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Memories of My Brother

Life Story Club Contributor

October 22, 2020

Throughout this whole ordeal, I just recently lost my dear brother, my only brother. We went through a rough time, but it was a little humor in that because when I… I wasn’t able. They wouldn’t let me in the hospital to see him. You know, it’s drawn into this corona thing. It was really, really terrible. I spent a lot of time on the phones with clinicians, almost thought I was the patient, you know?

But finally, I went to … you know, they opened the doors and I made it there to see him. And he with his cheerful, with his smile, he looked up when he could, always with a smile. So I said, “Oh my God.” So finally, when I got back home I said, “Oh my god.” You know, that’s when I really started breaking down. I said, “Well I don’t want all of this to have to at the last minute doing all of this and that,” because I felt in my heart that he was approaching the end.

So I said, “Well I guess I’d better start writing his obituary.” So I started writing out his obituary and stuff like that, you know. And finally, I started getting so much into it I heard his little voice say, “Sharon, you writing my obituary and I’m not even dead yet.” I closed the book, and I just put it aside. And then I said… I started entertaining a whole lot whole different ideas that I can relate to what she’s saying. I lost my brother during the … he didn’t have Covid, but he had some dialysis issues. So I thought that was funny.

Unexpected Visit to the Emergency Room

Life Story Club Contributor

October 22, 2020

About a year ago, I think it was last summer if I can just pinpoint the date. Me and my girlfriend was supposed to meet at the YMCA on 135th Street because they were having a book reading. So they had a panel of poets and people who read poems and wrote poems, and it must have been about seven people in the panel. And it was a nice little gathering. And they told us that there will be refreshments in the back, and that we would be able to engage with the writers. And I had very much looked forward to that. So I met my girlfriend, Barbara, who’s a retired nurse, I met her…we met over there. It was a beautiful day. I’ll never forget, it was a beautiful day, I was so excited. And I was busy most of the part of the day. And it was like the book reading was around 4:30 in the afternoon. So here I am all the way up in Harlem and I live in Brooklyn, right? So I know I was experiencing a little ache, discomfort, but it was manageable like in the back of me. But I didn’t pay no mind because many times, I carry my pains with me. “Come on pain, we going out today.”

But anyway, I arrived at the YMCA and we signed in and they escorted us downstairs, and we were seated. And they started presenting the poems, and one of the very first poems – I have to go back and look at, find out the name of this person – he wrote…he was reciting a poem that he had written. And it was about what goes on when you’re in the emergency room. The chaotic stuff, people…you’re waiting there practically for eternity just to be seen by a doctor. It was so delirious. So finally, when the speaking was coming to a close and everybody had the opportunity to ask questions, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions, which we were. And my girlfriend, Barbara, was very engaging. But I was sitting there. And then as I was sitting there, I wasn’t feeling like I should feel. So finally when it was over, when they came down that stage there and we were supposed to go in the back, I tried to get up from my seat. And I wasn’t able to.

And I was turning this way and turning that way. And I didn’t wanna be an outcast. I didn’t want people to say, “What was going on with her?” So I struggled with getting up out of my seat. So finally my girlfriend, Barbra, she was all over the place and stuff. So I said to her…I finally captured her attention and I said to her, “Barbra listen, I’m in severe pain, I gotta get out of here.” And she said, “What?” I said, “Yeah. There’s something going on.” And it felt like it was in my buttocks. It really felt like it was in…the pain was coming from that area. So, I said yeah I couldn’t even manage to go in the back to get myself water. All I wanted to do was get back on the C train and come to Brooklyn, but it looked like every step I try was challenging, it was terrible. But I didn’t wanna be an outcast. I didn’t want nobody to see what I was experiencing.

So I grabbed her by the arm, and we walked up those stairs. And it was like for taking my first step, she says “Sharon.” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “I can’t. It’s terrible.” So she said, “Well get in a cab.” I said, “No.” I couldn’t stoop down in no cab. I couldn’t do that. So she said, “Well let’s go to this corner store and get an aspirin.” I held on to her. It was really frightening. I held on to her and we managed to get to the corner store. And I didn’t care how they was handling it. I just opened it up. It took … I’m kind of funny but I just opened it up and ripped it and swallow it. I don’t even think I had any water at the time, that’s how much I wanted the pain to go away. So I said well…she said, “Well, I don’t think you’re going to be able to manage.” I said, “As long as I could get to the train.” But I couldn’t even make it back down the road there to get the C train. And she said, “Well there was a bus.” I forgot the name of that bus because I was in Harlem.

