Friday, October 28, 2011

MY WIFE Enters The 21st Century

MY WIFE now has an e-mail account.

(I would give the address here, so that she could enjoy the many pleasures of being spammed unmercifully with Viagra ads and promises of great wealth from Nigerian attorneys, but it is a combination of things that add up to her actual real name and, since I solemnly promised never to reveal her true identity on this blog, she'll have to wait an extra week or so before any Middle Eastern potentates on their deathbeds write to tell her of her good fortune.)

She can only access her e-mail at the local public library. This is because we have no internet connection at home. That is entirely my fault, of course. I think we've both come to the conclusion that we'd finally like to have some home connection with the outside electronic world, but I'm the sort who is reluctant to ask other people for advice even when I know diddly-squat about whatever it is I should be asking advice about and know that relying upon the kindness of strangers would be better than self-education. Therefore, we are unlikely to have an internet connection for at least the next three or four months while I learn just enough to get me into serious trouble at the computer store.

Meanwhile, I thought you might get some entertainment from our first ever exchange of e-mails!

Her, to Me:

In a message dated 10/25/2011 11:48:13 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Time to waste in between doctors appointments - 2 hours

Time it takes to figure out how to get into - 15 minutes

Time the library lets you use the computer - 30 minutes

Time I feel like throwing up - 56 years/6 months/7 days... no, scratch that, I was happy til I was five.

Farting - Priceless!

Me, to Her

Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2011 11:49:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Welcome to the 21st Century!

If you were as inventive and cute as me, that would have been a blog post.


Her, to Me


Feel free to use it in yours. I'm now going to take a Xanax and rest before the dentist. If I had to choose betwixt this and the dentist, I'll take the dentist. Using a computer at the library is like using the bathroom in somebody else's house.


I would have written back...

Did you have any particular house in mind?

... at which point she would have replied with something witty (because she is) but she's at the dentist by now and probably won't read any more e-mail for another two weeks (at which time I trust she won't think the penis enlargement spams are worth saving for me, but if she does I'll be thinking twice about actually getting that internet connection at home.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes First - The First Round-Up

Last week, I posted my annual Thanksgiving Comes First screed. As always, I asked folks to join in on their own blogs. I also promised to link to those who did me that favor. Despite what would seem a mountain of evidence to the contrary, I am a man of my word. So, in just a minute, I'll list all of the lovely people who have done postings.

But, first...

I need to address something brought up by a few folks who commented on the original piece. Yes, by posting about Thanksgiving in October, I would apparently be stepping on my own "rule" concerning letting one holiday play out before speaking of another. I may seem to be giving the short end of it to both Halloween and Veterans Day. I assure you, though, I have no desire to see either of those celebrations get less respect than they deserve. As a matter of fact, by asking that Christmas be held in abeyance until after Thanksgiving, I am in fact trying to get more respect for those days, too. Thanksgiving isn't the only day being trampled. Anyway, the main problem is that if we wait to protest until after Veterans Day, it's already a bit too late to have a chance at making a difference. Unfortunately, we need to speak up about Christmas BEFORE stuff hits the shelves, and that necessitates getting the first plea out in October, at the latest. Believe me, I'd rather it could wait...

OK, here goes:

Uncle Skip (who is not my uncle, but he is somebody's) was first to the dance, so he gets top spot!

Messy Mimi (who isn't messy at all, so far as I can tell) contributes a real nice heartfelt piece.

Ivan Toblog (who says that I'm his hero) posts the world's largest TCF logo (and thus he becomes MY hero.)

Joanna at The Fifty Factor gives a very personal reason for why Thanksgiving is special and why we should not want Christmas pushed on us so early.

Kat at Seeking Sanity makes an impassioned plea for some time to truly be thankful, and I thank her!

Tara Dharma makes a good point concerning the length of the Christmas season as compared to the U.S. political season!

Matt Conlon writes straight from the heart and I enjoyed it, a lot (as I usually do his stuff.) His piece may be found HERE.

Ack! Before I forget, Jeni, at Down River Drivel, has had the logo on her sidebar forever. I appreciate that.

(I'm sure, being the clod I am, I'm forgetting some others who have had the logo up since last year. My apologies if I've missed you. Please drop me a line and I'll make good in the next round-up.)

The nicest retired USAF sergeant in New Mexico retains his title (and possibly challenges for the world championship) by posting his annual Tilting At Windmills Post.

Heidi Olivia Tan is my new friend from Malaysia (yes, Malaysia!) and she has joined in with a wonderful post. Malaysia! See what can happen with the power of the internet? We've more-or-less circled the globe, so now we just need to ask the folks in-between to fill in the spaces!

And, just under the deadline for this post, Hilary, the magnificent photographer from The Smitten Image, has deemed my words worthy of mention in her weekly Posts Of The Week. That is high praise, indeed, as she always chooses some excellent writers to showcase. Visit her often - you will never be disappointed.

And that wraps it up for now. Please visit these magnificent folks and leave encouraging words. Lord knows, if they're jumping on-board anything I'm piloting, they need whatever help you can give them.

