Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Senior Moment

A Senior Moment I believe that everyone on the face of the planet has heard the term, ‘Senior Moment’. Akin to forgetfulness, it is classified as a momentary lapse of memory; an episode in which a distraction, either physical, or mental, wafts through the brain and temporarily erases the immediate subject of which is being concentrated on; in the midst of a discussion, destination or task. Linking this lapse with old age, blogs and studies have been dedicated to it, society has elected to highlight the humor in it; and it has been blazoned across t-shirts, post cards and coffee cups. Now an acceptable adage, both the young and old alike embrace it, joke about it and wear it like a badge on a Girl Scout sash. Love this! Several years ago, I had the privilege of working in an administrative capacity at a lovely senior residential community. A beautiful landscape of walkways and rose gardens and nearly 500 trees, the twenty-acre property was reminiscent of a lovely park without the runners or roller skaters. The seniors who lived there came from all walks of life: doctors, homemakers, war veterans, accountants, seamstresses and former trophy wives. They all had amazing stories to tell, and they would share them weekly in a coffee-and-chat environment set up by our social services director. Though I had many tasks to fulfill on a daily basis, I’d often find an excuse to walk through and listen to some of the stories they shared. I noticed a similar pattern with most of the residents: they were pretty long-winded when discussing their history, and often times would be interrupted by a co-resident who had a question. In answering, inadvertently the question would throw them off and they would struggle to remember what they were talking about. Sometimes another resident would help them along, and other times the conversation would simply take another direction, with the speaker failing to finish the initial story. At that point they would touch their foreheads and say, ‘Sorry, I forgot what I was going to say. I just had a senior moment.’ Being in my forties at the time, and like many of my younger co-workers, we thought nothing of using this, although in jest, to each other when the occasion called for it, until one manager suggested that we refrain from using the term, simply out of respect to the resident, and so that it didn’t appear we were mocking anyone. Though difficult to abstain from, especially in that environment, we respected her point and changed our comments. I thought I was doing well until I met a senior who I will call Dora Bernstein. Dora Bernstein was a resident, recently transplanted from another community. She was the resident speaker one day when I happened to walk through the game room where they held their coffee and conversation. I hung around for a while and listened as she shared some humorous stories of her past as a former school teacher and a WAC who served in World War II. I was walking through the game room one afternoon when I saw her sitting at a card table alone. I stop and spoke, and asked her if she needed assistance, or whether she was expecting someone. She replied that her scrabble partner had died a few weeks before. I took a seat and listened as she expressed her passion for word games, and she explained that she still came to the game room weekly in the hopes that someone would come through and show interest in starting a game. I looked at the grandfather clock across the room. I hadn’t taken my lunch break, and it was going on three o’clock. I usually ate lunch at my desk, so I thought to myself, ‘This would be a great way to spend a lunch break.’ I sat down in front of her and said, “I’ve got thirty minutes. Let’s play.” Delighted, the 86-year-old, Betty White look-a-like mother of five with an oxygen tube attached to her nostrils smiled sweetly at me. She plopped a worn scrabble dictionary onto the table and went over the rules. Then she spoke these chilling words: “I’ll give you a one-hundred point handicap to start. And I’ll still beat you.” I raised my eyebrows, looked at the clock again, and replied, “I don’t want your little handicap. And you can play first.” Like a lightning rod, Dora threw down six letters and immediately scored forty points. I pretended I dropped something and looked under the table to see if she had some extra scrabble squares sitting in her lap. An hour later, I was losing, 250 to 120. When I got up to go, Dora reverted back to the sweet little old lady I’d sat down with just an hour before, and asked me, “Do you want to save this game for another time?” I suggested that we start a new one, and I would meet her, at the same time, same place in a week. From that point, it was on. I checked my calendar and made sure I had no meetings scheduled on Monday afternoons at three o’clock. Faithful to the cause, Dora was there, always on time, and at each meeting, she offered to give me a one-hundred-point handicap. Each time I would adamantly refuse, telling myself that this was the game in which I would win. Each session, Dora beat the pants off of me. When I’d leave, she would make cracks like, ‘You should have taken my handicap,’ or ‘what’d they teach you in high school?’ and ‘Give me the name of your English teacher, so I can slap him.’ And so began our animated rivalry. One day I was working on a project and a reminder popped up on my Outlook calendar for our recurring game. As I shuffled some papers on my desk and jumped up, ready to go smack down some letters with my senior nemesis, there was a knock on the door. It was Dora in a wheelchair, being pushed by a tall, handsome man about my age. “I have to cancel our game for today,” she explained. “I have a date.” She continued by making introductions. “This is my grandson Sean. He’s a doctor, you know,” she added proudly. To him, she said, “This is our Human Resources Director. This is the young whippersnapper I beat every Monday at Scrabble.” I smiled up at him politely and glared at her behind her back as he steered her out of the office. The next week I broke down. As we started our game, she asked the usual polite question: ‘Would you like a one-hundred point handicap?’ Looking around to make sure no one else saw me; I raised my eyebrows, looked her straight in the eyes and nodded slowly. I watched her mark the numbers at the top of the scorecard, and as we grabbed our squares to start the game, I swore I heard the theme song from Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ playing in the background. That day I was determined to win. I challenged every word she used that I’d never heard before, and each time I ended up losing a turn. I glanced at the score. She was gaining on me with phenomenal speed. Those six-to-ten point words were quickly adding up. I started getting desperate, so I decided on a cheap tactic to throw her off. “Dora,” I asked, “What was your most memorable time during the war?” Dora smiled and the blue eyes behind the bifocals became dreamy. “Probably when I met my husband,” she replied, and she launched into the story of how they met. While she was talking, her scrabble words were getting smaller and smaller and she was only scoring four to ten points a word. I kept nodding and egging her on. I scored a thirty-something pointer and she looked at me with her eyebrows raised. Now I was the sweet one. “Do you want to challenge me?” I asked, laughing like Vincent Price. She looked down at her letters, and then at the board. The only letters left were the ones in front of us. “No,” she replied, “I was trying to remember something.” “Oh?” I goaded, basking in the glow of my conquest. “Having a senior moment?” “No, young lady. I’m finishing the game.” With that she picked up all seven of her letters, cross-connected them to my thirty-pointer and said smugly, “Humph! Scrabble!” I stared back at her, my mouth hanging open. The word she spelled was, ‘Equinox ’. I looked at the score card. Dora had won by 100 points. When I took on her initial invitation, I’d had no idea how proficient she was in Scrabble. Walking back to my office, I thought about how much I enjoyed playing, and even losing, if not for the exercise, for the simple pleasure of her company, and our light-hearted repartee. For the next two weeks I was out on vacation. Before I left, I called and left a message on her answering machine that I wouldn’t see her in the game room for the next two Mondays, but I’d be ready for her when I returned. Though I was absorbed in traveling during those two weeks, I picked up a scrabble dictionary and studied it on the plane, smiling to myself at some of the words I’d plan to place on the board, words Dora didn’t expect I knew. When I returned to work, I had notes tacked to my door, and dozens of emails to catch up on and respond to. Shuffling through them, I saw that one of the notes was from Dora. ‘She probably wants to gloat about that last win,’ I thought, as I placed it aside and jumped onto my computer. The resident chaplain would send out emails when a resident went to the hospital or passed away, so when one with the subject heading with Dora Bernstein’s name popped up, my heart dropped. When I read that she’d died in her sleep, I was immediately overcome with sadness. There were hundreds of seniors at the community. Each time an individual passed away, it was difficult, but it was the business we were in. We were aware and trained that in a retirement community, for many of the residents, this was their last stop. I thought for weeks about the feisty little senior with the oxygen tank and my eyes would get moist. I had to remind myself that she’d had nearly 87 years on this earth and had lived a full and fruitful life. From time to time I would pick up the note, usually on Mondays around three o’clock and re-read it. It was handwritten, and it was obviously from Dora. The handwriting was wobbly, but written in perfect English. She said she’d forgotten that I was on vacation and had come to the game room waiting for me. ‘I had a senior moment,’ she wrote, and then she went on to write that out of all of her scrabble partners, she’d enjoyed beating me the most. I’d smile, wipe my tears and tuck the note away.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crossing Paths: The Wallet

