Category Archives: A Message from Me

One Week & the Events which Shape our Lives

Between working full time, interrupted sleep all night long, and being a caregiver , homemaker and all the other usual stuff…. Ok I am tired…and so are you after reading this. This week was filled with some fun and some not so fun stuff.
                 I was really anticipating my friend Debbie’s visit from Australia. We spent a great deal of time together and my husband helped out with keeping the household in order so that I could do this.  Debbie and I met for lunch one afternoon and ate Italian Sandwiches. The following night, we went for pizza down the Old Port and walked around all the shops. Then on Saturday, we went to our mutual friends’ home for a fiftieth Birthday party. Then my husband, son and Dad and I left to visit my brother who had a very large cook out to celebrate his daughter’s graduation. My husband later found out that his 91 year old grandmother, in Massachusetts, went to the hospital.
                 Meanwhile my own mother and sister have been in Albuquerque, NM for a convention for School Nurses. My sister, Sharon, maintains their web site and my mother is an Event Planner. She plans the conferences down to the very last detail. 
                 On Sunday, I met Debbie at Jane’s [our mutual friend] parents’ home. The three of us have been friends since middle school. We spent many evenings chatting with her parents and we hoped to visit with them a while. Our visit was four hours long and filled with much laughter. I will never forget the time that Jane’s dad had worked all summer fixing up a second car for the family. Jane had just gotten her license. She was one of seven kids. We took a cruise around Ferry Village. The manhole covers were sticking up quite high as they had stripped the pavement in preparation for new asphalt. The frame of the car was wrecked as we drove over the protruding manhole covers. I started laughing nervously until it became a hysterical laughter. I could not stop laughing. I laughed all the way back to Jane’s house as she yelled at me to stop. She was upset as her Father would undoubtedly have something to say about the incident. He was very gracious and I will never forget the look on his face, one of disbelief and disappointment but with concern for us. I apologized for my laughter. Our visit was memorable.
                 My husband received news that his grandmother had died. I felt sadness but knew she had lived a nice long life. At the age of sixteen, she lost her own mother who caught fire tending the stove. Once she told me about a woman from her neighborhood in Clinton, Massachusetts that recruited strong hardy Irish girls off the boat to work as Domestics. She told me this woman’s name was Mrs. Connelly. I thought that was interesting. The last year or so, she was having trouble with Dementia. I enjoyed Margaret Schofield O’Keefe and I will miss her.
                 The following day, Monday, I received an urgent call from my husband. I was at lunch at the time, so later I tried to return the call. Finally, after reaching him, he told me that he was taking Michael by ambulance to MMC. Michael had somehow leaned forward and could not get back upright. He tried to use the wall to push him back upright, but to no avail. He sat there for 2 hours with his head pressed against the wall and his arm pinched against the wall. Someone knocked on the door, but did not hear him as my dogs were barking loudly. He was a little angry and upset when Terry came home. Terry thought it best to get him to the hospital. Mike had a swollen eye and his arm was very numb and his rib cage ached. Other than that he was ok. I made a call to Gould Health to see about getting an assessment for him. Maybe we will have some peace of mind if I can get care for him.
                 I found out from my Father that my Mother had something terrible happen to her. She was at a restaurant and started choking. Several nurses attempted the Heimlich maneuver as my sister called an ambulance. My sister took care of all the details for the hospital, after conversing with my Father. My mother could breathe through her nose only. She could hardly talk about it as she was very close to death according to the doctors. I am grateful my sister was with her at the time. I am looking forward to seeing both of them soon. 
                 Let’s hope next week is somewhat normal. I can’t handle anymore excitement. My tomatoes, cukes, beans and scallions are growing lovely. Nature gives me some balance.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

What’s the Trade-Off?

