Seeing more clearly

Seeing more clearly | Mary Lee Writes
The day I first put on glasses, I was astounded to find that trees had leaves, that flowers were many different designs, and that faces had wrinkles and were not all a lovely blur. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought how ugly – nose weird shape; eyes set too far back; chin pointed; hair too curly – all the thoughts that an eleven year-old wearing glasses for the first time would feel and think.

My teacher had discovered that I could not read the blackboard, a problem I had hidden until a vision test. She sent a note home telling my parents I must have my eyes checked. They were horrified, as they had perfect sight and this was not what was supposed to happen to their daughter. My mother didn’t want me to wear glasses and commented that I would become dependent on them. My grandfather asked if I couldn’t take off “those damn glasses.”

This week my cousin Ruth and I were visiting about the attitude of people and how it has changed. Glasses are now an accessory and young people are not referred to as having four eyes. Ruth also said that generation quoted something I had forgotten, “boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Was that my mother’s worry?

I insisted on wearing my glasses at my wedding. Contact lens had not been perfected by that time and were large and uncomfortable. John supported me against my mother’s objections, and I purchased a pair of silver framed “cat eyes,” not the most flattering selection.

I recall John going with me to the ophthalmologist I saw in Memphis. His examination room was a long area with a chart at the end. A young resident came in and took my glasses, then asked me to read the chart. I told him I couldn’t see the chart. He became angry and told me not to be smart with him. I was near tears and John intervened, asking him to please give me my glasses, and I would try to read the chart.

I was frustrated choosing frames, as I couldn’t see what they looked like on my face. When the technician would become impatient, John would disappear and come back with a Coke. He knew that when I became frustrated, the tears would start. Later, I wore contacts most of the time, and they helped as my vision was clearer.

During a vacation at the beach I lost my glasses to a wave, as I was wearing them to watch our children. I always traveled with a spare pair and sometimes two. Swimming was never much fun as I couldn’t recognize those around me.

Who is that?

When I played golf, I wondered how my friends recognized someone across the course, and I would be asking, “Who is that?” It was a puzzle to me that my partners went straight to their ball, and I often needed help in locating mine.

We attended a Methodist Church in Memphis for a time while our children were in school there. After church one day, I turned to John and asked who had just greeted me with a handshake. He replied that it was the minister. The pulpit was too far away for me to recognize him. Of course, we were back-row sitters!

In my forties, my pressure in my eyes became high, and I began using drops to control it. Glaucoma was not mentioned as a diagnosis.

Several years later, my vision kept getting worse, and the doctor told me he didn’t know why I was slowly going blind. Hearing that, I switched doctors and at the first visit was told that I had cataracts and that I needed surgery immediately. I breezed through both surgeries and loved my new life. I went to an ASU basketball game and found out how you could identify the players – their names were on their shirts! I bought good-looking sunglasses and enjoyed the freedom of having good eyesight. I could read and see at a distance, so I needed no glasses.

Several months later, I had a huge floater in my left eye. I immediately saw the opthalmologist, fearing a detached retina. The doctor reassured me that it was normal. The next day it was blocking my vision, so I returned to the doctor, who was not concerned. The next day, a Saturday, I was showing houses and realized I was seeing double. I went in the first of the week to be checked, and my doctor was out of the office so I was seen by another. He yelled at me for not coming in and told me I had probably jeopardized my sight, that I would be flat on my back for six weeks, that I should have known better. It was all my fault. I dissolved in tears, but there was no Coke handy as I was alone.

The next morning John drove me to Memphis to the retina specialist. I was given a few tests and then was taken into a waiting/recovery room. I was in surgery four hours and no one ever briefed him. He was frantic. After that time, he was told I was in recovery and that my heart skipped a little and I should check that out, although no report on the surgery was given. When I awakened, I was sitting in a wheelchair and fully dressed. An impatient nurse told me they needed to close recovery, and I should get out of there. I was sent to a nearby motel, so “drunk” that I was staggering. John left me in our room to go to the drugstore to pick up pain medicine and drops. While he was gone, I had a phone call from the nurse asking if I was all right. I told her I was, and she asked if my throat hurt from the tube used during surgery. I told her it was sore, and she told me to take a lozenge and hung up.

Better care

My appointment the next morning was with the founder of the clinic. I waited one hour on the examining table, hearing him outside the door on the phone. When he appeared, he told me he had been on the phone with Jack Nicklaus. Needless to say, we were not impressed.

