BC: Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up
FC: MLDI | The Lil Patoot
1: The 3rd floor flat at 97 Broad Street in the city of Albany, New York was the setting for my homecoming from Brady Memorial Hospital. You might be wondering, who might this person be who had this homecoming? Well, my name is Mary Lou Dreis, born November 22, 1952 to Mary and Lou Dreis. Yes, you caught it, my name - they were clever and wanted to name me after both of them, so here I am, Mary Lou. It sure beats Snookie. I hear if I was a boy, I would have been blessed with that honiker. Yikes.
2: Ok, enough about the name. Let's get back to the story. I arrived home with my mom on Thanksgiving Day and my poor dad tried to cook a Thanksgiving Dinner. Since I was their first baby, there were several family members who were anxious to come for a visit that day to catch a glimpse of me. This sure didn't help my dad with the meal. The poor turkey wound up burned and my mom was sick with the flu. Talk about a tough day for my mom and dad. Let me try to describe the neighborhood we lived in. Believe it or not, I remember quite a bit from the 3 years we lived there before moving up to Second Avenue. We lived on the top floor of a 3 story building, each flat more than likely was laid out pretty much the same way. On the second floor, Tom Dowd and his son, Bobby resided and on the garden or street level was a woman by the name of Velma Brown. We would sit outside quite often and visit with each other to catch up on news in each other's lives. One vivid memory I have is looking through the Montgomery Ward catalog and seeing the colored pages of ads. That was a real treat. Directly across the street was Groelz's Grill where many of the men would go
3: and have a beer or two. My dad would meet up with friends there quite a bit. Down the street, there was Albright's Hardware Store (the back door of it), and up the street on the corner was Roos' Plumbing Shop. Next door to where we lived was Hansen's Bakery, where Aunt Betty and Uncle Clarence lived and had their bakery. They had a daughter, Dorothy. The bakery had been my grandfather's before Uncle Clarence took it over. It had been called John Dreis Bakery. I have a small publication from our church quite a long time ago that had an ad in it for my grandfather's bakery. It was a good feeling seeing it in there. Down the street a little further was my dad's sister's house. We called her Granny because by the time I was born, both my grandmothers had died and my dad named her that. Her name was actually Anna Florence and she was married to John Markert. Their kids were my first cousins. They had Jackie who died when he was about 13 from leukemia, Leo came next. He is now Father Leo. Edna came next, who married Ray Ryan and they had 3 kids. Danny, John and Kathy. Joni married and divorced Keith Whipple and they had 3 girls, Shelly, Teri and Debbie.
4: These pictures were taken on Broad St. My dad is on the left and I'm with my mom on the right. | This was my first birthday celebration. We were still living on Broad Street.
5: As I mentioned a little earlier, sitting on the front steps was something everyone liked to do, especially in the summer On the hot summer nights, that top floor could get pretty warm.. Of course everyone liked to sit on the front steps at night and catch the breeze if there was one. You can bet I will join them, there is no way I am going to miss out on listening in on some grownup talk. Plus, I told them I was lonely up there all alone. I should mention that when my mom married my dad, he was a baker. He was working for the National Biscuit Company and then was drafted into World War II. During the war, there must have been some serious thinking going on in my dad's mind, because when he came out of the service, instead of going back to being a baker, he wanted to be a funeral director. He went to Simmons Mortuary School of Embalming in Syracuse and graduated. He apprenticed with Hearley Funeral Home and after a while he must have felt ready for his own place. This is when we moved up to Second Avenue to a two story house with identical flats. We lived over the funeral home. This business, "Louis T. Dreis Funeral Home". was what my dad built from nothing and it grew from the loyalty of friendships he formed over the years. It's very difficult to start this type of business, most families have a traditional funeral director who has served their family through generations and they are unwilling to change during times of grief. The early years were quite lean and business was unreliable at best.