Thinking about the way life has changed in the past hundred years, I can only wonder what amazing changes lie ahead. Today we are instantly connected to anywhere in the world via the Worldwide Web. When I can send transcribed letters from the 1860’s to a rural library in Ireland over the Internet, including photo attachments, the technology is mind boggling. At what cost has this come to us? Exactly what is the trade-off?
                 Recently I interviewed several families for an Immigrant Program I put together for Westbrook Historical Society. One man, whose father came to America from Greece in the early 1920’s told him one particular story many times. When I asked him to tell me a story about his father, he chose this story. His grandparents in Greece were farmers, who made a living from their fruit orchards and the goods they sold on their farm. Later they became fabric merchants and furriers. He relayed a story from his father who made the statement that in one year alone, the family’s total expense was $1.67 [one dollar and sixty seven cents] He then said, they probably bought things like needles used to sew. In those days a traveling tinker might pass through to repair old pots and pans.
                 This was the turn of the century, early 1900’s. It seems as if 100 years ago we were totally self sufficient, living off the fat of the land, giving our heart and soul, blood sweat and tears into our existence as farmers. We relied on the weather and the help from our neighbors. Neighbors talked about their crops, worked together and bartered to survive. One week was spent picking pests from the apple orchard trees. The farmers in my family grafted some of their trees and did this for other farmers, so that one tree could have a few different kinds of apples. They looked after one another when help was needed. A farmer down the street might hire a hand from their neighbor or just share help when needed with no money exchanged. They shared farm equipment from time to time. They sought ways to improve their land. A dairy farmer had to make his own butter each morning before he took to his route. He made many kinds of milk. It was a difficult life ; nothing romantic about it. To stay warm, you had to spend a great deal of time in the woods in winter, cutting and hauling trees with the use of horse and sometimes oxen. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, most folks had their own herb garden. The herbs were grown for remedies and sometimes used for dye in their clothing. Think of making your own ink from tree nuts and with the scarcity of paper, nothing was wasted. Everything was made by hand for the most part.
                 So as we worked to improve our land, we also worked to improve technology, such as farm equipment, inventing machines like mowers and manure spreaders. We could get more work done while the sun was still in the sky. We always work to improve as that is human nature. Somewhere, we totally lost the self sustaining part of the equation. I also think it is human nature to need to have a connection to nature. We yearn for it. So maybe there has always been a grassroots effort to get folks to work toward the common goal of becoming more self- sufficient. Maybe it will take the oil crisis to get people to think how they spend and what they purchase. 
                 As we become more involved with the techno age, ask yourself if you could put down your cell phone, or turn off the computer or not even answer the phone? Today, on my drive to work, I was annoyed when a young girl in her car came out of nowhere and drove ½ car length’s distance, nearly all the way to work as she talked on her cell phone the whole trip. What was so important that she avoided her responsibility to other drivers on the road? I decided I need to make a bumper sticker which states, “ If you are on your cell phone-stay away from me.”  It seemed like she was on a racetrack. 
                 I can hardly believe the changes in my own lifetime regarding technology. I never took typing in school, as who could ever have envisioned everyone owning a personal computer when I was in middle school back in the early 1970’s. I believe that Henry Ford had the right idea when he wanted the average man to own a car. It revolutionized industry and changed America forever allowing the growth of the transatlantic highways. People began to travel to places that were mostly inaccessible except by train. The car transformed family life. The internet has transformed the world. Everyone has access to information. The way we receive information and send information has got to be the most significant aspect of the internet. It has changed the newspaper industry, the film developing industry, the telecommunications industry. Everyone has to struggle to keep up with the changes or they will not survive. Our world is transforming. Please try to hang onto some balance with nature. We need to be mindful of our food supply and stay informed.
                 One hundred years is not that long ago. Another matter of interest is that you will most likely be forgotten in three generations. That is the main reason I wish to pursue more stories from long ago. My advice is to start a garden and spend some time nurturing it. This has three benefits that I can see. You know what you are eating. It is the green thing to do. It may bring you closer to nature and preserve some sanity in a fast changing global environment.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Thoughts for the Weekend

