Friday, January 19, 2018
Thursday, December 28, 2017
He is seated next to his maternal grandmother, Sally T. Carney - a character if ever there was one! When I first started dating Bob, I remember her singing little dirty ditties, such things as "I knew knew a girl who dressed in black, she did the boogie woogie on her back." She also described how she wanted to marry a guy named, Eddie, and although she was quite young (Sally T. Wallice, at the time) she stomped her feet and jumped up and down and said, "I don't care what you say, I'm gonna marry my Eddie" and she did! After a drink or two she told really interesting little stories about her life, such things as how she and her Eddie would do "it"( i.e., the wild thing) all over the house!" This was of course after they were married, at least that is the impression I got. Sally T. Carney was a very strong and powerful woman. She gave birth to my mother-in-law, Loretta Gloria Carney Buchner and 11 years later after about 13 miscarriages finally gave birth to her second child, Sally T. Carney. Grandma Carney use to say she would look at herself in the mirror and call herself names such as "you smuck" because she couldn't carry a baby to term!
Bob's younger brother, Eddie Buchner, is seated on Grandma Carney's lap, although he does not appear to be too pleased about it. Bob believes that the boy on the other side of the bench (in the shorts), is a kid named Freddy Hegenbach (or something like that). Freddy lived very close by on a local farm.
Bob was born on June 7th, 1947 therefore I assume this photo was taken around the Spring of 1953. Bob received his First Holy Communion at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Astoria, Queens, but I can only imagine the party was held at Grandma Carney's house on Wallice Court in Huntington Station, Long Island. Grandma Carney's father was a builder and since he built the few houses on this little dead end Street in Huntington Station, he named the street, Wallice Court, after himself. He also built houses in Brooklyn, NY but I believe he ended up getting swindled ( I'll have to check with Bob).
Friday, December 22, 2017
Marty was taken out to Port Jefferson, Long Island to St. Charles Rehab Hospital/Home run by an order of nuns known as the Daughters of Wisdom. He was admitted for extensive physical therapy and resided there for many months. It was a sad and lonely time at the Fries residence. The photo above was taken on Christmas Eve on my Grandma and Grandpa Fries' enclosed front porch when my brother was allowed home for a few days over Christmas. Marty is the little guy with the snazzy tie sitting in the center. When he returned back home permanently on Good Friday the next year, he was very disappointed to discover that the Christmas Tree had been removed.
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Nineteen years ago today I got a rather frantic phone call as I sat at my desk on the 2nd floor of the Corning Tower. I was at my relatively new job as an Early Intervention Specialist with New York State Department of Health. My Dad was on the other end of the phone telling – no actually crying- to me that he thought my mother was dying. Since we had thought this on and off for the last couple of weeks, I initially questioned whether I should just drop everything and run. What if it was another false alarm? Death like birth is not always swift and easy. One of my co-workers, sitting nearby, encouraged me to go and so I called my husband, Bob, and asked if he could come and pick me up. Bob worked downtown Albany for another NYS Agency at the time and we typically drove to and from work in the same vehicle. Within a matter of minutes, I met him outside in front of the NYS Museum and we drove to my parents’ house in Colonie.
When we arrived and I went to my parents’ bedroom, I could see that this was probably not a false alarm. I remember that my Mom’s legs were already becoming mottled and the chain stock respirations had become more pronounced. Just before leaving her bedside to come home the night before, I had spooned some ice cream into her mouth and she swallowed it and I felt a sense of relief that she was getting a little nourishment, even if it was only ice cream. I lay down next to her in bed as my father paced the room with a horrified look of desperation on his face. This man was a Physics Professor who understood how everything worked but now death was incomprehensible, coming faster and closer and he was totally helpless. Bob and I decided to call my sister, Meg, a Special Education Teacher, and she made the same decision to leave her job and come. Our beloved Pastor, Father David Noone, was called and came over to offer a little support, but death kept moving relentlessly forward. None of us could do a damn thing.
When my Mother’s breath stopped for longer and longer periods of time, my father urged me, “Shake her Mary, Shake her Mary!” This had been something he was using; I was using; for the last couple of days to stimulate her to take another breath. We had this brief, fleeting power to ward off her dying.
I don’t remember all the words that passed between us in that grief stricken bedroom. I do know we professed our love and held onto to her for dear life. After all, this beloved woman had been so central in our lives and she was moving into another realm. The time between the breaths got longer, and the shaking needed to be stronger until I realized the futility and possible selfishness of this pathetic attempt to keep her with us. I remember clearly the last breath and my father’s frenzied request, “Shake her again, Mary, shake her” and my sympathetic, but firm response, “No Dad, we can’t do that anymore”.
