June 19

1974. Joe Goes. John Comes Home. The Wild Ride Begins.

Joe left us in 1974 to begin his service in the USMC.

John was home from Vietnam and he'd be sitting at the table with Dad learning how to do square roots longhand.  He was as intelligent as they came and I watched his mind work in amazement.  He got onto the Providence Fire Department right after he came back from the service.  From the horrors of war to the horrors of death by fire.  However, he also had the glory of saving lives.

He was following in my Dad's footsteps.  And at the end of his time to serve with the PFD, he bought back his service time and was able to retire in his mid-forties with a Veteran's and PFD Captains pension.

There were a whole lot of rocky roads on his journey to sobriety, success and then retirement.  Although he carried on with his career, his off time was filled with shenanigans and havoc.  During those times, I did pass judgement on my brother.  He made my life hard.

I no longer pass judgement on him.  He was a victim of circumstance.  He didn't live the cushy life that Mom afforded me and Janie.  He was raised to be a warrior and that is exactly what he was.

But, drinking and drugging were prevalent during that decade. So was really good music.  I remember while in the service, John was having boxes sent home from Okinawa.  When he came home, those boxes were opened and they contained the most massive, spiffy stereo system I had ever seen.  It was set up and that "Mullen Basement" became the "go-to" place among his friends.  Mom finally got her wish of being able to kick her clan down to the basement family room.

While Mom, Janie and I left for the summer house that year, Dad and John stayed behind.  When we came home to start our school year, we were devastated to learn that the winter house had been broken into.  There were no computers back in the day but anything that could be plugged in was stolen.

I cried when I went to my bedroom and looked in my top drawer for my little pearl change purse and found that even that was taken.  I had saved a whole seven dollars and it was gone.

While we were at the winter house for the school year, the beach house was also robbed.

I'm not sure about what happened but there was here say amongst the siblings that it was an inside job.  I was not a happy camper.  I got even more stressed the day he tried to sneak in a rifle and bullets into his room without Mom's knowledge.  I finked on him to Michael and he insisted it was a Marines privilege to have a gun.  I didn't settle for that.

Although I didn't fink to Mom... I began showing the signs of stress and she recognized it.

The next summer we went to the beach house and we didn't come back.

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June 18

1970. How The “Mullen Basement” Happened

I am not quite sure what year Mom chose to renovate the basement, I just know the reasons why.  It had to be right around the early '70's.  That basement is remembered by many.

She first got gold wall to wall carpet in the living room.  Until the basement was renovated, this is where we gathered for "family time".  Dad had his rocking chair spot in front of the TV, Janie and I were usually tucked under a blanket on the couch with Mom and whoever else was around at any given time were causing commotion somewhere else in the room.

Mom renovated the basement for a slew of reasons.  First, she was running out of boy and girl bedrooms so she built the boys a bedroom off the main basement "family room".  Second, she had illusions of grandeur that all of her clan would actually play in the basement and give her some peace at the end of her long days.  We didn't listen to her when she told us to go downstairs, until we were older and that became the destination of choice for our friends and us.

Now, the laundry room part of the basement was always used as a boxing ring for Dad and the boys.  But the main room and bedroom was also the play place and sleeping quarters for at least two of the boys, until they moved and I claimed it as my own.  Michael had his own little half bed on the second floor.  It was barely bigger than a closet but he stayed in that room until he took off for good on his own.

There was a lot of testosterone in that basement in the early years.  I remember not always wanting to go down there.  Those guys played so rough.  I wanted to play with Janie.

Then at one point around that time, my Mom started reading a "PET" book.  That was the rage back in the day.  "Parent Effectiveness Training" I think it stood for.  I don't think she was getting along too well with my Dad at that time and that book certainly opened her eyes and threw an added wedge into the relationship.

By the time she was done reading that book and implementing some change in how she was allowing Janie and I to be raised, my Dad was being kicked down to the basement every night.  She even got a second rocking chair, a couch, TV, and a bar that never had liquor in it.

Things in that basement started getting real wild at that point in time.  And Janie and I just stayed on the first floor either curled up on the couch with Mom, or building forts in the built in bookcases on the sides of the fireplace.

