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Yet Another Basal

I go in for skin checks every 3 months, because I grow cancer cells like mad. This last time I thought I was free and clear, but a couple weeks later, a spot on my nose bled enough for us to be sure it was a spot we needed to check. Last Thursday my dermatologist reported that the biopsy showed it was, indeed, another basal. Surgery to come at the end of July, beginning of August, whenever my dermatologist can arrange for the plastic surgeon who did the last repair in 2015 is available. She does the Mohs surgery to remove all the basal that shows up on the microscopic level, then the plastic surgeon repairs my face.

They do great work, but it is very stressful to have to continue getting surgeries. I do Theta Healing to try to get rid of any unknown problems that might be causing me to grow basals, but they keep coming back.

It feels like a big deal, and not a big deal at the same time.

I would like to be able to move to another state so my husband could stop feeling tormented by living in New York City, but we need to find work to make that happen. I do a lot of different jobs as an actor and usher to keep money coming in, and he continues at the job he hates to cover the majority of our bills and our insurance, and I like to think we could both find other jobs in another state, but it seems foolish to just move and hope for the best, so we stay so far.

Keep me in your good thoughts. I am supposed to be working on the virtue of simplicity.

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Remembering Regina

My baby sister Regina Elizabeth Flanagan lived only 5 and a half years, but what an impact she had on our lives! She was born in May, but Mama already had a daughter named Mary, so she picked Regina, as that means Queen and May is the month we celebrate Mary as Queen of Heaven. Reggie was queen of all our hearts, that is certain.

Mama had had a miscarriage after my little brother Tim, and two years later Regina was born with Down’s Syndrome and a hole in her heart, for which she would have to have open heart surgery before she was 3 years old. Mama told Papa her duty in the bedroom was over, she wasn’t willing to risk another pregnancy. She had 7 children, after all, she had done enough.

At the time of the surgery, the doctors told my parents they were able to make the hole smaller, but not to close it. They would have to wait to do another surgery when Reggie was stronger, after she was 8 years old. My aunt Kate, my mother’s older sister who was a nurse, said Reggie would not live to be 8, so we always knew she was only with us for a short time.

We moved to Bedford Hts. from Cleveland Hts. in 1959, when Reggie was 2 and I was 7. It was halfway between Cleveland and Akron, so my father could work at either location of the Plain Dealer, the newspaper for which he worked, without having to move again. It was a ranch house, so everything was on one level, which Mama loved. It had a small backyard, which opened into a ravine that had a creek running down the middle and lots of trees, and we could get into it just by going down our backyard hill – all of us kids loved that! It was a new development, so we had neighbors but it felt a little closer to nature than our last house, though it was rather cold – all cement floors, with plaster walls that you could break just by throwing yourself at it hard enough, as several of my brothers discovered. Our parents had tiled the whole thing, learning how to do it as they worked, and painted the walls themselves – they chose grey, as it was the most neutral paint, but Tim discovered he could add blue to the grey and make a nice color, so he painted his bedroom himself, but that happened much later. I remember being very impressed that they had done all that work themselves. I didn’t know they didn’t have much choice, 7 kids make for a tight budget!

We were allowed to play in the woods by ourselves, as long as we could hear when they called us in to dinner. Tim was littler than me, so I had to make sure he came when we were called. As we got older, we knew what time dinner was, so could play in the next woods over, as long as we came home on time. Tim’s chore was setting the table, so we had to go home a little before dinner time, but sometimes he said there was plenty of time and refused to come when I said it was time. Then I would set the table and he had to do dishes, which was my chore. He would miss stuff all the time, and I would rewash the dishes he had messed up, which meant I had to do two chores, so I hated it when he did that. But that’s another story.

One day we were playing in the woods by Bobby and Bucky Walker’s house, over the hill by Sandhurst Blvd., when Papa called, “Marg, Tim, is Reggie with you?” I had no idea Papa knew where to look for us when we weren’t in the backyard, but answered, “No” right away, then asked, “What happened?” He shouted back something like, ‘Don’t worry’ and went away, but I told Tim ‘we better get back home and see what is going on.’ By the time we got there, Reggie was home and all was well.

