Archive for the ‘Growing Old’ Category

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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Oh, my. I have not written since December. The first quarter of the new year has already passed by me!

Lately, I have been thinking of my youth. The strange thing is it focuses on the nature which surrounded me.

It is Spring time here. Truly amazing how everything is brown or gray and then, literally overnight, trees are budding, deer no longer camouflaged and flower bulbs pushing their way from the earth like newborns out of a birthing canal. Just like that.

I was sitting on my back patio at 5:30am this Saturday morning. All I can hear are the birds beginning their busy day.

Spring time is remarkable. I am making a conscious effort to appreciate the rows of daffodils in town. And everything else that demonstrates the imminent arrival of the season.

But what I remember from decades ago is my own backyard and neighborhood. It’s all I knew. You’ve heard the phrase, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” For me, everything I really needed to know was in my own backyard and neighborhood block.

There were forsythia bushes in the back of our house. I thought they were “For Cynthia” bushes. That’s me. Always putting a random consonant in where it just doesn’t belong. Started that nonsense at a very young age.

These bright yellow shrubs were one of the first signs of revival. Along with the delicate purple crocuses. It was the starting gun of more daylight. Warmth. Extraordinary play.

I’d grab the Hosta flower heads before they bloomed. Sort of like going crazy with bubble wrap. Play under the white flowering bush that seemed to be snowing when the small petals hit the ground. Feeling the soft down of the Pussy Willow branches. The scent of the Lilac bushes permeating the area. The neighbor’s Weeping Willow tree that turned into a sheltering fort. And sometimes its branches used as a lashing weapon for protection.

Lessons learned from my childhood backyard?

The importance of touching. Smelling. Seeing. Feeling. Hearing. Everything has a season. Fresh air is a wonderful gift. Playing outside and contorting yourself-the likes of which no gym will ever provide-does your body good. Being physical can work wonders for the mind. We can shed the clothes of the past season. Playing nicely with others is always a positive thing. There is a life cycle. A well tended garden can bring abundant joy. Natural surroundings are magical. Appreciation for new life. Utter sadness during fallow periods. And most importantly, the awareness that we have absolutely NO control over any season.

Today I am going to do my best to enjoy each day this Spring season is offering me. This is something I can actually control.

I wish you the same.

Do it for Cynthia.

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Hello, there! It’s been awhile since I’ve written. My apologies. Started many times-so much to say! But, oh, that pesky side-tracking business.

Today I must! I will keep it short and simple.

This season and day can be difficult for folks. I know, not exactly a news flash.

Many families are experiencing the loss of a loved one. Some have plans that will not materialize.

Due to finances. Or a sudden bout with Covid. Foul weather. Illnesses. A host of other reasons.

Sometimes things do not work out as planned. And it can be utterly disappointing.

Instead of wishing away the day (because, in fact, by doing this you are wishing a day of YOUR life away) take the time to reflect or begin a new tradition.

Or just peacefully be.

Each and every day is truly a blessing. The older I become the more I realize it.

Don’t squander the gift.

Today, I wish you all a peaceful day.

Catch my hug.

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So, I recently began my fifty-ninth year on the planet. As my birthday approached I pondered on how to auspiciously mark the occasion.

What I did was this. I donated fifty-eight items. Things that I already had in my possession. I know it sounds big but it’s not. For me, anyway. And, going out on a limb here, probably not for you.

I have a lot going on at the moment, so probably putting more pressure on myself via lofty goals/challenges has a tinge of masochism to it. But that is how I roll. Remember when I did the 100 book a year challenge? Yeah, that was sick. That had me reading the last book on New Year’s Eve!!

Routinely, I cull the inventory in the home. I’m pretty good about it. But there is always more. When different charitable organizations (who pick up at your door!) ask for donations, I usually say, “Yes.” Because then I am totally committed. So, when they contacted me just before my birthday, it was a well-timed call.

I like giving. And I don’t like clutter. I also don’t want to leave messes for folks to clean up in my absence.

For my birthday, I gathered books already read, games not being played, supplies not utilized, clothes not being worn, vases, dishes, kitchen items and more. All things that someone else can use and enjoy.

Totally met my number of fifty-eight. Surpassed it actually. Easier than one would think.

Enjoy your weekend. Keep safe and healthy.

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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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Good morning! I hope everyone is doing well. At least, okay and hanging in there.

Big sigh, right?

It’s been awhile but I plan to take pen to paper more often. In reality, more like fingers to a keyboard.

I watched an episode from a series recently. Wasn’t crazy about it. But I am just one person with my own opinion.

I was, however, fascinated with the premise of this particular vignette. I’m not sharing the name or actress because you might want to give it a go and I do not want to sully your thoughts.

