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A MOVING EXPERIENCE

Not the emotional kind — the kind where you move yourself and your belongings from one place to another. My son and his family have been looking for a larger house recently, and I’ve been remembering the time we moved into our new home with him as a baby. My mom once remarked: “Everything Eileen does seems to be the hard way.” Well, not everything, really.  But the following qualifies.

My husband and I had been living in an apartment in Queens County, New York for three years since our marriage, both 38 years old, both wanting children, with no time to waste. After tears, prayers and surgery I finally became pregnant, at the now “geriatric” age of 41. And several months later, my husband and  I signed a contract for a handyman special Cape Cod in Rockville Centre, Long Island.

Complications ensued with my pregnancy and the house sale.  At six months, another surgery and bed rest until the birth.  During which time the nasty couple who lived below continued their malicious practice of banging on their ceiling if we walked across the floor after 10 PM, following this up by blasting the rousing “Star Spangled Banner” from a radio under our bedroom at 5AM.  This continued each time we had well behaved company. We’d complained, of course, but nothing daunted them.

The day of our house closing arrived, and I waited happily for my husband to return, jangling our new keys.  Champagne in the refrigerator for him.  Ginger ale for me.  But he returned looking glum, without keys. The seller, who’d seemed unpleasant from the beginning,  had loudly refused to leave the premises, said he needed another two weeks to move.  My cousin Tom, our attorney, gave the extension, but the owner would have to pay big bucks after that.

In the meantime, on our third wedding anniversary, I was admitted to the hospital for Caesarean delivery the next morning.  Our son, Kieran Anthony, entered this challenging world on September 20, 1973, “a perfect baby boy,” the doctor announced. And instead of going to our new house, my husband drove us to Connecticut to my mother’s home.

My mom had been tense through my difficult pregnancy and now seemed more nervous  than usual. She’d put a crib in her twin bedded room where the baby and I were to sleep, though there were two other empty bedrooms.  One night when my son cried for his feeding, she drowsily said: “Don’t spoil him.  Let him cry.” I loved my mother dearly, but could hardly wait to get in my own house with my baby and husband.

Kieran J. had gone back to the apartment to handle the move with his parents’ help. By the way, the downstairs neighbors banged on their ceiling when his dad dropped a hammer about 9PM one evening — and they were all treated to a deafening rendition of “The Star Bangled Banner” the next morning at 5AM.

My cousin called to say the seller had asked for more time, but being reminded he’d have to pay a hefty amount per day after the extension, he got a U-Haul and departed by the deadline.  But left the house in awful condition.  Friends came to scrub sinks and tubs, vacuum dusty rugs, clean the oven and refrigerator, and collect garbage scattered from torn paper bags in the back yard.

Neighbors told me they were glad he’d left, that he’d been at least verbally abusive to his wife, children, and mother-in-law.  The house was meant to be ours —  on the market for over a year — he’d refused to come down a dollar in price.  We improved it and made it our own loving, warm, welcoming home. And many years later I left it shiny and clean for a newlywed couple and their future family.  During the housing bubble.  Need I say more? Yes, I do.  Two thoughts. “Living well is the best revenge.”   And misfortune may make good material for blogs when they’re invented someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ANDY ROONEY REDUX

I still miss listening to him gripe Sunday evenings on CBS TV’s’s “Sixty Minutes.” His segment, “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney,” at the end of the show was a highlight for 33 years.  But on October 2, 2011, at 92 years of age, he said farewell.  Told us he’d had a lucky life.  A wonderful family down to great grandchildren. Able to earn his living writing for 70 years, a rare feat.

Andy was more than a humorous curmudgeon.  He’d been a war correspondent in World War II, a reporter and writer for “Stars and Stripes,” awarded the Bronze Star, a writer for other radio and TV shows before “Sixty Minutes,” where he was known for his wry take on everyday occurences.

His name comes to mind when I’m feeling annoyed and crotchety. (Of course life was better when I was a girl.) Am not sure if crankiness increases with age — or if we just don’t have enough time left to put up with nonsense. It’s probably healthier to vent occasionally, anyway. Prevents brooding and ruminating.  As long as we watch our blood pressure.