It seems that while Mike, our eldest brother, was watching TV while babysitting Reggie, he hadn’t noticed her going outside for a walk. She was either 4 or 5 by this time, so could get around on her own very well, but we never let her go anywhere by herself, as her physical age was twice what her mental age was. When Mama and Papa came home from doing the shopping, Reggie was nowhere to be found. Mary Kay, my elder sister by 4 years, slept in on Saturday mornings and did a lot of reading in bed, so when Mama came into her room and said Reggie was missing, Mary Kay knew just where she would be. She used to take Reggie on walks around the neighborhood all the time, and she always went the same way, up Sandhurst, and over the next road to where Luann, her best friend, lived.

Meanwhile, Mike and Papa asked the neighbors if they had seen Reggie, and one said she had been at the end of the driveway and was waving at our garage, so he just assumed someone was in the garage watching her. Papa ran over to see if she was with us, and Mike got in the neighbor’s car and they drove around the block to see if they could find her.

Mary Kay got dressed and ran up Sandhurst to follow her route and find Reggie, but before she got to the top of the hill, there was Mike in the neighbor’s car with Reggie on his lap, beaming away because she was safe. She had been walking down the middle of the street and making faces at the cars. Mary Kay said, “Oh, I always walked the same way, and whenever a car came I would pick her up and run up onto whoever’s lawn we were in front of, and make faces at the cars, explaining that cars were dangerous and you had to get off the street when they were there.” We didn’t have sidewalks, though they were promised when Mama and Papa moved into the development. There wasn’t  too much traffic, so they never got around to making the sidewalks.

We could just picture Reggie waving ‘bye, bye’ at Mike, as he watched TV with the intensity that only the eldest of 7 has to have in order to enjoy his shows. I don’t imagine they left her with him while they were doing shopping anymore. Mary Kay remembers that the screen door was locked after that! We would have to knock to come in, or go in the back door, which was too hard for a 5 year old to open.

For Halloween one year, Mary Kay and Luann, they were 13 or 14, went as little girls, complete with big suckers and pigtails, and dressed Reggie as their Mom, wearing Mama’s black beret and short winter coat, which went to Reggie’s feet. They all had a lot of fun going trick or treating to the neighbors’ houses, with Reggie and without her, that was a hit for costumes that year!

Hard to believe she would have been 60 years old last year.

 

 

Joyous Passover! Happy Easter!

One of my many jobs is guiding students around NYC while on their school trips, so Holy Week and Easter I am working and not able to attend as many of the services as I would like. It is hard to miss the celebrations and preparation for Easter, not getting to see the adults who are preparing to be received into the church on Holy Saturday.

This morning I went to the 9am and the Noon Mass, and was able to wear Mama’s Easter suit, which still fits me, amazingly enough. Another parishioner, hearing it was my mom’s, showed me her pin, which had been her mom’s, and told me she always tells her mom, ‘we’re going to Mass, Mama’ when she wears it, and it helps her feel her presence.

When I was running the religious education program at my parish, many moons ago, I first got into all the services. Growing up in a family of 7 kids, we didn’t go to the special, long services – seeing the parents of young children trying to keep them occupied and respectful during a regular service, I understand why they never tried to get us to go to the long ones, though my parents were quite devout and probably would have enjoyed them very much themselves. Now, I always try to pay attention to the families and give the parents some positive reinforcement for themselves and their kids at Mass. It truly takes a village to raise children, and we are all part of that village. If we don’t participate, we get children who don’t understand their faith and don’t care to explore it further.

Not being in charge of the religious education program anymore, I sometimes forget that I am still part of the parish and responsible to share my faith with the younger generation in whatever way I can. Admiring the children in their Easter outfits, and giving them attention when they behave well is a little something, and the fact that the parents are the grown up children from when I ran the program helps a lot. I get to tell the kids I knew their parents when they were the size the kids are now! Always fun.

We made a ham and baked potatoes, white and sweet, and green beans, zucchini and squash and are now waiting for the dessert Da just put together. The baking soda was a little old (apparently we haven’t baked since 2011) but it smells good, so I will close.

 

Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, Joyful Kwanzaa and a very Happy New Year!