The weekend started like any other, with the exception we lost an envelope full of money which was our pay for the week. At the risk of sounding pitiful, I was mostly upset that someone who found the money, never thought about the person who lost it. It was out of my hands, so I told my husband that my plans for Friday evening would remain the same. I attended an excellent lecture. He is always supportive of my passion for knowledge.
             Those who know me well also know my passion for anything historical regarding the Irish. Dr. Kenneth Nilsen, an expert in Irish language in North America , has taught at Harvard Extension School in Cambridge and is known at St. Francis Xavier College in Antigonish, NS. There he has served as Chair of the Celtic Dept. He told a wonderful story of how he and Professor Michael Connolly [edited collections: They Change Their Sky: The Irish in Maine [2004] and John Ford in Focus [2008] met over their shared passion for the Irish language about 25 years ago. Together they filmed and spoke with many of Portland’s elder Irish population at that time, many of whom are now dead. Interestingly enough, it is believed that Portland had more Gaelic speakers per capita than anywhere else in the USA. The audience had a chance to view some of these oral interviews done many years ago. The first fellow interviewed was a Mr. Patrick Malone. Though I neither speak nor understand Gaelic, it was compelling to see the passion in his face as he told a story. His lips barely moved but his eyes were very expressive. He was on my mind all weekend, this Mr. Pat Malone. Some of the men interviewed had been longshoreman on Portland’s waterfront. Another woman interviewed was a Concannon woman who lived to be 103, and was a Domestic. They all spoke Gaelic, some with bits of English mixed in with their stories. I had a question about the census of 1901 in Ireland, how I noticed quite often that some of the men in my family were listed as speaking Irish, but not able to write Irish. I was told it was as if there had been genocide of the language. This did not surprise me as his has happened in many cultures when certain groups were forced to Americanize. [The French in Maine comes to mind as well as the Native Americans.]
             I thought about the storytellers in every culture. I have read a great deal about how important they were to a community. On the western coast of Ireland, in County Kerry lies a peninsula named Dingle. The island’s fiercest waves crash into the rock shoreline and jagged cliffs in this area. Mountain passes hug the cliffs and views surely to shorten your breath, Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head are something you will never forget. It is a pity so many had to leave years ago. Off the coast near Slea Head are a group of jagged rock islands which stand hundreds of feet into the air. In the last part of the nineteenth century a woman named Peig Sayers lived here on one of those islands. Her home was on the Great Blasket Island. She was the island storyteller. She had over 300 stories that were her own. I read her autobiography translated by Bryon MacMahon. She was highly respected by her community. There is a small description near the beginning. It tells how she is in the hospital bed combing her hair and she is nearly blind of old age. A group of schoolboys run into the hospital and up to her room. The nuns and nurses in the hospital watch the boys closely as one steps forward speaking Irish, “Peig Sayers, we offer you this gift as a mark of our esteem.” He placed the gift into her hands. Tears streamed down her face as she held out her hands to caress the boys face. She was on her deathbed. The storyteller reached all generations.         
            Professor Connolly tells me that the Irish word for storyteller is seanachi, pronounced ‘SHAN a key’. At the end of the book she tells how she did her best to give an accurate account of the people she knew. In the words of Peig Sayers, “People will yet walk above our heads; it could even happen that they’d walk into the graveyard where I’ll be lying but people like us will never again be there. We’ll be stretched out quietly – and the old world will have vanished.” I highly recommend reading her autobiography which details her life from a young girl, through marriage when she moved to the desolate Blasket Islands and the hardships she endured always keeping her faith close to her heart.
             All my early teen years, while interviewing my elder relatives, some Irish, never did I think anyone had the interest that I had. I really thought I was the only one with this desire to know more about my people. It has only been after a lifetime of collecting turn of the century photographs of ancestors from Ireland, artifacts and stories as well as numerous correspondences, all neatly stored in a shoebox, that I came to know there is a community of researchers who share the same passion as I do. It was an enlightening experience to meet these people. They all have specialties. Some are professors, who have studied the working waterfront with the longshoreman; some are avid genealogists, who have large volumes of information, much of it in their heads, about many of Portland’s Irish families. Some are authorities on Irish women and their work as Domestics and the workers at the Portland Star Match Factory. I have many connections in my passions. I think maybe we should all stay in touch with our passions. Anyhow, this weekend renewed my interest in the people we all know in our lives. They all have stories.
             The rest of the weekend was getting ready to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I just love those Pittsburgh Penguins. They have heart and that is their passion.
 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Memorial Day Weekend-Family Tales