I said, “Well, maybe I could take this bus to 125th Street because I was on 135th Street and catch the A. And she said, “I’ll ride with you half a way.” I went to step on that…she was so insisting that I get in a taxi. But I knew I wasn’t in no shape to stoop down in a taxi. I could barely get out of the chair that I had been sitting. I didn’t wanna sit again. So, I finally managed to get on that bus. Oh, my goodness, when I stepped on that bus, I must have screamed. I am so surprised that my sons didn’t hear me in Brooklyn because that’s how challenging it was. So the bus driver said, “Miss. Miss.” Oh, it was a big uproar on the bus. It was so embarrassing. And she says, “Miss I think you need to go to a hospital.” I said, “No, no, no. I don’t need no hospital, I just need to get home.”

Finally, when the bus pulled up on 125th Street, I stepped off the bus. Oh my god, it was so hurtful. And I remember grabbing a tree. I said, “Barbara, I can’t move no more.” So at that point, she called the ambulance. And the ambulance came within seconds, and then they pulled out a stretcher. I said, “No, no, no, no, no. I don’t need to…I can’t manage myself up there.” And so they said, “Listen Miss, we’re gonna handle you, we’re gonna get you to the hospital.” So I don’t know, they managed to put me up on that stretcher, or whatever that case was because it was so…my pain was so severe. And took me to 114 Street St. Luke’s Hospital, and I wind up in an emergency room. And what’s so funny, everything that that poem…that poet had talked about in his poem happened to me. I wind up in the emergency room. And I remember calling my family, my son. I said, “Listen I’m in an emergency room.” My son says, “The emergency room? Mom, what are you doing in an emergency…?” And when I said, “Harlem.” Oh my god, it’s like I murdered somebody. “What are you doing in Harlem, Mom?”

It was really…I mean, but this is what happened to me. And I wind up in the emergency room, okay? So they examined me and asked me did I have any problems, any medical issues. I had no medical issues, no nothing. So they said, “Is it the pain going down your leg?” I said, “No. It feels like it’s right there in my buttocks.” But my girlfriend kept saying, “It’s not the buttocks, Sharon. You think its the buttock but it’s your back.” But I refused to accept that because the pain was coming immediately, right in that area. So I laid up on that bed and I met some nice people who were there along with me.

And finally, the doctor came in again and they gave me some kind of injection, gave me some pills. And finally, I was able to pull myself together. And by then, my son had come. I must have…was discharged. It must have been at like 3:30 in the morning. But it was embarrassing, and it was challenging. It was hurting me to leave your house well and everything, and then go to a reading and have a poet to recite a poem of what goes on in the emergency room. And it was delirious. And here I am, I’ve wind up right there in the emergency room.

In Tune With Nature

Life Story Club Contributor

October 8, 2020

I like the water. Just like some of you have mentioned, being around the water always provides me with a great sense of peace, and comfort, and relaxation. In addition to that, waking up early in the morning and creating my own…in the presence of my own home, creating moments of silence is a form…a great form of peace because sometimes I don’t live there…I live in Brooklyn, and I can get down to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where there’s some water. I can get to Coney Island. But lately, since this pandemic, I haven’t been moving around like that, that often. But I do, but not as frequently as I used to.

So I create my silence in the presence of my own home. And I find that I’m able to do that, and find that comfort more so early in the morning when the birds have started to sing. And I just feel more in tune with nature, when I’m able to greet the early mornings. And that’s where I find my peace.

In the presence of my own home…and silence provides me with the peace that makes me comfortable. Just getting up. Because we’re living in some hectic times, where everywhere you go, there are horns blowing if you live in a city like I do. I live on a commercial block … and there are moments when it’s quiet, particularly since the pandemic I noticed. When the nights come, there’s less people around. People run out and do whatever they have to do in the earlier parts of the day. And traffic and everything dies down at a certain time.

And I’m thankful for that. But right in the presence of my own home, I can create my own silence. And sometimes my son, he’ll come over, and he’ll say “Mom put the TV on.” “No, no. No, I enjoy silence. That’s a peaceful time for me. And I feel like it’s an advantage because a lot of people cannot create that space or that silence in the presence of their home because there are so many things going around…going on. So I can create my own peace right in the presence of my own home.

In my home, I have a specific place I go to find that silence and pace. I have windows … where I can go to my windows and I can see outside. And particularly, I can see the sky. So I squat down on the floor very close to the window, and I spend a lot of time on the floor. And I just raise myself up towards the sky. Some people can’t even see the sky. They look out the window, and all they can see is the next building or a brick wall … but that matters to me a great deal.

