Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? My Friends
When I thought of
this chapter, I had to include some people who “get me” and have been there for
me, no matter what. And then there are others who helped me when I was sick
with the latent brain tumor, but I have lost a connection with them gradually
since its removal. The disconnect is partly due to my behavior and, in a couple
of cases, partly because of theirs. But
they still did help me. The friends listed below deserve my eternal thanks and
·Maggie Rothwell – As you can read
in her contribution here, Maggie and I have known each other for more than
three decades now. She has this incredible ability to see me for who I was and
who I now am. She’s so gifted in
pointing out my accomplishments when all I can do sometimes is find my flaws.
She’s the sweetest friend. I admire her musical talents and how they have provided
me with calmness. I love her more than words can say! She’s an excellent
listener and never passes judgment. I truly listen to her advice and
suggestions. She is a gift from God. At the time of this writing, I went to
listen to her play guitar and sing at one of her many gigs. The floor got wet
since rain was tracked in by other restaurant patrons. As I stood up to go to
the restroom, Maggie, mid-song and on the microphone, said, “Be careful – don’t
slip,” to me because she knows that I lose my balance. I cried on the walk to
the restroom. Those were happy tears for having such a dear friend.
·Ilse Fenwick – I know Ilse
from my church. She, like Maggie, is such a wonderful listener. She helps me
refocus on God when I stray from Him during my difficult times. I listen to her
when she offers a different perspective on lots of topics. She has brought me
closer to God in her loveable mannerisms. She sends me cards when I need
uplifting. She researches books for me to read when I can’t find them in
bookstores. She actually pays for them until I can pay her back. Is that a
friend, or what? I’ve been to her beautiful home for her helpful counseling. It
was there that she told me that I feel worse than it appears I do to others,
but I’m further along than I think I am. At one of the many Bible studies I’ve attended with her, I
heard many stories from other women about how great a helper she is. That’s my
Ilse! She’s another gift from God. And, she’s such a sweetheart, she’s invited me
over on Thanksgivings and Christmases so I wouldn’t be alone. I took her up on
it Christmas night of 2016. That was the only fun I had on that very dismal
day, described elsewhere here, even though Christmas is supposed to be a happy
·Marian Palmadessa – She took such great care of me when I had
the mysophobia. She invited me into her home to feed me because I was so scared
of germs I could hardly put a fork to my mouth. She would wash the silverware
right in front of me, lay paper towels over her table and chairs, etc. and etc.
I was wasting away to an unsafe weight, so she fed me when I could not do it.
She and I had lots of other fun times together. She’s a sweet person to whom I
will forever be grateful for her assistance and love when I was sick. I love
when we get to spend some time together. I also love the cards she sends me,
especially for Mother’s Day, a “thinking of you” card (because she knows how
sad I am on this day). And, she gives me leftovers sometimes, because she knows
I can’t cook anymore.
To give you an
idea about what a good friend Marian has been, I’m adding here the
recommendation she filled out for me for when I was applying for a Youth
Ministry position at my church in 2009. The questions are in italics, her
responses in normal type.
1.How long have you
known this applicant? 4 years in December ‘09
2.In what capacity or under what circumstances have you
known the applicant? Have you ever observed that applicant working with
children? How would you describe those interactions? Janet Schliff is my neighbor. She lives 3 units away from
me. We met in December 2005, picking up our mail. She introduced herself and we
exchanged phone numbers. I told her any questions regarding our rules etc. in
the W*** Townhomes, not to hesitate to call me.
As time passed, we became close friends and she was invited to our
home for dinner quite often.
Janet is so proud of her teaching career. She taught Special Ed.
children for 25 years. In 1992 she received an Excellence in Teaching award.
She also taught reading classes to other teachers….
3.Has the applicant, to your knowledge, been involved in
any incident or activity which might disqualify them from working with
children? If so, please describe the incident or behavior. Absolutely not!
4.Would you recommend the applicant be allowed to work
with children or teens? Would you allow the applicant to be responsible for
Yes to both questions. As far as I am concerned,
Janet Schliff is a Modern Day Miracle from God! The night before her surgery,
she called me saying how frightened she was and would I please pray for her. I
told her she was a good woman and that God would take care of her. The
following day, she called me again, and I went into shock that so soon after
her surgery, she could call me, speak so clearly and tell me the mysophobia was
gone, along with the tumor the size of an orange!
