas Kelly died in 1984. As usual, my mom, Auntie Pat and the other Nana were gathered around our kitchen table the day after his death. Well, they were laughing hysterically at some of their shared “Poppy” stories and his colorful character friends like Eddie Fairfield. 

A friend of ours, an Italian-American Ralph Quattrucci came walking up to the side door at 159 Burgess with a gift basket to pay his solemn respects for our loss. All he heard was the laughter. He couldn’t believe it. When there was this very recent death in our family. 

Now, for the record, the Irish are just as human as the Italians. We all grieve. We all feel the ache in our heart that will never go away. But, in my humble opinion, sometimes the best way to honor someone is to revel in their stories, laugh hysterically (if they were funny) and always, always smile when you think of them. There will be plenty of time for tears-maybe when you least expect it. But one thing I know for sure is that Auntie Pat had no problems laughing in her lifetime. And neither should you. Enjoy the laughter and don’t drown in the tears.

I can still hear her say, “Hey, Mare.” 

Now I will reply, “Hey, Auntie Pat. Rest peacefully. You will be forever missed and forever loved. Thank you for everything. Thank you for it all.”

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You can see that I am cleaning house. I have 118 unfinished drafts in the WordPress folder. So this one is a few years old. But important messages don’t change. 

There have been a couple of deaths lately which have me thinking about things. Yes, about the afterlife. But also about the life experience on earth.

If I had that special wand I would make it all just slow down a little bit. I know that is not reality. But I haven’t always been a fan of reality either.

So, I will be writing, I think, on the subject of these deaths.

My sister-in-law’s father died in March. Without going into an old family history thing I need to explain that before the two families became one, Jim had already been a friend to our family. The friendship goes back generations in Ireland. Neighboring farms, ancestral village and all that.

One thing I am a big fan of is family and friends. I was tickled that the children of two old friends would marry each other.

So, I was a little sad at one more member of the old guard passing.

My sister-in-law has been sharing little stories about her Dad. And when I read them I smile. Or my eyes fill.

Here is one. This is important.

After Jim’s funeral we were gathered for a brunch at a nearby hotel.

It was lovely. Patty (my sister-in-law) spoke about her Dad. In a nutshell it goes something like this. She said he always repeated stories that she already knew. So this one time, she asked him to tell her something she didn’t know. It caused a pause.  In a sort of a “What do you mean?” moment. Anyway, he shared a childhood experience. About returning to Ireland as a young boy with his mother. His father saw them off at the harbor in New York.

Okay, my eyes were filling. Again. Like they did in the church. I know. I know. He was nearly ninety. But someone lost their dad. Doesn’t matter how old. I kept thinking happy thoughts to dry up the tears as I didn’t want anyone thinking I was a snuffling, secret love child of this man.

The important thing of the story is this. We tell the same old stories because they’re comfortable. They might be triggered by surroundings, experiences or holidays. We know our partner’s stories. We know our friends’ stories. We know the stories of our children.

But we really don’t know it all. And it is up to us. To ask the right questions. So, it’s not the same old stories.

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A couple of weeks ago, a woman I worked with back in the AT&T days, passed away.


One evening she was posting loving birthday wishes to her grandchild on Facebook. The next day at noon I was receiving texts from friends telling me that she had died.

Fifty years old.


But that is not the message I want to share in this post.

One of our mutual friends posted a thing on Facebook. On March 18th.

“For those who still have their mother.”

“Got some gossip? Call your momma. Bad day at work? Call your momma. Huge accomplishment? Call your momma. Someone hurt your feelings? Call your momma. You’re sick? Call your momma. Can’t remember how to cook something? Call your momma. Etc. “

You get the idea.

B. commented, “I needed to read this today. My mother and I had an argument a couple months back and we haven’t spoken. I think I’m going to send her a note today.”

A few of us responded with encouragement. Do it!

I said, “Better yet-call her!”

B. loved the feedback and said she would.

I privately messaged her that evening. Asking if she talked to her Mom. And she said, “Yes, it’s all good now. Thanks for the encouragement.”

Without going into details she said it was over something silly. And that she needed to accept her mother as she is and that she loved her.