And another place I go for peace is by the water, like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Coney Island. I usually get there…well, I can ride my bike there. There’s the time when I rode my bike there. But I have always been propelled to go by the water. So I will make a conscious effort to take a train. And I would always like the water around…to be around the water particularly during September moving forward, autumn because there are less people. So I feel like I’m on an alley all by myself.

And it’s right there at Coney Island, and they did some major renovations. I don’t know when the last time any of you guys have been there, but they’ve been doing some major renovations there at Coney Island … but sometimes I just like to go on a walk from Brighton Beach, from one end to Sea Gate to the other. And I’m going to tell you when I get back home, I really sleep really, really well.

I was also born in February, so I like water. That’s my sign, I’m a water sign. But it just provides me with a great, great sense of comfort. And to me being by the water is very sacred. It says it in the scripture, “He leadeth me beside the still waters.” So I have no problem with putting a hat on my head, and a scarf around my neck, and going to the water early in the morning. Unfortunately, I don’t have friends who will be willing to do that with me …but I don’t need that. It would be nice if I had somebody to say, “Well come on,” to join me. But hey, it’s so welcoming, that I don’t need anybody to come with me because I know what overcomes me, and how I feel once I’m there. So I spend some time out there. I cuddle up, I have my little cup of coffee, or I have my book that I try to read.

But it’s always been difficult for me to really read, while I’m sitting on a boardwalk. It’s just I just want to embrace the atmosphere and I can’t stay focused in a book. So I’ve grown out of the habit of carrying a book because I never get to reading. But I’m glad it’s there. And sometimes when I’m not able to make it there, I close my eyes and I imagine being there, and what that experience is about. And it’s a misfortune for those who have not experienced it. I’m glad that I’m able to do that.

I’m retired now. But there have been times where I would try to wake up early enough in the morning just to sniff the ocean, and then go to work because I feel like I’m a little ahead of all the others, or if not, in the evenings after work. After a stressful day at work, I would go out there and sniff that sea and breathe it in just to renew myself. And I would always walk away with something. I can’t always explain exactly what that something is but it always propelled me to go back. And even when it’s snowing, I just have a romance. I have a romance with the sea. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked to the other end to Sea Gate because down at the other end, it’s Sea Gate, which is a gated area, a gated community. But down at Sea Gate, that’s when the ocean opens up. They do a lot of fishing there. And when you get a chance, walk…take that walk straight down there to the end. It’s really, really nice.

Acts of Love

Life Story Club Contributor

October 8, 2020

When you talk about acts of love, I’ve seen … and I think you all can contest to, the first responders. You have doctors and nurses risking their own lives to save other people’s lives. To me that’s an act of love. You know you put your own life on the line to help other people. That’s, I don’t know … to me that’s acts of love. You can’t ask for more of a better act than that.

So that’s one of the examples of an act of love that I have noticed during this pandemic. People leaving their families, they’re separated from their families, to provide care and save other people’s lives. Wow. Strangers that they may never even see again, you know?

So that’s an act of love for me. I think the people like yourself, Judith, Apple Bank, New York Public Library, all the people who are responsible for putting this program together for seniors at a time like this … I think that’s an act of love. And I just want to say that I really appreciate it, you know, to be able to have the opportunity to be a part of a program like this, to keep me connected in ways to other people. That’s an act of love, and I’d like just to say thank you to Apple Bank. Thank you Linnea, and Judith, all the people who are responsible for putting these programs together for us.


Life Story Club Contributor

July 1, 2020

A time you or someone you love did not accept defeated. I’m older now, and I’m very clear about who I am in my head and what’s in my heart. And typically, and on a day to day basis, I remind myself not to allow anyone to take the joy out of my day.

I’m a senior now and cliques will always be around. I don’t care what kind of event or organization you are associated with, they always form certain cliques where they want this person and that. I know that I would do pretty good in solitary confinement because I don’t have a problem with being by myself. I enjoy being with myself. And it doesn’t bother me if I’m in an event among people who wants to cast me out. That doesn’t hurt.

It used to when I was younger, but now, oh, no. Nobody takes the joy from my day now. Because I know regardless of what you do, there’s always someone in the midst saying something inappropriate, not considering the feelings of others. And that can take place anywhere, on the job, at the store, anywhere that there is a gathering of people.

Sometimes you may find yourself in a toxic environment which you thought was a good one, a good place, or at least it was meant to be good. And you can be feeling your best and encounter. This could take place at the supermarket. You could be feeling your best, and then you encounter a cashier who wants to rough you up. But I don’t fall into that. I do not challenge any inappropriate behavior and I’m gonna belong to events and to things that interest me regardless to whether someone likes me or in favor of me or not. And that’s just simply the way it is with me.

