Whether or not you help a parent get started writing on an iPad, when you encourage writing activities you often get the opportunity to read wonderful stories like the memory below. I had never heard about this event before Dad composed his short essay. Dad writes on his iPad at least every other day and sometimes more often. What makes it especially lovely for me is that I can picture the playground and the old parsonage because I also played there in the snow many years later.
Washington’s Birthday Long Ago — My Dad’s Memory
I suppose I can begin a story with “In the Old Days.”
One Washington’s Birthday, we had a record snowstorm in Belleville, New Jersey, and trudging one’s way to the church’s playground, adjacent to the Parsonage, required boots. I had them on and ear muffs too. So did my friends Nickie, and Benny, and Mario.
We rolled up huge balls of snow on our Church playground and were in the process of building a snow man six feet high when Cal turned up. Cal was a grown up and a painter by trade. He was well-known at the church for anything that needed a coat of paint, but he also had drawing skills and entertained us many times with interesting sketches of the characters of the Bible – David for example, John for another, and the popularized head of Christ. We were all impressed by his skill.
Out came Cal, and he began to reshape the mounting pile of snow. We caught on immediately. He was shaping a bust of George Washington — eyes, nose, cheeks, neck, shoulders, and even that strange tri-cornered cap. The finished masterpiece attracted a number of persons who chanced the chill and watched from behind the fence that enclosed the playground. We all marvelled — it looked just like a picture book Washington.
Like everyone else I’ve been glued to my computer, newspapers, and the radio, keeping track of the catastrophic and heartbreaking events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. As a parent and an educator, I’ve alternated between tears and anger, prayer and frustration, trying to understand how someone could murder little children and their teachers, and imagining the thought of losing my own child. I’ve been awed by the bravery of the educators at Sandy Hook.
Yet, as I listen to the media, I’m appalled by the reports and conversations equating — intentionally or not — mental illness with violent behavior. You see, my family can imagine losing a son and brother to mental illness, because we experienced it for 24 years. Violence against others was never part of the equation, and it’s not for most people who live with brain diseases. Read the December 17, 2012 New York Times Health section article, In Gun Debate, a Misguided Focus on Mental Illness by Richard A. Friedman, M.D.
From the time my brother, Jeff, was 18 until he took his own life at age 42, he suffered from bipolar brain disease. He was erratic, often upset, and frequently angry with us — his family members. He wanted so much to be like the rest of us, his friends and family, and to get on with his life. Despite all of his problems, however, he was not violent toward people. His most erratic behavior occurred when he overturned a grocery cart in a parking lot next to our car — an attempt to demonstrate how angry he was with my father, who was trying to reason to him.
Today my father, Rev. Elmo Pascale, sent me a blog post (written on his iPad) with 1956 memories describing how past Staten Island floods made people flee their homes and the relief efforts at his church. Looking at a map I believe he is referring to Midland Beach.
My Staten Island Years and the
Vulnerable Coastline Along the Lower Bay Area
In January, 1956, the New York State Congregational (Church) Conference journal, “Conference Trails,” published an article about my pastoring at the Oakwood Heights Community Church on Staten Island. The article included routine pictures and comments, save for one section that, in light of the current Hurricane Sandy storm, seems rather poignant.
The middle bay of New York City (Oakwood Beach, Staten Island), a short distance from our church was subject to severe flood conditions, and the article about my ministry explained how our Church, with the help of the Red Cross, provided beach residents with overnight retreats from storms and flood conditions. Read more »
Late in 2009, soon after I began writing this blog, my husband’s mother was dying, and we were making lots of notes about her long life. Before we sat down to write a remembrance, however, we looked around on the web for ideas, hoping to find some examples to read. Not much was available. There were plenty of fill-in-the-blank templates, but locating well-written and thoughtful pieces that made an effort to remember and eulogize a departed friend or family member was difficult.
A week ago, when I read writer Mona Simpson’s eulogy/remembrance of her brother, Steve Jobs, my first thought was that it is one of the finest that I can remember. Since it appeared in the October 30, 2011 New York Times, I’ve sent the link or handed a copy of Simpson’s piece to half a dozen other people to read. Everyone reacts the same way that I did — it’s good.
Those of you who have read even a few of the posts here at As Our Parents Age know of my ongoing series, iPad for Dad (read the first in the series). A little over a year ago, I splurged and bought my Dad an iPad for his 87th birthday. My goal was to encourage him to write and more specifically, share his writing with me and other family members. A committed journal writer, Dad’s diaries fill many shelves, spiral notebook after spiral notebook, pages covered with handwritten entries dating back to 1947.
The iPad has encouraged hours and hours of journal writing, pieces that can easily be sent around to family members — all he has to do it hit the picture of the envelope and his thoughts are on their way to me or to a friend, to his granddaughter, Rachel, or his niece, Sandy. To be exact, 214 journal entries have been e-mailed to me over the past year, and at least every other one includes something new (to me) about his life or our family. Who knew?
What I do know, however, is that iPad is a gift that keeps on giving back to me, as Dad writes and remembers and writes some more. And his ideas, insights and stories about our family keep on coming. Read more »
This past week three generations of my family (age range 29 – 87) and one small dog spent several days together. Over the 2010 Christmas weekend my two senior parents, my husband and me, our millennial daughter and her husband had great fun with one another. We especially celebrated our good health, because last year my husband’s mother was so ill and so close to the end of her life that celebrating was difficult. (She died just after the new year, on January 4th.) The six of us also went to a musical at a new theater that is totally senior-friendly.
A Few Observations About Our Multi-generational Holiday Read more »
If a goal of the iPad is to connect people and media, that is what now happens between my dad and me. His iPad has added unexpected and pleasurable reading to my day as he sends, via e-mail, memories, reminiscences, and musings. This virtual interaction, so different from the other ways we connect with each other, is exciting as Dad passes along family history. The iPad makes it so easy.
In the past Dad, a journal writer for more than 65 years, would go to his computer, wake it up, log in, go to e-mail, log-in, write an e-mail and send it. However, if he wrote a short essay and wanted to send it to me or to a friend, he had added steps of attaching or cutting and pasting his writing into the body of an e-mail message. With so many steps Dad did not always remember one thing or another – not because of memory issues, but rather because Dad has a busy life and does not use the computer enough to make so many steps second nature. It is akin to the way I feel when I return to my work computer after a long vacation.