Tag Archives: Florida

C H R I S T M A S T I D E

A Merry Christmas
Cleone’s favorite holiday song was Joy To The World directed by the Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She’d begin playing it as a daybreak reveille on December 12th and continued through the morning of her birthday, December 27th. We were reminded of the fifteen day musical salute while driving Elizabeth’s mother back to Arkansas in November 1990.
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“How come I don’t remember this tradition, Mom?”

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“You’re never home for the holidays more than a day or two, Elizabeth Ann. Besides, your daddy and I only began it after you left home.”

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During those long gone 30 years, Elizabeth’s father died and Cleone remarried several times. As a southern lady born and bred in Montgomery, Alabama, she was raised to believe a woman’s life wasn’t complete without a man in hand. Her current husband, Bill, was confined to a nursing home, diagnosed with violent hysterical dementia. He hadn’t recognized her (or anyone) for six months and never would again, but that didn’t stop Cleone from visiting him daily, ignoring his foul-mouthed curses and dodging food flung in her direction.

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We promised to stay with her through Thanksgiving, but those plans changed after she asked me to sort through stacks of personal papers to determine if any needed keeping.

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The first item of interest I came across was Bill’s membership in a local white supremacist group. He kept propaganda, recruitment paraphernalia and a loaded .38 in his desk drawer next to a box of hollow point bullets. I immediately disposed of everything burnable and buried the gun in his asparagus garden. Other discoveries were as serious.
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“Mom,” I tiptoed, “it says here Bill used your Certificates of Deposit and savings as collateral to purchase this house.”
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“He promised they’d be safe until the house is paid off.”
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“You’re 83 and he’s older. The mortgage is for 30 years.”
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“I guess.”
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“Who pays the mortgage?”
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“It’s automatically deducted from my social security check each month.”
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“You have your own direct deposit checking account?”
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“Yes. Mine pays the car loan, utilities, and property taxes, too.”
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Why isn’t it all deducted from his account?”
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“He pays the insurance, charge cards, grocery account, and incidentals.” I hesitated just long enough for her to ask, “Why?”
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“Well, what’s important is, I can tell you how to fix what I’ve found, so there’s nothing for you to get upset about. Since you have his health proxy and financial power of attorney — over his very sizable bank accounts, I must say — it’s merely a matter of shuffling funds.”
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“Meaning?”
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“You have the authority to write checks.”
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By then both Cleone and Elizabeth were eager for details and had pulled chairs up to the table where I was working.
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“Mom, your name isn’t on the mortgage, deed to the house, or car title. If Bill should suddenly die, the house and car go directly to his son. His Will leaves his savings and all his belongings to his son. The executor to his estate is his son. His life insurance policy names only his son.”
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“What about me?” Cleone asked, matter-of-factly.
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“He made no provisions for you, Mom.”
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“Do you think his son knows any of this?”
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“According to these letters, he does.”
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I let that sink in between mother and daughter while I ran some figures and finalized a plan.
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After breakfast, the three of us dressed for success in matching hot pink sweatsuits and strings of vintage pearls before descending on the bank where Cleone paid off the mortgage and car loan from Bill’s savings account. Once her CD’s were released and there was no longer a lien on her savings, she transferred all automatic deductions from her checking account to his. Finally, she removed his name as survivor from her checking and savings accounts and left the bank, unencumbered.
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“How do you feel, Mom?” Elizabeth asked.
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“Free,” she answered.
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We stayed on until the 9th of December, gadding about town, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, lighting her ceramic tree, delivering frosted cookies, addressing cards, and confirming plans for Cleone’s move to Florida to forever share our home after the first of the year.
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“Are you sure you don’t want to drive back with us now,” Elizabeth hoped.
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“No, dear. I want to spend the holidays here with my Bridge club and church group. It gives me time to say a more leisurely goodbye.”
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“Are you okay?”
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“Better than okay, Elizabeth. I’m having fun.”
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It took us three days to drive home. We arrived on Cleone’s birthday to a cheerful message from her, left on our answering machine. I immediately dialed her up, putting the phone on speaker.
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Cleone’s next door neighbor answered.
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“Your mom called for an ambulance. The driver swore he got here within a minute. He knew her from church and around town. Everyone loved your mom.”
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Knew.
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Loved.
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(more…)

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THE ABOVE ESSAY REPRESENTS AN EXCERPT FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t Know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright © 2019
NOW ON AMAZON & AVAILABLE IN BOOKSTORES NATIONWIDE
You are urged to LOOK INSIDE for a try-before-you-buy FREE READ of the first 3 chapters on Amazon.