And then she said, “My mom is 84 and lives in Florida so I would hv hated for something to happen and not hv reconciled.”


Who would ever have thought that the fifty year old would be the one to leave so soon?

Another reminder. Life is very short. If you need to reach out to a loved one-there is no time like the present.

Because we don’t want to wait until there is no time.

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As the young folks say, “It’s been a minute.”

This means that it’s been an extended period of time. And I haven’t written anything since July!

It wasn’t malaise. Although this country (world) has truly been on some kind of a roller coaster! Politics aside for the moment.

I hesitate to blame it on writer’s block.

Some type of low grade depression?

Maybe. My friend Karla figures most of us are experiencing a touch of that in the past year.

Anyway, whatever it was, today is the day.

This past Wednesday I was very busy. Three things that day had me thinking profoundly.

They are three very different stories and deserve their own space. So, another time!

But I was thinking about the fragility of life. One day someone is here and then they are not.

A childhood friend and I were messaging the next day. We had a mutual friend who had died suddenly Tuesday/Wednesday at the young age of fifty. Someone I worked with many years ago and one of her high school friends.

We chatted about life, families, acceptance, etc.

S. works at a nursing home and told me about a recent interaction.

One day, she sees a resident just wheeling around in his chair. Eyes closed.

Asks him, “J., buddy, what’s up with your eyes closed??”

He replied, “I’m exhausted but I am not sure how many days I have left on earth so I can’t spend them in bed.”

Bang. There it is.

She told me that he has arthritis and is in pain 100% of the time.

Also told me he smiles 100% of the time.

None of us know how many days we have left on earth.

If we wake up in the morning we are blessed with a choice.

How do we want to spend this day? This gift?

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Recently, I had an on-line interaction. A Facebook friend had posted a thing about policemen. In support, of course. The tough job they have and all that goes along with it.

I was on a Grand Jury for six weeks and I saw with my own eyes, what the police deal with on a daily basis. Examples might be child abuse, rape, assault, gangs, murders, etc. Can’t go into detail because they are secret proceedings. But seeing and hearing testimony is not like reading it in the newspaper. Trust me on that.

But here is the thing. We have witnessed, on camera/video, the deaths of Black folks (mostly males) at the hands of the American police. Hopefully, with the video footage, justice will eventually be served. Hopefully, we can somehow ensure this never happens again.

People are coming out in droves to support the police. A few bad apples in every bunch. So many good ones out there doing the best they can. Don’t judge them all by a couple of rogue cops.

My point is this-and my comment to the person was along the lines-don’t worry about the police. Rogue or not. They have union support. Media support. Community support. Brotherhood support. I truly believe this. Especially in my state.

They are absolutely fortunate to have that support.

So let them get to work on cleaning up their houses. Revamping policies or/and procedures. I don’t think any police department wants their employees splashed across the media due to abuse or have to experience unrest in their cities. So they are perfectly willing to make changes if they can.

Please stop dragging them into every posting on social media.

I am tired of people stealing someone else’s air time. And making it theirs. The people who are posting the police stories on their social media are not usually posting anything at all about racial injustice. Or they say they support both but never actually post anything individually about the movement for justice in our country.

So, this friend of the friend (a stranger to me) types, “I hope you never need them (the police) and blah, blah, blah.”

We have got to do better. It’s not about choosing one side or the other. It is about supporting those in our society who are screaming and dying for help.

I might need the police one day. And I won’t be afraid to call them. They’re supposed to help me. I trust that they will not hurt me. I, as a white person, trust them wholly. That’s our society. That’s my personal bias. My experience.

So, is it wrong for me to say (and know) that the police are not the marginalized folks here in America today?

This doesn’t make me anti-police. At all.

This makes me honest. Today.

Please know the difference.

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I trust that you have all established some type of routine in this time of Covid. I sincerely hope that you are all healthy and well.

Today is “Juneteenth.” This unofficial holiday commemorates the day, in 1865, that a proclamation was finally delivered in Texas. It was announced that the slaves were free.

When I say slaves I mean Black people who were taken from Africa and brought to America.


