It had been brutally hot that summer. And throughout the state, towns and cities baked in the sun’s punishing rays. My mother’s half acre, bordering the West Warwick/Coventry line, was parched and arid but that didn’t stop her from hiring two sketchy-looking individuals to prune the forsythia bushes on her property. Why? She intended to keep the property meticulously, just as Dad and she always did… even in a summer of no growth.
When I pulled into the driveway, the two men stopped drinking water from the hose and looked at each other as if to say: “The gig’s up,” while I went into the house, asking “Mom, what are those men doing in the yard?” She answered: “I hired them to prune,” whereby I went out, gave them both $20.00 for their trouble and explained my husband and I were moving in that day to help Mom (we weren’t); I just wanted them to think that.
I had great cause for alarm. It had been the summer when an older woman in Little Compton had been murdered, following her hiring of a stranger to paint her home. She worked in a nursery, was loved by many, but that didn’t stop the cruelty that befell her when the man she trusted savaged her. She was easy prey because she was older and lived alone.
I’d already encountered signs of Mom’s diminished capacity.
She’d open her purse, directing clerks to “take out what I owe you, dear“ from a billfold stuffed with money.
I found an envelope holding two twenty-dollar bills she intended to send to the electric company.
My brother hired one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” companies. A representative came to her home, explained how it worked (she was to wear a device around her neck to press if she needed help, a device that would send a signal to the phone and if no answer, the company would send in the life-saving team.) What happened in real time? She doubtless forgot the reason for the pendant (might have thought it a Catholic scapula), pressed it inadvertently, and left to come to my home.
Back at her residence, all Hell broke loose, with fire trucks, ambulance, and police cars converging.
When police called to ask if I knew where my mother was, I said “Sure…she’s coming into my driveway,” they sheepishly told me they’d barreled through her locked door, thinking to save a senior who was down. It took me two weeks to repair the wreckage.
I took her car away, after she uprooted a fire hydrant, when she swung too wide, collided with it, and dragged it in watery trail.
She’d been lost on occasion, ending up in neighborhoods far afield from hers.
So, with great anguish, two siblings and I removed Mom from her home of fifty years and moved her into a retirement home. Mom was furious…wouldn’t speak to me (the only one of her four children still living in Rhode Island) for two whole weeks.
I stayed away through the hoped-for adjustment period.
When I finally ventured to visit her, I found her socializing with others. More importantly, she’d put a wreath on her door—a sure sign she was acclimating. She enjoyed the varied hot meals the facility provided. She had friends—folks raised in the same era who all shared a similar frame of reference.
It was then I realized: Mom had been lonely in the ten years since Dad died. Oh, she tried mightily to continue on in their tradition. She had the house painted every few years; she continued cultivating her peonies and rosebushes; she filled the bird feeders.
The neighborhood (much younger now) knew her as “that lovely Mrs. Kelly, wife of the former principal of West Warwick High School.”
But she was merely holding her place in life. ..going through the motions.
Now among her own, she flourished and her community appreciated her, so much so that in the following spring, they voted her “Sweetheart of Greenwich Bay Manor.”
We’d given Mom permission to enter another stage in life.
Colleen Kelly Mellor (email@example.com), a monthly contributor, taught all levels, from kindergarten through grade 12, for 30 years.
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.)
Many of the folks in my audiences remember my father, John J. Kelly. They just don’t remember him as I do, for they only had him as high school principal.
I tell them I had no dates in high school, since no young man wanted to come to my home. None was that brave. I hoped the reason didn’t signal some serious defect in myself.
I tell them I stood at the podium at my 50th Class Reunion some years back and asked: “All right, men….I always wanted to know: How many of you actually did want to take me out on a date, but never dared, when we were in high school?”
Hands shot up and we all laughed.
I was happy…. even if they were just being kind.
I now write about youthful memories and focus, too, on other West Warwick folks in articles that appear in the Kent County Daily Times’s Weekend edition. I’m also a regular commentator in the Providence Journal Op-Ed section.
But I’m a late bloomer as writer, for my writing career follows my 30 years as teacher and another 8 years as realtor.
I now add guest-speaker to my resume, and I have to say: I’m loving it.
Husband Paul Wesley Gates and I went before two West Warwick audiences at Wildberry Apartments and Plaza Esperanza last week where we had a ball. While at one, a woman came up , tapped my husband on his arm, and said: “You look just like Roy Rogers.”
I laughed, inwardly, as I thought: “That must make me Dale Evans.”
I get why she said it. He’s tall, lanky, with a Southern drawl (he’s a long-ago transplant from Arkansas who got here as a Navy Seabee.) As such, he’s a great favorite of the ladies. It helps that he wears a western hat, cowboy boots, and a leather vest with insignia sewn on.
I freely admit: I use him for my presentations.
You see, I write about his adventures in our children’s books, Grandpa and the Truck (Books 1 and 2), for he was a long-haul, big rig driver who went all over the United States, moving households. Our books are the perfect vehicle (pun intended) to teach geography, regional differences, dialect, trucker lingo (the words we can safely use). Each story comes with guide questions, maps showing where the truck is, a moral (remember—I’m a teacher) and table of contents.