A woman, whose Mom has Alzheimer’s, peruses through the old family photo albums.

Who hasn’t done that when visiting our parents? Poking through boxes of photos, sitting on beds or sofas, in our childhood homes. Asking, “Who is this?” Or “How cute!” Maybe, “Remember that day?”

This daughter removes photos from the plastic sleeves.

Then she eats them.

And instantly a memory is evoked. She is transported back to the moment each photograph was taken. Brilliant.

Imagine if we could actually relive or feel transported to a different time? When things were carefree. Or so fun and special. When loved ones were still present.

I have my memories (although murkiness does set in the older I become) but I’d gobble photographs up, in a second, to truly feel cherished moments from the past.

We could also take the opportunity to gnaw on the “not so carefree’ photographs. To remind us of the things we don’t want to feel or repeat. And learn from them.

I wish you all a weekend of cherishable moments.

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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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Black people are telling us they are exhausted. Of racism. Of having to comfort their children. Of schooling them on ways not to get hurt or killed. Of fearing for their safety.

I’m white and I’m already exhausted just after the last month. I can’t imagine what they must feel.

I’m going back and forth with people on social media, in person, etc. and this is what is getting to me. People are so steadfast in their opinion and not budgeable (not sure if that is a word but I like it and it’s staying) in any way.

But wait, Mary, you are also stubborn and have strong views! You’re not really budgeable either!

That’s only partly true. I am prone to a stubbornness on some matters and I am passionate. But I am budgeable.

Every day I am trying to grow. Reflect. Help. Listen to others who are begging to be heard. I read.

I am fifty-five years old and I am trying.

I just don’t understand the inability or lack of desire to engage in thoughtful dialogue. Or to do anything at all.

Our vice-president, when pressed during a meeting, resisted saying, “Black Lives Matter.” He instead said, “All Lives Matter.”

Leaders have an impact.

My cousin in Northern Ireland (a place once riddled with violence, oppression, prejudice and a minority Catholic population) told me that change has to start from the bottom up and not the top down. It has become quite apparent that this is true.

So there is hard work ahead for all of us.

Cousin also told me that it does no good speaking to people who already think like me. Also true.

So there is hard work ahead for all of us.

What can we do? How can we help our fellow citizens?

We can start by doing something very simple.


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How can I (or anyone) take action, to help my fellow countrymen/women, in a positive way?

First of all we need to be honest. And that is really, really hard.

Racism is alive and well in the United States. I don’t have to tell you that. Just turn on the television.

Someone asked me, at a socially distanced barbeque, what percentage of Americans I thought are actually racist. I quickly pulled out a 99% and I included myself in that number. The person who asked the question-along with my husband-did not agree with me.

Maybe I should use the word biased and not racist. Everyone has some bias. Not our fault. It’s in our politics. In our growing up years. In our society. Inherently. We don’t even notice it.

There lies the rub. We don’t even notice it.

We need to notice it. In order to create change we need to take notice and start questioning.

Not too long ago there were only white males in power or positions of authority. We (white people) didn’t even think about it. Until we did. And made changes.

I will share a story from my beloved father’s own mouth. He wasn’t telling me out of pride.

My mother, a bright lady, was a Registered Nurse. She skipped a grade in elementary school, graduated high school and was soon in the nursing program at a Rhode Island hospital. She loved her job and her nursing friends. I can still remember one evening, while I was upstairs in bed, hearing them while they laughed and smoked. I think that is probably the first time I also became aware of someone who was gay. One of Mom’s nurse friends.

Mom worked on the first heart/lung machine in Rhode Island. She also taught others. Pretty cool stuff.

My Dad was always so very proud of her. Almost to his dying day, if he was at a Drs. appointment-hers or his, he always mentioned that she was a nurse.

In the 1960s, when my parents married, three kids quickly arrived on the scene.

So, back then, life gets a bit tricky. And my mom was going to have to quit or cut back hours.

Dad told me, that a male Doctor from the hospital actually called him on the telephone. Asking if Mom could still work. Dad nicely and respectfully told the Doctor that they had a growing family.

When I was listening to my Dad tell this story I was sort of shocked. My stomach kind of lurched. I felt terrible for my mom (although she did work as a nurse part-time for years before going full-time again) -that the decision was not really hers.

I appreciated my father sharing that with me across their dining room table. I also appreciated that in the 1950s and 1960s things looked a whole lot different for women.

Did my Dad’s views change as he got older? Of course, they did.


Because people took notice and things changed for women.

But how many years had passed before someone noticed?

Now is the time for all of us to pay attention and listen.

Most importantly it is time to take notice.

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