We spent last night wondering if we were going to have to go to the emergency room, as I was having pain in my lower right back that wouldn’t ease up, no matter how much massage Daver applied. It finally eased off during the night and today I feel fine – though I promise I will call the doctor tomorrow and figure out what is going on. Not sure if it is kidney stones or some kind of blockage or just arthritis, but I will not ignore it again! All else is fine with our health (though Daver says nothing about that or anything else).

We continue to live and work in the New York City area and hope for a call to somewhere rural where we can have some actual snow.

I lost my calendar in March, so am not sure exactly what I did in the first 3 months of last year, though I know I worked for concerts and graduations at Radio City, did a few Ellis Island Stories in schools, played a patient for student doctors to interview at Bellevue, worked as a sub at a preschool in Brooklyn, did some film acting when I could get it and began my second year as an OSC and third as a Field Specialist for World Strides, working with various groups of kids and their chaperones. It is always an adventure to see people new to the city finding their way around and enjoying it!

I am looking forward to more of the same this year!

I was able to visit Ohio twice this year, in April for my all class reunion at Light of Hearts Villa (Lumen Cordium, all girls’ high school when I attended, now a Senior Residence that hosts our reunions – a big one for the first graduating class of 1967, I was there in ’69), in late June/July for the visit of the Drumm Family, to introduce Aurora, who turned 1 in August and Michael, who was there when he was 3 months old, but at 4 was delighted to play with his ‘different cousins’ (and gave us all an excuse to celebrate Mary Kay and Ray’s 40th wedding anniversary a little early – and in great style, thanks to Eric, Amy, Jacob and Patrick and their spouses, as well as the Lands from Florida and PA who were able to join us. I got to visit with Janet and Donny both times, as well as brother Matthew, though too brief for everyone! I missed Bart’s graduation, and all the Flanagan and Furcolow cousins, but none of us can bilocate. I spent most of my time there with our grandkids, Brianna, who will be 8 in February this year, Joshua who turned 5 on Sept. 20 and Isaiah, who at 3 (as of July 15, his father’s due date) wears the same size as big brother! My cousin (Pat) Bill Flanagan and his wife and good friends came to NYC to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary in December, so I got to spend some lovely time with them, what fun!

I continue volunteering reading to kids at the local school, though BookPALS has disbanded as of December, working for peace and justice with Pax Christi Metro New York – come see Windborne at St. Joseph’s Casserly Hall on Jan. 28th, our Peacemaking through the Arts fundraiser – and with my spiritual family, the Missionary Cenacle Family. On my retreat with them this year, the theme was virtues and simplicity was calling to me, wonder why? At Trinita the theme was ‘be good, do good, be a power for good’ our Family motto. That was the theme in 2007 when I volunteered the first time with this incredible summer Family Development Program, great to revisit it. Looking forward to returning for my usual two weeks at the end of July this year as well.

I got to reprise my role as ‘Sr. Kunnegunda’, friend of both Mother Boniface and Margaret Healy, cofounders with Fr. Judge. The role was created for the Centennial of the Family in 2009, and with the Centennial of the Sisters’ founding this year, I hope to be able to do it again. The Generalate is being repurposed for women discerning their vocations, and will be called Dr. Margaret Healy House, and I got to perform it for the Sisters right there where Fr. Judge was laid out and the early Sisters lived.

I hope to see you all in the New Year!

Working the Primary

I have been working the various elections since +Doris Marchica of happy memory asked me to come help where she was Coordinator. You have common sense, you can do this, she responded when I said I hadn’t taken any classes yest. I have been taking classes and working the elections ever since, but have never had as wonderful a Coordinator as Doris.

I have been asked to be a Coordinator by various district leaders, even did it once when they were short people in the middle of the day, and again when a Coordinator didn’t show up, so two of us who had been doing the job were asked to do it officially. Since we were both Democrats and the site was supposed to be Coordinated by a Republican, I never got paid for that one. They keep asking if I want to become a Republican so I guess they need more Republican Coordinators. I have declined.

I have had conflicts with some Coordinators, as they seem to think my general helpfulness is a threat to their authority. I don’t think I want the extra responsibility. You have to do some stuff on an ipad nowadays too. Ech.