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ALMOST PARADISE

Little Girl and Crying Heart

By Marguerite Quantaine

During the 27 years we’ve lived in Florida, we haven’t made any in-the-life friends.
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It’s not that ‘our kind’ doesn’t exist in small towns here. (We do.) And it’s not that we’re ashamed. (We aren’t.)
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It’s that, excluding most metro areas, if you (a) want the police to respond to your call for help in a timely manner, and (b) you want to receive the finest healthcare when you’re injured, or sick, and (c) you want to keep your pets out of harms way, and (d) you want to keep your car from being vandalized, and (e) you want to live in an area where the neighborhood watch looks out for your home, and (f) you want the person working on your teeth to be gentle, and (h) you want to be able to make a living, and (i) you want to avoid having your license plate recorded when attending a Pride event — then you don’t risk outing others whom you think are kindred spirits by drawing attention to their personal lives, even in an effort to make friends.
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That’s why The Pulse in Orlando was a Mecca for resident and visiting gays alike. It provided a safe haven for fulfilling the need to feel an instant camaraderie accompanying the demonstrative joy of others.
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Truth be told, we’ve never actually been to a nightclub because, while there was a smattering of NYC lesbian bars during the 60s when we were young, the mixed genders of nowadays nightclubs with  multiple rooms, live bands, separate stages, decks and professional disc jockeys didn’t exist.
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What we did have (aside from a Seebring juke box at one-gender venues) were summertime tea dances at Cherry Grove and the Pines on Fire Island, mostly male, but with a sufficient showing of Coppertoned women to complement the communal glee being shared as disco music blared, connecting us to every outdoor dance floor.
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Nearly fifty years have past. You wouldn’t think it’s now imperative to note, in March, Governor Rick Scott’s HB 401 bill died in committee.
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Had HB 401 passed it would have allowed doctors, nurses, healthcare providers, and hospitals to refuse treatment to lesbians and gays without fear of facing liability in Florida courts. Based on religious freedom to discriminate, HB 401 was to have taken effect on July 1, 2016.
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As a resident of Florida who’s been subjected to discrimination, misdiagnosed, nearly killed and double billed for it, I hesitate to ever seek help here.
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Which begs the question: Why do we live in Mother Nature’s perfect place among such people?
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It’s because we believe Orlando’s healthcare providers and facilities are better — so very much better — than disingenuous leaders and sanctimonious legislators.
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And because we believe the inherent good in people will always outweigh the acquired bad.
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And because we believe when vice endeavors to infiltrate, virtue counters with massive resistance.
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And because we believe, if deceit sits down on the dais, multitudes will arise to defy demagoguery.
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And, too, it’s because we know we shall weep before we sleep tonight, and intermittently weep again for weeks to come, or maybe months, or years — or through however many broken hearts it takes to prevail.
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But love will triumph.
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Because it must.

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and novelist.

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IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story
by Marguerite Quantaine

HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU . . .

Kate b:w

“You’re always a happy camper,” my kid sister, Kate, says to me, frequently. “Even from back when. I’ve seldom seen a photograph where you weren’t. Whereas, the rest of us…”  She sighs as her claim tapers off; the ‘rest of us’ being our four older siblings.

     I’m in her Florida home, fifty-eight miles southeast of mine, enjoying faded photographs of her and me during childhood, a monochrome to Kodachrome procession of us aging over the years, corralled in silver and brass frames crowding the desktop in her den.
     “You’re smiling in them, too,” I insist. 

     “But even when you aren’t you’re happy.”

She’s right. In every print I stand guilty as charged, picture-proof that regardless of the rocks life hurled at me, I caught them as stones and skimmed them as pebbles across a body of blue. Setbacks, solutions, and silver linings have ruled my world in that way.