Next week, I'll have another round-up. If I somehow missed your post from this week, please drop me a line at

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. Seriously, please consider doing a post and asking others to do one, too. It's only through many repetitions across the blogosphere that this has any chance at making an impact. Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Short Story From Dorothy

Dorothy told me a short story during my last visit with her. I'm going to share it with you. First, though, I'd like to thank you again for all of the wonderful mail she's received. You folks are the best! Although she really isn't up to sending personal replies to each of you, she is definitely getting a great boost from your thoughtfulness. Every time I read aloud from one of the cards or letters, or ask her about one of the stuffed cats, a big smile makes itself at home on her face. I'll repeat the address again, in case anyone else wishes to join in:

Dorothy Luff, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900

(For more background on Dorothy, please go HERE.)

OK, here's the story.

When Dorothy was born, her older sister, Patty, found herself unable to pronounce "Dorothy". After unsuccessfully trying to wrap her tongue around the name, she instead took to calling her "Dolly Ann". That name stuck, and it became what her immediate family called her. Nobody ever called her "Dorothy". Since her older sister called her "Dolly Ann", that's what Dorothy was known as when she went to school for the first time, too.

L-R: Patty, My Father, Dorothy (or "Dolly Ann"), a short while before this story

After a few years, her family moved from their original home to The White City Apartments, on Hyde Park Avenue in Boston.

(At one time, three apartments in that building were occupied by my family members. I'm not sure, but I think there were 10 apartments altogether and 13 of my family roaming around. You couldn't swing a dead cat by the tail and not hit a Sullivan family member, if that's your idea of fun.)

As a result of the move, Dorothy enrolled in a new school. On her first day in class, the teacher was calling the roll.







"Dorothy? Are you here? Please answer "Present!""

Again, silence.

The teacher once more called out, "Dorothy?"

Dorothy turned in her seat in the first row and, like everyone else in class, looked around the room for the missing student.

Since nobody answered, the teacher moved on. After calling all of the names on her list, every student in the room had been accounted for... except Dorothy.

Teacher: "You haven't answered, little girl. What's your name?"

Dorothy: "Dolly Ann!"

Seeing no "Dolly Ann" on her sheet, the teacher asked...

"What's your last name, Dolly Ann?"


"Luff? Let's see... Luff... I have a "Dorothy Luff" here. Are you Dorothy?!?"

Realizing she was, Dorothy meekly said "yes".

With great embarrassment, it dawned on Dorothy that, on her first day in a new school, she had given everyone the impression that she was so dumb she didn't even know her own name. It took a while to live that down.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Yes, boys and girls, it's time once again for my annual imitation of Sisyphus. It's time to roll the Thanksgiving Comes First boulder up the mountain of Christmas advertising that seems to inundate us earlier and earlier with each passing year.

(I ask indulgence from my Canadian, European, and other non-US readers. Much of this will mean little to you, but it's very important to me. If it's any solace, I'll be glad to listen to you go on about how, say, Guy Fawkes Night isn't what it used to be, or why we should celebrate our Thanksgiving in October like some of you do.)

I do this same thing, around this same time every year, because I am eternally optimistic. I truly believe that the cheapening of our holidays can be stopped. Do I believe it will happen right now, because of this post? Hardly. I've done the same sort of thing for six years now, with limited success. It could happen eventually, though. It will take your help, and help from your friends, and then help from their friends.

I'm extremely gratified that many of you, in years past, have joined in the effort. Perhaps you'll find some entertainment in doing so again this year? I hope so.

If you'd consider helping in any of the ways outlined within the body of what follows, I thank you most sincerely.

First, some old fart reminiscing, then some suggestions.


When I was a kid, Christmas was magical. The lights were colorful and amazing, making the night a warm, bright, wonderful place to be, even if it was 20 degrees outside and the snow was up to your waist. If you're old enough, you'll recall that Christmas carols gave you the same sorts of butterflies in your stomach that would be associated with love at a later time in your life. Cities and towns put up decorations on the main streets, with the larger municipalities erecting lovely Christmas trees in central spots.

All of the above worked, on a spectacular level, because it happened at an appropriate time and was limited in duration. No retailer (or city, or homeowner) dared breach the unofficial line of demarcation – Thanksgiving. It was an unwritten rule that one holiday would play out completely before speaking of another was allowed.

Now? Few retailers care. Whatever you can peddle, whenever you can peddle it, is the mantra. It matters not a whit how many people’s memories are trampled, nor how irreligious the displays and advertisements. The only thing that counts is that ledgers get into the black. Restraint and taste are passé. It seems the more outrageous the spectacle, the better for the bottom line.

Make no mistake about it: I’m a capitalist. I’m all for everybody making as much money as they can, as fast as they can, in whatever way they can, so long as nobody is physically hurt in the process. I’m not looking to enact laws against early Christmas advertising. What I am in favor of is standing up and being counted. That's fair. Opinion can drive a market in the right direction without resorting to the force of government intervention. If you decry this incursion upon our holiday ground as much as I do, I hope you'll join me in raising a slight ruckus. My hope is that we make enough noise to affect the situation. If we can’t, then I suppose we deserve this deplorable state of affairs.

I’m going to give it a try. I hope you'll help.

If you believe, as I do, that Thanksgiving should play out fully before Christmas season begins; that Christmas carols should not be heard on the radio before at least Thanksgiving evening; that advertisers who dare to encroach upon Thanksgiving - or, God help us, Halloween - should be told in no uncertain terms that you despise their hideous advertisements and that you will not shop at their establishments unless they cease and desist; that malls who put Santa Claus on display before Veterans Day should be ashamed of themselves; then please consider doing something about it.

