Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

“A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”

I’ve read that quote more than once and I believe this to be the absolute truth. You all know how I feel about family. If we share the same blood/family we are members of a very special club. Ain’t nobody getting kicked out of it. Even if we no longer see each other very often.

I have more than twenty-five first cousins. But when I was a kid most lived in Ireland and some in England.

So, sadly, I didn’t share a childhood with all of my cousins. But that was just reality.

The ones who I did share my childhood with consisted of three families who lived in the U.S. like me.

They were my Dad’s sister, Rose Marie and her family in New York. In Rhode Island we had the families of Mom’s sister, Patsy and her brother, Jimmy.

Summer holidays and other times during the year were spent with the New York cousins.

Christmas, Easter, cookouts and regular Sunday visits to the grandparents were spent with the Rhode Island cousins.

Oh, what fun we had when we were young.

There were the older cousins in our (my brothers and me) age range and then a few younger ones came along in the 1970s. That was pretty exciting for us. Everyone liked babies and they were just absorbed. Welcomed into the fold.

That’s the funny thing about babies. They are not like the future in-laws who take awhile to break into the family. To be a part of the club and inner circle. Going through the initiation and all.

But a baby? Born into the family? The bouncer just lets that little bundle of joy right into the club! Like a celebrity with status. No stopping at the door, stamping its hand or questioning their right to be there. They’re totally in!

One of my baby cousins died on March 18th. John was just shy of his forty-seventh birthday. He will be interred tomorrow with his beloved mother.

I last saw him when he made the trip to Rhode Island for my Dad’s funeral three years ago. Even though it was a sad time I was really happy to see him and so many family members. These days everyone lives in different places and reunions are not always easy or frequent. So weddings and funerals are the “go to” places for the big catch ups.

John was a beautiful child. An adorable kid with a mop of curly red hair. He was intelligent and good humored. He was a nice and decent boy who grew up to be a nice and decent man.

He died young. Too young.

For the record, I think all deaths under the age of eighty are sort of tragic.

Today is no different.

John died because he was a human being. Lest we forget -we are all afflicted with that title.

A death reminds us that we are all human. Some might dodge the bullets of life. Others aren’t so fortunate and get hit head on. But we all know, really, that sometimes we just have no say or control. Our expiration date, like a milk carton, might (I say might) have been printed long ago. Even if we argue or beg that it could have been/should have been different.

It’s still tragic. It’s heartbreaking and sad.

One of the benefits of being in the cousins’ club is that there is only love. No jealousy or judgement. We’re family and are grateful for the shared and special memories. We take joy in the success and happiness of each other. We are sympathetic when one is experiencing family problems, job loss, illness and other maladies of life.

There is profound and utter sadness when we lose one of our gang.

When John was a baby I was sleeping at his house one weekend. Poor little thing couldn’t pronounce my name (Mary Beth) but he tried. In the morning I heard a little voice coming from the crib, “Maybell?”

Since then it’s been “ours” and we didn’t ever let it go.

So every year on our birthdays and other Facebook messages we used Maybell instead of my real name. Now, I’m wondering if he actually ever knew what my real name was.

Anyway, it was like we were little kids. He in his forties and me in my fifties. In a way, a simple word brought us back in time and kept us young. Even if it was for a minute. It was a shared memory.

See, because a cousin is a little piece of childhood that can never be lost.

John will always and forever be a part of my childhood that can never be lost.

We will miss you, John. Rest in peace. Like one of your sisters said, “Rest is not so easy right now on this side of Heaven.”

The club will no longer be the same, little cousin.

With all my love,

Maybell

 

 

In memory of John J. Kelly

1971-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A friend and I were recently discussing a guy who grew up in our neighborhood.

When Kyle left to serve his country in Vietnam I would have been about five years old. He was eighteen or nineteen. Same age as my youngest daughter who is now in her first year of university.

Kyle was not the only young boy from the neighborhood who went to Southeast Asia during that time.

Of course, I don’t remember when they left. I was too young.

I do have memories of when the American boys came back. Watched the grainy news footage on television with my family. Of planes on the runway depositing our men. No longer youthful.

I remember the POW bracelets that people bought and promised to wear until the service people captured or missing came home. I heard all of the scary stories. I remember that it was a time of protest. I remember who served in Vietnam.

