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Monday, 17 January 2011

Things You Do Not Prepare For

By Mary Follett

I never expected to live a long life. My Father died when I was l7, he was 44; my mother when I was 20, she was 47. Their parents died even younger. So when you have no grandparents or parents, you rush through life making sure you don't miss much or, at least, you think you aren't missing much.

In l958, when I graduated high school, I got a job a week later at a big hotel on Broadway as a clerk/typist, $45 a week. We lived in midtown, so I could walk to work and save the dime.

That October, my Father died of pancreatic cancer, sick from July 4th weekend, diagnosed the day before Labor Day. He was home in a few days and talked about going back to work before my sister Judy's l5th birthday, November 5th. He was a bus driver.

We didn't have a home phone; lots of people didn't. Our icebox was replaced by a refrigerator at some point and in l954 we got a TV. Most people had TVs before replacing the ice box. Not my Father.

Our apartment at l40 West 62nd Street had four rooms, tub in the kitchen, railroad flat, no doors, except, of course, for the tiny bathroom. My brother Danny was born in l948 and sister Patti in l950. We always had a cat.

I would come home from work about six and talk to my Father about the day and how exciting it was and somehow I just didn't notice how quickly he was failing. He went from a robust l75 pounds, 5' 9" and dark crew cut to a white-haired, gaunt older man over the weeks, but kept up with the Daily News, Mirror and the Journal American right up to the end.

I was mad that I had to pay $3.75 a month for union dues because they did not have one sick day or other benefit that I could discern. He had been a union organizer so we spent more than a few heated discussions on the whys of unions.

I often recall how vindicated I felt when on my return to work the week after the funeral, I learned I would not be paid for the week out. My dear Mother tried to console me and said endlessly, it will be fine, don't worry. I have used her tone and those words endlessly during my working career and as a Mom, and imagine her nodding and saying, ah, she did listen.

Only months later, we were faced with the "tearing down" of the entire neighborhood - slum clearance, they called it. My Mother now faced leaving the "little town" where she had grown up; her two sisters lived within two blocks of us. Her friends, her church, her stores. Again, she said it would be fine and we moved in May or June l959 to Chelsea, 443 West 25th Street. A real bathroom, doors on the bedrooms and a telephone.

In January l962, while talking to her best friend, May Connolly, my Mother collapsed from an aneurysm in her brain and died three hours later.

So these days, as I approach a big 70th birthday, I'm a Mom to three, Nanny to six and just know there are some things I have to do, want to do, must do, and actually in that order.

And as my sisters and friends will tell you, I still believe firmly that it will be fine and everything will be okay. Thank you, Mom.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mary, what a beautiful story about living and dying and having everything be okay.

Perhaps you were given a "gift" in the form of so much sadness. You value what is important and realize time is short, so many do not.
Anyway you are here to pass along the valuable wisdom to your wonderful big family.
Time is short, but you are using it wisely and creatively.

Beautifully written! Thanks, Mary! I hope you have lots of time to do what you want to do!

I have admired you and your spirit since our time with Eva. Great expression in writing.

We can never foretell our futures, but you like many of us have the strength to go on and enjoy our lives. You are very creative in your writings. Thanks.

Your Mom was a wise woman and I'm sure her statement has helped you through many a crisis. You have indeed been blessed to have all these extra years. The great thing is that you are useing them well - in a caring and creative manner.

Aunt Mary~Thank YOU for sharing this. I often have wondered who She was & where my mom came from. What kind of Grandmother & Grandfather I had that I didn't get the oppurtunity to know. They say, "You don't miss what you NEVER knew." I disagree. Thank you again, Michele (Patti's daughter)

I, too, never dreamed that I would live this long. Although my parents were much older than yours when they died, I have outlived my Mom by 18 years and my Dad by 13 years and I am still going.

We never know for whom the bell tolls and you are wise to make the most of the time we have.

I agree with my cousin Michele: I miss what I never knew a great deal. I never met either of my grandfathers and, as an only child, wish desperately that my sister hadn't died within a few hours of her birth. Thank you for writing these remembrances, Aunt Mary.

I can assure you all that that my Grandma's words had to be magical as my Mom remains sane and optimistic despite my many years of torment (unintentional of course). I am now the father of 5 and use these words often to comfort wife, kids, and self. And as much as I despise facepage and youbook type sites, I love my Mom and she is my hero. Keep sharing and playing Lotto!!!! And of course, don't worry, everything will be fine. =}

To read this from Mary's perspective is definitely an "eye opener". I have found myself trying to gather my feelings during those times. I remember snippets; I was only 8 when my Dad died. I remember times, 3 1/2 years later, at almost 12 years old, when my Mother passed away and am trying to gather my feelings and thoughts. I have always been one to gather strength when crises come. Perhaps my Mom did leave me with something after all. I have always felt someone watching over me during my darkest times. Thanks Mom. Patti

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