The week was not without meaning. Though I was sick a few days, I managed to get to Saccarappa Cemetery to transplant some of my own plants from my yard onto David’s Grave and my grandparent’s grave. I planted Lily of the Valley and Violets. After running the stories about David, I feel real dialogue has transpired. His ‘life’ memory will be left for all of us. I was not sure what would become of it all, but it has put a smile on my face this week. [see “A Boy Named David” & “The Dialogue: A Boy Named David”]
             I spent Saturday evening in Winthrop at my brother’s home for girl’s night out with my mom, sisters, niece, and Sally, my brother’s wife. Sally prepared a lovely meal for all of us and we exchanged gifts including identical pajamas for all of us, slippers and spa items. We all had a spa night after dinner in Sally’s home, watching movies, including August Rush, and Disturbia. I liked August Rush, but disliked Disturbia. It was ok, just not my kind of movie. Afterwards, my sister Carol, her daughter Natalie and I stayed up until 1:30 AM composing a song about our evening. We laughed all night. Off to bed, I thought about my two sons and my husband.
             My son JT was going to the prom with a girl who he has known since he was little from Redbank. They were just friends, but the family must’ve been worried he had not contacted them for awhile and the heat was coming down. The older brother came here Friday evening looking for JT but he was at the movies. He asked JT to please call as he was getting the heat from his mom and sister about the uncertainty of Prom night. I think it was stressing JT out a little but he managed nicely. He is a bit like me with putting things off until the last moment, though he had the tux rental all ready earlier. As I lay in bed, I felt bad that I had not seen him dressed up and ready to go but was glad my husband would be home. 
             Then my thoughts changed to my son Mike, who has been a little down as his girlfriend of two years broke up with him about a month ago. She called him many nights to talk, and Mike always looked forward to her calls. She is about three years younger than him. She has a nice family and she is a thoughtful girl. She is growing up and probably doesn’t feel she fits in with her girlfriends, but who really knows. She and Mike were going to attend the prom way back, but she broke up with him a month before that. Anyhow, he thinks he has done something wrong. In reality, I just think she wanted to go with her girlfriends. She cares a great deal about Michael, but she will not see him anymore. He is a little broken hearted but he will be ok in time. I think deep down, he feels she broke up with him because he is in a wheelchair and his health will get worse. I guess we never stop being mother.
             We arrived at my mother’s home at 10:30AM Sunday morning. I went inside to call my husband. He would be picking me up later at my mom’s, so I could visit. We sat outside in the sun and soon my aunt came by from New Jersey. She and her husband came to get my father and take him to Saccarappa Cemetery, then to lunch at Susan’s Fish and Chips and afterwards a visit to see my Uncle Phil at the memory impairment unit where he now lives. I was glad to see my aunt as I had not seen her since I posted the stories about David. She wanted to see her brother Phil to thank him for his role in saving their family in the fire. She asked me if I wanted to go, but I felt it was personal between her, my dad and Uncle Phil. I was also waiting for my husband to pick me up later. She brought Uncle Phil a lobster roll. Aunt Marietta mentioned to Phil that he had shared with me how he and David had climbed through the skylight in the ceiling, to escape the fire. She thanked him and talked a little more about that day.. At one point, Uncle Phil mentioned that he did not want to talk anymore about the tragedy and Marietta said he seemed to get choked up and so did she. I think he was emotional after all; he was with the family he loved, his sister and brother. I never witnessed any emotion from him on that topic. I admire my Aunt for her courage and feel very blessed that they both were able to share a few thoughts about that day.  All in all, I feel it was good for all of them, and it was also good for me. I had no way of knowing what would become of this whole ordeal, but somehow in my heart, I know it was good.
             My husband came down later with Michael, ad he mowed my mom’s yard after he fixed her mower. She was so happy about it, that she bought us all pizza. Later when my dad and his sister and husband arrived, they invited us over to their new home in South Portland on the water.  My aunt is an artist and shared with me the most amazing pictures she painted with a computer program. She is writing a story about her childhood filled with delightful drawings, pictures of her brothers and her playing in the fields, playing in the back of the family truck, lying in the grass, singing on stage, playing the piano with another brother. They are heartwarming. Her paintings reflected her passion for her family and I have no doubt the book will become a reality. I have never seen such beautiful work, full of love.
             I hope you all have a nice Memorial Day and get to spend it with your families.
 