I mean, if we can all get along and somebody can accept me into the group, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to accept me into your group or you want to take three and y’all seat over there, well, that’s fine with me too. I’m gonna still seek what my interests are. I’m not gonna be towed around because somebody over there may not approve for me or for whatever reason. I’m not turned around. That doesn’t turn around. That doesn’t even bother me. That was my, I don’t challenge any behavior that’s not in alignment of my own. Okay. You’re not gonna take me there.

And in regards to the first question where, have you ever overcome any fear, and yes. Learning to swim at a later age, I’m a senior now, was pretty fearful for me. I mean, learning to swim at a later age, getting in the water as a senior for the first time in years was pretty spectacular to me. But I had to overcome that fear because I wanted to get my grandson into swimming. So I simply decided to do it.

And once I put my foot into the water, I wanted so much to learn all that there is to do in the water. I started taking some water aerobic classes, classes which got me more comfortable and strong, and I quickly felt and saw the benefit. And so every day and every before this pandemic, every morning I was getting up like you would get up and go to work, I’m getting to my water aerobics class, you know, 8:00 in the morning. And I’m not as fearful as I was in the beginning and basically that’s it.

I jumped in. It was pretty frightening in the beginning because first of all, I had to overcome the fear of being in a bathing suit after all those years, but it was just something that I wanted to do because I wanted to expose my grandson because their parents are so busy at work and I was spending so much time with them and I wanted to expose them to so many things that I didn’t expose my own son to. So I get another opportunity. So I say I’m going to do this but it turned about for me that I started reaping the benefits. My body started to get strong, the pain that I was experiencing started to subside, and it was just a wonderful thing all the more.

And I’m gonna send you the pictures, some pictures of me when I was peeping in for the first time. And I’ll also send you some pictures of my grandson who started taking swimming lessons who have learned to swim as well. And I also like to add, I don’t know if anybody knows, but you can Google. I became a member of the Harlem Honeys and Bears, which is a scrutinized swim team for seniors.

So we do all kinds of exotic dances and stuff like that in the water. It’s called the Harlem Honeys and Bears. If you care to, you can Google us and watch the video. But I’m very acquainted with the water. The water is my thing. And once this whole COVID-19 is over, I’m thinking, I’m hoping that the water may be the safest place because not too many people are swimming. And then when you can create your own space in the water, people are not really all on top of each other.

An Act of Kindness

Life Story Club Contributor

June 24, 2020

I can think of so many acts of kindness, but recently with my grandson, and I know you guys have heard me speak an awful lot about him. For me words are kindness. A gentle ‘Thank you,’ a gentle ‘Hello,’ a gentle, ‘How you feeling?’ These are words of kindness. When you have the six-year-old expressing these sort of words, it’s very welcoming. You just feel the kindness coming from a little six-year-old. So most of the times, out of the blue, why we’re engaging with my family, with my children, he’ll always randomly say, “I love you, Uncle.” You know, just out of the blue, “I love, Grandma.” He just echoes those words spontaneously. I just had to mention that. I’m going through a rough time right now because I’m dealing with my brother, who’s struggling at the hospital with dialysis and it’s not looking too good right now for him.

But the overwhelming kindness that I received from his clinicians at a time like this, it’s really, really remarkable because you can’t go to the hospital, you can’t visit. And I know they’re overwhelmed and very busy with all the patients and things that they have to do, but to spend some time with me and share and, “Is there anything else?” Whatever the patients, those are acts of kindness.

Like yesterday, my grandson was over we kind of getting a little bit together since we’re in stage 2 for this pandemic. He wanted something to eat, so we’ve been serving salads a lot, and so it’s all, “I want some chicken. I want some chicken.” It was a little warm in the apartment, so I threw a little patty chicken, like a little frozen patty. He sat down and he had that, and after eating pretty much all of that little patty, he says to me, “Grandma, I don’t want this, it’s cold.” I said, “What? You practically finished all of it and you’re saying that it’s cold?” So I put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. And when I put it back out moments later to him, he said, “Oh, I don’t want that, Grandma. I don’t want that.”

So what I did, I went into my room, closed the door. And shortly before his father came to pick him up, he came inside my room and he said, “Grandma, I want to tell you something.” He always has to tell you something. He says, “I want to tell you something, Grandma.” I said, “Yes?” He says, “Grandma, I didn’t want the chicken and the reason why I didn’t want the chicken is because…” And he’s making this expression to his hand, “I wanted the other chicken.” I said, “What other chicken?” He said, “I wanted the chicken that you and I had for dinner the other night.” Which was the chicken parts where I bake and stuff like that. So for him to come inside and acknowledged that he knew I was uncomfortable with the episodes earlier, but he came out to clear the air. And I thought that that was very, very nice. He says, “Grandma, can I tell you something?” And he just looked that expression of kindness and consideration for somebody that’s six-years-old. I just wanted to share that.