Should you be as depressed as I am, concerning Christmas schlock, please post a "Thanksgiving Comes First" entry on your blog. Write from the heart. Everybody who visits your blog will find out how you feel. My guess is they'll agree with you. If you invite them to write a blog about it, perhaps they will. And maybe they'll ask their friends, and so on. If enough of us do this, we might have some success.

Please title your post "Thanksgiving Comes First". If we all do that - use the same posting title - it will make a bigger impact. If you wish to reference this post, or other posts with a similar title, please do so. It isn't mandatory, of course. I'm not looking to drive people to this blog. I'm only trying to make a bit of difference concerning something that truly rankles me.

[This cartoon is a favorite, so I choose to run it even though I don't know whose original property it is. If you are the artist, or know who the artist is, I'll gladly give a great big link, and credit.]

If you wish to use the snazzy graphic at the top of this page, or any of the other original graphics here, either on your blog entry or as a semi-permanent graphic on your sidebar, please feel welcome to do so. I'd appreciate it. Having a visual symbol that folks see repeatedly would be a big help.

Following are my most personal reasons for wishing to see something positive occur. Yours certainly don't have to match mine, by any means.

I'm a Christian, so I have more than an annoyance factor at work here. I think that cheapening the holiday, by expanding it beyond reasonable bounds, does a world of disservice to my religion. It gives people a false view of it, by making Christmas seem just a huge greed-fest. However, if you aren’t a Christian, your take on matters is certainly as important. If you're Jewish, for instance, or maybe a Muslim, it might make you mad to see some of your own holy days being given short shrift because of this overkill. If you're an atheist? I imagine it doesn't make you happy to be bombarded by this stuff. Whatever your reasons, please consider telling the world that you've had enough.

(I'm not encouraging obscenity, but I won't discourage it, either. Make it funny, or use it to emphasize a point, but I’d prefer that you don’t be gratuitous just for shock value. Obscenity always works better when it is an organic part of the whole. Be creative.)

Here's my latest idea: I think a good value, given to merchants who forgo early advertising, would be a nice and proper thing to offer. For instance, Nordstrom's is a retailer that specifically advertises that they will NOT be filling the aisles with Christmas merchandise until after Thanksgiving. God bless them! We should, at the least, give credit to such retailers.

Better yet, offering the combined readership of ALL OF OUR BLOGS, as a potential source of advertising for retailers who agree not to give the short end of it to Thanksgiving, might be something that carries actual weight. If we could give FREE ADVERTISING ON OUR BLOGS to those who solemnly swear to hold in abeyance the tinsel and trees and carols, until after Thanksgiving, do you think that might make a difference? I'm willing to offer my blog space to any retailer willing to make that promise. I'll give you a full-size ad, for one day, where my prose usually runs, if the ad includes something to the effect that you promise to not have Christmas merchandise on your sales floor prior to the day following Thanksgiving. There may be a number of other bloggers willing to do the same. Contact me at, if interested in either offering your blog space or taking advantage of my (our?) offer.

(I've always considered it nicer to offer incentives than to promise punishments.)

So, to reiterate:

If you believe as I do, that Thanksgiving Comes First, then please let your readers know where you stand.

If you post a "Thanksgiving Comes First" entry to your blog, please let me know by leaving a comment here. Next week, I'll write about this again. If many of you join in, it will be a joyous post detailing all of the successes, pointing folks to all of the other blogs, including yours, that have decided to fight the madness. If it turns out to be a dismal failure, I'll write about that, instead.

(Image courtesy of Thanksgiving Corner)

In order for this thing to have any real effect, it has to keep spreading via others. While I truly LOVE anything you do in response, we have to ask others to do the same. If we don’t, then we’re just ranting. While that's certainly fun, it doesn’t accomplish as much as making our feelings known and also getting others to make their feelings known.

I firmly believe – and I’m sure you do, too – that the great majority of people are sick to death of the way Christmas has been commercialized. I’d be willing to bet that whenever you talk to anyone about this stuff, they almost always say, "Yeah, that's how I feel, too!"

Don’t you think we hold the majority opinion on this? If there were some way we could vote on it, wouldn’t we win easily? I sure think so. I think that for every person who loves hearing Christmas music at the beginning of November, there are ten of us who want to blow up the radio it’s playing on. I know that’s the way I feel. And I really, truly LOVE Christmas music. I honestly do. I own some 35 or 40 CDs full of Christmas music. But it has its place, and November (or, God help us, October) really isn’t it.

Are we tilting at windmills? I’d like to think we're not. The response in previous years, from all of you kind folks, gives me hope.

Sooner or later, if we speak up and ask others to do likewise, I honestly think we can have some effect. I’m not saying that we’ll bring the corporate world to its knees, nor is that even slightly what I hope we accomplish. This isn’t a power trip. But, if we can get them to ramp it down a bit, that would be an accomplishment of which we could be proud.

What this is all about, truly, was brought home to me while watching an episode of Mister Rogers.

On one of his shows, Fred was explaining the concepts of noisy and quiet. In order to illustrate the difference, he took his television audience to see a musician friend of his.

Fred had the musician, a percussionist, play his many instruments. Some were very loud, while others were soft and gentle. Afterward, Mister Rogers looked into the camera and spoke. He said, "In music, the silences are just as important as the loud parts."

The silences are just as important as the loud parts.

That’s a very profound statement. It’s true, isn’t it? Without the silences, it’s all just noise. The silences – the pauses, the gaps, the unfilled spaces – are what give the notes their power and meaning. And when it comes to a holiday, the silences – the quiet times preceding (or even within) the holiday – are extremely important. They give the celebration its power and meaning. That’s why I care so deeply about this. We all need some silences. They’re just as important as the loud parts.