I never could find out which surgeon operated on me. Every bill had a different name. No one answered my question, it was like a dark secret. I went back once more during the next six weeks, then began seeing a surgeon who came from the clinic to the office in Jonesboro. Obviously, I never got my sight back, although I could see a little until the destructive effects of glaucoma took its toll. Lamp posts looked like swizzle sticks and all was a blur. Back to glasses!

I changed clinics, and since then Dr. Russ Harral has taken care of me. He is so careful, watching my pressure and treating my dry eye syndrome. I was having corneal abrasions on a regular basis when I first saw him, and I haven’t had another under his care. I have been a regular visitor at his office, and until recently, by adding drops and trying new ones, my pressure has stayed fairly stable.

About six weeks ago, I saw him and my pressure was higher. He tried an additional drop and told me to come back the next week. When I saw him that Thursday, he said it was time to consider surgery, and, before I left the office, I had an appointment in Little Rock on Monday. The glaucoma surgeon told me I should have the surgery within the next two weeks and was able to schedule it the next day. Mary Kathryn was a wonderful source of support, and I stayed with her in Little Rock for a week. It was a frightening twenty-four hours while the good eye was patched, and I had to rely on the little light from the damaged eye.

I have been fortunate as I have a wonderful ophthalmologist in Dr. Harral, and he referred me to a very fine surgeon. I am healing slowly, hoping to regain what sight I had going into surgery, and I am already driving and reading.

I saw the surgeon yesterday and was caught off guard. He told me I must have the same surgery in the left eye within the next several months. He said just imagine if that eye had also been patched and how I would have managed. He said the little light is worth salvaging. I am not looking forward to going through the surgery again, but I will do it as soon as he thinks the other eye is completely healed.

The gift of sight

I am telling this story because I am fortunate. Driving is what gives me independence, and I am grateful that both doctors are okay with that. The other is my love of reading. For about two weeks after surgery, I was using a magnifying glass to make out a word. An iPad with its adjustable script is important to me, because of my love of the written word. I panic if I don’t have a book by my side and between the iPad and the iPhone 6+, I have access to my library at any time. I keep a book downloaded to Audible and am working on listening as a source of pleasure.

This is not written to be a “poor me” story. I had never known the true gift of sight until after the cataract surgeries, and all of a sudden I knew what had been missing. I think about the blind and am awed by the stories I read about how they manage. I am such a fortunate person to have sight, and I appreciate each day as a gift. It was not until yesterday, with the news of facing another surgery, that I began deal with the fact that I truly could lose my sight. If that happens, I will be sad, although I hope that I will remember to be thankful for all the years with very minor problems.

One last comment – be patient with the nearsighted friend who might be a little short with you as you complain about having to wear reading glasses. And don’t be too proud to wear your glasses. Years ago, John and I were invited to a dinner party. I asked one of the men about his wife, and he told me quite frankly that she was too vain to wear her glasses. She had an eye infection and couldn’t use contacts for a few days, refusing to let anyone see her. Such false pride is not for me. Life is too entertaining and challenging to miss a single minute.

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Walk for a Moment in the Shoes of Lee Lloyd

Lee Lloyd's yard | Mary Lee writes
This is a six-year-long story of  a homeowner’s frustration and official indifference in our hometown. I’m sharing it because it came up again recently when two friends who live near the intersection of Rains and Wilkins asked what has been going on in that block. One commented that she was sick of the street being blocked. I kept quiet, but in thinking over the conversation, I decided this story must be told if Lee Lloyd is ever to be helped. It is a current concern; work is still being done to remedy the problem, the first complaint having been made in 2009.

I sold a home to Lee in 2008. He had worked for Ann Burns Smith, who referred me to him, as Lee had worked for her family for many years and had recently taken a factory job. He was ready to purchase a home.

I called Lee and accompanied him to Liberty Bank, working with Libby Donahue. After getting verification of pre-qualification for a VA loan, we started looking at houses. The house at 1513 Rains St. had been listed, and I was anxious to show it to Lee. One of the things a former owner told me was that he had fenced in the back yard and built a deck, which he enjoyed with his dog. When Lee and I stepped onto the deck, I remember commenting that I would be by to have a glass of iced tea with him. Another selling factor was that the house is located a couple of blocks from Mrs. Smith, whom he still helped.