     Kate triumphs, too; but does it differently. Unlike me, be it a word, a look, or an action, she wounds easily and holds onto the hurt as lifeblood. She can recite the time, place and reason for every slight she’s perceived from others, intentional, or not. She suffers the “slings and arrows” of both fortune and misfortune. Her self-esteem rarely rides on an even keel.

     Most of that is reflected in Kate’s self-deprecating sense of humor where she casts herself as the ugly duckling and also-ran. 

     Until she turned 12, she shadowed me like a stray puppy inviting approval — but as a tall teen, she began rolling her shoulders forward and slumping down to avoid attention. She took a back seat in all her outings with friends. She never challenged authority. She catered to the wishes of others. She refused to go to her junior prom with a boy she had a crush on unless I agreed to find a date and go with her. (I did.) She always worked harder to strive higher because she felt, in doing so, maybe, just maybe, someone would love her.

I don’t think she’s ever accepted that everyone does love her — not because she played a great game of league softball for nine years, or bested those at any table where board games ruled, or succeeded at every task she undertook, or graduated from college summa cum laude, or even when she became an executive at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, rubbing elbows with celebrities, daily — but because she is without guile. She’s soft spoken and generous. She’s never late for anything, ever. She’s decisive and dependable. She is the first to answer the call, to offer her time, and provide for others whether asked of, or needed, or not.  Her meek demeanor matches her downy curls and wise eyes the color of a Russian Blue.

She’s also a coincidental copycat. Although Kate lived 3,000 miles away for a decade, she’d somehow manage to buy the same label slacks, sweaters, and shoes that I wore, paint her rooms the same colors as mine, be partial to the same movies and songs, plant the same flowers, and even managed to select the identical holiday cards for my mom, with both hers and mine delivered in the same mail, on the same days for seven years running. 

     When she moved to Florida eleven years ago, she arrived in the make and model of car I drove. Eventually, she gave me that car, and added my name to the title of her next one so I could have it someday, without any fuss.

     It’s what I’ll be driving, soon — and what I’m driving at.

     Kate visits regularly, making the trip from Deland to spend the day with her gal pal, my Elizabeth. They leave within moments after she arrives to scan pawn shops and scour garage sales, saying when they’ll be back bearing gifts, and what they want to eat upon return. I’m chief cook, baker, bottle washer and decider of the games we’ll play into the night. 

     Sometimes she stays over, but more often, twelve hours of each others company is one hour shy of perfection. Before she leaves we belt out a chorus of,  “Happy trails to you, until we meet again” as we did while in our matching cowgirl outfits, sitting on the floor in front of the Sylvania set during the 1950s, joining Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in their signature song.  Then I wait by the phone until she gets home and calls to say she’s safe and sound.

     My dear, sweet sister, Kate.

     So, imagine my surprise when, after a splendid celebration for her 67th birthday on January 22nd, followed by wishes exchanged for Valentine’s Day, and plans made for Elizabeth’s birthday on February 24th, she called to say, “I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it. But…”
K&M& Andy Car

     She’d felt nauseous with a sharp pain in her side so, assuming it was her gallbladder, she visited the clinic, which ordered the ultrasound, that revealed the liver cancer. The following week an MRI found pancreatic and bile duct cancer. A PET scan upped the ante to bone and spinal column cancer, after blood tests confirmed it was everywhere.

     No, this is not the kind of diagnosis that responds to clinical trials, chemotherapy, or radiation. Hers is the type that robs you of 25 pounds in 25 days and makes you hope for enough time to get your affairs in order.

     Nothing seems real now. We act on automatic, listening to orders we don’t want to hear and filling out forms we’re forced into finishing, as if any of it matters more than these last precious days spent together.

     When she asks me to translate the results of her latest tests I relay a bowdlerized truth, and she listens with an editors ear, both of us trying to alter the inevitable.

     If it were me, there would be levity. 

Instead, it’s Kate, who counts on me to be there for a final cowgirl singalong.

     Yes, I smiled when she asked it of me.

     But I am not a happy camper.

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Marguerite Quantaine © 2015