Please keep writing, as well as asking your friends to write. Maybe send off a letter or two to your local newspapers. I've had a couple published, and some of you are much more eloquent than I am. Let us know what sorts of responses you receive. As promised, I’ll list (and link to) all of your blogs come next week.

For now, Google the phrase "Thanksgiving Comes First" and you'll find some past postings. Even that simple act, in and of itself, helps to spread the message. Getting many hits on Google, for the phrase, will bring it to the attention of some more good people.

Thank you for listening. God bless you if you help.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Re: Incarnation

As you may know, I was out of work for quite a few days recently. I had a very high fever and spent the better part of my time in bed, having nightmares. The fever broke, and I now feel better than I have in ages.

Just before coming out of my fever-induced dreams, however, I had a singular vision concerning an angel descending from Heaven. He hovered over my bed, and seemed to be examining both me and my surroundings. While he was thus situated, he looked intently at a sheet of paper, occasionally nodding his head (apparently in agreement with what he was reading), and sometimes shaking his head from side to side (apparently not quite believing what he was reading.) As I came more fully awake, he noticed me looking at him and he disappeared. I’m not sure, but I could almost swear that I heard him say, "Oh, shit!" as he vanished from my sight.

Of course, I assumed that this vision was only a result of my being feverish and perhaps having taken one too many swigs from the cough syrup bottle. However, when I got out of bed, I felt something under my right foot. I looked down and saw the paper from which the angel had been reading.

I will reproduce it here.



"It’s Where You Want To End... Up!"

To: Soul #126,748,055,129

From: Gabriel, Archangel, Senior Traffic Manager, Births Division

Date: 3/1/1957 (Anno Domini)


It is my pleasure to inform you that your request to be born has been granted. You will be delivered tomorrow, March 2nd.

We realize that this doesn’t give you much time to prepare, but your paperwork was significantly delayed due to the extraordinary (some might go so far as to say bizarre) requests you made in conjunction with your application. Details concerning the approval or rejection of said requests appear below.

You requested:

1 – That you be born into a family of great wealth.

2 – That you be granted a physical constitution able to withstand unbounded debauchery.

3 – That you be given good looks. Specifically, you requested a full head of flowing blond hair; a square jaw; sparklingly white teeth; a 52-inch chest accompanied by a 32-inch waist; rock-solid muscles; and a sexual tool magically able to change length and width in order to conform precisely with whatever female partner you might currently be bedding.

4 – That you be allotted the eyesight of an eagle; the hearing of a bat; the sense of smell of a bloodhound; and the speed and agility of a cheetah.

5 – That you be allowed to requisition from this office, on demand, further blessings which you may have forgotten during the application process.

This office, in response, has granted the following:

1 – You will be born.

2 – You will have free will with which to debauch to your heart’s content.

3 – You will not be severely misshapen or grotesque.

4 – You will have five senses. You will be able to run, after a fashion.

5 – You will be allowed to request further blessings, but they will most certainly not be guaranteed, nor will they be given according to your schedule.

Explanations Concerning Those Things Granted Or Denied:

1 – It is the considered opinion of this office that putting great wealth into your hands would be akin to granting a meteor the ability to tap dance. It would serve no useful purpose whatsoever and, in addition, would cause great concern among the general populace.

We do understand your request. You have discerned, quite correctly, that your mercurial temper and general tendency towards sloth will not give you a very good chance at anything more than a subsistence level existence, but you certainly must realize that these same qualities would undoubtedly result in you inadvertently killing yourself if we gave you anything more than that which you require to be comfortable. Therefore, we will never let you starve, and you will always have a bed to sleep in, but extreme wealth is entirely out of the question.

2 – Since you will not be given the means with which to debauch to your heart’s content, we see no reason to give you a body able to withstand such rigors. However, since we also know that you WILL debauch up to the limit of your available cash - as well as whatever credit you can scam from the unsuspecting - we ARE willing to outfit you with a body that heals relatively quickly (although, we must stress, NOT instantaneously, so you’ll probably be able to smoke cigarettes for 40 years or so before permanent deleterious effects set in, but we would suggest that you refrain completely from juggling chainsaws or having sex with any women named Bobbitt.)

3 – This one did give us a good chuckle, and we thank you for that.

Your hair will be red, not blond, and if you don’t like it, we can arrange for it to fall out beginning somewhere around your 21st birthday. Your jaw will not be square, but will instead be somewhat pointy. In order to make up for this, we WILL give you the sparklingly white teeth you’ve requested, but you will have to wait until you reach your fifties to receive them and they will be made out of porcelain. You will have the 32-inch waist, but only until 1981. The largest chest we could requisition for you was 42 inches, but we will attempt to deliver a 52-inch stomach by the time you reach age 60 (IF you reach age 60.) We are unable at this time to supply you with a full complement of rock-solid muscles, but we pulled some strings and you will be given them in the following locations: right thumb, left fingers, and ass. This will allow you to become either a relatively unknown bass guitarist or a renowned and gifted gay prostitute - your choice.

Speaking of prostitution, we found it rather presumptuous of you to assume that you would be born a male. As it turns out, you will, but your request for the magical shift-changing sexual appendage is flatly (even laughingly) denied. Yours will be strictly standard issue. On the bright side, it will work very well and never be subject to erectile dysfunction. However, opportunities for use will be far fewer than you’d prefer, unless you choose the previously mentioned male prostitution option.