One of life's true joys is a random act of kindness. I'd rather be on the giving end, allowing God to bless others and simply using me as an instrument, although throughout my life people, both friends and strangers, have blessed me with acts of kindness in the form of words and deeds without a single expectation of reciprocation, except for a heartfelt thank you. In December of last year, I rented a car and before I turned it in, I found a wallet in the glove compartment. It was bright pink and flowery, and obviously not my brother's wallet, with whom I'd shared the car. We looked through it for identification, and guessed with the contents that it belonged to a child or a teenager. Since it was around the holidays, I told him, 'I'm going to mail it to its owner. If we return it to the rental place, she'll never get it back.' It also had gift cards, so for a teen, I knew it was a loss. The only identifying information we could find was an email address (which is actually good for the teen) so I sent her an email letting her know I found her wallet, and if she'd like, I would simply mail it to her school. She didn't know me, so I thought that would be the safest alternative for its return. I wrapped the wallet in pink tissue paper, stuck it in an overnight envelope, and waited to hear from its owner. I check my email daily, so after a couple of weeks, I was surprised that I hadn't received a response. A month passed by, and still no response. I looked through it once more, hoping to find another email or an address, but there was nothing. I knew at this point I could have returned it to the car rental company, but I'd had some losses myself, including a camera, a CD holder full of CDs, two car chargers and a small shopping bag (that had slid under the seat) of brand new cosmetics. With each incident (and mind you, these were all separate and over a period of dozens of years) I'd called, returned to the counter, and my property had either not been turned in, or they hadn't seen it. I think the camera was probably my biggest loss. I'd placed it in the glove compartment, headed to the airport on the shuttle, and then realizing I'd left it, I rode the shuttle back to the car rental company. They were cleaning out the car and the camera was gone. I quizzed each employee who had come into contact with the car, and they all said they hadn't seen it. I checked the counter and the lost and found, and of course, no one had turned it in. This certainly isn't an attack on car rental employees, but they have an advantage. If there is an item they find and wish to keep, they can keep it because there is a clause on our rental agreement that says they are not liable for lost property. Okay, now I'm rambling. Still thinking about my Nikon. Now back to my story. Remember Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway? Where he was marooned on an island after a plane crash? He named the ball Wilson and used a bunch of products from other packages to survive, but there was one package he kept in tact. He was stranded for four years, and after he was saved, he delivered the package. Okay, that was a stretch, but I wanted to return the wallet for the sheer satisfaction of ensuring that its owner got it back, intact. Last week I received an email from its owner. She wrote that she hardly ever checked that particular email address, but she was hoping I still had her wallet. I wrote that I did, sent her my phone number, and she and her mother agreed to meet me at a nearby mall. Two days later and nearly five months after I sent the email we connected, and it was one of the most pleasant encounters I'd ever had with strangers. Her mother, a schoolteacher,was one of the nicest people I've ever met, and her daughter, the owner of the wallet, is an aspiring writer. They brought me a box of See's Candy, my favorite (and how could they have known that?) and we stood out in the parking lot and talked as if we had known each other for years. Our conversation was both friendly, pleasant and delightful. We hugged, and when I left, I had such a great sense of fulfillment. I know it sounds silly, but I guess it doesn't take much to make me happy. Happiness is returning a lost wallet to its rightful owner.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April - May - June Book Signings