War is horrific and I cannot wrap my head around it. But some wars are worse than others. The Vietnam War would be one of those filed under “worse than others.”

The “lucky” ones came back.

My next door neighbor, Dick, came back home. With a terribly scarred face and a black eye patch covering the socket.

Pretty frightening to see when you are a kid.

Wait, he was only a kid when his life was in such peril. So how freaking frightened was he?

Kyle also made it back home.

But some scars are visible and some are not.

Kyle was a cousin of our friends and he lived across the street on the corner. I would see him around but actually only met him in my teen years. The age difference and all. I didn’t know him well but he seemed like a nice guy. Good humored. Cute in a long, shaggy hair, five o’clock shadow way. Remember a bunch of us at a party and having some good laughs. He was in college and studying theater then. A group of us attended a Shakespeare performance of his at Rhode Island College.

Kyle died, one year ago, at the age of sixty-six. The cause of his death was the Vietnam War. He was exposed to deadly chemicals during his time there. Everyone has heard of Agent Orange. For Kyle, chronic illness and an early death were the results of his exposure to it. I’d say he died from friendly fire.

Just like using a jug of Round-Up. Spray and kill. These chemical weapons (that is what they were) would be dumped on vast areas from planes and defoliation took place. Benefits were two fold. 1) No bad guys can hide in the jungles or forests without the cover of green canopy. 2) Kill all the crops so the bad guys will starve and die.

Obviously, Agent Orange was just one piece of the huge horror show called Vietnam. But its harm continues to reverberate to this day.

The spraying didn’t help. It only hurt. The destroyed crops led to widespread famine and innocent civilians starved to death. The environment was damaged. Our boys came home and began to get sick. Every spray inflicted harm. Illness, genetic damage and death were all a part of its ripple effect. The U.S., Vietnam and other countries who were exposed during the war all suffer the effects.

This could be viewed as old news. But it’s not. It’s continuing news. Because people are still dying. Kyle did.

We sent our fresh faced boys into a jungle war that they had no chance of winning. No one came out of it unscathed. Those who did make it home were changed and scarred, one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

That is our history and our responsibility.

I suppose, in a way, this is a posthumous thank you to Kyle for his sacrifices. Tinged with sorrow for his suffering. It shouldn’t have ended like that. Terribly unfair.

A thank you to all the young boys who left our neighborhoods. Those who made it back home and those who didn’t. Bless them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is one more story about social media. And using it responsibly.

Maybe it’s more about responsible parenting.

I saw a posting/link on Facebook that someone shared.

About a father in Virginia teaching his ten-year-old son a lesson. The kid was kicked off the bus for bullying others.

Dad made his son run the mile to school each morning. Even in the rain. He filmed the kid’s punishment from the car.

It went viral.

His message to other parents?

Don’t be a friend. Be a parent. That’s what kids need these days.

He felt like filming his son’s punishment and sharing it with millions of strangers was a good parenting move. And I suppose some type of public service announcement for the world.

The father received a lot of positive feedback.

“Good for you!”

“Great parenting!”

“Yay!”

No one wants their kid to be a bully. I’m on the same page and I certainly appreciate his “no bullying” stance.

I don’t agree with anything else.

Good God, I hope he doesn’t run for elected office. Laugh out loud. You all know how crazy stuff can go down. Like a locomotive picking up steam.

I’m not into family shaming. At all.

Why on earth would I publicly shame my own kids? Or even my dog, Thumper?

I didn’t name any of them Hester Prynne.

They trust me. As their parent.

I’m not sure that kid is ever going to trust his old man. Any time that guy whips out a camera everyone is going to stop, drop and roll.

It’s our job, as parents, to determine why a child is bullying others or behaving inappropriately. What is the root cause?

Sure, punish the kid. Even make them walk everywhere because they lost the privilege of riding the bus.

But film it? And share it?

Sounds like something a bully might do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyone loves a good story. I swear that people would give up food and drink to hear a good story.

Okay, maybe just me. But I totally would. I swear.

I LOVE a good story.

Just recently (over the summer holidays) at my cousin’s place, the Irish Social Club, we were told a story that had us on the edge of our seats. It included the East Side, a local restaurant, boxing, an angry young man and a finish with the Boston Marathon.