Some of my current peeves:

Outlandishly expensive smart phones. Too many bells and whistles.  Not designed for the comfort and comprehension of most seniors. I was perfectly happy with a cell phone that made and received calls. But need Uber App for rides now — gave up driving last year.

Robo calls to land lines and now cell phones, too. Don’t answer anymore unless I see the name or number of someone I know.  Can block calls from land line, but once blocked a good friend calling from her daughter’s phone.

Boringly repetitiousTV ads, five or six at a time, that make me not want to buy what’s being promoted. I once counted ten interruptions with 43 commercials in an hour on MSNBC.  Though it’s sometimes it’s a relief from Trump coverage.

Human phone operators are extinct. Recordings answer:  “Press one for…  Press two for … Press three for …” multiple choices, none of which fit your situation.  Or “Due to heavier than usual call volume, there’ll be a wait…” And Amtrak’s robotic Julie doesn’t fool me for a minute.

Primary care doctors too busy to see you anytime soon.  Meanwhile, their nurse practitioners are available.  You may have to wait a month or more to see the Great Man.

Scarce sales help. It’s mostly do-it-yourself now.  Including checking out and paying by machine.  I remember the days when you could part the curtain in the dressing room and ask a salesgirl to bring you another size. Didn’t have to keep getting dressed and undressed.  You bought more then.

Malls and Big Box Stores with miles of aisles. When I was young, we had a row of small stores on Mentone Avenue in Laurelton. Candy store. Butcher.  Bakery.  Vegetables. Delicatessen.  Shoemaker.  Pharmacy. And they all knew your name, like on”Cheers.”

That’s just a selection.  There’s more.  Including the temperamental computer I just typed this on before my writing class today. Nearly lost half of it. I’ve bought an electric typewriter for backup. Have some yellow legal pads, too, in case of power outage. I want to keep writing.

On his last show, Andy said “the job of a writer is to tell the truth.” That he wasn’t a peformer, but a “writer who read what he’d written.”  And “a writer never retires.” I don’t think he would have yet, but sadly, he died only five weeks later of complications from minor surgery.

Here’s the kind of wry observation we’ve been deprived of since then:

“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”

“I don’t like music I can’t hum”

“There are more beauty parlors than beauties.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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KEYLESS AND CLUELESS

I’m back, still hanging in there. Lots of water under the bridge and over the dam since I paused my blog almost a year ago. Too much to tell today. But last May I moved from Bel Air to the Roland Park area of Baltimore to be nearer Kieran, Bethany and my amazing grandchildren — Nolan now six, Jack five, and Maeve two.  A first floor apartment in a big, old house with a fenced yard, perfect for me and my pet Angel, now about 12 years old, still lively and sweet, though on meds now for Cushing’s Disease, an adrenal gland disorder.

What prompted me to revive “The Perils” ?  I needed to write something  for a class, “Open Studio for Prose Writers,” at Notre Dame of Maryland’s Renaissance Institute for seniors. Took the course  last term, was going to try something else this spring. But serendipity, coincidence or karma kicked in. While walking Angel recently, I met a classmate, Amanda,  on two different days — in almost the same spot.  She persuaded me to join the group again. So my most recent adventure follows . . .

One bitterly cold Sunday morning, Angel and I were ready for a walk. Angel bundled up in her hot pink sweater. Me in hat, gloves, boots and puffy coat. Weird weather lately, one day a balmy 65 degrees, another below freezing.  I turned the inside doorknob to the lock position, stepped outside, and pulled the door firmly shut.  Then reached in my pocket for my keys to lock the deadbolt. Panic ensued.

They were still on the coffee table.  So was my cell phone.  I dashed around to several neighbors’ houses, knocking, ringing doorbells, hoping to borrow one to call my son.  No answer. Everybody at church?  Or just avoiding me?  Suddenly an inspiration from on high.  Or, now that I think of it, maybe from below?