4 – You will be happy to know that we are granting the great eyesight and hearing. We expect, however, that you will choose to not see what is in front of your face and to not listen to what you need to hear. You will have the speed and agility of a bloodhound, and you will smell like a cheetah.

5 – This office will do all in its power to grant additional requests made through the proper channels, but we have little reason to believe that, in most instances, you’ll understand what the proper channels are until it’s too late. Nevertheless, we have seen fit to supply you with some items that you didn’t request, but which we expect you would wish you HAD requested, once born.

You will be equipped with:

A – Two loving parents, and a near endless supply of caring relatives and friends.

B – The ability to rationalize almost anything.

C – An above average set of vocal cords, as well as an ample supply of blarney.

D - The ability to be very easily amused.

E – A sincere belief in the fact that you are blessed.

F – A WIFE (sense of humor and patience included.)

You may not realize it, as you embark upon your journey, but all of the above are invaluable gifts and much more important than any of those things you requested.

If you have any comments or concerns regarding this letter, we are unable to answer them at present due to time constraints. Also, as you know, none of these particulars will be remembered by you, or be available for your inspection, during your time incarnate. Your guardian angel will, at regular intervals, check to make sure that all of the particulars mentioned herein have occurred, are occurring, will occur, or will never occur, depending upon which one of the items we’re discussing. Upon your return to this realm, we will make every attempt to satisfactorily answer whatever questions you may still have concerning your sojourn. In the meantime, you have been equipped with a fully functioning conscience. If it should fail at any time, you will be automatically directed to your owner’s manual (known in the native parlance of your new home planet as “The Bible”) and instructions for repair and re-start of your conscience will be made apparent.

Please report to the birth canal by midnight to begin processing. You need not pack anything; all promised supplies will be provided upon your arrival, and any attempt to smuggle contraband will only result in unnecessary delays.

Oh, one last thing: Your name will be "Jim." Your request to be christened "Rocky Thunderballs, Supreme Lord Of All Men And Extremely Potent Satisfier Of All Women” is not only denied, but would be entirely blasphemous if we didn’t consider it completely ridiculous. Consider yourself lucky to get "Jim." We could have easily gone with "Needledick Lipschitz."

We truly wish you nothing but the best. Whether or not you realize it at the moment, that’s what you'll receive.

GABRIEL, a.a., s.t.m., births


So, that’s what I found on my floor after the angel disappeared. I’d appreciate your thoughts concerning it. In the meantime, I've set a trap in my bedroom just in case he returns, and I’ll be re-reading the document carefully, looking for loopholes.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(My sincerest thanks to Shrinky for the inspiration - again.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dorothy Leaves Latin School

Paid another visit to Dorothy last night at her nursing home/rehab facility. No great change from last time, which is a bit of good and a bit of not so good.

[Dorothy near the time of the story hinted at in the title, perhaps 1940]

The good? She's still sharp as a tack and enjoys a nice chat with a visitor. Many stories passed back and forth (most of which were about family members and would require so much investment of time, on your part, before getting to the point of them, that they would give you about as much value as a checking account at Bank Of America, which is to say you'd hardly have any interest and your capital would be eaten away gradually until you finally end with less than you started, but I will relate one, after a bit.)

The bad? No upgrade in her, physically, so she's still confined to bed. She may have lost a pound or two, though it's hard to tell. But she wasn't really expecting to be up and running a marathon, so no more disappointment for her than was already in this situation. Her spirits are pretty good.

You have a lot to do with that, of course.

Once again, I was overwhelmed by the wonderful cards, letters, photos, drawings, and other thoughtful things sent to Dorothy by you fine folks. Listing all of you by name would seem to be the least I could do, but I feel it would end less than satisfactorily for some. A few items had no name on them, and I'm fairly certain the envelopes they came in somehow became lost in a general clean-up by a nurse or aide. Rest assured, though, that Dorothy is delighted with everything she's received. Her vision is not great, but the nurses read everything to her and she can see quite well enough to enjoy the many photos and drawings of cats. She can't write very well, between the vision problems and the arthritis, otherwise she'd no doubt send a few "thank you" notes herself. She feels quite the celebrity, from all the mail, and she asked me to be sure I expressed her heartfelt thanks for everything!

(If you'd like to send a card or letter or what-have-you, here's the address:

Dorothy Luff, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900

If I've somehow lost you - thanks for getting this far without knowing what's going on! - more detail is HERE.)

So, I promised you a story. Here it is.

In Boston, there are a small number of schools that, while funded by the government and nominally open to all students, require passage of an entrance examination for a student to attend. The most prestigious of these is the Latin Academy.

Nowadays, it is one facility, for both male and female students, but during my school years, and Dorothy's, there were separate schools for boys and girls. I mention myself in this because both Dorothy and I passed the examinations for entrance, albeit 30 years apart, and we both went to our respective Latin schools. And I found out, last night, that our success and happiness while ensconced at those institutions was similar.

We both hated the place.

I've detailed my angst about the joint before, and if you want to read a whole bunch of kvetching about school, you could go HERE. This is Dorothy's tale, though, so I'll limit talk, here, about my stupid school years.