6: Aunt Peg and Uncle Joe were very good to me growing up. | Aunt Rose | Aunt Ann
7: Uncle Joe's birthday Christmas | Aunt Sarah | Aunt Peg
8: Home Sweet Funeral Home | This is Second Avenue - the neighborhood I grew up in. The church and school were within walking distance to home. | The neighborhood on Second Avenue saw Schultz's Grill directly across the street from us. It was a favorite spot for my dad to stop for a few beers after running errands before coming home at some point. Next door to us was Tashjian's dry cleaners and on the other side of us were our neighbors, Gert and Harry Reed who lived downstairs and Charlie Hollner, who lived upstairs. Diagonally across the street, was Mundt's Meat Market. Mr. and Mrs. Mundt didn't have any kids and every once in a while would take us out for a treat. I remember going with my dad to get our meat and Mr. Mundt would grind up some fresh beef and give us some samples rolled up in a ball with some salt on it. No worries about catching any ecoli bacteria back then.
10: I I am | As an eighth grader leading the first communicants With Aunt Maine and my Franciscan sister doll.
11: With my cousin Joni | In my crib on Broad Street | With my Uncle Joe
12: Those days we knew just about all our neighbors and we would look out for one another, especially if we knew they were going to be gone for a few days or if they were sick. We would also sit outside on Second Avenue too. I remember my mom and Gert waiting for the Freihofer truck to come by with his delicious desserts and breads and breakfast foods. We would get to pick what we wanted to have for dessert that night. Of course, that depended on whether we ate what was on our plate for dinner. It was a struggle for me if it included cooked carrots, especially my mother's stew. Very often, I would wind up without getting something else to eat until tomorrow morning's breakfast. One tradition the German people abided by was setting the table for breakfast right after dinner was over. My friends still comment to me about seeing this. Sometimes during the summer months, my dad would prepare a clamsteam with Gert and Harry next door. We would open the wire fence up between the two back yards and my dad would wrap a half chicken with a sausage link and a baked potato and the steamers. Melt some butter and yummy, they were good.
13: My dad's rosebushes were also a source of pride. When they were in bloom, we would bring a bouquet to school to give to the teacher. Oh how he could grow roses and tomatoes. At one point, I tried to become a small business owner. I gathered quite a few of our friends together and my dad had business in the funeral home, so I thought, why not? I could profit from this. How about a quarter a piece? I made out pretty good charging a quarter to each friend to come and see our "visitors" inside. This was great until one of my friends went home and told on me. The parents immediately called my dad and let's just say, the money went back to the owner, and I never, ever did that again. I thought I was pretty clever not being very old at the time. I don't think my parents agreed with me at the time. In fact, the parents of the one who called my dad came to my dad's wake and when passing through the line, inquired which one of us was the one who charged the money to view the "visitors". Guess I made an impression.
14: Growing up in a funeral home is a one of a kind upbringing. One you can't replicate or do justice by describing it. I'll give it a shot, though. We lived in the flat above the funeral home. It was the same layout both up and down. My bedroom was in the back of the house off the kitchen which was over the embalming room. There would be activity in there at all hours of the day and night in the early days. After my dad's business became established, he didn't use the embalming room as such. The funeral home was not the size of those of today. My dad could only handle a couple of "clients" at a time and, considering the nature of the business, and the unreliability of when someone would die, we would sometimes get more than the funeral home
15: could physically handle. That's when our living quarter's would come into play.We would have to accommodate a wake up in our living room and we would be secluded in one of the bedrooms for the evening. We would sit on the bed and play card games or a board game for the evening until the wake would be over and then we would be able to go in to the living room and watch TV with our "company". We didn't think too much of it, but looking back, it was a bit unusual and set us apart from the other kids. I used to like going down to the cellar - it had a brick floor. I would pretend I was a teacher. There was a blackboard down there and it would keep me occupied for a long time, until I would get scared if I heard some noises and I'd run upstairs as fast as I could. Hehehe.