There was an unlocked window — I’d been opening it often on mild days. Now, I’m well aware that what I was about to do was too frisky and risky at the age of 87. At any age. My son, an occupational therapist at a nursing home, constantly reminds me to be careful, especially about falling.   I knew he’d be horrified if he knew what his mother was up to. He was, when I told him the next day.  Too good to keep to myself.

I proceeded with my plan.  Brought a chair from the yard to stand on, ould only reach the sill, put another chair on top and stood on that. Raised the window high enough to fit me and my puffy coat.  And after much pulling, twisting, grunting, sweating, cussing and praying — I landed safely on the sofa inside. Amen!

Then Angel and I walked to Eddie’s grocery for the Sunday New York Times.  She got her usual dog biscuit there.  And I rewarded myself  with a venti half decaf vanilla latte at Starbucks.

 

 

 

 

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MARCHING IN

Had good intentions, started a post last night, hoping  to get in under the wire for February — but got sleepy and went to bed instead.  (So much for New Year’s resolutions!) Here’s a sketch of the month that was.

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, both on February 14th.  St. Margaret’s Church in the morning, and to Kieran’s in the afternoon, toting my (in)famous meatballs for dinner. Adorable grandchildren.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Bedtime stories.  Home with Nolan and Jack’s handmade valentines, now on refrigerator.

A surprise visit one afternoon from Kevin and Megan Jackson, on their way back from Villanova, where Megan’s been accepted for September.   So good to see them again.  Not since her grandpa Ed Collins’s 80th birthday party last May.

Wonderful Debbie, of Sparkle Cleaning Service, came once more and made my condo shine, cheerfully humming while she works her magic. Last year I’d decided I’d earned this luxury — wish I’d done it sooner. Angel loves her, too, following her around the apartment for belly rubs and happy talk.

Entertaining Chinese New Year celebration at a Baltimore museum with the Gallagher Clan. Costumed youngsters performing intricate steps to drumbeats and ancient music.  Colorful dragons (two people inside) kicking and writhing around the floor, delighting the crowd.  Followed by a craft workshop, Nolan and Jack making party hats. Then a buffet lunch at a Nepalese restaurant.  Broadening my palate!?

Just in passing, a check-up at the dermatologist.  Still good to go in the skin I’m in. Always grateful for my excellent medical coverage.

Balmy weather the last days of February.  A preview of spring.  Angel and I have been enjoying leisurely strolls in Bynum Run Park and on the boardwalk at Havre de Grace.  A pleasure after recent record freezing temperatures — then short walks with my pet, both of us bundled up to the nose, me tugging on her leash:  “Let’s go home.  Mommy give you treat.”  That always works.

By the way, may be retiring “The Perils…” after a random run of over six years. Want to concentrate on revising a couple of children’s stories I wrote long ago, and have been jotting down family memories, hopefully of interest to the younger generation.  Am now the third eldest:  My cousin, Jim Rogers, wins the gold at 96.  Cousin Patsy Beatty McNulty, earns the silver at 87.  And I get the bronze at 86.

Thank you for coming along with me on this bumpy ride.  Many blessings always to you and your loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“THIS COULD BE THE START OF SOMETHING . . .”

Somehow November and December got away from me. Thanksgiving, shopping, cards, Christmas.  Didn’t get around to blogging.  Suddenly, it’s the first day of January. We all get another chance to get it right this year.

Am dashing this off at my family’s house in Baltimore. A lot going on around me. Nolan playing an energetic, grunting game of Wii tennis. Jack, on his hands and knees, zooming a toy car around the floor, with sound effects.  Maeve toddling around with a doll, holding it by one leg, babbling her own language.  Bethany in the kitchen cooking veggies for dinner.  (I offered to help, but she sweetly declined, handed me the glass of wine I’m sipping as I write.)  Kieran working at the nursing home on the holiday.  He’ll be grilling filet mignon on the deck — a real treat for the feast.