When John came home from Vietnam, Joe left.  But, Dad and Michael were still there.  And the drinking began.  The only time I had ever seen alcohol in the house was when they entertained and I never remember it getting out of hand.  But, that changed.

And some of the behavior I witnessed was not behavior I was going to allow Janie to witness.  I'm the one who would stand up to each one of those boys.  I'm the one who took roundhouse kicks to the head when Michael was learning martial arts.  I'm the one who fought my brothers for the remote control or anything else they wanted to fight with me about.

Thank God they loved me because they would have killed lesser people who tried to get away with what I did.

And I was a big influence with my Mom always.  When I accidentally walked downstairs to see drugs being done by neighborhood kids, I ran so fast and cried.  When I saw a rifle and bullets being carried in the front door to be hidden upstairs - I finked.  But, I kept the sibling code and only finked to another sibling.  Told them both, "Get That Out Of Our House!"

I never told Mom or Janie stories like this.  OMG... I never told them so many things I remember from then, and after.

What I did do was curl into bed with Mom one night crying and asking her to kill Dad and the boys.

I have pictures from my youth of empty built in bookcases by the fireplace. This was one of the first of so many that graced those shelves once I was about 11 or 12 years old. Mom was on a whole new mission with me and Janie... wasn't easy for any of us... but, wow, am I grateful.

June 18

1971. The Second To Go. John. Then Joe. Then Michael.

As I had mentioned, to and 8 year old child (and Janie only 3), missing a sibling for 8 years IS a lifetime to a young mind.  And that was my second to oldest sister.  My oldest sister stuck around in Rhode Island, but, she was a very independent woman at an early age and became self supporting quickly.  Had her own car, got her own apartment, but, she stuck pretty close to the rest of us.

John on the other hand was a handful and a half  during his high school years. And he was a big influence on his two younger brothers, too.  From what I remember, my brother John was kicked out of Lasalle Academy for some infraction and to the best of my knowledge, my Dad told him that you're either going to be sent to jail one of these days, or, you're going into the service so they can straighten you out.

These days, I don't know if there are many parents who would suggest going to war to get an education.  But, that is exactly what he did at the ripe young age of 17 years old.

I always hoped that all three of the oldest would come back home.  Stories about what was happening in Vietnam didn't make me feel to secure.  I was old enough to understand the severity of the times, but, still to young to really grasp it.  That being said, to this day I can not watch a movie that involves torture of soldiers.

Because Janie was so much younger than the older three (two of them were her Godparents), I think this was the time in her life when I began to shield her from whatever I could.  She was innocent.  I was innocent, too, but, because of that 5 extra years of existence, I wasn't as innocent to what was going on around me as I wanted to be.

John came home from Vietnam with his body intact.  And even though he probably had an adult education of horror while he was serving, it wasn't the cure all that he needed.

No sooner did John come back, Joe went in.  No sooner did Joe come back, Michael went in.  I never again had to worry about there being a seat at the kitchen table for Janie.

Mom, Dad, Janie and I were the family unit once the others started flying away.  Janie was in charge since she was born, and I was by her side until God took her away.  I had her back and she had mine.

And all I did to try and shield her from situations that would steal her innocence is what caused the sisterly bond we had. I witnessed way too much and heard way too many stories that I never shared while anyone in my family could be hurt by them.

Being born in the '60's as a girl child after those boys were born was an experience like no other.

June 18

2017. Father's Day With His Family

If there's any Father's Day celebrating going on in heaven, then Dad's having a blast cause he's hanging with his bride, four sons and his baby girl. I'm sure Janie is cooking for the lot because she had culinary talents. However, Dad would have to be gifted some liverwurst, olive loaf, fried scallops and chocolate covered cherries (to start).

Janie would probably also make Mom her favorite "lobster fisherman's style" which is baked stuff in my mind. She would not overstep her bounds with John, instead she'd leave the brown gravy making to him - one of his many talents. With Joe, she'd find a way to get him an unlimited supply of crispy turkey skin and the biggest jar of hot peppers that she could find. Of course, Michaels favorites of shake and bake pork chops, applesauce, rice pilaf, carrots, corn and TONS of junk food were always an addition to any menu because he was a finicky son of a gun.