16: Here I am holding Kristen | Out with childhood friends Joanne and Rosie Grieco | In Florida at Lucy Ball's Tribute. She was soo funny.
17: I was about 50 in this picture.
18: On Sundays, we would go out to dinner to a restaurant and then a country side ride following that. We would check out the cows to see if they were standing or laying down after that. Supposedly, if they were standing, it was going to rain. My dad never knew where we were going, he would say, "we have to come out somewhere". That we did. Sometimes, we had quite a long way home, but we did always make it home. Our neighborhood friends included: the Grieco's - Mary, Joanne, Rosie, sometimes Joe would join; Janet Lyman, Debbie Ludwig, Kathy Werner - she had a shed in her back yard which we liked to use for a clubhouse. That was pretty cool.We also liked to travel up to Kelly's Hill and down to Krank Park to watch the Little League play We would sleigh ride down the hill behind Grandview Terrace and land behind Grieco's house. I remember once landing right into a tree head on. We weren't too bright when it to choosing sites to sleigh ride. There were numerous trees on this hill!!
19: Our vacations consisted of Atlantic City road trips for a week to the Shoreham Hotel. We would walk to the public beach and enjoy the ocean and walk the boardwalk. I can still smell the baby oil and iodine and the feel of the sand sticking to your skin are stuck in the archives of my memory. I once got lost on the boardwalk when I didn't turn into a store with the rest of the group. I turned around and no one was there. What a scary feeling. I had no idea what store I lost them at. What an experience, an elderly Jewish gentleman sat me down on a bench and calmed me down, keeping me in one place until I was found. I also remember Diving Horse at the Steel Pier. They would guide this horse up a platform to a diving board. The tension was high. This was the Grand Finale of the evening as the horse jumped into the large tub of water. There was Mr. Peanut and the demonstrations of throwing everything into a blender but the kitchen sink and whirr it around until it made some sort of a "yummy" drink. We watched fudge get made. and from behind us on the boardwalk we'd hear, "watch the cart, please. Watch the cart." Early mornings we would rent bicycles to ride on the boardwalk before the crows arrived. We would pedal for an hour or more and work up an appetite for breakfast.
20: 1966 brought some big changes my way since I started high school. What a whole new world. Homeroom on that first day of school was filled with strangers. Coming from a small school, there wasn't a familiar face . We were seated in alphabetical order. Since my last name at the time was Dreis, this put me in the "D" aisle. There was a girl sitting in front of me who didn't have other students hanging around her, so I made the move and tapped her on her shoulder. I asked her what her name was and told her mine. I figured this is the only way I'll meet anyone is by extending myself. That tap changed my life. I met Ethel Downey that day. She started out to be a friend, then my best friend and now, as we are both celebrating our 60th year of life, we are now soul sisters. She has been there for me through thick and thin. Unconditional love is given from both sides. A true gift indeed. This is something that doesn't just happen, but builds over time. | Ethel and myself at Lake George on vacation at Canoe Island Lodge 1967
21: I was asked to the CBA Military Ball by Jim Ray. There was never anything serious between us. It was more of a convenience thing. If there was an event that came up, we asked each other to their dance. He is now a very successful lawyer in Virginia with his own practice. | Imagine turning 16 in a funeral home. Even better, imagine having a "Sweet 16" party in the funeral home. We had a mixed group of guys and girls, plus they were a curious bunch too. It didn't help that my dad had "Guests" in downstairs. I had chosen a few games to play along with some of my favorite games. We tried closing off the back room with crepe paper Easier said than done because the guys were really curious.