The disclosure was submitted to Lee. Home Inspection Service, Anita Rothgery, was hired to perform the inspection, which showed no water standing underneath the house. The termite report was excellent. We were pleased with the reports and closed on Oct. 1, 2008.

I was so happy for Lee and, as I had known him for years and respected him, I left closing with a sense of a job well done. In the 26 years I sold real estate, as I think any customer will remember, my number one goal was to put them in a house that could easily be resold, should the need arise.

On April 18, 2009, I was in Nashville, Tenn., with friends and while driving I received a cell call from Lee. He told me he had a water problem with his house, and I suggested he call the city as I was out of town and remembered the disclosure had said nothing about water intrusion. I assumed the city had taken care of it as I heard nothing more. I neglected to check back with him as I had promised and deeply regret that.

Mary Lee Writes

Lee in his driveway in 2009

In June of that year, I received a call from Mrs. Smith about flooding and alerted Nancy Burks, the listing agent. She talked with her sellers. I have a copy of her email reply which states that the seller said water had not stood on the property. The seller is quoted as saying there was some water during a strong rain but it had immediately drained off. The seller also mentioned that the ditch contained more standing water than previously.

In early July, I sent a copy of the disclosure to Mrs. Smith and Lee, and on July 12, 2009, I received the letter, dated July 10, 2009. I was horrified, as the picture accompanying the letter showed several feet of standing water on the property. You could see the line, about halfway up a smoker located in the middle of the yard.

I contacted Jeff Scriber, who had previously owned the house, and he told me that sometimes after a hard rain he had water running into his drive and garage. He said the city poured a small curb at the street, and that took care of the matter. At that point, I contacted a city council member, Rennell Woods, and we met in the conference room at ReMax with Lee Lloyd on Monday, July 20, 2009. We explained the situation to Mr. Woods, and he promised to make the city officials aware of the problem. After the meeting, Mr. Woods accompanied me to the north end of Wofford to survey the drainage issue.

I became frustrated that nothing was being done to help Mr. Lloyd, and his problem seemed to have been put on the back burner of concerns. On Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, I met with Mayor Perrin in his office. This meeting was at my insistence. He asked Gary Harpole to sit in at the meeting. I was delighted with their response to the problem and left there with the feeling the mayor would see this through to a just solution for Mr. Lloyd. Little did I know the problem would be ignored.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, I went by the house to check after a hard rain. I have pictures that will attest to the destruction. I immediately emailed them to the mayor. He called and told me they would be in touch with Mr. Loyd that evening. As of Sept. 29, 2009, and on into October, we heard nothing from the office of the mayor.

Donn Mixon is the attorney for Mr. Lloyd in this issue, and I emailed him suggesting the city might consider purchasing Mr. Lloyd’s house as I knew the city had done this previously because of flooding issues.

On Dec. 10, 2009, I had a frantic call from Mr. Lloyd. The water was rushing beneath his house.

I emailed the mayor again on Jan. 1, 2010, telling him Mr. Lloyd had not been contacted as promised.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010, I received an email asking for a meeting with Mr. Lloyd and myself along with several city officials and the mayor. We agreed to a meeting on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010, at 4:30 PM in the mayor’s office. The next morning Mayor Perrin met with Brian Riga, a former council member, and Terry Barre, the engineer on St. Bernards Village. After that meeting, the mayor met with Philip Crego, city attorney, and canceled the scheduled meeting via email, explaining:

Mary Lee, I regret that after all our years of friendship that my position as mayor of Jonesboro forces me to have to consult legal counsel on matters that in simpler times would have allowed me to visit with a dear friend over an issue they need help on. However, my practice on any situation regarding contracts, agreements, or legal matters is to seek the counsel and advice of our city attorney Philip Crego. In hindsight, I wish I had visited with him prior to setting up our meeting for later this week.

After reviewing all of the information regarding this issue, Philip has advised me that the city should refrain from meeting with any of the parties involved in this dispute. It is his opinion that the city has no place in these ongoing discussions and that we also have a reasonable assumption that we may be summoned to court if the litigaton proceeds; therefore, we should not take any meetings on the matter.

I hope you understand. We are notifying you and Mr. Lloyd’s attorney of our position. If we can be of any assistance to you on matters not pertaining to this issue please do no hesitate to contact me.