The majority of her past students…so loved her most of them have
been in touch with her in one way or another to tell her how happy they are for
·Sandy Evans – We met at church, and I will always be
grateful to her, for helping me when I could hardly help myself. When I was
germ-phobic, I heard a DJ on the radio say that movie theatres and church pews
were dirty. So – I stood at the back of our church because I was afraid to sit
down. Sandy placed jackets down after I told her what was wrong. She sat with
me during services. She listens to me rant and rave about various topics. We
both have a lot of medical issues, and so it’s hard to be there for one another,
but I know she helps me when she can. I believe God placed her in that church
to help me and others. And to this day, she sits near me at meetings to help me
keep calm and help me express things I’m scared to bring up.
And here are some
·Suzi – I referenced
Suzi in the chapter I wrote about helpful businesses because of her daughter
Jaime’s lovely behavior towards her store customers. Suzi is also someone I met
at church. I’ve been to her lovely home for various Bible studies. I attended a group she taught at church about
grieving, after my dad passed away. She has a warm heart and a gracious spirit.
She helped lead my then-boyfriend Aiden and me to a wonderful counselor when
our relationship was in jeopardy. She has sent me helpful emails. Suzi just
knows when to do or say the right thing right when it’s needed the most.
Another gift from God.
·Jim – He was the man
I dated before I met Aiden. He was so patient with me when I was the sickest
I’ve ever been. That tumor was huge at this point in my life, but we didn’t
know it then. What I did know is that Jim helped me with the household chores I
could not do for myself – like taking out the garbage, since touching cans and
bags was impossible for me when I was petrified of germs. He helped me complete
paperwork and make out my checks because my memory was terrible due to the
brain damage caused by the tumor. I appreciate how he led me in the right
direction often and helped me make many decisions. I’m sure there’s much more
that he did for me than I actually can remember, so I will be forever grateful
to him for his kindness. To this day I feel guilty about not “being there” for
him as he was for me….
And, I also have a bunch of friends
who have helped me with various things through the story of my life. Here’s to
some of them:
·Ellen – a friend I’ve
kept in contact with since we roomed together in a dorm at SUNY Plattsburgh
almost 40 years ago. She has the sweetest family, and I love traveling out of
town to their celebrations for graduations, weddings, anniversaries, etc. I
also love talking with her over the phone because she always asks me how I am
doing. Her parents did an excellent job raising her to be a loving person!
·Marla – As you can read
from her contribution here, Marla and I were colleagues over 25 years ago at
Ulster County BOCES. Our friendship began then and has remained. She’s very
good at inviting me to retirement and end-of-the-year parties. I also get
together with her and our mutual friend, Beverly, whom we used to work with.
Catching up on our lives is always a pleasure.
·Debbie One – I have four
Debbies as friends. The first one I met about two decades ago when she worked
in one of my classrooms. She’s a sweetheart and was very patient with being a
one-on-one aide for a special needs child. I love bumping into her about once a
month at her current job.
·Debbie Two – The second
Debbie I met just a few years ago at church. She’s been a wonderful listener.
She has sent me texts and cards with God’s word, and they are very helpful. She
gave me permission for me to use her name and phone number on a card in my
wallet to explain my condition to, for example, a police officer. She is now my
emergency contact. I’ve called her numerous times in total distress, and she
ALWAYS calms me down. Her family is very sweet to be around. [And – she makes
the BEST mac and cheese I’ve ever had…and she’ll even fry me some bacon as
·Debbie Three – Another Debbie I
met at my church. She too listens very well to me and drives me to doctor
appointments when I can’t. Visits to her house are delicious!
·Debbie Four – This is the
Debbie I wrote about in another chapter. She’s gone from being not only my
reflexologist, but also to being my friend.
·Joey – She is an
excellent cook, and she prepares food for me. I love seeing her at my church.
·Linda, Joyce, Allison,
Margo, Henry, Janet, Donna, Juanita, Bea, Lenny, Otto, and Louise – I used to know
some of them when I was very young. We now meet up at a fundraiser luncheon. All
of us meet there monthly when we can, and I enjoy their friendliness. [Since
these luncheons are held in a parish hall of a church, I really should “duct
tape” my mouth sometimes! My lack of a “filter” causes embarrassing
conversations from time to time.]
·Barbara and Kim – I’ve met these
two women through sad circumstances, but we have formed a bond. Barbara’s
sister, Sue, had a brain injury, and thus Barbara attended a support group with
me. Kim’s husband, Terry, suffered a brain injury, and I met Kim through
Barbara. Kim, Barbara, and I, at the time of this writing, travel to meetings
with “mucky-mucks” (my word for politicians in the New York State capital,
Albany) to discuss the needs of others for legislation for the brain-injured.
