Most of us want to be better, but we're not sure where to begin. Well, this year you have Chris Duffie to help you tune in to Ted's new weekly podcast to hear from guests and past speakers who might just make you a better human, how to be a better human, your guide to becoming a little less terrible. Listen now on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
From PUREX, this is the Moth Radio Hour. I'm Sarah Austin. Janez, in this episode, facing the next step, stories of moving forward. I've always appreciated that H.G. Wells, quote, adapt or perish now, as ever is nature's inexorable imperative. Basically, you must change. We cannot go back. We can only move forward.
And in the journey through the mark, maybe you'll find a story.
We start with a woman who's mourning her youth. And just to note, it's a very funny story about the downward travel of parts of her own body. Elizabeth Gray shared this at an Open Mike story slam in Melbourne, Australia, where we partner with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC R.M.. Here's Elizabeth live at the mark. So this story begins six years ago when I was 38 years old, and it was a beautiful morning because Nana had stayed over, which meant that I'd go to sleep in.
So because I was well rested, actually wanted to spend time with my children.
And so I thought what I would do is I would go out while they're sitting at the kitchen table and I'd jump up and I got Ras.
So get out of bed, put a dressing gown uninterrupted on nice and tight, creped out to the dining table, and I looked in the air and as I leapt in the air, my breasts.
Which were joyous and free of any constraints left with me, and then when I landed, they landed a second behind and they made this enormous clap sound as they hit my torso and my kids didn't seem to notice.
And if Nana noticed, she didn't say anything.
But I kind of crept back to the bedroom and I sat down in shock as the sound just kind of echoed around my brain because this thunderous clap was the death knell of my youth.
And for the first time in my life, I actually thought maybe I should get some plastic surgery, maybe I should get a breast reduction, and over the years, age and gravity had, you know, affected my breasts.
And not only that, but had been 15 years of fluctuating weight. And I breastfed two children.
And in addition to that, my left breast is actually two sizes larger than my right. So when I'm naked, kind of look a bit like a Picasso painting.
But I worked out that if I stand with my left arm straight up.
In my right, 90 degrees away from my body to the right, everything evens out and takes 10 years off my breasts, but it's a little bit hard to feel sexy when you look like you're doing some kind of kinky semaphore thing going on.
So being a good vego, I made a list of pros and cons and the pros were, you know, better self-image or confidence and being able to buy an old sports bra as opposed to a sports bra, which is designed by NASA and cost about 150 dollars.
But there are quite a lot of cons, quite a lot more cons. And some of those where I'm terrible with pain, I'm a terrible patient.
I don't have a big disposable income and I have a quite an addictive personality.
So I was sort of looking a couple of years into the future thinking that I would look, you know, great, nice and shiny in plastic, but be completely destitute, sort of like, I don't know, dumpster diving.
Bobby, complete with her own shopping trolley.
So I thought, I'll talk to my husband about it, see if he can help me with the decision. Now, my husband loves my breasts and he loves my body.
And the only negative thing he said about my body is that there's too many clothes covering it, so.
I sat down and I said, honey, I think I want to get a breast reduction. And he was quiet for a moment and he said, you know, I love you just the way you are. But if this is really important to you, then I will support you 100 percent.
Yeah, and I thought, you know, and even though I wasn't any closer to a decision, I felt better about everything and I went away and made us a cup of tea. And I came back to find in the bedroom weeping quietly into one of my World Cup bras.
So anyway, for the next three years, I kind of isolated, you know, between, you know, should I get it done? Should I get surgery? Should I not now, sort of like on the one hand, it was like, I will not succumb to, you know, this this cult of youth. And then on the other side, I was like, but think of all the gorgeous bras we could wear.
And then one day my whole life just went to crap. I wrote off my car. My husband was involved in a terrible workplace accident. And this trip to Canada that we'd been planning for ages was at risk of being canceled. And then I found a lump in my right breast.
And so I went to the doctor who referred me to a specialist and and then she wanted me to get some tests and a mammogram, so I had my mammogram done by this little Scottish grand lady.
And if you've never had a mammogram before, what you do is you put your breast on a sort of square plate and you snuggle up to this machine, which is something like kind of doctor who, and then they lower a perspex plate down onto your breast and they keep lowering it until you there's tears in your eyes and your breast is as flat as a pancake.
So what went down onto the left one? Get it up onto the plate and she goes, oh, goodness me, I'll have to get the bigger plate up for that one.