As I say, Dorothy truly hated the place. It wasn't because of a lack of smarts on her part, or because of a hatred of school in general. A few years following this story, Dorothy graduated college with a masters degree in education and she spent many years teaching. It was just Latin School itself she abhorred. She felt the other students were snooty and looked down at her (while not poor, Dorothy's family wasn't rich, either, and Latin School, at that time, did tend to attract more kids from well-to-do families, for whatever sociological reasons.) So, for the only time in her academic career, she disliked where she was and her grades suffered as a result.

She sorely wanted out. However, it was a prestigious achievement for an Irish-Catholic girl, of that day and age, to be able to attend such an old and august school, so she feared asking her parents for permission to transfer. Instead, she decided it best to take matters into her own hands and then tell them about it only after it was a fait accompli.

Dorothy steeled her nerves while riding the trolley to school, some 35 or 40 minutes from Roslindale to the part of Boston where Latin was located. She had planned her lies carefully. All that remained was to say them and hope they worked as she wished.

Upon arrival at school, she went to see the principal. When he inquired as to why she was there, Dorothy said that she and her parents had had a good long discussion last night and they had tearfully informed her that they didn't have the money to send her to college, so there seemed little use in her remaining in a college-prep school such as Girl's Latin. All things considered, they thought it best for Dorothy to transfer to her local high school, Roslindale High, to finish her education, gaining the sorts of skills needed for an office job or a future role as a homemaker.

Since Dorothy's grades at Latin weren't stellar, the principal didn't put up a big fight to convince her to stay. He asked her if she had a letter from her parents. Dorothy said she did, then made a big show out of searching through her book bag for it. She played at being distraught, maybe shed a tear or two, and told him she must have lost it on the trolley.

(At this point in the telling, Dorothy confessed admiration of her own theatrical skills and mused that maybe she should have pursued a career in acting.)

The principal bought it. He told her he'd get the ball rolling on her transfer.

A couple of days later, the papers were all signed and delivered. Dorothy was enrolled in Roslindale High. So, unbeknownst to her parents, she started attending classes there instead of at Latin.

It didn't take long for her folks to find out. One day, during recess or lunch, Dorothy was walking down the street with some of her new classmates when her father came driving by. Spotting Dorothy, he pulled over and asked her what the hell she was doing there in Roslindale at this time of day. Dorothy spilled the beans. She explained her hatred of her former school, and assured him she still had every intention of pursuing higher education. Luckily, her dad saw the sense in her actions (especially when Dorothy explained that, since Latin was such a tough school in comparison with Roslindale High, her grades, when transferred, were upped at least full step in most cases, pulling her from near the bottom at Latin to near the top at her new school.)

Brave girl.

I'll be visiting with Dorothy again, sometime soon, and I'll keep you up-to-date. Again, thanks so much for brightening her days with your mail. You've made us both happy.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dorothy Says, "Thank You!"

Having finally put the flu behind me, and having finished all that had to be done concerning the passing of My Grandma, I finally had time (and good enough health, myself) to pay a visit to Dorothy.

(For those who have no clue what I'm yammering on about, please see THIS.)

I planned my visit for Tuesday evening. Shortly before the visit, I was serendipitously reminded (thank you, Mimi!) that the date of my visit, October 4th, was the feast day, in the Catholic Church, for Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Since Dorothy so loves the friendless of the animal world, it seemed a nice coincidence.

[Dorothy, from a couple of years back]

I drove to Milford, where Dorothy is receiving treatment, after work. It is about an hour outside of Boston, perhaps a forty-five minute drive from my place of employment. It is two or three miles from Dorothy's apartment complex and the colony of feral cats she took care of for so many years.

When I arrived at the facility, no one was at the reception desk to point me to Dorothy's room, so I just sort of felt my way along the corridors. It's fairly nice as places of this sort go. Cheerfully appointed, nice dining facilities, no odd smells (as is sometimes the case in lesser homes of the sort, not as well maintained), and every worker I encountered (at least on this evening) seemed to have a smile to offer. Most of the residents are either in wheelchairs or in bed, and I offered a smile to some who looked (and smiled) at me as I walked by. I finally found Dorothy's room, 103, and went inside.

She was asleep.

I didn't know what to do, really. I didn't want to disturb a peaceful nap, but I also didn't want to leave without a visit and some conversation. I stood there a minute, hoping she'd wake up and see me, but no go.

I left the room and went back to the nurses station down the hall. I explained my dilemma to a cheerful nurse. She said, "Oh, don't worry! You can wake her up. I'm sure she'd love to see you! Just give her a little shake."

Having received permission and been absolved of responsibility, I went back to the room and gave a gentle tap to Dorothy's shoulder. She awoke immediately. I asked her if she knew who I was (her vision isn't spectacular, and she had just woken up.) When she said, "No, who is it?", I said, "It's Jimmy Shawn".

("Jimmy Shawn", or just "Shawn", is what my father's side of the family called me for many years. This is because I had a Granduncle Jim, and had [still do] an Uncle Jim, so it avoided confusion in conversations.)

When she realized who it was - or, more likely, when she found out it was anyone she knew, come for a visit, and not necessarily me - her face lit up. She broke out a big smile, and from there it was a non-stop 90-minute conversation without any lulls, gaps, awkward silences, or anything else that would have given a listening stranger the idea that we were in a hospital setting and not just chatting at someone's kitchen table. It was wonderful.