I think I will just ask to be at Village View, where I know the people and the Coordinator is a Democrat and will hopefully not take umbrage if I help as needed. What I learned from +Doris Marchica is that the best election team works together seamlessly to help the voters. Our egos don’t have to get involved, as the goal is the same for all of us, help the voters to vote!

Some voters have been doing this longer than I have been alive, and would like to chat and share their stories as well as vote. Many are new to voting and just want to do it as quickly as possible without looking foolish in the process. Many are not as capable as they used to be, but don’t want to miss their civic duty, and get frustrated with a lot of things. Our job is to help them vote, and treat them as human beings along the way.

I don’t want to miss doing this because, for some, it is a chance to prove how much power they have over others. I like being able to help friends from the neighborhood, many of whom I have met while doing this job, who now say hello when I see them outside of voting (though I sometimes have to say, ‘oh, I was working the election last time you saw me’, so they know why they recognize me).  When it is slow, I get a chance to share some stories with those friends and make some new ones among the workers.

‘Being good, doing good, being a power for good’ the motto of my spiritual family, the Missionary Cenacle Family means being yourself (God made us and, as the kids in the Catechetical Program used to say, ‘God don’t make junk!’), doing good whenever and however you can, and working with others to help them fulfill their capacity for good as well! Working the Primary or any other election is not connected to religion in any way, but everything we do at every moment of every day is a moment of grace and an opportunity to be a conduit for God to love. It is hard work, but simple.

When folk are giving me a hard time for helping when it is not in my job description, I try to breathe and know the Holy Spirit will guide me to do the right thing, and She gives me the patience to continue. The smiles on people’s faces when they see me, or as they leave, having been able to vote even though they got confused at first, is worth more than I can say.

Living longer than Papa

Papa died at 62, so I am now 3 years older than he ever was. It is weird, and some days feels like it is so unfair. Then I remember my friends who are 80, 90 and approaching 100 and tell myself to buck up and stop whining.

When I visit Ohio I like to see the places where I lived when I was a kid, but often don’t have a chance to do it. I remember the stories Papa used to share with us about what it was like for him growing up in Cleveland and the nearby areas. I wish I could share with him again. Or with my brothers who are gone, my mother and so many others. I saved some of his letters, and am so happy I did, but often wish I had all of them.

Some of the things I want to share with my son and his children are things they don’t care about at all. I am so lucky to be able to come and visit as often as I do get to come. I watched Lion the other day, the movie about a young man who grew up in India and ended up getting adopted by a couple in Australia, tracing his story across those continents. My life is so blessed.

I get to go to Trinita next week for a couple weeks, working with families from Philadelphia and the local area in Connecticut for a week each, so excited to be able to do it, this will be my 10th year. I need to remember to take each day as it comes, doing what I can and being aware of the needs of others, knowing and trusting that what I need to help will be given to me, if I only ask. I am asking!!! Thank you!

May 4, 1970

Every year as May 4th approaches, I  remember my freshman year at Kent and the eventful days of that first weekend in May. My brother was in jail in Ravenna, serving time for civil disobedience on campus and off the year before. The Vietnam War had escalated into Cambodia, and it was spring, so many of us were out on campus protesting the war. All weekend people had been protesting, and the Governor had called in the National Guard, but mostly they just stood around and cute girls put flowers in their rifles and encouraged them to make love, not war.

That May 4th Monday morning, I had Geography at noon, not one of my favorite classes, and there was a protest by the Taylor building, which was on my way, so I went to the protest.

The Taylor building is at the top of a hill, and the valley in front of it is a natural rallying spot. There were temporary buildings there just beyond the foot of the hill, where ROTC classes were held, and the Guard were gathered there. People were all around the edges of the hill, and some protesters took their T shirts off so they could pick up the tear gas containers and toss them back at the Guard who had fired them at us. Between that and the natural flow of air, the tear gas was having no effect.

Protesters were shouting that the Guard should go home, that we should get out of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. The Guard fixed their bayonets and proceeded to march through the protesters and up around the Taylor building. The protesters just moved aside for them, and came back to the center of the hill after the Guard marched around the top of the Taylor building and out of sight. It was a lovely day and more and more people kept joining the protest, or at least looking on.