 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Recall & Alcohol- Never a Dull Moment

Keeping connected is important to me for without you I have no reason to write. I write because I want to share with you the many stories in my head. I have not been on vacation. I have not been idle. Stories are brewing in my head and I have been working on five different story ideas this week alone. I have received permission to write about two stories which will take some reading on my part because these stories need to be told. A couple of the stories will be under ‘Voices from Saccarappa Cemetery’. I promise you will not be bored with either. I have actually been writing another story this week which is very close to my heart and needed to be seen by some family members before I publish it. I may have a few humorous stories about motherhood also.
             I visited an uncle in a memory impairment residential facility one day last week on my lunch hour. One of my stories is tied to this visit. Over Mother’s Day weekend, I was busy… you guessed it, being a mother. Sometimes that isn’t all that much fun especially when your kids make bad choices. I guess it is all part of growing up for them and for us. I spent the evening before Mother’s Day reading about alcohol poisoning on the internet. Oh yes, I learned so much and so did one of my sons the following morning. On motherhood, there is not a dull moment. It is the craziest ride I ever took. 
            I was also busy a few weeks ago when our family was notified by our pharmacy that our son’s Digitek had been recalled. I was grateful we were notified as other friends who have kids on the same meds were not notified. So for any of you who are not familiar with Digitek, unfortunately the dose is double the strength than what the tablets show. There will be some huge repercussions from this recall as Digitek is a medicine typically taken for those who are under cardiac care. Our pharmacy gave us a gift card and we have not paid for any of the replacement pills yet, until the pharmacy is able to restock. It affected so many people that the pharmacies are low. According to the website and the responses which have been generated since the recall, there are several people who have died, maybe resulting from this flaw in the Digitek dosage, which by the way was made in China. 
             Lastly I have been busy preparing an immigrant program which will be presented at Westbrook Historical Society on the evening of May 28th. I am a bit busy, but I am still writing. Thanks for staying tuned.

 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Wait for the Yellow Butterfly

 

This is a story told to me by a friend who works at a funeral home, working with the undertaker who owns the funeral home. Since it was told to me by a friend, I have no reason to disbelieve the story. In fact, the Undertaker and the friend witnessed what happened that day. I would rather not mention the name of the establishment but that it is in the Southern Maine area. I hope it gives you comfort and opens your mind to things we may find difficult to believe.

There was a young woman who became sick with an illness which proved to be terminal. The most difficult part of being a parent sometimes is to know you have to leave your children before they are ready for you to leave. The young child left behind was a small girl around six years of age. The scene at the cemetery was somber and people were all seated and some standing around the casket. It was near time to depart and most had left, but the little girl stayed clutching her daddy’s hand. She did not want to leave and told her father that she wanted to wait for the butterfly. She couldn’t leave until she saw a yellow butterfly. Her daddy was anxious to leave the cemetery but the little girl assured him that the butterfly would be there soon. Soon a small yellow butterfly flittered down from the sky and landed on her mommy’s casket. She looked at her father and told him she was ready to leave.

My friend told me that to this day he cannot believe he witnessed this. Before the little girl and her father left the cemetery, the undertaker went over to the small girl and asked her, “How did you know a yellow butterfly would come by today?” She replied, “My mommy told me to wait and look for a yellow butterfly.”

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

A Day Late and 400 Dollars Short

 Turmoil Tax

Gone are the days of more toil, more money. Now we have the day of reckoning, where we cannot even afford to heat our homes, drive our cars and put food on the table. Today is April 15th. Hope you all used Turmoil Tax program to prepare your taxes for Uncle Sam, short for “Stealing Anyone’s Money”. The question is, how are you doing with your finances? Are you tired of spending more than you make? Are you tired of having a credit card debt of a couple thousand to pay for car repairs and other needed things, such as an appliance that died? We are not talking about any luxuries or necessities, such as clothes, or going out to dinner once a year. I am fed up with how hard most of us work and it is never enough. The days of remaining independent in your own home may be changing to the ways of days gone by, but out of necessity for survival. If a few generations move in together, like families of long ago, we can stay warm and care for those we love and be able to provide sustenance for our families. 
            It does concern me that it appears those who have the most to lose sit silent when they should revolt against what is happening to the economy. The last time things were this bad was during the Great Depression. When Bear Stearns goes belly up, we should all be very concerned. Of course, I can hardly wait for that Economic Stimulus check’s arrival so I can spend it on getting much needed car repairs. I don’t mean to sound so negative, but if I am having a hard time, what about those with less? I hope they can manage in the coming years.  Sure with a child with a disability, you can get fuel assistance, and even food stamps, however… as my father always said, “Whatever the government professes to give away, they can also take it away.” So we do not accept that as there are others who truly need help. I hope that things get better for all of us. This year I had to pay almost 400 dollars to the IRS. You’d think with our deep investment in the IRS, that we would all name our firstborn after it.  For now, I think the well has run dry and lets all hope that the times they are a changin’