Jeepers. Okay, there’s that.

Then a more distant memory.

Mazing through the Christian section of Damascus and seeing a big man in a cafe regaling the tea/coffee crowd with old stories. I wished I could understand the Arabic language!

Not long ago.

When my daughter was in the Bay area during her college years, I had sent a birthday gift and list of different things to do in San Francisco. She checked off most on my list but was not able to attend the story telling venue “Fireside.”

Don’t get attached. It’s already a thing of the past. 😦

Here is where I diverge. Still relating to story telling.

I was watching/listening to a story on “The Moth.”

The Moth. It’s a cool thing.

Okay, it was a story about a middle aged woman so I could sort of identify with her. Listened to the podcast, filed away the story for another time and called it a day.

My girlfriend, Mary Ann, works at a book store in an unnamed state. Apparently book stores get loads of books that they cannot sell. For pre-read or not fully/properly edited.

Anyway, she gave me a bunch of free books. Because she’s my friend.

I’m looking at the titles and an author name sounds familiar. Like the same person that was telling a story on “The Moth.”

I google the situation. Yes, it’s her. She is an entertainer (home entertainment), author of a gazillion books, has a billion offspring and also farm animals.

Oh wait, the site directs you to her Amazon store. Because if you followed her blog, book club or page and were the least bit interested in any of her stuff you can buy it and be like her.

Where am I going with this?

Don’t fall for the Martha Stewart nonsense.

She’s written a lot of books. It takes me forever to write a single blog posting. And I don’t even have chickens. Don’t have kids at home. I’m not slow. I’m not quick, I’ll grant you that, but I’m not trailing behind.

Continued message to you. It’s not as easy as one would have you think. I’m not saying the world is full of imposters. I’m just saying take it easy on yourself when comparing with others.

My message to the author. I’m not sure if you have a little help with your writing but please don’t raise the bar too high for the rest of us. Thrilled that you are a go getter. Love that you have an on line store and animals but don’t present an image of “doing it with ease” to the every day woman. Because it’s not easy for many.

 

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My cousin’s wife lost her grandmother the other day. She was, as they say, a good age. Ninety four.

But still. When I read it my eyes filled up.

With all the nastiness in the world that I could cry about this is the thing that finally gets me. Although I only teared up. No fits or anything. I’m just saying.

Grandmothers are special.

My paternal grandparents lived in Ireland (and I did not) so I never really knew them. There wasn’t the money to go back and forth. My maternal grandparents were also from Ireland but lived in the U.S. so I knew them very well.

I was close to my grandmother. I am her namesake.

minnie.jpg

She was a gorgeous woman. With auburn hair and green eyes. And a lovely peaches and cream complexion as a young woman according to her cousin Tom Creaney.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. Not exactly sure why she keeps creeping into my thoughts. But I have some clues.

We bought that new house in Rhode Island during the winter so I still really have no idea what the landscaping will look like in the spring. But I did ask the previous owner if they planted lilacs. She said that there were some bushes in the backyard.

Yay! I love purple lilacs. We had them when I was growing up. So it’s a part of the grand scheme.

It made me remember my Nana. She was allergic to them. And there was a bush right outside her kitchen window. Where she sat a good portion of the day. Doing her puzzles, scanning the newspaper, reading letters, cutting out photos with “The Fonz” or “Donny Osmond” for me and eating her meals.

She did not own the house so she suffered instead of requesting the bush be removed.

Wish I could sit and commiserate with her until the allergy season passed.

I now walk every day in Delhi parks. I goof around on the gym equipment that the Lion’s Club has generously provided.

One day, I see a lady who looks like an expat. Maybe I will strike up a conversation. See what we have in common.

Ummm. She’s got banana curls. I cannot remember the last time I saw anyone with banana curls.

My first thought? Friendship might be a tad difficult if she is on the high maintenance side. That’s totally not my thing. I’m thinking banana curls take a bit o’ time.

I envision, “Hey, want to grab a coffee or a drink?”

Response, “Sure! In four to six hours. Gotta curl my hair!”

Okay, totally being unfair to this woman. Plus I am sure they’ve perfected that banana curl look with a simple tool.

Nancy, my Canadian friend said, “You never know!”

