Saturday, May 05, 2012

Two Birthday Girls: Sister Ruby and Aunt Lillian Do Not Know They Are Now Senior Citizens. Help!

Psst. Just between you and me, how do we tell my sister Ruby and my Aunt Lillian, newly 70 and 80 respectively, that they are now er... ah...ahem ... OLD?  They just keep acting like, well, like they are -- you're not going to believe this -- YOUNG!

Someone should talk to them.

Well, okay, with the rest of our huge family afraid to say a word, I guess it falls to me, George Francis Pollock III, the family patriarch. (Formal coronation to come; gold crown and purple robes have been chosen.)

Actually, I did get tough with my sister Ruby, in no uncertain terms, when her daughter Linda and son Glen, brought her to my doorstep for a surprise visit to celebrate her 70th. What greeted her were a few choice proclamations taped to the front door, shown below.

Linda and Glen had planned a special, very creative, daylong birthday celebration for their mom: a surprise visit to each of her four siblings, Marion, Victor, Reggie, and me. When the three of them drove off that morning, Ruby had no idea where she was being taken.

But, no dummy, she quickly figured out that they were headed for Vic's place in Sturbridge, but didn't let on. She didn't want to ruin the surprise and they had a nice visit with Vic and his partner Marianne.

As they were leaving, Vic said, "Say hello to George for us."

Marianne gave Vic a look to kill.

At my house, taking a break from horsing around and lecturing Ruby about acting her age, I gave civil conversation a try. "So, you're heading next up to New Hampshire to see Reggie," I said.

Instantly, Glen and Linda shot each other open-mouthed expressions that said, "No! Not again!" I covered my mouth. Too late ...  I had let the cat out of the bag.

Ruby looked at Glen. She looked at Linda.

Message received by Ruby.

"Oops," I said. "Sorry."

And what a look I got from Barbara, wishing me to -- gulp! -- suffer

My punishment was immediate and severe -- a public spanking in my own home! Glen took matters into his own hands, literally, as you can see in the photo. Ouch!

After my coronation, Glen's head will be the first to roll!

While I struggled  for some semblance of dignity, we enjoyed Barbara's homemade corn bread and bran muffins with coffee, despite the "no coffee" sign on the front door. A surprise guest, my son Greg who lives in Pennsylvania, ignored the "no drop-ins" sign on the front door and dropped in.

Greg is shown here, left, with myself and the birthday girl. But soon -- too soon -- it was time for Glen, Linda, and Ruby to head up to New Hampshire to visit the baby sibling, Reggie and his wife Jeanette.

Visiting  Reggie was extra special for Ruby. It had been 16 years since she had been in his New Hampshire home. She reveled in it.  

There was no reason for the absence. It is just that Ruby is still working at a demanding, high-responsibility job as manager of a rest home. Many of her residents are younger than she is. In addition, she owns and manages several rental properties.

See what I mean?  Nobody her age does such things.

She has little time for visiting four siblings, which is exactly why Glen and Linda came up with the idea of visiting them all in one one day. They do all the planning and driving while Mom enjoys the ride.

It was an ingenious way to kill  four birds with one stone and to make time four times more productive. When you don't have time, you make time. Brilliant.

Linda and Glen, how did you two get so smart?  

After a nice visit with Reggie and Jeanette in New Hampshire, there was no doubt about the next destination: sister Marion's, in Wakefield, Mass. Ruby and Marion have been close all their lives.

Growing up in foster homes -- and sharing some of them -- they watched  each other's back as they stood together against unending abuse.
Today, in addition to each other, they have families of their own.   Ruby has her Glen and Linda (below, with Glen's wife Patty) and Marion has her Jimmy (right) and Nanci.  Ruby has her grandkids Karina, Cam, Logan and Julianna and Marion has her grandkids James and Emmalee.

And, of course, they have Aunt Lillian and the whole precious, newly discovered Pollock family.

Marion and Ruby both put themselves through college and earned graduate degrees, Ruby's in social work and Marion's in nursing. After a long career as a high-level manager of nursing at major hospitals, Marion, 72, will be retiring soon.

From Marion's, Glen, Linda, and Ruby went into Boston where they had dinner at historic Faneuil Hall. After dinner, they strolled around the shops at Quincy Square. By the time Glen and Linda dropped Ruby off at home, it was 10:30 p.m.

 I asked Ruby how she felt about the day. One word flew out: "Wonderful. It was wonderful.  Nothing more could have been done to make me happier, nothing."

The other birthday girl, Aunt Lillian, arrived with daughter Nancy at her surprise party celebrating her big eight-oh -- and she was totally taken by surprise. She had made it clear that she did not want a party. And she figured that was that.

But she  forgot that her young-uns Ginny, Nancy, and Walter take after her. Like their Mom, they  have minds of their own.

They thought their mom deserved a party. They wanted to celebrate not just her reaching a milestone in years, but also who she is, her achievements, her courage, her resilience, and her love  that nourished them all their lives.

Aunt Lillian and her husband operated their own family restaurant and bar  for many years. Nancy, Walter, and Ginny grew up with the family business and took turns working there part time. (So did their sister Barbara who, sadly, passed away three years ago far too young.)
But now Aunt Lillian is entering a whole new phase of life. Some call it retirement. But with Aunt Lillian, it is more like reinventing herself and her life. It's as if she is just sitting down to the banquet of life.

