My grandsons (3 of them) are as far away (in Seattle) as they can be from Grandpa and me, so what do I do? I write letters to them, including photos. I kind of know what will interest them…and always include humor. I will be speaking about this and a whole lot more in my upcoming TedTalk at Salve Regina University, on March 25th…
Here’s my most recent letter…..Just remember, I am writing as if I am talking to little kids (cuz I am)…
Some Day in March…. 2017
“Little Miss Sunbeam”
When I was a girl, a new kind of white bread came on the market named Sunbeam Bread (kind of a stupid name) but everybody loved it because it had no holes…In other words, its texture was all smooth. The commercial on TV was of a little girl with her blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail. Well, your Mom looked like her, so lots of my friends called your Mom “Little Miss Sunbeam.”
I took your Mom everywhere with me for at the time I was raising her by myself. In the morning, we had to go off together at 6:30 (I taught junior high school, so we had to leave VERY early) and I brought her to her babysitter’s—Maryanne’s house, in a nearby town. She was only one year old.
One day it was so pitch black that I didn’t see the car parked in the road across the street (it was usually never there) and I ended up backing into it–slightly. Not enough to do any damage but it was a real wake-up call.
Other times the gasket (that’s a rubber sealant) around the front window leaked in rainstorms and the water puddled up on the floor, and it FROZE. Now, we were really in a jam, because I had to pull up the accelerator, to get it unstuck from the floor, before I could drive.
I took your Mom to Maryanne’s house every morning for four years. Maryanne had five of her own children and they were all well-behaved. I liked Maryanne very much and I wish I had a picture of her today. I wonder, too, if your Mom remembers her.
Now, back to the car. It was my Chevy Malibu and it was a greenish/blue color—my very first car which by this point was showing signs of wear. It had 200,000 miles on it and in that day, that was a lot of mileage. It used to break down 3 times a week…every week. That’s when your Mom and I would be stuck along some road, waiting for help from someone to pick us up, get the car to the local fix-it gas station…whatever. It was a constant problem with that car but I couldn’t afford a new one.
Finally, after a year of this torture, I got enough money for a down payment to buy a little yellow Datsun—the cheapest car on America’s highways.
Now, what happened with us in that car? Two years after I had it, I was out (with Kerry) to meet a friend at a Chinese restaurant. We heard this awful racket on the tin roof of the restaurant and I wondered what it was but not enough to get up and see. We stayed for an hour or so and when we left, your Mom (she was 5 now) went bounding out the front door, only to skid on her butt for several feet. Apparently the noise was hail and the ground was coated with ice. That meant the roads were, too, which was dangerous cuz we had to go a half hour to get home.
So, I started up the car and slipped/slid out of the parking lot. I was terrified. Slowly, I inched along and the car wipers went jeht (I’m trying to make the sound of the wipers)…jeht…jeht…jeht…back and forth and then suddenly ….JEHT to the left and that wiper never came back. Bigger problem still? It was on my driver side! So now I had icy roads and no visibility on the driver side.
Because the car was so little, I could reach my hand out and try to use my hand as a wiper as I drove. Well, you know what my hand had to look like by the time we finally got to our apartment 15 minutes later…a frozen paw of a hand, curved from using it as a wiper. It took me a while putting it under warm water to thaw it out.
Yep, we had some pretty rough times in those days, but everyone considered Little Miss Sunbeam the group mascot for I was the only one of my friends who had a small child and she went everywhere with me (well, almost everywhere). The women baked cookies for her, a man I knew at school who had a candy shop as a second business used to bring candy treats for her. And many people helped us out when we were in trouble—which was often.
Here’s the real Little Miss Sunbeam and here’s a photo of your Mom and me one Mother’s Day when I was young and skinny and she was little–about the same age as when she skidded off the restaurant steps onto her butt.
From “The Asheville Experiment”
I’d put up this neurosurgeon’s arrogance for weeks, and I was simply having no more of it. Friends told me “Oh, just let him go…They’re all like that” (neurosurgeons, that is). In other words, it was sort of expected that with their level of skill, we in the public were supposed to tolerate such behavior, as if it were a necessary corollary.
But I’d had it. He’d insulted me (suggesting I might need valium when I reacted to Paul’s crazy behavior after his heart and lungs shut down,) and he tried to discharge Paul– as if nothing were wrong with him. That’s when I lowered the boom.
I told him: “This man is NOTHING like the man I came in with!” And he’s not leaving until he’s had a psych-neuro evaluation and an EEG.”
You see, I knew the dread result of someone merely taking home a seriously-compromised patient from the hospital. I watched our neighbor deal with her wheelchair-bound, almost comatose husband for years. She did the exhaustive work, almost alone, for years–all because she took him home.
But our medical crisis story and how I handled it, successfully, is just one of the items I share so any consumer can use.
That…and much more (laugh-out-loud funny episodes, useful information if you’re a buyer or seller of any home, life in a new region of the country)…is coming in “The Asheville Experiment” (soon to be published.)
I’m a little nervous. Why? I just landed a plum opportunity on the guest-speaking circuit–I’m invited to give a Ted Talk before a Salve Regina audience. The date? March 25th…2017.