But it made me think of my grandmother once again.

I, too, had banana curls. My mom has the photos to prove it. Pictures documenting the before, during and after. I’d share but they are at Mom’s house. In a different country. Plus I was probably in second grade so a bit toothless. Not a good look. Makes me seem a bit off in the photos.

In the “during” photos I am seated at my grandmother’s knees. She is setting/weaving my hair with rags. Once a cotton pillow case but torn into strips that wrapped up my hair.

Wish I could sit at her knee now.

My husband and I would always invite her to join us. Even for a drive. She would say, “No thanks, you kids go on.”

I think the last time she said “Yes” was a trip to La Salette Shrine during the Christmas season. A place where there are tons of Christmas lights. That was many years ago.

Wish I could take her for a drive.

My brothers and I were reminiscing recently and talking about her. My little brother got in trouble with my Dad one day. After Nana had been babysitting us. Nothing to do with Nana. LOL. She just came up in the memory hashing.

Wish she was here to validate the childhood memories.

Anyway, she’s obviously been on my mind.

A grandmother is truly a special gift. If you still have one give her a call. Take her out. Cherish her.

You will never regret the time spent and I can pretty much guarantee that you will always miss her once she is gone.

 

 

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I was reading an article the other day.

Its title?

Six things that can help keep you young.

That caught my eye. Let me state, for the record, that I am aware of the attention grabbing numbers in an article’s title. A marketing thing that seems to work quite well. I’m guilty of succumbing to it. And then cruising through lists.

5 foods that will guarantee weight loss.

Top 20 universities in the world.

10 spots you must visit before you die.

20 best places to retire.

Bloggers are told if you want more “hits” use numbers and lists.

It’s nothing new. Because it has proven to be successful through the years. Most likely because of our limited attention spans and also knowing that we’ll be able to skim through the list in a timely manner. Without wasting too much time.

I don’t usually use it when writing. But I fall for it when reading.

Anyway, this one grabbed my attention and I thought it was a pretty good list.

Six things that can help keep you young. All doable.

Keep moving. Go for a thirty minute walk. Clear out a cupboard. Work in the garden. Don’t have to do everything all at once. But choose something every day to keep active.

Friends. Friends. Friends. Being connected is good for your health. It just is.

Quit smoking. This article stated that smoking one cigarette a day impairs cognitive ability and fifteen cigarettes hinders critical thinking and memory. Okay, I did not know that. If this is true it’s just one more reason that I am glad I stopped. Because my memory is not that great.

Eat like a Mediterranean. Fruits, vegetables, mixed nuts, fish, olive oil and whole grains.

Play games and puzzles. Whip out the daily crossword puzzle and also challenge yourself to some problem solving exercises.

I love, love, love this last one.

Revisit old favorites. Think about what made you feel good when you were young. Not sure why we abandon the things that once made us feel fabulous.

For example. I met a neighbor last Sunday and she brought me to her home. Her kids had friends over and they were playing in the living room. They built this fort with blankets draped over the chairs and sofas. Like I did when I was young. Like my kids did. Because it was soooo fun.

These children were having a blast. Smiles galore. I was happy just looking at them and I told them, “Oh my gosh! What fun! I did this when I was a kid. And so did my kids!”

Now, I’m not saying go grab blankets and build a fort in your living room. Or climb a tree.

But do something. Try to remember what brought you joy.

Ride a bike. Fly a kite. Listen to music. Go to the airport and just watch planes. Picnic with your friends.

Have a great week and I hope you all feel super young!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have a chat group with my brothers. So we are always texting each other and keeping in touch. Sharing photos. Even if I am in India.

Hate it when they veer off into statistics of a sport on the chat group.  But that’s life.

We are special.

No, mentally, we are sort of okay. At the moment.

We are special because we can get same reactions via text that we would get in person.

Had interactions tonight.

One brother says, “I have guests and they probably think I’m nuts.”

Because he was laughing so loud. He said his stomach hurt.

The other brother said his family heard him and wondered if he was okay.

That’s always how it’s been with us. We feed off each other. Until we can’t breathe.

Everyone in the family just lets us be. Because they know. The ones that marry into the family are keepers because they get it. And love it.

I just want to say I’m incredibly grateful for my brothers.

 

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