He just came in the door, and he and Nolan are inviting me to Wii bowl with them now.  “No thanks.  Can’t stand electronic games.  Nothing like the real thing,” say I. (Though it’s been many years since I last rolled a ball down an alley, often in the gutter.) But they keep persuading. So I’ll stand in front of the TV screen and push some buttons, so they’ll stop pushing mine.   One of my ongoing resolutions:  be more open to new experiences!?

So here’s a toast to auld lang zyne and the brand new year of Our Lord 2018!  I wish you and yours many blessings:  love, health, friends, happiness — prosperity, too, if possible. We’ll get through the winter once again. More snow is predicted in Maryland tomorrow.  But have you noticed the days are getting longer?  It’s lighter a little later each evening.  “Can spring be far behind?”

 

 

 

 

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TRICK OR TREAT

It’ll be dark pretty soon, a little earlier every evening now.  Excited  children are getting  ready to go trick-or-treating.  Princesses, action heroes and heroines, all kinds of creepy creatures will be ringing doorbells, collecting hoards of candy.

There’ll probably be bonfires on beaches tonight.  Spooky stories told.  Apples bobbed for.  Does anyone still do that?  I hope so.  A messy highlight of my son’s costume party for third grade friends. He’d invited only boys — much to the annoyance of the girls in the class.  That was before he’d noticed their various charms.

Halloween’s origins can be traced back over 2,000 years to ancient Celtic harvest festivals, especially the Gaelic festival of Samhain, dedicated to remembering departed ancestors before the pagan new year began then on November 1st. In  the early Christian church, the celebration became known as All Hallows Evening (Hallows E’en) the eve of All Saints Day.  (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Nowadays, there’s more scary stuff going around than “things that go bump in the night.”  More frightening than ghosts, mummies, skeletons, witches or zombies.  More terrifying than Norman Bates, Dracula, Freddy Kruger, Hannibal Lecter or Michael Myers.   Among them:  Climate tragedies.  Multiple mass shootings, Frequent terrorist attacks.  Threats of war and nuclear annihilation.

The fragile middle class is disappearing.  “The rich get rich and the poor get poorer” — remembering the devastating last Depression. Back to the bad old days when the lowly labored for the wealthy?  My 15-year-old Irish immigrant grandmother among them. Immigrants may be disappearing, too.

The Republicans’ trickle-down mantra has never worked before, and won’t work now. The magical solution evaporates on the way down, doesn’t reach the roots. The GOP is willing to overlook the travesty of a rude, crude, dishonest president who promised us a virtual rose garden, but only sows havoc and controversy.  As long as he signs their heartless agenda into law.

We’ve been tricked!

 

 

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SEPTEMBER MEMORIES

Thirty seven years and one week ago today, on September 19, 1970, Kieran John Gallagher and Eileen Marie Copeland were married at St. Mary Magdalene Church, in Springfield Gardens, New York. My sister, Mary, my maid of honor.  My brother, Bill, escorted me down the aisle.  Kieran’s brother, Kevin, his best man.  Six friends his ushers.

A memorable moment at the nuptial mass:  As the priest, citing the Wedding Feast at Cana, solemnly intoned: “And a miracle has been performed today!”  — a rumble of hearty laughter arose from the congregation — mostly my husband’s raucous buddies  — he was the last to take the leap.

Followed by a reception at my home in Laurelton, tables set in the yard — on very damp grass. A gorgeous, sunny day — after torrents of rain the whole day before.  We’d decorated our finished basement, in case, and the food would be served buffet style in the dining room, but it would have been a very cozy party. We hadn’t told my mom how many we’d invited, over 100, assuming there’d be refusals. Only one.  An open bar in the garage.  A strolling accordion player.

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 later pronounced. Weighing in at seven pounds, seven ounces. His daddy, Kieran John, came to visit, looking goofily happy, carrying a dozen red roses, with a card that said: “Wow a boy!” (Not that he was chauvinistic!)

Kieran Anthony celebrated his 44th birthday last week.  And he and Bethany, and Nolan, Jack and Maeve, are making their own memories every day.

 

 

 

 

 

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