Sunday, April 22, 2012
I'll be at the Sisters in Crime Booth #373 at the 17th Annual LA Times Festival of Books on Sunday, April 22th, from 12:00-2:00pm. This premier book fest will be held at the USC campus in Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday, April 21st and April 22nd. Along with 450 authors, bookstores, there will be celebrity authors and events geared for children. If you and your friends and family plan to attend this phenomenal event, please stop by the booth and say hello! www.latfob.com
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Palm Springs Writers Guild Day of Works
From 2-4 the PSWG will hold their annual Day of Works event at the Rancho Mirage Library in Rancho Mirage. This event is free and open to the public. Winners of their annual short story contest will be announced.
Saturday, May 12, 2012 Pasadena, CA Central Park
Pasadena LitFest - An all day festival open to the public at Pasadena's Central Park, the Pasadena LitFest will feature crafts, vendors and food. I will be signing books from 10am-4pm along with Pamela Samuels Young, Author of Buying Time.

Saturday, June 30th, 2012 10am-6pm Leimert Park Book Fair - I will be signing copies of my books at this premier book festival in the heart of Los Angeles along with the creme de la creme of west coast African American authors. The event will also include celebrity guests, panels, performances, and activities for children.

If you subscribe to my blog and follow me on twitter, send me a tweet on the day of any event you attend. I will have something special for you when you arrive at my booth! Robyn Gant

Friday, March 30, 2012

Crossing Paths: The Apology

I recently received an apology that touched my heart. It was prompted by a small, deliberate act that occurred many years ago that placed a strain on a relationship with a dear friend.

