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SEPTEMBER MEMORIES

On September 19, 1970, Kieran John Gallagher and Eileen Marie Copeland were married in my parish church, St. Mary Magdalene, in Springfield Gardens, New York. My sister, Mary, my maid of honor.  My brother, Bill, escorting me down the aisle.  Kieran’s brother, Kevin, his best man.  Six close friends as ushers.

One of the memorable moments — the priest, using the Wedding Feast at Cana as a theme, announced: “And a miracle has been performed today!”   Inspiring some of my husband’s friends to chuckle heartily — him the last to leave bachelorhood.

Then a reception at my home in Laurelton, tables for about 100 guests set in our yard, on damp grass.  A gorgeous, sunny day — after torrents of rain the day before.  We’d decorated our finished basement, in case, and the food was to be served buffet style in the dining room, but it would have been a cozy party. We hadn’t told my mom how many we’d invited, assuming there’d be refusals. There weren’t.  An open bar in the garage.  A strolling accordion player.  The general consensus — a good time had by all.

Exactly three years later, on our third anniversary, September 19, 1973, I was admitted to Flushing Hospital, a Caesarean section scheduled the next morning.  And on September 20th, our son, Kieran Anthony, entered the world. I’ll always be grateful that, after the recovery room, a sweet nurse wheeled my gurney up to the nursery window to see my infant son.  “A perfect baby boy,” the doctor pronounced. Weighing in at seven pounds, seven ounces. His daddy, Kieran John, came to visit, carrying a dozen red roses, with a card that read:  “Wow a boy!” Would have loved a girl, too.  But couldn’t help saying that!?

Kieran Anthony celebrated his 44th birthday last week.  And he and Bethany are now daddy and mommy to Nolan, Jack and Maeve.   Making memories every day.

 

 

 

 

 

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HOME ON THE RANGE

Not the kind “where the buffalo roam,” in that sentimental song of the old West — the kind that cooks — what I still call a stove.  Last week the oven died in the gas range in my condo kitchen.  Had tried self-cleaning, which didn’t work, and after that, neither did the oven.  Can’t be without an oven to bake my Irish soda breads and apple pies with homemade crusts.  (My mom always enjoyed her little pun:  “Eileen, you’ve got some crust!”)

I’m convinced that many appliances, along with some other modern conveniences, have gotten way too complicated  — for me, anyway.  Though I have a basic cell phone, dabble on the Internet,  and get money (too often) from an ATM.  My husband wouldn’t touch any of them — he didn’t like to be rushed, was deliberate in his movements.  Speed and dexterity are necessary now — fingers flying over smart phones.

I remember watching my Grandma Beatty in her kitchen as she calmly turned out delicious Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for about 25 — herself, grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins — cooking turkeys and all the fixings in a wood stove, throwing in big chunks to keep the fire burning evenly.  Kids fed first, then pretty much left on our own, chasing each other, playing games, sliding down the banister, boy cousins taking turns riding up and down in the hallway dumbwaiter — girls only allowed to keep watch for adults.

Wish we could go back to the days when families were closer, in both senses — wouldn’t want to go back to  wood stoves.  But do newfangled ones have to be so daunting?  The range was an older one, wasn’t worth repairing — $100 for the service call. Went to Home Depot, sales people scarce, none anywhere near appliance area. Only three gas ranges on display.  Finally ordered one a rare sales rep found on computer, to be delivered in several days, with later installation. With vision of stove sitting in my living room for a while, next day called and cancelled.

But now there’s a brand new Whirlpool gas range (4-1/2 stars out of 5) in my kitchen — reasonable price, black and stainless steel, 5 burners, a griddle, bought at Best Buy, where a helpful salesman approached as soon as I began to browse.   Delivered in two days, old range removed, new one immediately connected. All smooth sailing so far.  Not for long.

A 31 page Care and Use Guide came with the stove, 16 in English, then in French.  Had a quick lesson from installer, decided to bake Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits.  Mouth watering, put them on cookie sheet, tried to set oven temperature and timer, pressed digital control panel in proper places. But didn’t press Start button within 5 allotted seconds, 3 seconds to lock in. Finally got it right, but wouldn’t unlock when I wanted to correct the temperature.

Called Best Buy — “Press Lock for three more seconds to unlock” —  on page 8 of  manual, which made my brain hurt. The biscuits were delicious, and I dunked them in homemade chicken soup for lunch.  Yesterday, I treated myself to bacon and eggs cooked on the griddle — left some egg for Angel to lick off. Then discovered Low setting on front burners was defective — flame too high. Repair coming Friday. I rest my case.