The first thing I noticed was Dorothy's weight. She has never been anything other than petite, but she is now extremely thin. During our conversation, she mentioned that the staff had weighed her recently. They told her she was a few ounces above 80 pounds (that would be about 36 kilo, or a bit less than 6 stone, for her friends in Canada and Europe.) Even at that, I think they may have had a foot on the scale. I would have judged her as weighing less. She stands about five-foot-seven, I believe, so perhaps it is just my perception considering her relatively tall frame.

Having said that, she does not look as ill as one might expect of a person with so little weight. She is bedridden, but appears to move with no pain. There are no tubes in her arms, no IV, no oxygen, nothing taking away from an otherwise nice appearance of a delicately-built older woman sitting up in bed. Here eyes are a bit sunken, due to the lack of weight, and all of her veins can be clearly seen through the thinness of her arms, but her voice is strong, her eyes move quickly, and she is as sharp as she ever was (no small compliment, that, as Dorothy was a schoolteacher, and has always been an erudite woman, quick with her wits, and nobody's fool.)


She appeared to be in no pain, or at least she never gave any indication that she was. For those unfamiliar with Dorothy's many maladies, here's what she has:

Bladder Cancer

Lung Cancer

Breast Cancer


Macular Degeneration

And, from the look of her hands, I'd say she has more than a touch of arthritis, too.

Now, you might expect a person with a laundry list like that to be less than cheerful. I think I might be, given the same. However, Dorothy smiles often, is still intrigued by all that life has to offer, and she does not appear at all ready to toss in her hand. In the great poker game of life, it's obvious at this point that she's holding garbage, but she either still believes she has a winner or she's playing a bluff for all it's worth. Either way, it's to be admired.


Before I talk about anything else, let me tell you how gratified I was upon seeing the many cards, letters, notes, and other wonderful things many of you have sent to Dorothy. It is a thrill for me, personally, that you went out of your way to do so, but the purpose, of course, was to raise Dorothy's spirits. You did that, magnificently.

When I first sat down to talk to her, I saw only a few things on her bedside table. I asked her about them. She said that was just the tip of the iceberg. She told me about how the nurses had come to her one day and, since she had received so much mail, asked her if it was her birthday. Dorothy directed me to open a drawer in another table by her bed. I did so and saw perhaps 30 cards and letters and envelopes, from far-flung places such as the United Kingdom, from good folk in Canada, from 10 or 12 different states... it was just an explosion of colors, heartfelt thoughts, fun stories, many photos and drawings of cats, and all sent with nothing but love as a motive. Since her eyes are not great, the nurses have read her most of the mail, and she says they seem to get a kick out of it.

There were a couple of very lovely prayer books, many scriptural quotations, even some old beautiful prayer cards from unknown funerals (one of which we found more interesting than the others, as it was for a deceased Sullivan, but, after some careful thought and deliberation, we concluded it wasn't one of ours.)

I also noticed a couple of toy stuffed cats. Dorothy was particularly fond of them.

(She said that one of the nurses brought her a couple of real kittens one day, no more than a couple of weeks old, and she let them roam around on her bed for a few minutes. I think that may have delighted her more than anything else.)

Dorothy explained that she had tried to arrange everything on her regular bedside table, but there just wasn't enough room, when meals came or whatever, so that's why she had to keep the overflow in the drawer. And she wanted me to be sure to tell you that she was very grateful for the mail, the gifts, the thoughtfulness of it all. She still isn't exactly sure what a blog is (she asked me again what the term was for what I wrote, and I told her. She laughed, and said she thinks she told the nurses I had a bloogle) but she knows it basically means I communicate with some wonderful souls who know about her, and care, so she has the gist of what's happening and she likes it. That's the important part of it, so who cares if she has the terminology straight?


When Dorothy first came to the facility, she was in the process of being checked in when someone saw her, pointed, and said, "Isn't that The Cat Lady?"

A few minutes later, another person came up to her, and said, "Aren't you The Cat Lady?"

Well, she had been on television, and featured in a couple of newspaper stories, so it wasn't a total shock for her to be recognized. This had happened to her before, but usually in a store or supermarket; mainly when she was doing something that might trigger the thought, such as buying 150 cans of cat food. She wasn't much in the mood for that sort of notoriety as she was being checked into a health care facility, but she took it with good grace and in the spirit intended.

She was given a dual occupancy room, same as she has now, but this first room had her positioned by the window. She says that, every so often, people would come up to the window, tap on it to draw her attention, and wave to her, making it known via signs or whatnot that they knew she was "The Cat Lady" and that they liked her. She knows the folks meant well, but she's a bit happier now that she's away from the window and in another room.

(This reminded her of another story, older in vintage. It seems she was on her way to feed the cats, a few years back, when two boys, perhaps five or six years of age, stopped her and asked if she was The Cat Lady. Dorothy said that she was.

The younger of the boys stared at her for a minute. He then turned to his friend, and said, "You lied! She doesn't look like a cat at all!")


What would Dorothy especially like you to know? That her colony of feral cats is being cared for in her absence. Another loving resident of the apartment complex has taken over the feedings. The colony is, of course, getting smaller, due to the planned capture and spaying of the animals, as well as the placing of found kittens in real homes. Dorothy's great and good work will be completed.


I'll be visiting Dorothy again next week, God willing.

Then, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The following is the eulogy I delivered at My Grandma's funeral.

I debated about posting this. It was not written with the intention of publishing. It will lose something by being read rather than heard. In the actual delivery, I extemporized a slight bit. I changed some words, or slightly re-phrased, while I held eye contact with people and didn't want to break the mood by looking down at my "script". When you see something in brackets [like this, for instance] it is a stage direction to myself and I did the physical act described.