And if that wasn't bad enough, you know, she changed the plates rest on the plate. Oh, that's right underneath your own pit, doesn't it? Lovely. I'll just pull that around for you, shall I? And right there.
And I just wanted the ground open up and swallow me whole. But after about eight weeks of getting, you know, prodded and poked and humiliated and squashed, I finally got my results and the results were negative, which were amazing. And I got out of the specialist.
I just cried and I cried and I cried.
And it's true that you don't realize how much you love something until there's a risk that it's going to be taken away.
So I realized that day that I actually love my breasts and all that, you know, saggy, lumpy, uneven glory.
And God willing, we're going to bite my breasts. I going to age disgracefully right to the end.
Elizabeth Gray lives with her husband, two sons and two cats and has just taken up micro macrame as her new isolation hobby. Elizabeth works for a small women's health organization, and she actually shared a written copy of this story with her team. She says her favorite response was from a colleague who read the story, strode up to Elizabeth's desk and announced that she had decided to stop dyeing her hair and let her silver shine through. Elizabeth's story, convinced her to be brave and embrace the gray.
We met our next storyteller, Najma of Ashiya at the Moth Teacher Institute. Every year, The Moth hosts a week of storytelling workshops for fifth to 12th grade educators from around the country, and they share best practices for using personal stories in the classroom. Nima has been a civics teacher in Boston for years, and she applied for this math opportunity to join her writing life and her teaching life and to inspire her students to tell their own stories at the end of the week long workshop.
We record the stories from these educators. So live from the Math Teacher Institute, here's Nima Elbagir.
So last November, on a Friday, two of my former students, Chris and Naomi, came back to visit. And in general, that's not weird. Kids kind of know Fridays or open office hours. Come back, check in with Mr. Bashir. But this Friday was different. They weren't just coming back to chit chat or do homework. They were coming back to grieve.
And I didn't really know how I was going to do that with them. And that was weird for me because I'm a civics teacher. And that means I spend my whole year teaching kids about their rights and how government works and how to be an engaged citizen. And they kind of see me as this like demystify. And so even after they graduate, I get texts. I just got stopped by the cops.
What do I need to do? Or my mom's trying to go get her citizenship. What should I do? That's kind of our relationship and I'm used to knowing the answers or if I don't know the answer, I know how to get it. But earlier in that week, we had all discover that their former classmate and my former student Angel had been killed in gun violence in our neighborhood.
And the angel was this goofy, funny kid. He loved everybody in his class. He made funny faces and told corny jokes. He became a fruitcake the day before Christmas, which makes fruitcakes anymore.
You know, he was not that you ever think any kid is going to end up in that situation, but it just would have never occurred to me that that was going to be the situation. And we were all reeling.
And he was the fourth former student who had died for me in a year.
And so they were coming back. And I felt this pressure of like I'm supposed to take them through this, but like, I'm not through this.
Like, I don't know how to do this. For the first hour, it didn't matter. They were sobbing and my shirt was soaked and like that's what we did for about an hour. But they're also adolescent boys and humor is kind of their go to cope. And so after about an hour, it kind of went from crying to telling stories and then to telling funny stories. And they started to tell me about how at the end of their eighth grade year, they had this plot to spray paint the principal's car.
This particular principal only lasted a year.
He was kind of a dictator. He liked to pick fights. He would suspend kids for wearing a hood. Kids didn't like him. Teachers didn't like him, and they wanted revenge. So Angel decided to go buy some spray paint.
But he bought black spray paint and the principal's car was black. So this is not going to work. And enemy at that point in this story and I didn't know the story until then, opens his bag and he pulls out the can of spray paint. And he's like, I've been carrying this around all week. Like, I don't know what to do.
And I say, I think I know what we should do. I think we need to go tag something and you should know that I'm not just a civics teacher during the day.
I'm kind of like a civics geek at night.
Like in Boston, we have an app called Boss three one one where you can report things like there's a downed tree, come fix it or there's a dance girl on the road, come remove. And I am obsessed with this app and I report things all the time. And I read other people's reports. And, you know, like kids know this about me. They know I don't drive more than five miles above the speed limit. I've never used any kind of controlled substance or any controlled substance.
I just I'm pretty square. They know this. And so Chris, who's generally very quiet, it's like what you're you're suggesting that we go do something illegal right now? He was like, I don't think I understand you're a civics teacher.
You're not supposed to do this. What they didn't know is that for the previous eight months, I had been trying to meet with city leaders, with the superintendent, with street workers, with anyone I could get to listen to the fact that in Boston last year, 16 young people under the age of 19 were killed.