22: Junior Year of high school I met a special guy at a VI school dance. We hit it off right away and became BF/GF. His name was Gerry Clough and he went to VI and our families got along really well. So well, that we went on vacation together. Gerry was having physical problems which I didn't know right away. In fact, he wasn't told what his diagnosis was either because I don't think his parents knew how. He had multiple sclerosis. Gerry took me to my prom and we doubled with Ethel and Bob. Of course, we had to walk through a wake going out the front door. Did you expect anything less than that? Gerry was such a gentleman. He made sure he pulled my chair out for me at the table we were sitting at alongside the dance floor. Too bad I was unaware he was so courteous!! I sat down without the chair behind me and landed on the dance floor with my flowers in my lap. It was quite the site. Ethel tells me I pulled it off well. It's a good thin g I enjoyed my junior prom because I missed my senior prom when Gerry was in the hospital.
23: There were episodes he would need to be admitted into the hospital for treatment. There wasn't the knowledge about the disease then that there is now. The medications were very limited. Gerry and I were together a few years when we got engaged - | For a while we really enjoyed making the wedding plans. We even discussed converting the basement of Gerry's house into our living quarters. We had our china, silverware, my diamond. The more plans we made, the more pressure my parents put on me to break it off. They were so worried about my future and the lack of it. After a while, I could see they were right. I didn't know how I was going to handle breaking it off. Gerry didn't have much other than what we did when I came over work. I still remember the day I went.
24: He was in his bedroom. I went in to see him and tried to be as gentle as I could. How can you be gentle enough not to hurt someone when breaking off an engagement? Especially under our circumstances. I tried to tell him how I felt and that it had nothing to do with that. I remember just saying something that sounded so selfish at the time. It broke my heart. He never said a word to me. Never even looked at me. I tried to get a reaction. Tried to get him to yell at me. He ignored me. I finally left after taking off my ring. Later on, I heard he went and turned all my pictures face down. Like he couldn't look at me or acknowledge my existence. That has to go on the list for one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. It took a long time for me to recover after having broken ties with Gerry. I felt so guilty for having let the relationship go so far. I really hoped he would get better. I had gotten so bad that we were spending more time in the hospital than out. Hope eventually was using a wheelchair and his parents installed an elevator so Gerry could visit the basement and have his own space. Years later, on Christmas Day 1984, when I heard the news that Gerry passed away, I was so sad, but at the same time, relieved that his struggle was over. I did love Gerry and he was a wonderful young man whose purpose on this earth is a mystery to me. He did teach me patience, love and compassion for the handicapped at an early age. I have always had a special place in my heart for those with difficulty in walking.
25: After breaking off with Gerry, it took a long time before I felt social again. I wrote to Ethel because I needed my friend in my life. We had lost touch with each other. She was dating Bob Frost and she tried setting me up with dates to help take my mind off feeling down in the dumps. One of those dates turned out to be Ken Malette. He is Bob's cousin. They set us up and we were married a year and a half later and we had two great kids: Kris and Matt. | Kristen was about 4 months here. | Here I am with Matt.
26: Ken and I had a good life. We built our first home in Cohoes in Glen Meadows. After living there for 10 years and the need for work, Ken found a job with John MacDougall and Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes in Canastota, New York. We bought a house in Chittenango and lived there about 4 years. We decided to buy our own delimart and I learned what it was like to transform from office life to kitchen work. It was quite the education!! I met a lot of good people and we kept the store for over 15 years before selling it and moving back to the Albany area to be with the mothers. Our dads had passed away while we were in Syracuse and we didn't want that to happen to our moms also. Kristen had developed into a fine young lady and enjoyed music and math. She worked in the deli and helped Ken tremendously as his right hand in running the money end of it when he wanted time off. She graduated with an accounting degree from LeMoyne College. Matt took an interest in reptile life and became a wildlife educator. We had 20 something turtles at the house and an alligator named Sid. Matt is very talented in Art and photography and works for Time Warner, Your News Now as Senior Graphic Designer. Both Kris and Matt are now married with kids of their own and I'm very proud of both of them.