–Harold Perrin, Mayor of Jonesboro

I also had an email reply from Rennell Woods saying that the stoppage of the flowing water may be the city’s problem. Also, a city official who talked with Mr. Lloyd told him he had been “had” by his Realtor. I later visited with this man, and he admitted to me he had said that. I told him he had succeeded in making Mr. Lloyd angry as he had hired Donn Mixon, and I was being sued. Also, Chris Light with the City told Donn Mixon, the attorney representing Lee Lloyd, that the city plans to build a retention pond because water had long been a problem in that area.

 

Construction in front of Lee’s house

After inquiring as to the status of the lawsuit, I was told it had been dropped against the Realtors as the city was found to be at fault. I saw Mayor Perrin one day having lunch and asked him about the suit, wondering if he would do anything to help Mr. Lloyd. He replied that APERMA (Arkansas Public Entities Risk Management Association) had told him the city was clear. When I told Mr. Lloyd this, he said his attorney had just told him there is still an ongoing suit against the city. That day, the mayor commented that he would check out the situation and call me. I never heard from him, and a couple of weeks later I wrote my number on a paper napkin and gave it to him, saying that he must have misplaced my contact information.

In the last couple of months, there has been a lot of activity in the drainage area by the Lloyd home. I have pictures showing a new culvert, concrete work, and a repaired drive for the neighbor across the street. Lee told me that they never even asked if they could work on his property and in asking about the construction, the one in charge said he should have been notified.

When the former attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, started his law firm in Little Rock, I called him to ask if he would consider taking this case. He told me he would have his partner, Bart Calhoun, look into it. Mr. Calhoun requested that I send the information to him by email. I didn’t hear from him, finally receiving a call from Dustin saying he was sorry, but he had too many ties with the city of Jonesboro to take on this case. I let him know how disappointed I was because I truly thought he was committed to the underserved of our community.

Next I sent an email to David Mosesso at the Jonesboro Sun. He turned it over to a reporter who contacted me to ask for Lee Lloyd’s phone number. I gave it to him. The last time I talked with Lee he had not heard from him. I had hoped an investigative reporter would be interested in this story.

I contacted Michael Booker, a friend and attorney in Little Rock, who grew up in Jonesboro. I sent him the information and have never heard from him nor has he returned my calls.

I contacted a local NAACP representative who said he would talk to some folks and get back to me. I haven’t heard a word.

Lee says his kitchen floor is buckling from the moisture. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in that house. I have pictures showing debris from the water on the back steps, a picture of water flowing beneath the house and coming through the foundation vents, water ruining everything in the garage including a nice sofa. I don’t even want to think of the mold in the walls because of the ongoing moisture problem.

Lee had saved and had an excellent credit score. He used his Veterans Administration eligibility to purchase the house. I have even wondered if the VA might have an interest in righting this situation. The VA has insured this loan, and it is an unsellable piece of property as it stands. Lee is making payments on a house he cannot safely live in, nor can he sell. Walk in his shoes for just a moment and feel his helplessness.

I am writing this because I am running out of options in helping Lee get justice. I cannot understand why a decent, hard working person who is a product of our community could be treated so unfairly. Obviously, Lee’s voice is not loud enough to be a threat and mine isn’t either. Is there anyone who cares enough to speak out and help Lee Lloyd?

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Reflections

Reflections | Mary Lee Writes
In this week following my 79th birthday, I have been reflecting on many factors that affect my happiness and peace.

First on my list is my faith in God. I believe in an understanding and forgiving God, who is non-judgemental, showing an all-encompassing love for each creature. I imagine that when terrible things happen, God is shedding a tear along with his children. Most of all, I believe he is holding me in the palm of His hand and supporting me. Even when the unimaginable happens, it is made bearable for those who love and believe in God. Often when walking down a hospital hallway to a much-loved person’s room, I have the image that Jesus is holding my hand and giving me strength. With the presence of the Holy Spirit, I can forgive and move on, realizing that my role is not to judge, leaving that position to an all-knowing God.

I am grateful for the years shared with my husband, John. When I met him, I had graduated from junior college and was headed for a university degree. Six weeks after meeting him, we were engaged. We were married six months after we met. I was barely 20, and he was 26.  He fought the disease of alcoholism, and we divorced for one year after 17 years of marriage. The judge who granted the divorce told us that he did this with a heavy heart and said he would annul the divorce at any time. I didn’t know that was possible until it happened to us, and our wedding day of December 29, 1956, remained our special day. I matured emotionally in the year of being single and went to counseling, as I realized that it takes both to create the problems leading to a split.