It was a massive spike. More than a quarter of the homicides in the city were kids, and of that, four were mine. And I was doing all of this advocacy and I wasn't doing anything. And it also wasn't helping me.
I didn't come away feeling better.
And then there was this spray can and I was like, well, nothing else has worked out.
Being a civics teacher and using those strategies hasn't accomplished anything.
So here's a breakdown and maybe we should use it. So we it was dark.
We'd been talking for several hours. We went behind the school and there was like a concrete jersey barrier that the cops had put out to prevent people from doing illicit things behind the school.
We were about to do an illicit thing and we basically took turns tagging the barrier. And in Boston, I don't know if this is true. In other places, when young people are killed, their friends in the community create a hashtag.
So we tagged hashtag Angell's world on the barrier and we put our flashlights out on our phones and we kind of lit it up and we got a broken desk and we've turned it into a tripod and we took pictures of ourselves.
And Chris was like, Angel would fucking love this. And he was like, Oh, sorry, I forgot that you were my teacher for a second. And I said, no, you're totally right. You know what? I fucking love this.
And in that moment, that, like, hierarchy between teacher and student, it just kind of flattened. Right.
And you were just mourning and we were trying to figure out how to connect with Angel and how to connect with each other.
So we took our pictures, some with me in them, some without me in them. And as we walked to my car so I could drive them home, I said, you better not post pictures with me in them on the Internet.
That shit could get me fired because at the end of the day, I'm still their civics teacher. Thank you.
That was Nima Elbagir. Nima has worked as a civics teacher in the Boston public schools for more than 17 years, and when she's not teaching, she writes personal essays, makes tons of pickles and salsa, and spends time with her partner, Laura, who is also a middle school teacher. Angell's graffiti is still up. And when his younger cousin was a student at Nemov school, she says sometimes at dismissal they'd walk over together to pay the graffiti a visit and share a memory of Angel.
During the pandemic, Neema thought that school closures offered some freedom from the teacher student hierarchy.
On Zoome calls with students, they saw each other's homes, families and bad haircuts, and everyone was much more honest about the support they needed, she says.
Flattening the teacher student hierarchy was actually one of the most powerful shifts in education that happened during the pandemic.
To see a photo of Angel and his classmates with Nima go to the morgue after a break.
Two stories we're moving on requires a little help from a friend when the Moth Radio Hour continues. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S. This is the Moth Radio Hour from PUREX. I'm Sarah Austin Ginés. The stories in this hour are about turning the page and moving on. And sometimes to do that you need a nudge or an energetic push from another person. This next story from Maxey Jones takes place when he's a teenager right after his mother dies.
Maxcy told this story at an open mic slam in Detroit, where we partner with public radio station WDTN.
Here's Maxcy live at the moment. In February of 1978. I started the second semester of the 10th grade, that was on February 1st.
On February 2nd, which would have been my second day of my second semester of the 10th grade when I woke up to go to school, my mother didn't wake up that morning. Now, that following week, I miss school, of course, while we laid my mother to rest and when I came back to school about a week or two later.
It was quite different for me. I remember that when I came back to school, I really didn't care much to be there at all. And it was a new semester and my teachers didn't really know me very well. I had this one English teacher whose name is Mr. Golberg, and Mr. Goldberg would ask the class a question and he would call on people.
And when he called on me, he would say, Maxcy, do you know the answer? And he pretty much like, wake me up from wherever my mind would be. And and I would say, what?
Excuse me, what was that? And he would ask me the question again, and I would always have the correct answer.
So one day he asked me to meet him after class and I met him after class. And he said he said, I don't understand what's going on. He said, you always seem lost. You always someplace else during the class. But you know all the answers you got all you did all your homework. And, you know, I just kind of explain to him what was going on. And I and I told him that, you know, the reason I came to school every day was because my mother made me come to school and now my mom is not here to make me come to school that I don't really feel.
They need to be here anymore, so he said, well, he said, well, just do me a favor. He said, listen, you know, a teacher teaches aide. Well, there are eight periods in a day. A teacher teaches five periods in a day, and there are three prep periods. Usually the teacher will use one of those prep periods for lunch and his other prep period. Mr Goldberg said, I want you to meet me in my office sixth period.
And so I met him in the office, sixth period just to talk. And then he said, Meet me tomorrow, sixth period. And this went on and on every single day.