See what I mean? Nobody her age does such things.

She is in the process of selling the Whitman home where she has lived for more than 40 years. She will be moving into a new addition to Ginny's home, currently being built by Ginny's contractor husband, Rob. Ginny is shown at left at the party's generous buffet.

Aunt Lillian's sister  Barbara, despite serious health issues and needing assistance, was also at the party. She is pictured at right with daughter Christine. Her full name is Barbara Pollock Riley.  Aunt Lillian's full name is Lillian Pollock Cloyd. 

Aunt Barbara has a wry sense or humor  and when I go into make-believe mode with her, she goes right with it. 

Christine had asked me to bring a hardcover copy of my novel, "State Kid: Hero of Literacy" to the party. She offered to pay for it. "Nah, too expensive," I said. "I'll give it to you  and then you can lend it around the family." In the photo, I am writing a little author's note for her.  

With the author's signature, the book is sure to be a collector's item  worth a fortune some day.  But if you're cheap and have a Kindle, State Kid is available as an E-book on Amazon or, if you have a Nook, Barnes&Noble.

For the five of us, Marion, Ruby, Victor, Reggie, and me, discovering Aunt Lillian (thanks to Vic's curiosity and research)  has been a dream come true. After growing up in foster homes without family of any kind, it is impossible to exaggerate how much Aunt Lillian means to us.

For us not to be at her 80th birthday party, for example, is unthinkable. Each one of us would have moved heaven and earth to get there. Above is a photo of the five of us at the party with Aunt Lillian. Now an  attempt by me to put into words how much she means to us:

White-haired Angel

Five kids. No mom. No dad. No Aunti. No Cuz. No one. No loving arms around us.

Five Adults. Out of the heavens, appears a little white-haired angel.

Aunt Lillian. Aunt Lillian. Aunti. Family. Real family. 

Oh God!  The loving arms of Aunt Lillian!

So warm. So sweet. So complete.


After the milestones of Ruby's 70th and Aunt Lillian's 80th, dare I mention my little birthday, which was May 2, yesterday as I write this?  It lacks the big oh and high drama of 70 and 80,  but it is a birthday.

Oh, you want a number? I'll pass, but not because I'm sensitive about the number, only because it is the least important thing about this birthday. Thanks to my wife Barbara, yesterday I lived every second, every minute, every hour and it was one of the happiest and most memorable days of my life.

Like Ruby, I didn't know where we were going or what we were going to do when we hit the road in the morning. Barbara was driving. I sat in the front seat like an obedient little boy being taking by his mommy out into the big, mysterious, wondrous world.

Before I knew it we were on the woodsy back roads of Connecticut and I sat there soaking up the natural beauty of great trees and stone walls built a hundred years ago or more. I build stone walls. "Look at all those walls," I said. "Beautiful."

And then we were in the historic village of East Haddam and pulling up to the Gelston House Restaurant overlooking the Connecticut River. "I've always wanted to go here," Barbara said. "You took all your old girlfriends and never me. Now, finally, I'm going to eat here. Hungry?"

"Starved," I said," but aren't you forgetting something?"


"It's my birthday, not yours." 

"I know, but ..."

I reached over and took her hand. Smiling, I said, "But I want us to enjoy it together, just you and me. Deal?"


We went into the Gelston House and had a long, delicious meal looking out at the Connecticut River. I had shrimp and scallops, Barbara baked chicken.

Then came the big surprise. Barbara pulled out a couple of tickets and handed them to me. "The lunch was special, but this is the real birthday present," Barbara said with a smile.

They were tickets to a performance of "Mame" at the historic Goodspeed Opera House, located not a hundred yards away and well known for his Broadway-quality shows.

"Wow!" I said. "I've never seen 'Mame.' What time does it start?"

"At two o'clock, in about twenty minutes."

And so the two of us went to see "Mame." We had great seats and the show was, well there is only one word for it, sensational. I could not believe the performance of Louise Pitre, 55, as Mame.  

Vivacious, rockus, bubbling over with the anything-goes spirit of the 1920's, Ms. Pitre's Mame swayed and kicked to wild, all-out rhythms in a spectacular celebration of life. Both of us left the theater absolutely blown away -- and happy.

What an unforgettable birthday! Thank you, dear!

 Louise Pitre performed while dealing with a father who has Alzheimer's -- and who doesn't know who she is -- and a Mom entering early stages of the disease.  The day before she had accepted the role at the Goodspeed, she learned that her Mom had been accepted at a top health care center in  Canada, where she is from.

If she had not been accepted, Ms. Pitre said in an interview at Gelston House, she would not have accepted the role.  But she did and went out there showing us all  that, no matter what,  life is a banquet -- and we must, live, live, live!

And here she is below doing just that, singing and dancing her heart out.

So long and keep moving.

 E-Books by George Pollock

 "State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his  real-life experiences  growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison;  "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life;  "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life," which is about how to live the title every day; and "Unlove Story," Writing anonymously as "Elvis," a husband, dumped after 38 years of marriage, lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.

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