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Customer Service

Customer Service….Whatever happened to Customer Service? When was Customer Service replaced with a toll free number? At the risk of coming across as negative, I sometimes wonder why people are so frantic to talk to a “real person”. It is not just the older generation who feel this way. Many people are reluctant to use the toll free number for the US Post Office, when in fact it is very efficient. When asked for the zip code for your local post office, you are given the local number to your office. Yes, I have spoken to them several times this year as our mailbox has had several hits from the snow plow this year. 
             What about a trip to the grocery store these days? You can spend $150 dollars, transfer money to the cashier and receive change back without ever having the cashier make eye contact and sometimes not even a thank you. I have been witness to several conversations between bagger and cashier as if I am not even there. So much for the customer feeling valued. Maybe it is not all their fault, because most of them are masters of Multi-tasking. I am amazed that they can talk on the phone, and keep six or seven IM conversations going at the same time. I think being a cashier is a demanding job but it also requires some people skills and eye contact with your customers and a thank you is a necessity. Perhaps the management should revisit this on occasion.
            Speaking of customer service, I had a great experience recently regarding a used computer we purchased online. My son has wanted a Mac computer for some time. We looked at new ones and they were not within our price range. So my son checked online at a few places. He found a business called DV Warehouse at www.dvwarehouse.com  and spoke with Patrick at ext 14. They have a regular number and a toll free on the website. My son enjoyed the computer for a month or so and we found the drive not working correctly. Patrick verified that it was still under warranty and also is in the process of correcting another small problem. If you need a Mac, I recommend this company as an alternative to spending big bucks on a new computer. As for customer service, they are exceptional. We waited a little over two months to correct the problem but it was not all their fault, as they were waiting for parts and had been sent defective parts. When we received it, it had been packaged with care and was in excellent working order. I am skeptical of purchasing online however Patrick was patient and professional with my many emails. He just wanted to be sure we were happy with the final product. I highly recommend this company.
            How many really go the extra mile for the customer? My current job involves customer contact all day. If they were treated badly by another person, I promptly apologize and tell them I will stay with them until we solve the problem. Even if they may be directing their frustration towards me, I just listen and try to give them good service to make up for a bad experience. Today’s world we are prompted to death: press this, press that… am I talking to a real person? To top it off, if your option is not there, you try pressing ‘0’ and hope to reach a switchboard operator….and then you hear , “I’m sorry, that option is not available….Goodbye” Yes, I have almost blown a gasket when I have spent 15 minutes trying to navigate the menu.
            Lastly, one of the funniest experiences I had this year was when I tried to renew my Norton Antivirus. I had to call tech support and after four connections, I was connected through a New York number to Raj who lived somewhere in Southern India. Imagine, my surprise after he told me to login on the address bar. He explained that he would be taking control of my mouse. (OK I thought… what the heck do I know?) The next thing I noticed after I logged in, the mouse was moving all by itself, like a OUIJA board. He was talking to me at the same time. This is after supper, and I was a little tired, looking a bit ragged as well. He asked me, “Suzan, is that you?” Well I sat up straight, fixed my hair and smiled, “Yes it is me” Then he asked me, “Is that your son?” I looked over at my son Mike and said, “Yes that’s Michael at the table” I then looked at my husband and said, “I can’t believe that he can see us” I said this in a low voice because I did not want Raj to hear me. My husband was cracking up with laughter and told me I must be nuts. He said, “Suzan, He can see your screensaver.” [The screensaver has a picture of my family] Hey what do I know? I am glad I can at least entertain my family.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Coffee with Dad