He had me meet him sixth period during his prep period, and I would help him grade papers and we would talk and we would do whatever. When open school night came, I didn't have anyone to come with me. My mother always came with me to open school night when open school night came. My sister, who had just graduated from that same school, came with me to open school night and my social studies teacher wouldn't talk to her. He said, I know who you are.
You just graduated from the school. So he thought we was trying to play some kind of game or something. So when a teacher wouldn't talk to her, Mr. Goldberg was standing outside the room. He came in, he said, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Talk to her. And he said, I'll explain later. So the teacher talked to my sister and told her about how I was doing the school and so on. And then Mr.
Goldberg, what he did after that was he went around to all my classes and talked to all my teachers and told them what was going on. And he told them all. He said, if you have any issue with Maxey Jones, come to me. And so that's what he did. And so it went that way for the whole semester. Every day. I met him at six period.
And and he he checked all my classes and all that stuff will end up happening. Was that the next year when I was a junior, he did the same thing. He had me meet him every single day. And we talked and he talked to all my teachers about whatever was going on with me. And he kind of let them know, listen, if you got any problem with Maxey Jones, come and talk to me. And and I didn't really realize that.
By the time I graduated from high school, I never missed a single day of school and. And. High school graduation. Mr. Goldberg was there and I asked him, I said, hey, Mr. Goldberg, how are you doing? He said he said it feels funny. He said, I don't come to graduation. And I said, why?
He said, Because because I teach seniors. And he said, no. He said, because I teach 10th graders. And he said, I don't teach seniors. I never come to the graduation. So I said, well, why are you here?
And he said. Because I wouldn't miss seeing you graduate for anything in the world. And I didn't realize then what he had done, it took me years before I finally realized that I graduated from high school with honors and I was in the top 85 percent of my class. I had a regional scholarship and a full ride to college and all that stuff. The truth is, I was really always academically capable of that.
But it's one of those situations where all I really needed to do was to show up for it and.
At 15 years old, having lost my mother, not really seeing the value of education, I was really in line to be a statistic, a high school dropout, and who knows what would have. Came of it, but the thing is. I showed up to school every single day and I realized that the reason I showed up was there was somebody there who was expecting to see me, and that was Mr. Gober. Thank you very much.
That was Maxey Jones Maxcy lives in Michigan, right outside of Detroit. He says storytelling has actually become his favorite pastime and that during the pandemic, he's missing them off stage tremendously. The quarantine was put in place right after he told his 99 story with The Moth. Maxcy graduated from high school more than 40 years ago, and Mr. Goldberg has never been more than a phone call away. To see a photo of the lovely message that Mr. Goldberg wrote in Maxi's high school yearbook, go to the morgue.
Next up, a story from Jennifer Birmingham from one of our New York stories, Lands, where we partner with public radio station WNYC.
Here's Jennifer live at the moment.
OK, so I was married twice in rapid succession six weeks after my husband moved out. I looked up an old boyfriend and we immediately started dating. And a couple of years after that, we were married. And I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to marry the recycled rebound guy.
But I did. And because I didn't want to fail again, and more importantly, because I had a baby boy with my second husband, I stayed longer than I should. I say to the lies and the affairs and him losing his job and refusing to ever get another one. And I stayed through two years of marriage counseling, and that's when I thought I couldn't take another day.
Our counselor asked for a solo session and she asked me to come in and she said, hey, I can I can see you're pretty ready for a divorce and but I'm not sure you are. You need to be able to accept three things before you really are ready. And here they are. One, you may lose your child.
She said in your case, it would probably only be 50 percent, but you have to be ready to give him up to you are the money spouse, so you better be ready to pay child support for someone to take your child from you. And three, you may never find love again.
Yeah, these are really stark things to hear, but they're real. I mean, divorce is messy and you honestly don't know what's going to happen. And I wasn't ready to move forward with those three things. So I went back to the marriage for a couple more years and until it was completely untenable and I was willing to pay pretty much any price to get out.
And so I got out and happily I got 100 percent custody of my son.
And and because of that, taking out a second job to pay child support was a moot point. And but the question of whether I was going to find love again, I decided to let that linger.
I did not want another rebound relationship. And so I declared a six month sabbatical from dating and I did. And at the end of six months, I declared another 12 month sabbatical from dating.
And to make sure I lived up to that commitment, I decided to get orthodontics, not the subtle Invisalign that most sane adults signed up for.
I got braces because I knew for me there was no better reminder that I wasn't ready to date then having then having sharp metal objects cemented to my teeth and it worked. I set out a full 18 months, but, you know, eventually life calls me back and I just said I had to try to get back out there.