When a person apologizes for an act they’ve purposely committed, or words they’ve thrown out to hurt you or discredit your character, how easy is it for you to accept the apology and forgive? Does the forgiveness on your part depend on the delivery and/or the deliverer? And what about the infraction itself? Is an intentional violation against you even forgivable? How about the duration of time between the act and the apology? Does that hold any bearing on your ability to forgive, forget and move on?

In the New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible, the prophet James warns ‘that the size of the tongue is no measure of the power it wields. Just as the tiniest of sparks can ignite a great forest fire, the smallest of words, unwisely spoken, can cause immeasurable harm.’ James 3:5-6.

A co-worker was unfortunately introduced to, and began to heavily abuse drugs. She was a struggling mother of two, and although I was not aware of this at the time, she had begun to borrow money heavily and became stigmatized as a result of not paying people back.

I saw her at the bus stop one day, and stopped to offer her a ride. When she told me where she was headed, I told her that her destination was on the way to where I was headed; to a good friends’ house to drop something off. Instead of doubling back, I’d make a brief stop, I explained, and then we’d be on our way.

We stopped, she got out with me, and I introduced her to my friend. We stayed just
a few minutes, and then I took her where she needed to go. A few weeks went by and I received a call from my friend. She asked if I were busy, and said she needed to talk to me. I listened as she said the woman I’d brought over a few weeks back had come by her house and told her she needed to talk.

She thought it was odd, since she didn’t really know her, but she allowed her to come in. The coworker sat down and began to tell her lies that she’d said that I’d said about her. She told her I had been putting all her ‘business in the street’ at work. Then she said, ‘Since I gave you that information, can I have 20.00?’

I listened over the phone, angry and saddened, feeling hurt and used. The tragedy of the lie was that she’d told her some things that she’d observed from the visit that day with me, and most likely she found herself jealous of her lovely home and stylish character and then she’d passed off the lies as if I’d said them.

My friend didn’t know what to believe. The lies were ugly character assassinations; something one could assume, that she was pretentious and stuck up. But because they came from someone I appeared to know, she actually thought I’d been talking about her, and our friendship became strained for several years.

The co-worker that I’d picked up on the bus stop later on was terminated for an unrelated cause, and after that she temporarily lost her children to the foster care system because of her inability to properly care for them. More of an acquaintance, I lost track of her after I heard this and figured she and her lies were gone from my life.

Now fast forward ten years later.

My friend and I were back on good terms again, and she invited me to a church service at her home church. I was enjoying the service, and the pastor had just finished his sermon, when I received a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and it was my former coworker.

She said softly, “Can I talk to you after the service?” My mind jumped immediately back to the incident ten years before. I looked at my friend sitting next to me and she simply smiled without saying a word.

After the benediction, the woman followed me outside. She said, “Years ago, I told a lie on you to get some money for drugs. After I got my life together, I began to pray that our paths would cross so that I could apologize to you. I think about what I did so many years ago, and it always troubled my heart. I’m so sorry for what I did, and I’m asking your forgiveness.”

I was stunned. I don’t think I’d ever received an apology so heartfelt, and what I knew to be so sincere. I gave her a hug in acknowledgement. “I have peace now,” she said. And she simply walked away.

The amazing timing and location of ‘the apology’ was something I couldn’t make up. My friend had spontaneously invited me that same morning; and she did acknowledge later that she’d seen her several times at the church.

After all, it had been ten years since the ‘infraction.’ Ten years had passed since she’d tarnished my name, and placed a valuable friendship in jeopardy. But I realized that day that an apology is timeless. It can be ten hours, ten days or ten years from the point of violation. But if you feel it is sincere, time can very likely heal the wound, and open up your heart to forgive with a smile.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February Book Signings

I have several book signings coming up for the month of February. If you've read my books, blog or would just like to say hello, please come on over! They are located in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas, and each event will be very festive.

I'll be signing copies of my books at Hair by Kim Townsend, Redondo Beach, CA Saturday, February 18, 2012 from 4pm-6pm. Also there will be Pamela Samuels Young, author of Murder on the Downlow, and Cora Smith, author of Predator in the Pews.
Refreshments will be served, and we will have a discussion on writing tips and how to get your book published.

On Saturday, February 25th, I'll be at the Pomona Civic Center in downtown Pomona from 10am -4pm at the Cultural Festival; and from 5pm - 7pm I'll be signing books at the Hourglass Art and Wine Gallery, located on the Southwest corner of Foothill and Haven in Rancho Cucamonga. From the 210 and 10 freeways exit Haven and travel to Foothill. I would love to meet you!

Leaving Technology Behind - The Lost Phone

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