The subject of my Ted Talk? (because some of you have asked:) Each of us is a compendium (at 60+) of all the experiences, trials, situations we’ve met and mastered. Why not take that life knowledge and share it with others, motivating them to ‘go higher,’ either in writing or in guest-speaking and motivating especially-older audiences.
How you reinterpret the crises/hurdles can become the bricks in building your new career. Utilize them as such.
We live in an age-ist society. I challenge that notion that we seniors are ‘done.’ I’m living proof of the opposite, and I am intent on going higher to the next plateau of my life, undeterred by age.
And yes, I’ll give details of where…when…in weeks ahead. Ted Talk is at beautiful Salve Regina on March 25th.
They lived across the street in a modest home to which they added an entire third floor. “A playroom,” the wife added, “some place where the kids could enjoy a train set.” I thought it very extravagant.
But that’s the way they were in recent years. As cross-the-street neighbors, we had a window on their newly-opulent world. There was the time he bought all those stretch limos and parked them all over, until we, the neighbors, complained. One couldn’t run a business out of his home: our neighborhood was zoned “residential.”
She showed me her beautiful 3-carat turquoise ring one day, as they readied to take the kids on their third visit to Disneyworld.
There was the beach house, a huge, weather-shingled, sprawling Victorian poised atop a high point of beach in East Matunuck, Rhode Island. They bought that, too. A house clearly worth a fortune.
And they were building their dream home, in a tony neighborhood of nearby upscale East Greenwich. A stone tower was its signature architectural trait.
All this on his postal worker’s salary and her 10-hour a week job as psychiatric nurse to a prominent psychiatrist.
She had the audacity one day to say this to me: “You can do all this, too, if you go back to school and become a psychiatric nurse (I was a mere teacher.) The pay is good.”
Yes… well… so is the pay for embezzlement.
That’s what we’d all discover. Their penchant for the good life clouded someone’s judgment, for he’d been writing big checks to himself, at the Post Office, where he was in charge of accounting.
Despite the fact he’d been doing this for years, his crime was discovered far later than the initial thefts, meaning he’d only be held responsible for $1.9 million, instead of the $3.5 million and more they suspected. The rest was irretrievable because of the statute of limitations.
He’d go to prison for 3-4 years.
The towered house? It’s another’s property now.
The couple were divorced shortly into its building and she got it in the divorce settlement instituted somewhere in its construction.
But during the divorce hearing, the psychiatric nurse listed on her “needed assets” some extravagant figure for clothing allotment…an amount inappropriate to her financial situation in life….something like $7,000 a month. And she claimed a need for $4000 a month for child support.
Both figures were unsustainable on his income of $49,000 and her $8500 part-time work.
The judge questioned it.
And the house of cards began to unravel.
(Photo above is of the Catallozzi home, 63 Glen Ave., in Cranston. We were #40, right across the street.) And here’s a link about this true story from the New York Times. The Catallozzi crime figures in the annals as the biggest embezzlement ever, of the United States Postal Service.
From “In the Shadow of Princes,” a story of my life, by Colleen Kelly Mellor….
It was soon-to-be Christmas and all I knew was: I couldn’t be home for the holidays. Why? Too much bad had happened. We were coming off two years of horror with my husband’s terminal disease. He died on January 1st, of that year; we all limped along, in recovery, for 12 months; and now, the holidays were fast upon us.
Now, don’t ever think “terminal” just refers to the patient. When that verdict comes down, the whole family suffers. You never get away from it. Each moment is tinged with “Will this be the last time for this?” At other times, you just want the “awful” to end.
So, because I didn’t want to be around the wassail bowl answering Uncle Mattie’s ever-exasperating questions (“What will you do with the house?” hardly hiding his sexist expectation that no woman could maintain all of this alone,) I determined to take my girls and me to Cozumel.
Yep, Mexico would have us. With that, I booked a flight; minimally-packed; got us in a limo to Boston and flew out.
When I say ‘minimally-packed,’ I mean it. I was so bent on my mission that I allowed my 8 year old to pack her own suitcase (crazy?) meaning she took what she thought important: When I opened her suitcase in Cozumel, her giant history textbook popped out—a book half her size. She neglected to bring seasonally-adjusted clothes, like shorts and tops. After all, we were in winter zone at home and she thought everyone was. As I said, she was only 8.
How’d our trip turn out? It was one of the most memorable and beautiful ever. We snorkeled—the three of us—off the rocky coast of the island, mesmerized by the gorgeous coral, mango yellow, and neon green fish, darting about.
We bought a Mexican crèche on that trip and hand-carried it home (that’s it in the photo in a previous post.) We spent New Year’s Eve with a bunch of rowdy revelers, blowing horns wildly, and dancing about.
That trip was the year we broke with tradition…the day we three went on our own. It would be the precursor of longer trips to come as we became world travelers.
On that trip, I realized that breaking with tradition can be a far better route– one necessary in the growth process.
Maybe some of you reading this need to break with tradition for your own sake.
Wherever you are in the process, I wish you peace and a good year in 2017.
To borrow a well-known phrase from best-selling author, Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird: ‘If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.’ —
My own version: “You never want to piss off a writer, for you never know when pay-back will come.”