And I signed up for all the usual suspects. And I found myself on my first first date in a really long time. And he was a great first date. He was perfectly benign. He was absolutely not my type, but terrifically nice. And we had drinks and we had dinner and I was like, who did it? Now I can go back into hiding. And we walked outside and I hailed a cab. And just as the cab pulled up, the guy leaned in and kissed me.
And this kind of undid me because I wasn't ready and I wasn't really sure I wanted to go back out there. And I I jumped into the cab and I pleaded with the driver to drive as I drive, drive, drive, drive.
But he didn't move. He just sat there chuckling in the front seat. And he told me that he had witnessed the kiss and it looked really good.
And I I stuck my head in that little window between the driver and the passenger. And I was like, no, it was not good. It was terrible. It was awkward.
And this is my first first date in fifteen years.
And it was just it's too much.
And my driver introduced himself as Pablo and tell me that he himself has been on a sabbatical from dating, and yet he had a lot of dating advice to dispense and oh, he dispensed and Pablo told me all his theories on dating as he drove me home from the Upper West Side to Harlem.
And then when we got to my building, he pulled over and he turned off the meter and we talked for another 45 minutes. We did all the while holding hands between that little window.
And I you know, I wish I could tell you this is the night. That I fell in love with Pablo, the wise man, Pablo, the wise man of the New York City taxi plate. It wasn't, but it really did feel like it was that the universe had put Pablo in my path to tell me a few things that made it easier to move forward. After I got out of the cab, I ran upstairs and I wrote down as much as I could and three, the things I memorized to heart and I carry them with me.
There are three things that are a lot easier to take. One, Pablo, tell me, don't ever judge a date by the first kiss. Good ones will turn bad, bad ones will turn good.
Only time will tell to. The only thing that matters is that two people can really talk. Everything else can get worked out. And three, at any given moment, God is going to smite you off the face of this earth. He said, Pablo said to get out there, life is short. Get out there, full tilt.
That was Jennifer Birmingham. Jennifer lives in New York City and his mom to Nikki Haley, Aiden and Miles, she just so happens to be the managing director of programs at The Moth. We do not insist that our staff get up on stage, but Jennifer throws her name in the hat at our story, slams once a year to remember how much courage it takes to share a story with a room full of strangers.
I asked for her dating and love updates and she said, I did find love again, it was temporary, but it put to rest any lingering fear I had that the therapist may have been right about that never happening again. These days, I'm running full tilt at other loves, my kids, my work and hobbies like photography, writing and traveling. My hope is that in pursuing one of these passions, I'll meet the love of my life. To see photos of Jennifer and her three children go to the morgue.
In some cases, the simple act of crafting and telling a story is a way to move forward in non pandemic times. The Moth produces over 600 events each year and the stories are all told by people like you. Yes, you.
Do you have any stories of moving on or really any personal story that matters to you? We'd love to hear it. You can record your pitch right on our site or call 877 79 MOTHE. That's 877 799 six six eight for the best. Pitches are developed for math shows all around the world.
I was a mama's boy, but I was in kindergarten. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought for five years. And when I was in fifth grade. And I was there holding her hand when it happened the next day, they took me away to a friend's house and they took her away to overnight. Her room was transformed and there wasn't much left besides the spot I had painted for Mother's Day and the note that she had written the day I was baptized after her funeral, we never really talked much about her.
But when I met her at the snow. It talks about how she knew I would grow up to be kind and strong and do the right things, but eventually my dad remarried and we didn't talk about mom in front of dad because he never wanted to talk about her. But we really felt like we couldn't talk and to talk about her in front of Susan or Stepmom. So life went on. My brother moved out and I eventually went to college and Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I really didn't understand life on those sad days. I get to have that piece of paper and I would read that I was going to be kind and strong in that paper. I believed it. I, I believed her and I missed her. And over the years, I had fallen out of touch with my mom's family and they thought my dad had remarried too soon and he thought that they were annoying in-laws. And so eventually I visited my aunt Laura and she went upstairs and got this notebook.
And when I saw it, I realized that that was the notebook that lived on my mom's bedside table. And it was your journal. And I cried. I cried. And I was the best Christmas present I've ever gotten. Over the next year, I could only read a page at a time before I was so worked up I had to stop. And the journal started the day she found the lump. I had no idea how afraid she was to tell my dad about the lump, but like with these questions answered, I felt more comfortable asking Susan about her lump and like what her experience was like with cancer and with my family and.