The encouragement of our son and daughter is primary in my life. They seem to think their mom is capable of making decisions, and I feel so loved by both of them and also my son’s husband. They bring laughter to my home, and I like the warmth I feel when around them.

My Little Rock cousins are such fun to be with, and I enjoy the discussions with them about topics ranging from church, family, and politics. Because of my father’s jealousy of my uncle, we were seldom together. I longed for a relationship with them.

My extended family is an important component of my life. Through them, I have another daughter, another son, granddaughter, grandsons, great-granddaughter, so many life experiences that would have been denied me without their love. I cherish every phone call, text, and visit. And isn’t Facetime fun with a child.

Childhood sexual abuse affected my life. I was able to keep the hurtful memories at bay by burying them. I have had a few return, but just enough to let me see the night child versus the day child, so compartmentalized. I have few memories until I married. My son became so concerned about my need for affirmation that he encouraged me to see a counselor, but I ignored his suggestion.  A few years later, I was seeing an internist who recognized that I was way too tense, and he saw signs of an abusive history. He only told me he thought counseling would help with my blood pressure problem and gave me the name of a counselor in Memphis. I went to him for over two years. In that period, I convinced myself that I was fine, and the symptoms were unfounded. One afternoon near the end of my appointment, the counselor told me he didn’t need to see me again. I commented that I appreciated that, because I felt the visits were not necessary. He replied that he thought I should get on my knees each day and thank God that I didn’t remember what had happened to me. He said he had become convinced that I was the victim of ongoing sexual abuse. I now have enough memory to accept that it did occur, but I am content to leave it in God’s hands as somehow his love has strengthened me to cope. I get teary about the lost years and how much fun I missed out on by being so self-conscious, seeing myself as someone unworthy.

Since I have acknowledged the abuse to myself, I realize that I couldn’t and still can’t comprehend that someone who should have been protecting me could have mistreated a child. Now I understand my extreme fears, the panic attacks, the agoraphobic feelings and the night terrors. I have worked hard to put the resentment and anger aside. I have been able to let go and am happy and free for the first time in my life. I enjoy each minute, I am at peace, I rejoice in my family and loved ones. I am grateful for my husband who would get up with me at night to wait out the panic attacks. Neither of us knew then why I would awaken with such terror, but he was always there for me.

My biggest regret is that I could have been such a better mother and enjoyed just being the child inside of me. I would look at friends on the floor playing with their children, and I didn’t know how. Now I feel joy in the simplest activities, and laughter instead of tears is always near the surface. I am not bound by wondering what others think of me. As long as I am true to myself and my conscience, it doesn’t matter. It is between God and me.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28 (King James version)

(image via Pinterest.)

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Have a heart, Mr. Trump

Have a heart Mr. Trump | Mary Lee writes
I have tried to stay out of politics, because I am such a liberal among mostly conservative friends. However, I am appalled at the ramblings of Donald Trump about our Mexican friends and just can’t keep quiet. He has touched a nerve in me.

Saying that, put political views aside. I am aghast at the people who are applauding Donald Trump for his stance on immigration. To even think that someone should be deported who had no say in being brought to the United States as a child is outrageous. I’ll bet most of us know someone in this category and admire them for their perseverance in writing and speaking English and being a hard-working and contributing member of the community.

And what about the child of that person? Raised as a citizen and obedient to the laws of the United States. These children, Mr. Trump, are Americans. You talk about a peaceful outcome, just imagine for one moment the anger toward the government this stance would promote if you rescind their citizenship and force them to go to Mexico.

Consider the person in the country illegally since a child. I happen to know and love such a person. The grandmother stayed to run her restaurant in Mexico when the rest of the family settled in California. After having success in his work, the father moved the family to Jonesboro. After several years, the grandmother became ill, and her daughter went back to care for her. Later, the father joined his wife in Mexico as she couldn’t return to the country where she had lived for thirty or so years. She has not seen her daughters since leaving, and they communicate by Skype and FaceTime.

And you wish to send this family back? To a country the grown children don’t even know? They may be Mexican by birth, but their loyalty is to the United States of America.

Where is the heart in this? We, as voters, need to take a look at the devastating consequences. Yes, as Mr. Trump says, there are bad people. And that is true in any culture. However, that is not an excuse for penalizing good people. Don’t be deceived by rhetoric. The Webster definition of rhetoric? The art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience.