Anyway, he shared with me that he was promoted to the second grade. So I have to buy him a kite, because the kids are being schooled from home with the computers. So he’s so excited about that, that he graduated to second grade.

What Beauty Means

Life Story Club Contributor

June 17, 2020

Yeah. I just love the beauty of the world, you know? And so, I always take pictures and I do it with my cellular phone. Sometimes, you got to get up early in the morning to really get a good picture because the sky is… I’m always looking up. I got to be careful I don’t get hit by a car. But anyway, many things come to mind when I hear the word beauty. Any sight or sound that is appealing is healing like a beautiful day, such as a gorgeous sky, the humming of birds, the falling of snow, the sun, the moon, the ocean, kindness, gentle appropriate words, the flowers, trees. God, that special beauty within that special beauty that lies within supersedes at all.

In terms of my joy, my joy is, well, that wiggle, pushing and kicking of creation inside of me was my earliest joys. Recently, there has been a lot of joys in my life, but recently, my grandson, his first graduation from kindergarten. He’s just all the joy, I think, I ever need for the rest of my life. His name is Shihiem.

This was his graduation from daycare, going to the first grade. He must’ve started daycare when he was two, and I think they kept him all the way up to five or something like that because I know he he’s going to first grade. He went to kindergarten. Now, he’s in first grade.

It took me back. I’m so happy to live to see it, number one. God has granted me the opportunity to see a grandchild, and to me, that’s pretty extraordinary. And it’s just the joy of my life.

United Nations

Life Story Club Contributor

The most memorable celebration was my graduation in 2009, earning my Master’s Degree in Social Work. That was a memorable moment for me.

The nicest party I’ve ever attended was at the United Nations. They have a celebration party in remembrance of victims of slavery and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. They have that annually. People from all over the world come to contemplate the legacy of that slave trade and fight against racism and prejudice. It was just a beautiful event. And that was the first one that I had attended. That was last year.

You get the chance to meet people from all over the world. It’s just an amazing party and the people are beautiful and the food! The food is amazing! Because of how they have it arranged, you get the chance to have international food. You get a chance to have food that you may not have ever had. I had some rice that looked like cotton!

It was just an amazing party. And I was so happy and I will always remember that. I went along with a group which is called Age Friendly Initiative. The Age Friendly Initiative is a community group for the aging population. I went along with them, but I had made a note to myself that even if they never went again, I would go on my own because that’s just how much fun I had. The opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. It was really amazing.

It was that it was held at the United Nations. It’s an annual thing that takes place every year, but I didn’t have to pay. Like I said, I was with my group. We were supposed to go again this year, but of course, in light of what we’re going through now we weren’t able to do that.

There was this young man who was drinking a drink and looked at so inviting. So I said, “What is that?!” And he pronounced the name. And I said, “Well, what kind of drink is that?” He says, “This is a Brazilian drink.” He said, “Here, take some! You want a chaser?” Of course I thought that was very polite of him, but I’m not going to just drink from a cup like that.

He directed me to the Brazillian line And I’m going to tell you, that drink, woo! Between that drink and those people were lined up for that Brazilian line.

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A Brief History of Gourds

Life Story Club Contributor

May 29, 2020

I sung in a church choir when I was younger, but I never played an instrument or performed. However recently, just before the COVID-19 breakout, I attended a gourd workshop.

Brief history of gourds: the gourd is any of several vine families bearing fruits with a hard rind, the outside of the fruit, producing irregular and unusual shapes for almost every purpose. Historically, Gourds are from Northwest Africa and through man, animals, and water were distributed to various parts of the world. Specimens of gourds were found in the Egyptian tomb of the 5th Dynasty and one of the oldest gourds is dated 12,000 BC.

Countries known to have used gourds for centuries are Japan, China, Russia, India, New Zealand, and countries along the Mediterranean Sea. Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Peru, Mexico, and the United States are major countries actively engaged in Gourd crafts today.

Gourds come in many sizes and shapes. They are light, portable and has many practical uses, such as drinking vessel, utensils or in my case a musical instrument. Therefore I did play an instrument. This instrument is unique because I made it. The colors I used represents the United States.

The gourd that Sharon crafted at a Gourd Workshop

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