My mother was gone. How can this dreaded reality be true? How can a mother be gone? How can one’s own mother be gone? But there was no question left in my mind, there was a moment when it became instantaneously clear that her body had became an empty shell. Rita Mary O’Donnell Fries no longer resided there. We eventually left the bedroom; we knew she wasn’t there anymore.
Hospice had been alerted when it became obvious that my Mom was dying but they didn’t rush over. I imagine there is a reason they delay. We called again from the kitchen when we knew my mother was dead and we stood around waiting for the nurse to arrive to do “the confirmation”, which was just a required formality at that point. I went back into the bedroom with the Hospice Nurse, and remember being angry when she asked me to check for her pulse. She knew I was a nurse but I should have said “no”. It is a horrible sensation to touch your mother’s wrist and feel no heartbeat. On the other hand, I felt it an honor to wash my mother’s body, I tried to memorize her as I gently patted her with the towel.
I leaned over her and hugged her good-bye and her breath came out in response. I felt badly to be pushing the last bit of breath out of her. Then for the second time in my life, I left my mother’s body.
Death is a heart breaker, a nasty son-of a bitch.
We waited for the undertaker in the kitchen and when they arrived, I purposely averted my eyes as the gurney rolled past us through the hallway, into the living room and out the front door. I didn’t want to see them take her away.
Now when I think of my mother, I like to remember other things.
I like to remember the life she created for us, the dinners she prepared, the pies that she baked, the stories she told us, the poems she recited, the trips to the museums and the libraries, the Easter Bonnets we bought together, the faith she shared, the strengths she exhibited, the feel of her skin, her permissiveness, her generosity, her welcoming home, her smile and her love. That’s what I like to remember.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Monday, September 11, 2017
- My Dad, Charles Anthony Fries, Sr., would always go out to get our Christmas trees at the "11th hour" on Christmas Eve. I think he felt sorry for the scrawny, unclaimed trees leaning against the fence on the corner lot. It was cold and those poor trees looked so lonely. It didn’t hurt that they cost nothing or pretty close to it, but I don’t think that was his primary reason for waiting until the stand was closing down for the season. There was something exhilarating about running out at the last minute that excited him. By the world’s standards we might have had the barest, skinniest, sickliest looking tree in all of Brooklyn, but we loved our tree nevertheless.
- Speaking of Christmas, in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, my parents would also rush to Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens to finish their remaining Christmas present purchases. I use the term “remaining” loosely since a rather large part of the gifts were bought as they quickly ran from store to store in an excited, somewhat stressful fashion. We would bring the items home and hurriedly wrap them to bring next door for the “exchange” at the annual Christmas Eve get-together at my Grandpa Fries’ house.
- My Dad was rather protective of his family. When we were young children, he had us kids stand on a table and twirl around and around with our arms over our heads as he wrapped each one of us in a blanket and secured it firmly down the side with large safety pins. God forbid we get a chill during the night! I guess in retrospect it could be seen as a bit confining but at the time I don’t remember minding it at all.
- My Dad always believed that “function” was paramount and “looks” didn’t really matter. If it works, who cares what it looks like? So for most of my growing up years, the water spigots in our one and only bathtub, in our one and only bathroom, were turned on with pliers which we rested on the side of the bathtub. There were no knobs on the hot and cold water faucets, only some sort of screws coming out of the wall and these were turned on by using the pliers. Hey, it worked; we were still able to take baths. My sister recently reminded me that the bathtub contained another interesting peculiarity - hot water came out of the cold water spout and cold water came out of the hot water spout. Till this day, we both still have trouble figuring out faucets. It makes life a little bit more interesting though.
- Whenever we sat in the Dining Room (which was a lot since we had company all the time) my Dad sat at one end of the dining room table. Roast beef, roast turkey and roast chicken were frequent choices for a company dinner, and my father was the primary meat carver. These company dinners were noisy, crowded, joyous events at 62 Interboro Parkway and my father’s style of carving and serving the meat only added to the excitement. “Do you want some more meat?” he would say, hoping he’d get a positive response. When a guest said “yes’, he’d say, “hold out your plate”, and with one well-coordinated movement, he’d slice the meat, pick up the knife and fling the sliced meat across the table onto your plate. Rarely did he miss, even if the meat was going to the opposite end of the table. Dinner was fun at our house.
- The photo above was taken in 1936 ( my Dad was 19 years old )the backyard at my father's house ( 8 Vermont Ave - name was changed to 62 Interboro Parkway in the late 30's and more recently changed to the Jackie Robinson Pkwy)