Quite a few people went up this side of the Taylor building to see what was going on. After a bit we heard what sounded like capguns. Soon people came back from the top of the hill and everyone was shouting. Noone seemed to know what was going on, I thought, ‘it couldn’t be real ammo, maybe they shot blanks.’ My brother’s roommate, whom I had met the year before, came from over the hill in my direction – I got his attention and asked him what was going on. There were 2 or 3 ambulances at the foot of the hill, and they were starting their engines and working their way up the hill to the other side of Taylor. He said, ‘each of those ambulances can hold 8 people. They won’t be enough!’ I said, ‘They used real bullets?” I couldn’t believe it. The only thing the protesters were throwing was the tear gas that had been fired at us!

People continued to gather, but when the Guard marched back down the hill, the crowd stayed to the side for a lot longer. At some point my psychology prof, who had his gym shoes in his hand, went up to the guard and spoke to the superior. Then he spoke to us: ‘I felt I could talk to them because I wasn’t unarmed, I had my shoes in my hand. I asked if we could sit and nonviolently protest, and he said yes, so please sit down.’ We all sat, then he asked for volunteers to go get some sandwiches from one of the nearby dorms, as we had missed our lunch and weren’t thinking too clearly right now. I volunteered, as did a couple others, among whom was the 16 year old runaway whose picture won a Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t catch her name, and when the trays were ready, she was nowhere to be seen. I guess she took that opportunity to go back home. When we got back to the hill, where we had all been sitting 15 minutes earlier, the center of the hill was empty and the Guard were lined up around the perimeter. My jacket and books were on the ground where I had been sitting, surrounded by empty space. I didn’t think I could just go get them, so I ate a sandwich and then went back to my dorm. Helicopters were buzzing the campus and started announcing that everyone should stay indoors.

I went to my room and everyone was listening to the radio, which was announcing that someone had fired on the Guard. I said, ‘That isn’t true, they shot at the protesters.’ One of the girls shushed me, saying another of the girls on the floor had a brother in the Guard. I shouted, ‘They shot at us! No Guard were killed, we were!’ They continued to shush me and I shouted, “I was there! We didn’t fire on them, they shot at us!’ I ran out of the building, but the helicopters were buzzing overhead and there was nowhere to go. Then they announced they were closing the campus and were bussing people who lived nearby to Cleveland. so I ran to my room, packed a bag, and went to where they were loading the busses.

The highway to Cleveland runs right past the exit to my house, so I asked the bus driver if he could drop me off at the gas station, where I could call my father. Several other girls lived nearby as well and asked if my father would drop them off, and I agreed for him.

Pay phones still worked in those days, so I called Papa and he came out for us. Later, he told me he and Mama had just gotten back from trying to come pick me up, as he had an old press pass and thought they might let him in on the strength of it but when they got off the freeway at route 43, the cars were backed up the entire way to Kent (about 6 miles), and the radio announced they were bussing the nearby students to Cleveland, so he turned around and came home. As they came in the door, the phone rang and it was me asking him to come pick me and the other kids up. They weren’t releasing the names of those shot yet.

One of the other girls lived in Northfield, so Papa asked her for directions. She kept saying, ‘Oh, you should have turned there’ after we had passed her turn, but we eventually found our way to her door. After we had delivered all the girls to their homes and were on our way to ours, Papa said, “If you ever give directions like that . . ” I got the impression I would be disowned!

We never did our finals that semester. Some classes graded us on what we had done so far, some sent for a final essay, some just gave us a pass. My psychology professor gave me a C based on what I had done so far that year. I tried to convince him that I had learned a great deal about psychology that couldn’t be gotten from books that weekend, but he was unimpressed.

Papa didn’t want me to go back to Kent the following year, because he thought it would be very strict, with curfews and forbidding protest in the future. I loved that that was his reasoning, not fear for my safety – which was probably in there, too, but he knew that wouldn’t work. I continued at school, started auditioning and discovered the theatre folk, meeting people who are lifelong friends, some of whom had been on the other side of Taylor and shared their stories on a later May 4th, but that is it for now.

4 dead in Ohio. When I was waitressing that summer at Manner’s Big Boy, some of the counter customers thought they should have shot more kids. I couldn’t wait on them. My boss cut me some slack. They were probably the same ones who put ketchup on scrambled eggs. Be seeing you.