They weren’t packing their bags for the long journey, double checking their itinerary and looking forward to exploring a new place.

These people were stripped of everything. Their homeland. Their families. Their Moms and Dads. Their children. Their religion. Their culture. Their language.

And then abused in a foreign land for decades and decades.

I am currently doing research on a family that had ties to a town called Falmouth in Pendleton County, Kentucky. The amount of “Mulattos” in any one family (on census reports) is astonishing and sickening. Because we all know what that means. We are not talking about love stories. Women were raped and impregnated by their owners or other white men. That’s a fact.

So today is a day which should be a cause for celebration. Weirdly.

And yet, the African-American experience is not even taught during the academic year in all U.S. public schools.

I am going to continue to write about this issue in each posting. It is time for me to reflect and figure out how I personally can take action to promote positive change.

It is time for all Americans to reflect.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

To my Black friends and fellow Americans-I hope this year brings positive change in your lives and the lives of your families. I stand with you.

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When the youngest, Hannah, was home during the month-long winter break she had the forethought to bring her plants home. Didn’t want to leave them to die a slow painful death in the cold dormitory.

One was a philodendron. A very green and healthy plant. Was growing like crazy as philos are wont to do. I told her it needed a haircut. To spruce it up a bit. So I did.

Then I took the cuttings and plunked them into a glass vase filled with water.

The kid returned to her university with her newly shorn plants at the end of the holiday.

Meanwhile, the cuttings were thriving at their new homevase (just made that word up and keeping it) and shooting out little roots everywhere. All I ever had to do was top it off with a little water as needed.

This is what it looks like now.


There are now probably five or six individual plants. From one plant.

My daughter is currently home with us. She left university the first week of March and arrived in Rhode Island to spend the short Spring break. Never imagining that she wouldn’t be right back at school in ten days. So her only accompaniment was a big basket filled with dirty clothes. Everything else, including her green little plants, remains locked up in her inaccessible dorm room.

Poor little plants. Also casualties in the pandemic war.

The good news is that when she does return to her university she will have five new plants. All from the original Mama.

This is something simple we can all do. Whether we live on a ranch or in a city apartment. Take a cutting from one of your plants. Then drop it in a glass jar or vase. When it roots share with a friend, neighbor or family member. Rinse and repeat.

It’s healthy for the indoor environment. Where many of us happen to be spending every minute at the moment. It’s super easy. Cheerful to look at while also spreading cheer.

Things will get better. Hang in there. Be safe.

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I’m not going to lie. Staying in the house is tough. Again, I know I’m fortunate and totally aware of this. And if you are reading this then you probably also share that same good fortune.

But still can’t discount people’s feelings. We don’t have the normal things/events breaking up our days or weeks. Days are blurring into one another. Or every day seems like a Sunday. Except church-going folks don’t even have services to attend outside the home.

Our doorbell rang today and I was like a deer caught in the headlights. What was that noise? I recalled the familiar trilling from another lifetime but wasn’t quite sure what it meant. It had been that long.

It was the Fedex guy. Was just a “heads up” ring of the bell to let us know he left an envelope by the front door.

I missed trash day for the first time ever! Maybe in my life! And let’s just say the Recycling man saw me at my absolute very best. Not! Braless, pajamaed, makeup-free, harried, huffing and puffing up my long driveway with the huge blue bin in tow. With my index finger (universal signal for one minute needed)thrust in the air. At that moment I wanted the recycling picked up and vanity was not about to come into play. At all. Sort of like when you give birth and you are just so exposed. You just let go of any remaining dignity.

I stood there in all my glory and honestly said,”I don’t even know what day it is anymore!”

He laughed heartily. Then I did.

So here’s #3 on my “Getting Through the Stay-At-Home Directives.”


Find something funny. Maybe a television series. A book. A movie. A comedy special. Call an entertaining friend. We need to find some laughter during this bizarre time.

This Irish proverb doesn’t really apply to the current state of the world because laughter and a good night’s sleep won’t cure the virus. But both will definitely lessen our anxiety and lift the dark cloud surrounding it for a bit. And we desperately need that.


So keep on practicing safety measures in place. We will get through this!

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