 

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BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

This morning, on the way to WaWa for my customary French vanilla decaf coffee, plain donut for dunking, and “The [real news] Washington Post,” I turned on Tredmore Road and saw a curious sight — a woman and two young children, sitting on folding chairs near the curb, holding up small handwritten signs. Couldn’t make out the message as I drove by — probably young entrepreneurs offering refreshments on a hot summer day, with mom supervising sales.

As I came near, all three held up the signs, hopeful smiles fading as I kept going. Felt a twinge — sorry I’d passed them by — decided to stop on the way back.  A boy about five — he reminded me of my grandson Nolan — and his sister, maybe six, were selling ice pops for a dollar, though none were in evidence.  And it was their aunt who’d encouraged the project while their mom visited their new baby sister in the hospital, kept there because of complications at birth.

I asked for an orange and an apple ice, gave each child a dollar, and they filled the order in the garage where the pops were kept frozen. I was their first and only customer, said the aunt.  They’d been discouraged and had started to walk away when I arrived. Now they were delighted, both beaming and dancing around, waving the money. The boy  suddenly ran and gave me an enthusiastic hug.  Worth more than a dollar.  Priceless.

This afternoon Angel and I visited Havre d’Grace again for a walk on the boardwalk, water for her and a coffee ice cream float for me at the Promenade Cafe. After, we relaxed in a gazebo,  met a retired kindergarten teacher, Myrtle, and her son Charley, who proudly told me: “Today’s my mom’s 103rd birthday!” His mother added emphatically: “And I’m in very good health!” Which she certainly seemed to be.  Charley told me he’s had cancer three times, last time seven years ago, when doctors said he’d only live three months.

You never know who’ll you meet when you stop along the way.  Or what you’ll learn if you do.

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STILL HANGING IN THERE

Recently realized it’s been three months since I wrote “Out Like a Lion.” And suddenly it’s the Fourth of July — time flies whether or not fun is involved — and I wanted to send my loyal, intrepid followers greetings and good wishes on this anniversary of our nation’s independence.

This year we had a four day celebration since today’s a Tuesday — and we needed every one of them, many of us weary of the constant turmoil  in Washington and the world. Our so-called president seems more unhinged every day while his fans still adore him.

Outrageous tweets.  Bizarre behavior. Alternate “facts,” Health care plans on life support.  Environmental protections dismantled. The Russian question. And more. Our founding fathers would be scandalized and horrified.  And we have to worry about Putin in Russia.  Kim Jong-un in North Korea.  Conflict and unrest in so many countries.

Time for Angel and me to go to bed.  She’s got an early vet appointment in the morning.  Blood work for her Cushing’s disease.  But she’s doing well, thankfully, now about 10 years of age. When we found each other three years ago at Fallston Animal Rescue Movement, they said she was about seven then.

Sorry to say I’ve had another bout of depression, back in Sheppard Pratt again in June.  Out in time for Nolan and Jack’s shared 5th and 3rd birthday party in a park — 20 kids, parents, pizza, pinatas, masks. And Maeve will be one year old on July 15th.  So good to be home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OUT LIKE A LION

It’s the last day of March, nothing like a lamb — rainy, chilly and windy.  Strange weather we’ve been having — some 70+ degree days, people wearing sandals — then frigid temperatures, snow, and winter coats again.  Deniers of unusual global climate change are delusional.

Missed posting in February, though a made an unfinished attempt on February 28th. A lot’s been going on.  A trip to Massachusetts for the Hogans’ annual St. Patrick’s festival – bringing my Irish soda bread, of course.  The next week went to a Celtic Celebration concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra — third generation Irish descent, and the songs, dances and rousing bagpipes of my ancestors move me — roots go deep. Best of all, weekly overnight visits to Bethany, Kieran and my adorable grandchildren. Volunteer work at a hospital. Exercise classes at the senior center — hanging in there.

I promised epiphanies back in January — hope you haven’t been in suspense!  Reminded me of Al Francken’s Stuart Smiley, in the glory days of “Saturday Night Live,” gazing in a mirror,  affirming himself, murmuring “deep thoughts.” Now Senator Francken from Minnesota, it was wonderfully ironic to see him  — deadpan, with a sly downward glance — skewering our so-called Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Have had glimmers before, but understand more now — brace yourself!  It’s a miracle we’re even here at all — think of the odds, the multiple possible combinations of sperm and ova. And God charges a fair fare for an amazing lifelong journey — challenges to try us, then blessings and joys if we keep faith. We’re all in this together — I couldn’t have managed without loving family, friends, and my angelic pet Angel.