Anyway, I decided to publish it for two reasons I consider proper:

1 - I've received so many nice words, from so many of you, that it seems only right that I include you in the "hearing" of this tribute. In addition to comments on the previous piece concerning My Grandma, I received some private correspondence that especially made me think that withholding this would not be an act of humility on my part, but rather a disservice to some.

2 - She was a wonderful woman who deserves to have these words made as public as it is possible for me to do.

[My Grandparents, Fran and Maybelle Drown, with 
(L to R) My Cousin Steven, Me, My Cousin Scott, around 1964]

So, there you have it. What follows is the eulogy as I wrote it out prior to delivery. Thank you for your kind words, prayers, and well-wishes, over the past several days. My family and I appreciate them greatly.

Eulogy For Maybelle Drown, My Grandmother

I’m Maybelle’s grandson, and Connie’s son, Jimmy. I’ve been asked to say a few words about My Grandma.

I don’t mind telling you, I’ve struggled with this. It’s not because of a lack of things to say about Maybelle. It’s because there’s so MUCH to say about her. A life of 105 years is not easily condensed into a five-minute eulogy.

I’ve written about Maybelle before, and I’ve published what I wrote on the internet. That stuff was good. When I was asked to speak, my first thought was that I’d just more-or-less read what I’d written before. That would have been no problem, and I don’t think anyone would have been disappointed with it… except me. I thought about it, and I realized this called for a different voice, a bit more emotion. What I wrote and published before was factual, and it was entertaining (and if you feel like reading it, I’ll be happy to give you a copy – just ask me later on) but it didn’t capture what I now feel is the most important thing to say about My Grandma.

What IS the most important thing to say about her? I think it’s this: Nobody will ever think of My Grandma and say to him or herself, “That Maybelle Drown! I remember the time she did such-and-such…”, and then go on to relate some story about a horrible thing Maybelle did. Not a chance. Not even the slightest chance.

Wherever My Grandma went, she left behind nothing but friends. In 105 years on this planet, she made no enemies. Not one. That’s an absolutely amazing statement, but it’s the stone cold truth. And I can’t think of a single thing beyond that which could possibly be a better last statement concerning her life.

Now, having said that, was she perfect? That depends upon your definition of perfection. Certainly, there were times during her life when dealing with her physical shortcomings became a bit of a trial. For instance, she became profoundly deaf as the years passed, and she also suffered a stroke that left her sometimes unable to completely articulate what she wished to say. So, having a conversation with her became increasingly more difficult. She had a few odd habits develop over the last few years, and she tended to repeat herself a bit. But I think, even in looking back and recalling that sort of thing, there are more laughs in our memories than anything else.

I recall one particular story with great fondness. It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Maybelle had a cat. Well, she always had a cat. And mostly black cats, for that matter, so the next time you hear someone telling you that black cats are bad luck, you might want to straighten that person out concerning their misconceptions, since Maybelle’s black cats were with her for a full 105 year life, which would hardly seem to be bad luck. Anyway, Maybelle told us how sorry she was for this particular cat, because it had no voice. She said, “The poor thing goes around all the time going (make mouthing of cat) and nothing comes out!” Well, we had just seen the cat in the same room with us, and it was a cat who had a lot to say and wasn’t at all reticent about saying it. It was quite a loud cat, as a matter of fact, and it had just been there with us, going (make cat sounds) and the thing was, the cat was just fine, and Maybelle was just so deaf she couldn’t hear the cat meowing it’s fool head off. Even better, she had a clock that struck the hour by giving off a different birdcall each time. That poor cat would hear the clock, every hour, and think a bird was in the room, so it naturally meowed and meowed, and Maybelle didn’t hear the clock OR the cat, so she thought the poor cat had no vocal chords. So, if you were to judge “perfection” by that sort of incident, no, she was hardly perfect. But the laughs we got… Absolutely Perfect!

I said she made no enemies, and that’s true. I think it’s important to stress something, though. You can go through life making no enemies and still not be worth much to humanity in the long run. If you just sit in a cave by yourself, and interact with no other people, you might not make any enemies, but you also won’t make too many friends. Maybelle left behind no enemies, but it’s not because she was a hermit. She went out of her way to interact with people. She volunteered continually, offered her home and heart to many, gave help to those who needed it, sang to brighten their days, and never passed judgment just for the sake of feeding her own ego. Even with the very best of intentions, it would seem near impossible to have interacted with the amount of people that Maybelle did and not come out of the process with at least one person pissed off at you. But she did it. She pulled off the near-impossible feat of living a very long life and leaving behind not a single person, living or dead, who considered her anything less than a nice woman. Whether through her conscious effort, or via unintentionally funny stories like the one about the cat, smiles were left behind where she had been much like waves follow a boat on the ocean. Nobody who came into contact with her was left poorer for the experience, and most of us were left much richer.

I’ll miss her. We all will. There’ll be a few tears today, and that’s all right. That’s the natural selfish human reaction when we realize someone truly special won’t be with us now. But her true gift to me, to all of us, will remain, not lost in any way. The memories I have of her will make me smile for the rest of my life. And I do believe that every person she ever came into contact with will smile when her name is mentioned. If I could leave behind that same gift, I would consider myself profoundly blessed.

She was. And so were we.

Thank you.