28: Cohoes was where both kids were born and we made many wonderful friends in the neighborhood. Everyone was starting out just like we were and many of the babies were close in age. It was a time in life where we didn't have much money, but we had family and friends who was there no matter what. When I gave birth to Kristen, Ken and I both decided I would be a stay at home mom and give our kids the kind of upbringing both of us wanted them to have. I have no regrets as far as the time spent with Kris and Matt. I think they are terrific adults and parents.
29: Pregnancy for Matt was another story. It's a miracle he was born without any problems. Four surgeries is nothing to sneeze at considering I had painkiller medications for each one. It began with appendicitis and followed with obstructions. I was very grateful and Matt is certainly a talented and creative individual. Six years later, we almost lost him again to epiglottis. He spent about 4 or 5 days in the pediatric intensive care with a tracheotomy. This was right around the same time as the Challenger Explosion. What an indelible memory I have etched forever in my mind. Again, I am very grateful. We moved to Syracuse because Ken found work with Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes. Eventually, we opened our own deli in Syracuse until returning back to Albany in 2002.
32: November 26, 2o11 my life changed. I married Mark Ives. After 30 years of marriage, Ken and I ended our marriage, but remain on good terms. Mark is a wonderful man who is very well suited to me. We have many of the same habits and we are very grateful to have found each other at this point in our lives. Mark's family has been very loving and accepting to me from the first day I met them. I love them as my own. On this next pages, are friend and family who are part of my life in the present and who I love and admire. My dad is in heaven, who I loved with the heart of a proud daughter. I have a couple of entries that speak about what I feel about life and family that will complete my story.
33: I Want to Tell You What It Means to be Your Mother Being your mother means I've had the opportunity to experience loving more than myself. I have learned what it's like to experience joy and pain through someone else's life. It has brought me pride and joy: your accomplishments touch me and thrill me like no one else's can. It has brought me a few tears and heartaches at times, but it has taught me hope and patience. It has shown me the depth, strength and power of love. Being your mother hasn't always been easy and I'm sure I've done and said things that have hurt or confused you. But no one has ever made me as satisfied just by living up to your responsibilities. No one's smile has ever warmed my heart like yours does; no one's laughter fills my heart with delight as quickly as yours can; no one's hugs feel as sweet and no one's dreams mean as much to me as yours do. No other memories of bad times have miraculously turned into important lessons or humorous stories. The good times have become precious treasures to relive over and over again. You are a part of me and no matter what happened in the past or what the future holds, you are someone I will always accept, forgive, appreciate, adore and love unconditionally. Being your mother means I have given you one of life's greatest gifts: YOU
36: The Dash By Linda Ellis I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning ... to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the following date with tears. But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents the time that she spent alive on earth and now only those who love her know what that little line is worth. For it matters not, how much we own, the cars...the house...the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. So think about this long and hard; are there things you'd like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged. If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel. And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we never loved before. If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile...remembering that this special dash might only last a little while. So when your eulogy is read with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?
37: A Simple Day To wake up in the morning, knowing you're still alive, To know you have a choice each day, starting afresh. To find joy in everyday, acknowledging simple pleasures. To live in the present moment, engaging your awareness. To count the blessings in life, believing abundance abounds. To enjoy the work you do, following your passion. To make a little difference, adding to the universe. To be what you are, listening to your inner being. To give away love, rejoicing in the chance to give. To receive love with gratitude, feeling about it. To smile at strangers, seeing how infectious it can be. To speak words of kindness, spreading a little warmth. To understand words compassion, opening up your mind. To play with children, nurturing your inner child.ur lungs. To appreciate the nature, soaking up all the money To feel the warmth of the sun, glowing upon your skin. To listen to the falling rain, pattering at the grounds. To taste the richness of food.sliding down your throat To smell the freshness of air, filling up yor lungs. To see the falling night, concluding a .well-lived day. That's life, that's living. That's the core of what really matters... And if I've missed anything Let Love make up for it all.