After all that prep, Janie probably wouldn't even eat. Instead, she'd sit back with a glass of wine and watch with a satisfied smile that she successfully pleased the favorite people in her life.
These memories make me smile and I will toast to them all tonight.
Happy Father's Day to all you role models - male and female. Go make some memories with your family... they really do last a lifetime

June 17

1970. Life Is A Beach. Living Large.

I'm not sure what year Mom decided that hauling so many kids and beach gear down to Scarborough Beach, Rhode Island wasn't how she wanted to spend her non-child bearing summers.  She had a complete hysterectomy after Janie was born the day before her 40th birthday.  I think she wanted to start enjoying life at that point.

From what I learned from older siblings many years later, Mom and Dad had a bit of a separation period between when I arrived in 1962 and when Janie came in 1967.  I don't remember it, but, it does explain that 5 year gap between us.  Mom was pretty consistent with having children a couple years apart for most of her life.  I understood why I didn't have a little sister sooner once I heard that.

Anyway, when Mom was done, she was her bold self and saved every penny she could and made a deposit on a beach house at Buttonwoods Beach, Warwick RI.  I have a picture of my sister on the beach in what looks like a Sunday church dress playing with her same age cousin Kim who was sporting a bikini.  I'm thinking that picture means we must have gotten the beach house not too long after Janie was born.  I'm not clear about the dates, just clear about the memories.

Although I didn't like having to split my year between "winter friends" and "summer friends", we were living the life.  I don't really remember my Dad down there at all... maybe the older kids would.  What I remember is weeks spent with Mom's side of the family and weekends spent with every Sullivan Aunt, Uncle and Cousin there were.  Clamming, cook outs and family parties.  Nothing better.

But, it did get better.  During the days, Janie was in my charge as we were allowed to roam free playing on the beach, seeing washed up sand sharks and pulling out the teeth to make necklaces and getting our cute mugs in the local papers because of it.  Fame at an early age.

Then, having the opportunity to run the local penny candy store at the ripe old age of 10 was a blast for me and my friends.  That job taught me how to be honest behind a bar.  The money I earned was spent on Bingo with Mom at the community hall.  I won my first 10 speed bike there before they were even a thing.  It was bigger than me and I rode it through every part of Warwick straight to Gardard Park, which was across the bay from my house.

We had a charmed existence.  It didn't take long for "me" to persuade my Mom to change the rule about no friend sleepovers.  I understand how having 7 children could prohibit such a fun activity, but, by the time me and Janie came along, she gave us everything we wanted.

That is why so many of my childhood friends were allowed to experience our beach house life.  And they all remember it fondly.

My older siblings had different experiences there than I did.  They were the driving and dating age by then.  That's the way large families work.  Their stories are their own and I'd love to hear them.  But, my stories come from a very different perspective.

My stores are more about me and Janie than anyone else.  Nobody in the world had as much of her as I did.  She was in my charge.  Under the guidance of Mom.  Wouldn't trade that experience for anything in the world.

May 5

1980. ’80’s Are Just Entering The Scenes Now.

Graduated from St. Patrick's High School in May of 1980.  Didn't know if I was going to graduate because I was at a stage of rebellion at that time and I failed my Religion final exam.  I got a 4 grade on a scale of 1-100.  I was reading Steven King novels at the time, smoking weed, and having fun.

Like, going to the Frat House near Delta Drug and Kentucky Fried Chicken on Smith Street in Providence, RI.  Two floors of nightclub fun and open bar from 7pm until 9pm for a whopping $3.00 cover.

My friends and I were young, and broke.  But, we were tenacious.  We rolled up pennies in wrappers to pay our cover. Got Mom to give us a ride to Delta Drug next door and drop us off.  We paid our way in with penny rolls.  Enjoyed open bar for a couple of hours.  Drank for the rest of the night on my brothers and friends.  Always had a ride home.

The '80's were full of those open bars.  Playden cost $5.00 and had open bar and buffet with hanging meats.  Barry's in Warwick cost $5.00, too.  They had a buffet and top shelf liquors.  Black Russians were the drink of choice for me at that time and I am not sure how I ever got home safe.

But, I always got home safe.  I had those brothers and lots of friends that I speak of.  I was taken care of.