The trees are blossoming pink and white in Maryland.  Ducks and geese are pairing up on the pond in Bynum Run Park — babies coming soon. Tomorrow, I’m sowing grass seed on the bare patches in front of my patio.  The condo’s pool passes will be ready for Memorial Day weekend.  And America will survive the ignorance and incompetency of our so-called President Trump. (So unhealthily puffy looking — so full of himself.) Anyway, springtime is a time for hoping.

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EPIPHANIES

I’m back!  Haven’t been up to writing since I posted “A Harbor Full of Grace” in October.  Tried to stay hopeful, kept moving however I felt, but my depression worsened and I was admitted to Sheppard Pratt the end of November — spent my 85th birthday there on December 3rd, dear Kieran visiting with cupcakes for all. Was in Harford Memorial Hospital last year on my 84th — really don’t want to make this a tradition!

I’ve become something of an authority on the merits and demerits of various behavioral health centers — mental isn’t mentioned much. Sheppard Pratt was absolutely the best — caring, excellent staff; private room and bath; varied, decent food; music, exercise and other therapy programs;  Lexapro, a different anti-depressant; and ECT (shock treatment).  I’d been reluctant, and my son was apprehensive at my age, adding I’d been somewhat forgetful after it was administered in 2000, sixteen years ago.  But it was effective again.  (And I don’t remember being forgetful before.)

Kieran wryly remarked I’d been admitted to Mercy Hospital on Long Island soon after “W” Bush was elected president, courtesy of Florida’s hanging chads and the Supreme Court.  This time soon after Donald Trump’s mind-boggling win.   Coincidence?

Have been home for a month — happily celebrated my granddaughter Maeve’s Christening, Christmas, and the New Year. And my family, friends, and pet Angel have been loving and comforting. I’m grateful for every simple pleasure — reading The New York Times” and “The Washington Post, sipping my now decaf morning coffee.  And when I see that our soon-to-be-presidentTrump has once more erupted, tweeting praise of Putin, maligning the media for reporting what he says and does, insulting our “Intelligence” agencies, castigating  critics — I’m wide awake, don’t miss caffeine.  Behavioral Health, Donald?

Today is January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, remembering the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child in a humble Bethlehem stable. My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary states that epiphany also means: “a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something,” and “an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking,” and “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”

I may have come across a couple of those of late,  wanted to publish this today since there may be a metaphorical, metaphysical convergence here — old English majors can’t resist them.  Will tell more in a future post.  But for now I wish you and your loved ones — even some you’re not that crazy about — a happy, healthy, blessed New Year, and only troubles you can handle with the help of God.

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A HARBOR FULL OF GRACE

Angel and I drove to Havre de Grace again a week after the family visit — one of our favorite outings since moving here, only about 20 minutes from Bel Air.  Nobody here pronounces “grace” the fancy French way,  but as in “Amazing Grace.” A good, old flat American “A” is fine with Maryland folks.

A bit of background. Named for a port in France, this charming Harford city, more like a cozy village, is situated where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay, and is a historical area.  In the War of 1812, the British burned and plundered the area.  Now, thank God, it’s a haven of peace and serenity.

The day began gloomy and cloudy, but weather reports were hopeful, and we were rewarded by the sun appearing at noon and a gentle breeze blowing from the water.We both like walking to the lighthouse and back — besides being good exercise, we always see smiling faces, hear friendly greetings, and are both delighted when children run over to ask shyly:  “Can we pet your dog?”  We’d be disappointed if they didn’t!  Had a nice conversation with a young woman who’d lived in Jackson Heights before moving to Maryland, and gave birth to her only son at 41 as I did.  Small world.

Then, walking slowly with a cane, a man coming back the other way, abruptly announcing: “Dogs aren’t allowed here.” But he looked pleasant, not annoyed, so I said I’d seen the notices posted, nobody ever stopped us, and though we may not look like it, Angel was in fact what’s called a “comfort companion,” and I definitely needed one. That’s all I meant to say then, but suddenly found myself sharing about my depression. And was abashed when he told me he was on many medications, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease over two years ago. We hugged each other, said we’d trust in God, pray for each other, hoped we’d meet there again. And I promised to put him in my next post. So,  John Barton, I did.

When Angel and I got back to the Promenade Grille I ordered the best bowl of New England clam chowder I ever tasted, with a side of three hush puppies, one of which I shared with my friend — couldn’t resist her melting, pleading eyes, though I’ve been careful to keep to her diet and give her Cushing’s Disease medication — she’s much improved now,  even her tail hair has grown back luxuriantly. Adds more zip to her happy wagging.

Indulge this old former English major if I quote Emily Dickinson here:  “Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” I’ve been feeling little flutters now and then.

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