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

–Margaret Mead

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My adopted grandchildren – thank you all!

My adopted grandchildren | Mary Lee writes
When I realized I would never be a grandmother, it was a time when many of my friends were welcoming grandchildren. I would leave a baby shower feeling so sad for my children and the knowledge that John and I would never embark on this adventure.

One Sunday when we missed church, we watched the First Baptist Church service on TV. Emil Williams was preaching, and one of his comments spoke to me, that if you don’t have grandchildren, adopt one! That comforted me, and I still remember its impact on my emotions.

A dear friend, Edward, whom we consider a family member, was out of town during the ice storm, and his son stayed several days with us as our electricity was on and his wasn’t. We shared with Ben and became close. He and his girlfriend Jessica began coming by on Sunday afternoons to visit John, and they will never know what joy they brought to our lives. The day he died, they were there to put my house in order and to help in many ways. They have now moved to another state, and we stay in touch with Facetime and texts.

Adopted grandchildren

Carmen’s long-distance greeting at Christmas 2012

John, our son, is godfather to a precious teen, Carmen, who lives in California. Long ago, I “adopted” her mother as a daughter. Words cannot express the joy Sonia and Carmen have brought to my life. I even get messages from Carmen’s school listing me as her grandmother. She has spent time with us in Jonesboro since before she could walk. We Facetime regularly and look forward to the next trip when we can get together.

And my Natalie! (Shown above, at her first birthday party in 2012.) She has loving grandparents. However, she calls me “GG” and her wonderful parents allow me to have a special part in her life. We had dinner last night, and this morning my heart is warmed by the memory of Natalie’s hugs. At John’s memorial service, her mother, Jeanne, gave the message. Heath and Natalie sat with our family, and when her mother began speaking Natalie slipped by us and stood in front of the pulpit. Jeanne picked her up and finished speaking with Natalie, at almost two years of age, in her arms. It was perfect, as John adored Natalie and was even able to hold her as an infant. There were many smiles among those who realized John would have loved this element of surprise.

Then there is Anastasia. The daughter of John’s cousin Harold, Lynn, adopted a little girl from Russia. We have had the privilege of being with Stasi since the first visit to Jonesboro, and this summer during Harold’s illness and death she and Lynn spent a month with me. Stasi and I have a special relationship, and I enjoyed having them with me. Stasi loves sunflower seeds and wants me to buy them in the shells – our only problem was to keep the dogs away from the shells! When I told them goodbye at the airport, Stasi ran back to me and hugged me once more, telling me that she wanted me to be her “fake” grandmother. I’ll take any title for those hugs!

I am feeling grateful this morning to these parents for sharing the precious love of their children with me. My heart is full of love and appreciation, for to see life through a child’s eyes is a beautiful sight.

My adopted grandchildren | Mary Lee Writes

Carmen at Christmas 2013

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Bookstores on my mind

Bookstores on my mind | Mary Lee Writes
Bookstores have always been a place of awe for me. Perhaps it’s the representation of the thoughts and dreams of so many writers, the philosophical differences represented, or just the pure joy of perusing titles and deciding on my next choice. In the days before digital books, I seldom left without four or five selections.

I visited our son, John, several times when he lived overseas, and I would take along several books for the flight. I wanted to avoid the panic of finishing one and not having another to begin reading. Once, landing in Atlanta after a flight from Paris, I was approached by a man who asked if he could speak with me. He commented that he had observed me throughout the flight. He had been seated behind and to the left of me and said he had never seen such a voracious reader. I had never thought of myself in those terms and have not forgotten his words. The chilling part was that I had been totally oblivious to the fact that I was being watched. I thought if he had been that bored he should have taken a nap.

I was first introduced to the work of Ian McEwan by John in a bookstore in London. I never see his name or read one of his books that I don’t remember the pleasant day with our son. The book I purchased that day was one of his early ones, The Child in Time.

Being an only child raised in a household with four adults, reading was my salvation from loneliness. I don’t really understand how I acquired the habit, as I don’t recall my parents reading to me and certainly not my grandparents. I remember my mother having subscribed to the “Book-of-the-Month Club” and my father reading a lot of Saturday Evening Post magazines; however, I don’t think of either as serious readers.