Life presents me with stories upon stories that I feel need to be written. I have a working list that waits for me to steal the time to write. 
     Yesterday, I dutifully spent my morning at Westbrook Historical Society which is the best place I like to be when I am not with my family. I viewed some home movies with Scott Irving and he shared some very interesting new stories he had researched at the library concerning early Redbank. I will be writing soon regarding those stories, thanks to him
    A few days ago, I received correspondence from an author, Rhea Cote Robbins, who writes of her Franco American experiences of growing up in Waterville. She teaches at the University as well. There is a concern that Franco American voices are being suppressed and books written by them are being denied availability for purchase in some of our State’s institutions. Who can speak of Maine and deny the rich Native American and French Canadian voices that populate our state? Her web site is www.fawi.net  and also her blog www.fafemme.blogspot.com is where she voices her concerns. 
     Last week, it was a visit to the cardiologist to get my son Mike’s meds adjusted to a higher dose and get an echocardiogram. While there, I ran across the hall to the pulmonary doctor to leave a quick note with a straight forward question. I was concerned with Mike’s congestion, experienced after he eats. Anyhow, I wrote that if she was busy, I could call back or she could leave me a message. Heading back across the hall to the heart doctor, Mike was already in a room getting prepared. A short while later, the receptionist came by to ask if the pulmonary doctor could join us. I replied that it was ok if the heart doctor was ok with it. It worked out well. Mike got some good care from both doctors and they were both aware that some of his function was compromised. Together we worked out a few solutions. What a day for multitasking. I am thankful for his doctors.
     Last night, I went to Staples and spent almost 1 ½ hours making copies of all the stories I posted on Mainetoday.com regarding Redbank. I then purchased a nice binder and included clear sleeve protectors along with an introduction about why I started posting my Redbank pictures. Today, I called my father to see if he wanted to go along with me to present it to the South Portland Historical Society. After the presentation, he took me to Tim Horton’s in Millcreek. This is the topic for my blog today…. The conversation we had over coffee.

My mother left for Jacksonville, FL on work duty this morning while most of us were still sleeping. It was nice that Dad offered to take me to coffee as it is seldom we converse without interruptions. I was his only employee for ten years and we had lots of stories that still keep us laughing today.
 
Dad talked about Mom and how they were so lucky to be compatible throughout the years. They were in High School when they met, she being from Portland and he from South Portland. I heard many stories of how he walked across the bridge to see my mom in all types of weather. One time it was a blizzard and he headed back to South Portland around midnight, from Brackett Street. He stood shivering waiting for the bridge to come down, when the man in the bridge booth yelled, “What are you waiting for?” My dad replied “Well, for the bridge to come back down” The man replied, “You have a long wait. It is scheduled for six months repair” Dad took the long walk back to Anthoine Street. They did not know that I was about to change their lives forever. My mother became a mother at age eighteen. To complicate their lives further, my father failed English his senior year and had to repeat the whole year. This year, we all moved to Anthoine Street where my dad’s family lived. The very day my father graduated with the class of 1960, my mother had a home ready for them to move into located in Redbank in July 1960. He worked full time in his senior year as well as attending school all week. They had no car for the first two years of marriage. In fact my father hitchhiked to work most of the time. My mother’s parents helped my parents as much as they could with child care and so forth. I recall every Sunday was spent having dinner with my grandparents.
 My dad spoke of my mom with great respect when we sat over coffee today. He said ,“Your mother could do anything. I don’t know how we did it. I grew a garden and she canned everything. We did not have money to go to McDonald’s or places like that with you kids. She made a nice home for us, and just knew that she had to care for all of you. She learned to sew, cooked her own bread, and learned how to crochet and knit. She helped me start my business. She even learned about layout and design from working in the sign shop alongside of me. Your mother is a smart cookie.”
 The conversation drifted from time to time about how people have so many unreasonable expectations today. He doesn’t understand how someone could think of getting plastic surgery and think it is so important. He said he thinks people miss the big picture about what is so important. Dad asked me, “What would someone say today if I asked them to help with the garden and put up some vegetables?” His answer was what I expected….I do not know if anyone ever slows down enough today to invest the time needed to raise a family, staying married and having disappointments along the way, or even just tending a garden….but trudging forward. With each generation perhaps some of these values are lost and it is up to us to fight to maintain a little of what good things we may have had growing up. I believe it was our strong family support that helped us to realize, even if it was a little later in life, that we had it pretty good. Of course today was a real pleasure to hear my dad speak of my mom with such respect and admiration for her. I know she feels the same.
These photographs were taken when my dad was in his senior year of high school(His 2nd senior year) The picture with my mom in her striped sweater was worn from dad carrying it in his wallet.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

The Medical Field: It’s a Two Way Street.