HOWEVER, there were some times after we all got home that I would get these calls.
Michael: "Mary, I am in the Cranston police station and I need you to take Mom's car and come and get me.  They won't let me drive because I am drunk".
Me: No Michael.  I'm drunk, too.  I'll call John.
Michael:  Mary, He's locked up, too.  Ya gotta do this for me.
Me:  Ok.  On my way...

2010: I was still happy then.  Although my brother John and my Dad had already passed, I had time to process those deaths and I had learned to carry on with fond memories and stories of each of them.  And I still had other siblings - my closest in age being Michael and Janie - "We Three Of Family B"... We were tight and we were all still alive.  In 2010, I was also happy with my ex-SO (significant other) and we were building a house after spending over a decade of days and nights living together, working together, loving each other and sharing family with each other.  I began planting perennials by plant and by seed.  Leaving a legacy in my wake...

2013: On this day in 2013, life the way I knew it in 2010 had changed drastically. They say that hindsight has 20/20 vision and in hindsight I see the warning signs that should have made me run away from my Ex to a safer haven.  I never could have guessed what I would have to endure for the next few years, but, I never stopped wanting a better life and on this day in 2013, I secured the kind of job that would allow me to flee if need be.

As I said, on this day in 2013, I never could have imagined what I would have to endure for the next few years.

2014: By this date in 2014, my brother Joe was in his final resting place for five full days already.  My Mom's health had been declining for years and my sister Janie had already begun aggressive treatments to try and eradicate the surprise cervical cancer that had been discovered just about a month before.  On this day in 2014, she had no white blood cells and she was worried that I might've been mad at her because of the painful time we shared while she was transfused.

On this day in 2014, my life was already officially dedicated to doing what I could to keep my sister alive. It was a singular focus and the most important responsibility of my life.  And I failed.

2015:  On this day in 2015, Janie had already been gone for one month and five days.  Her death wasn't an April Fools Day joke.

2016:  The signs come in strong from those that are already gone.  Michael is still alive but we are estranged.  That was meant to be.  I was meant to venture out and try to find a new life without having to deal with seeing him die.  There was only so much I could handle.

2017.  Michael died in January of this year.  I kept my head in a computer coding, kept busy with charity work and began taking bullets from a toxic ex significant other.  In 2019, I became a Hazel Nut.

2019:  We're all still learning how to live and work together. There are a lot of people in and out of this house and things are constantly moved or rearranged. I'm not used to that.

If I'm not left with a nightlight to guide my way to the bathroom at night, I have to light up the stair way. And since Hazel's room has been rearranged, she sees my shadow looming down the stairs each time I need the restroom which causes her to call me by name... sometimes relentlessly - all night long.

The lesson here is to keep the bathroom light on with the door ajar. I won't break any bones and Hazel won't know I'm on the first floor. Kind of simple. TY.

2019: If I listed the kitchen staples that I am out of (important things), you can start calling me the "kitchen magician". How many things can you make when ONLY vegetables are delivered. I got crafty today.

Lentil Veggie soup has cauliflower, onions, yellow peppers, garlic, white and sweet potatoes. I only had dried herbs to use (parsley, basil, onion powder) and no stock or bouillon so I stole seasoning from a package of ramen. A quart in the freezer, a quart in the fridge and she devoured a big bowl so I know it was a good choice.

I had potatoes and about 3 dozen boiled eggs (a donation), but, no mayo. So Potato/Egg/Veggie salad with peppers, cucumbers, red onion and tomato. I had no olive oil or enough dressing so I simmered canola oil with all my dry herbs and added some white wine vinegar. It's all I had. I used equal parts of potato, eggs and veggies. It's healthy for sure and she devoured that, too... although she didn't know what she was eating.

THANKFULLY, I bought scallions and had fresh ginger in the freezer so I was able to make a version of my famous chicken and broccoli. I missed having sesame oil on hand, but, I did what I could. Marinated the chicken with garlic, ginger, hot pepper seeds, a little soy (ran out), cornstarch and scallions. Cooked the chicken, removed. Cooked broccoli stems (fiber) with more garlic, ginger and scallions. Added florets and steamed until bright green. Added chicken back and doused with 1/2 flavor packet of Asian ramen and cornstarch slurry. I had a couple taste testers to let me know how that turned out... I didn't need to test it. And the house smells incredible.