When I first visited the Rizzoli Bookstore, then located on 57th Street in New York City, I felt a sense of reverence for the beautiful building and displays. I went upstairs to look at the CD’s and selected a recording by a favorite female opera star. It was nice to have the reminder of that lovely afternoon. Rizzoli has now relocated (to NoMad, as the neighborhood in the mid-20s around lower Broadway and Fifth Avenue is now known) and is open once more. They closed after their lease ran out and were told the landmark building would be demolished.

When I visited John in Menlo Park, Calif., he introduced me to Kepler’s Books, a comfortable place to visit and a friendly atmosphere. Chairs are always a welcome sight as an invitation to relax, and I went there often during my visit. They had a posting of staff’s favorites that never failed to entertain.

The Booksellers at Laurelwood, formerly Davis-Kidd and located in Memphis, is a favorite place for lunching alone and taking a break from the day’s events. One particular evening, our daughter, Mary Kathryn, was invited to a party during the holidays. It was the same evening John’s flight was due to arrive. There were a couple of hours between dropping her off and meeting John at the airport, so I spent my time at David-Kidd. It was a safe haven on a cold rainy night in December.

My friend from childhood, Mary Ann, was very ill, and I wished to visit her. I was in Los Angeles with a Charlott Jones travel group, and I decided to miss the trip to the wine country, rent a car, and drive to Newport Beach where she lived. Her husband, Sam, had given me the best time to arrive, and I was way too early. I remembered Fashion Island from a previous trip. I stopped there where I found a bookstore, lingering there until time to go to their home. It was a Barnes & Noble, long before we had one in Jonesboro.

Just this past April, three college friends and I were in Kansas City. We were in the Country Club Plaza area, and I tired of shopping. I spotted a Barnes & Noble across the street from our parking garage and told them to text me when they were ready to go to the car. I had a great cup of coffee and enjoyed my time – with a book for company.

I have joined the digital age as I read a lot and, when I downsized, John and his husband, Arif, took hundreds of books to the Library. I had already given away sacks upon sacks and moved some favorites. I tend to buy one that I want to keep and the rest I download. Mary Kathryn loves to read, though lately she doesn’t have much time, and we share the digital library.

This idea for a posting occurred to me on Friday as I was reading a hard copy of On the Road with the Archangel by Frederick Buechner. And that book prompted me to call Lalla Mellor, the widow of Ernest Mellor who introduced me to Buechner’s work. And it goes on – because of that phone call, I drove to Memphis on Saturday and met Lalla for lunch. We had such a great time reminiscing about our shared memories of our husbands and the great times the four of us had together. We laughed about the way we celebrated Ernest’s fortieth birthday by meeting at the Travel Air Motel in Marked Tree for “dinner,” and realizing we had been there four hours just enjoying talking with one another. Books can be uniting.

The new Rizzoli in New York.

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What to do with three ripe bananas

Favorite banana bread recipe - Mary Lee writes
I just pitched three over-ripe bananas into the trash. The significance of this? My husband, John, loved my banana bread, and he would eat bananas until there were three left on the kitchen counter. I soon understood the signal, would let them ripen an extra day and make the banana bread. I experimented with cinnamon and other spices to make it more tasty, but he always said, “When you have something good, why change it?” I made the same recipe for over fifty years, always with pecans.

Junior League of Memphis cookbook | Mary Lee writesIt was with a pang that I put the bananas in the garbage. Life changes, and we move on. Memories can bring tears and then a smile of gratitude for the memory. Like my saying, “It’s just out of the oven, want a piece while it’s hot?” I remember that he always thanked me, as if I had done something really special for him.

The recipe is out of the Junior League of Memphis Cookbook, originally published in 1952. Mine is so worn that I have no cover or introductory pages. The banana bread is credited to a Mr. Walter L. Berry.

 

BANANA NUT BREAD

1/4 lb. butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c pecans, finely chopped
2 c flour
1 tsp. soda
3 very ripe bananas, crushed
Whip bananas until light. Cream butter and sugar and add eggs. Sift flour and soda. Add to butter and eggs. Combine this mixture with the finely chopped pecans, then add crushed bananas. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Yield: 1 loaf.

 

The banana bread is quite moist and not very sweet. Try it toasted with a little butter at breakfast, though John never wanted it any way but plain. I like to toast the pecans, and I don’t crush the bananas separately. I put them into the batter and let the mixer do my work.

My son, John, asked me when I started this blog what I planned to write about, and I told him I had no idea! And that’s the way it is developing – so bear with me, readers. I will keep you guessing, that I can guarantee.

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