To date, we’ve published two colorfully-illustrated books, and we give lively presentations on those, too. Our biggest audience was a 200-child school gathering in Tiverton.
Since writing/guest-speaking is my third career, it proves: Age is no stumbling block to new experiences.
I get that message across to my audience.
My mission is to give the over-55 crowd encouragement to try their own hand at writing, for it’s my belief we all have an arsenal of stories inside, narratives that are rich in detail, almost screaming to be told.
I tell my senior students to get a writing journal and “start small,” considering “Who are the 5 people who had the most impact on you?” I then suggest they describe those five, with 2-3 phrases each. Then, choose one person of the 5 to develop more fully.
For example, my own mother, Doris Barlow Kelly (I bring a picture of her to my presentations), would be “energetic”…”a little spitfire”….”oldest daughter of a large mill-working family” (she had 16 siblings.)
I then proceed to flesh her out and let her come alive, mentioning perhaps one funny incident of many. I’ll share an example in future.
I like to think of writing as “painting with words.”
How’d we start off in our new guest-speaking venture? Lucy Goulet, Resident Services Co-Ordinator for Housing Opportunities Corp., looking to inject spirit into her residents at Plaza Esperanza and Wildberry Apartments invited me to speak to residents in both apartment buildings, after seeing my website (www.colleenkellymellor.com).
She’s to be commended for working to enrich the lives of her residents.
As for us, we will continue “on the road” in future, guest-speaking, encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone, for we’re living embodiment of what happens when one keeps going through doors in life.
(Pic below, my Mom, Doris Barlow Kelly, appears on the left, alongside the book jacket for Book 1 of Grandpa and the Truck.
Colleen Kelly Mellor (firstname.lastname@example.org) will guest speak at 3 more locations in weeks ahead. If you order her children’s books through www.grandpaandthetruck.com, she can personalize-to-child and autograph them. Contact her at email address for guest-speaking.
Picture below is of my Mom, Doris Kelly (she accompanies me ‘in spirit’ to each of my presentations) and one to right is of the lean, handsome cowboy image, Paul Wesley Gates on cover of our Grandpa and the Truck book 1. He’s the real draw at our talks–especially to the ladies.
Many of you will do what we did…search high and wide, for that retirement home. You’ll be driven by a concern your home state fails to deliver; taxes too high; results too low; weather’s tough; it’s better elsewhere.
This book is for all who consider a move (anywhere, actually–even in-state.) As a successful realtor, I share with you what you need be concerned about and will even tell you how to sell your property by yourself (thus saving thousands.) I will also tell you how to optimize purchase.
But it’s far more than a house buying/selling guide. I get into the unexpected medical crisis we faced and the steps I took as warrior/advocate. You may find yourself in similar situation at some point.
My book, however, bears my stamp as humorist. As such, it’s filled with comical anecdotes, some of which I’ll offer–as snippets–in future posts.
The following is the Preface to the book.
“The Asheville Experiment” documents the many-year search of a couple for our retirement home, how we made our choice, and our assimilation into that community. As such, it is this author’s take on Asheville and surrounding regions, from the perspective of one who lived there 9 years.
But it’s often howlingly-funny.
I see Asheville through my lens as (1.) half of an active, older couple (2.) professional realtor (3.) resident of a new townhome community (4.) woman seeking friends in her new land (5.) spiritualist (6.) patient advocate in a medical crisis (7.) general observer (8.) humorist.
I see all in a kaleidoscope of color (hence the microscope and its lens) and offer my observations to help others in their quest to find their own Shangri-La.
Ironically, they may find their search ends in a most unusual place.
To insure you get announcements of publication date and future posts, please sign on to “Subscribe” in upper right hand corner.
Asheville Makes the Cut Again!
It’s not surprising, for Paul and I chose it over a host of others and we spent years in the process, searching…searching…searching.
In fact, we traveled the entire eastern seaboard, checking out communities, most of which were dedicated to boating or golfing. Since we do neither, we eliminated those.
Oh, they were beautiful and offered seemingly endless amenities and they all had the quintessential guard shack to keep others out (as in ‘gated community,’) but we also knew that that same community could become insulated and homogeneous–not always good.
We were so concerned about coastal hurricanes, high taxes, and escalating insurance rates that we opted to go inland.
That brought us to the community of Asheville, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
For 9 years we lived there, from early January to June of each year, making friends, doing volunteer work (I taught at the downtown women’s jail and he ferried the blood supply to Charlotte.)
In the end, we left.
Our reasons are some you may never have considered…..
But ‘consider’ you should, for moving one’s life to another entire region is no easy process.
In my book, “The Asheville Experiment” I show how we made the decision (apparently it was a good one since Forbes agrees with our pick), how we assimilated into that new land, and what ultimately drove us back.
What else will you or others get from my book? Useful information for anyone moving anywhere (even in-state.)
It’ll also be an interesting read for there’s lots of humor in it, as well.
Here’s the link of 2015’s “Best Retirement Towns in America.”
If you “subscribe” to my website (upper right hand corner of this page,) you’ll know when the book is ready.
(In the pic above, Asheville minstrels entertain customers outside Greenlife grocery store, ‘singing for their supper.’)