The sweet potatoes will be roasted and a big salad will be made with some chicken strips and eggs for protein.  It's nice to have some peace on weekends to accomplish this kind of healthy cooking. It's only 5:15 pm... I'm not done yet.

2019: Those eggs will be deviled now, Hazel.  And you'll have some asparagus and even corned beef (and hash and eggs, maybe) this week, too.  I've got some mighty fine friends that read my crap and have you in their hearts...

I was able to send some lentil soup and chicken and broc in return.. but, NOTHING... and I will reiterate, NOTHING can compare to the thought that went into this delivery.  Sleep well you pretty in pink Queen of the house.  Me and all my friends are in your corner....

2019: Last night I was typing to myself.  This morning I woke to an email with the subject line, "An Ode to Michael".  He was one of a kind, ya know.  I don't know if anyone will ever really know him as much as I did.  I was a lifelong mission for him.

The Kempo Karate post had me thinking...

"My body and mind is on chill tonight.  That's a nice place to be.  January-April is still a rough time for me.  I was trying to find that post that I read that prompted me to find photos of Michael at George Pasare's studio.  I couldn't find it.

But, the person who posted shared a story about learning from the masters in regard to what to do if being attacked by a dog.  He was told to let the dog grab hold of his left arm, even though it would hurt like hell.  It left his right arm open to drive his fingers into the dogs ear and end it all.

This is true and I was mentored in the same way.  Sounds horrendous - especially as a young girl to hear.  But, Michael came home from his years and years of training and taught me so much... a never ending lesson. I never had to use any of it... but, I always thought myself capable.  I made it a point to keep myself (and family and friends) out of trouble so none of those teachings would come to fruition.

The fellow went on to add that it happened to him and it worked out in his favor in a way.  His left arm took a beating (through a leather jacket), but, he scared off the dog and also got in a couple right shots to the dogs snide owner.

That may sound like abuse in this day and age, but, it wasn't.  It was trained self defense. It's the way real men learn how to protect.  Hands, feet and close combat.

One of the most valuable lessons Michael ever taught me was that not all people out there are like my brothers.  They use guns and knives instead of hands and feet.  He told me to run away from any exchange I might see happening.  That was a very valuable lesson that saved me and my friends while out and about during the nightlife scene.

Sometimes I don't know if the stories that I remember so well should be shared.  Other times I know in my heart that they need to be shared."

2020:  Today marks 9 months smoke free.  I've got some allergies going on but, I think I am Covid free.  I feel like this day in 2019 was a million years ago.  Once again I find myself in a position where I am forced to locate my next place to call "home for now" and begin meeting the people who are destined to be in my next chapter.  This pandemic is making things difficult, but, difficult is something I have become used to.

 

May 2

2016. Janie Had My Back All Day Today

My sister had my back all day today. I could tell in everything that was happening and I was talking to her about it. And in talking to her I said, boy oh boy, if triple A sends a woman, I really know you're taking care of me. But, then I added, but I know triple A doesn't have women drivers.
Low and behold - Amelia drives up in the triple A truck. I guess they have three on staff.
Yes, I was blown away. Love my sister!! ❤

April 15

1980. One Of The More Painful Memories Of Mom

Tonight (and last night), I've been sending prayers to a friend who is in the hospital due to unbearable pain.  A gallbladder attack.  It brought back a painful memory of the day I got a call from my Mom as she was leaving work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI.

She wanted me to pick her up from the bus stop.  She wasn't feeling well.  What I saw when I pulled up smack dab in the middle of the city of Providence was not something I was prepared for and it was a sight that I buried until it was prompted by my friends experience.  PTSD always has a way of coming back.

What I saw was what, at the time, I might've referred to as a bagless, alcoholic, homeless woman laying at a bus stop sleeping off a drunk after soiling herself.  And it was my God fearing, reborn Christian, loving Mom of seven children.

How bad do you think I want to bury that judgment?  It was a life lesson.  I am in tears remembering the experiences that have made me wise and empathetic.

Life is not easy....