Our personalities are very different from one another but we get the job done.
Kim has a calming effect on me. She reads my body language very well. Barbara
has spent a lot of time going through her sister Sue’s belongings after Sue
died from that brain injury. Kim is now grieving the sudden death of her
husband. (Rest in peace, Sue and Terry.) On a more upbeat note, Barbara’s
digging through her sister’s stuff has helped her discover various Mickey Mouse
items and she gives them to me, which I appreciate. Barbara and her husband
even made me a T-shirt and a sweatshirt with wording to help me calm down when
others asked me why this book wasn’t finished by 2016 (as my business card said
it would be). The shirts said:
when it’s finished…
Rivers know this:
There is no hurry
We shall get there some day
Winnie the Pooh
[And one piece of
advice I’d give anyone who’s writing a book for the first time: don’t talk
about it right away. I did talk too soon, and non-writers were frequently
stressing me out about my timing. Begin to discuss your book a bit later on in
your writing process….]
·Jan – This Jan is “Jan
Nails” (because I have another friend named Jan). I met her so many years ago.
When she lived in Dutchess County, NY, I went to her house for manicures. Since
she’s moved to the Carolinas, we speak every once in a while and send cards to
each other. When we speak, it’s like we’ve never had time or distance between
·“The girls” – Cathy,
Caroline, Barb, Webby, Doris, Monica, Jan, Shirley, Sally, and Lil – Our
get-togethers over the years for birthdays, holidays and other things have been
a nice break from my busy schedule. We also have supported each other with our
various hospital stays. (Rest in peace, Lil.)
And, like most people, I have many other
friends whom I speak to once in a while, send and/or receive Christmas and
birthday cards to/from and whom I appreciate knowing. Also, I’ve made some new
friends when I travel to Hyde Park, NY, for their many fun activities there,
such as: the Fourth of July Parade, Cranberry’s bistro and bake shop’s
delicious scones that I eat at the Vanderbilt Mansion with my dog Happy,
Fireside Chats and Mother’s Day Teas that are held at the St. James Church and
the nearby Mills Mansion in Staatsburg.
Friends make life more bearable. I’m lucky to have the
friends I have….
in September 2016, when I attended a retired teachers' breakfast to celebrate
that we had that first day of school off, I was rudely spoken to by a former
colleague and, boy, did I let her have it! We had both recently been to another
colleague's funeral, and I was politely telling her why I had to leave that
funeral early (because I was too upset). Instead of responding with warmth, she
coldly said, “You shouldn't have left – it was a beautiful service.”
live in my head? I was taking care of myself by leaving that funeral. So, I
rudely responded, “I don't think wouldas, couldas, shouldas are appropriate.
Since I have a brain injury, I leave when I'm about to lose it.”
tone of voice was really snotty, and once again my friend Marla (who was
sitting right next to me), “pulled me back” with her warmth.
at the same breakfast, I heard some stories about my behavior when I had the
tumor. I was glad I was done eating and left with only saying goodbye to a
couple of friends. On my way out the door, my friend Karen asked me if I was
okay. Though I said I was, I really wasn't. She had picked up on my upset.
are so loving and they can detect when you're not “right.” Thank God for my
friends who “get me.” Thank you to all of my friends who have shown me love and
wish people would be more careful how they judge others. At least I know I have
to work on that. I'm not sure that some others know they need to also.]
For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be
excerpting, weekly, material from this almost-final version of the fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S. Ed., which she wrote over a three-year period with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, Write Your Book with Me.
Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.
Janet spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at Barnes & Noble in Kingston, NY. I [DWC] attended, along with about 40 other people. Congratulations to Janet on a fine talk! Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6.
She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17.
She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28.
She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.
On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.
On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.
On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.
On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.
On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.
On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.
On 6/9/18 Janet spoke at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon. On 6/11/18 Janet spoke at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.
On 6/20/18 Janet spoke at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.
On 7/13/18 Janet spoke at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m. On 7/20/18 Janet will be at the Pine Plains Library at 6 p.m.
On 7/23/18 Janet will be at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.
On 8/11/18 Janet will be at the Northern Dutchess Bible Church in Red Hook at 1:00 p.m.
On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.
On 9/22/18 Janet will again be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library, at noon.
More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY. and another in the Family Life section of the Poughkeepsie Journal on June 8th.