The past couple of days have been hectic. I have desired to write every night and have been unable so I decided on these occasions that I just try to stay connected to you, my readers. The past week has been a wide range of emotions.
 My uncle has dementia and is nearly eighty. He broke his hip about two weeks ago and thankfully his son is doing his very best to provide care for his dad. It is stressful to say the least. I have not seen my uncle for awhile as he lives in a facility where he can get 24/7 care and his world is more manageable. Since he went to the hospital, I have seen him a few times and had nice visits. The caretaker in me is strong as ever. I worried he would get pneumonia, as he was short of breath, and I know that happens so often with people after surgery. I believe the quality of care is compromised as many places are understaffed. Last year, I used a cough assist machine for my son for 4 times each day for 4 days and this kept him from getting pneumonia. I was exhausted but he stayed out of the hospital and this was my goal. When a person cannot cough unassisted, a cough assist is used for patients with Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular dystrophy and other illnesses. Anyhow, I was worried and my cousin confirmed that the nurses were getting him out of bed regularly. It is hard to see the people you love lose their abilities.
 Then on Valentine’s Day, I took my 2 dogs, Daisy Mae and Schultzie to the groomer. When my son, JT, picked up the dogs, as I was at another appointment, Schultzie was not well. He was falling on the ice and my son attributed it to being slippery. I thought the dog appeared to be drugged and my other dog was acting strangely as well. The following morning I took Schultzie to the vet who confirmed he had a heart murmur [He is an old dog of 14] He noticed the dog tilting to the right and showed me his eyes rolling to the right which also confirmed that he had a stroke. He could not keep his balance, very disoriented and as if he was in a drunken state. He received a steroid shot and took home some anti-inflammatory pills. It was a tough day. My sister was also having a medical procedure that day as well. She is doing well.
 Since it has been a week of many medical affiliations, I have thought about some instances which may help some of you. Nobody knows you or your loved ones like yourself. I have had the pleasure of meeting some fine doctors and I have met a few whom I have questioned. I have drawn a few conclusions from my own experiences and some from the stories of others. I believe a good doctor is one who educates us and allows us to educate them from time to time.
 One doctor told me that I needed to tell my son, Mike, everything that would happen to him with his prognosis. This was after he became dehydrated and was found to be taking medicine which was appropriate for most people but not for people with Muscular Dystrophy and as a result, he went into cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. The doctor who told me this was the doctor who brought him back to life, not once, but 4 times. This was a rare instance when he thought my son might end up using a ventilator for the rest of his life. I shot back that my son was nowhere near having bad pulmonary functioning at this time and we never expected this to happen. I was so angry and the doctor knew this. The reason behind his stern manner was that there are many people who never tell their children anything about their illness. The kids sometimes grow up believing that the disease is their own fault. All a parent needs to do is to listen to their kids questions and give them an age appropriate answer. Do you think I knew this from day one? NO!!!! I grew into it as my son taught me along the way. Kids need information on their illness so they can be empowered along the way. This doctor could not possibly know all of this because he probably did not have a disabled child. The school wanted him to know all about his illness as well, life expectancy and all of that. That is our job as parents to guide our kids along the way, so they are emotionally healthy as well. To tell a kid or anyone for that matter that they have 2 years to live [just an example]… is to take away all hope and dreams…. It is not right. We have to grow into everything. I have had many experiences with doctors, and schools, mostly good ones.
 Perhaps you will understand why I became so emotionally charged when I heard this story. I know many types of parents who have disabled kids. I believe there is a fine line between denial and neglect. To deny a surgical procedure which will make quality of life better for a child is beyond my comprehension. Scoliosis surgery is needed for many who use wheelchairs. The window of opportunity for the surgery is limited as it has to be done before the kids are put on heart meds. The spine crumbles and the lung function is greatly compromised. Most who do not receive this surgery, cannot sleep in a bed as the pain is great. I know some who sleep in their wheelchairs. Pulmonary function decreases about 15-20 % each year if the surgery is never done. One parent had a brother who died from this illness and it has affected how she is raising her own boy with the same illness. It is as if his illness is a shame and they try to keep it all a secret. I feel bad that the boy probably does not know what is happening to him. Of course this is no business of mine but it makes sense the doctor blasted me that day. However, I am not one of those parents. My husband and I have tried to provide both of our sons with the resources they needed along the way.
 The big lesson here is that if things do not seem right , do not be afraid to ask your doctor questions. They are human and sometimes make mistakes, but they should listen to your concerns.  Advocate for yourself and your loved ones.
 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com