The journal opened up the door for us at that moment to talk about cancer, grief and my mom more candidly and. I I got married this past year, and Susan and I danced to You'll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins during that dance I was ugly, crying. And Susan apologized that my mom couldn't be there dancing with me. And I told her that the song was about a stepmom. And I thanked her for raising me and teaching me so much.
And 14 years later, I know my mom is still cheering me on, still teaching me to be kind and strong and helping me become the man I always wanted to be. I'm grateful. I've had two wonderful female role models that I can call them.
Remember, you can pitch us your story, and when you do hear a few tips to think about before you record, we want to hear a short version of the plot, but also how you felt while these things were happening. Stories are like fingerprints. They're unique to you. So share a few details of these scenes that you'll never forget. How did these moments change you? You can call us at 877 799 MOTHE or pitch us online at the morgue and you could inspire someone, you know, to pitch to spread the word.
After our break, a woman plans to move through grief and a man tries to help his stepkids, but they may not be interested when the Moth Radio Hour continues.
The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S. You're listening to The Moth Radio Hour from PUREX, I'm Sarah Austin Janez. This is an hour all about moving forward, even if it's only in small steps. Susan Early told this next story at an Open Mike Mothe Slam in Denver, Colorado, where we partner with public radio station KUNC live at The Moth. Here's Susan Early. I grew up in New York City and I came to Colorado every summer from the time I was six to 16, secretly sad that my grandparents didn't live in Florida like everyone else's grandparents in New York.
But I've learned to appreciate what I had.
My grandparents were incredible people and I was very lucky to spend every summer with them.
Growing up when I was in college, I lived here for a summer with them and I got to know them as adults and it was a privilege and quite fun. We had a lot of fun that summer. My grandfather passed away right before his 80th birthday.
I knew it was going to be really hard on my grandmother and everyone else in the family had come ahead of time to help with the arrangements and the logistics. And so I arranged my schedule to come and stay extra on the back end. And it was it was a good plan in my mind, because I knew once everyone left, it's really hard. They had been married just short of 60 years. They spent their whole adult lives together.
He had been in a nursing home the last two years, but he always had hope of getting back home.
And my grandmother, Grandma Jean, had bought him a beautiful blue polo shirt at Ros's on Mexico and Colorado that I drove by on my way here.
And when my mom left, she said to me, Grandma wants you to return that shirt. I tried to return it. She didn't buy it there. She doesn't have the receipt. You're not going to be able to do it.
I was like, OK, not a problem. So we get up the day after everyone has left. And my grandma was like, oh, we got to run some errands. Like, no problem. What do you need to do? Just like we have to return that shirt to my. OK, let's go.
We're going to go to village and afterwards, which was better than Perkins, but still I was more afraid of that than trying to return this shirt to Rostow's.
So she pulls up to the part at Rosses and she's sitting in her purple Toyota Camry that she hated because it looked like a Barbie car.
But it was the color my grandfather picked out because it was the cheapest one on the lot.
And she says, my foot is killing me. You go and I'm like, no problem. So I go in, I have the bag, have their seat.
And this really beautiful sky blue polo shirt that would match my grandpa's eyes.
So I knew I thought she has bought him a birthday present every year for almost six years, like she was ready and he just.
He left the Earth a few days before his birthday, but she was ready for that with a present in case he made it. He wouldn't have worn it. He didn't wear a lot of shirts, but she had something new to celebrate with him.
So I walk in and the cashier is Yolanda. And I look at her and I say, I really need your help. She's like, What? I'd like to see that lovely lady in the purple Toyota looking at us, watching us like a hawk.
She's like, yeah, like, that's my grandma. She just lost her husband. And I cannot walk out of here with this shirt.
She was like, OK, I'm like, look at it.
She swears she bought it here. She swears this is her seat. My mom's been in here. We can't return it. She diligently opens the bag. She pulls out the receipt and she's like, yeah, we don't even sell this shirt. I'm like, I don't care.
Give it to someone, throw it away, give it to someone who works here.
I just I cannot walk out of here with this shirt. And she looks to me, just how long were they married? I'm like almost six years. She's like, no problem.
She takes the shirt.
She she's like, Germany, give you money back. I'm like, yeah, can you pretend she's like, oh yeah. She makes a big show. She opens the register, she slides the money across the counter to me. I put it in my fake, I put the fake money in my wallet. I go back out.
I was like, how to go? I'm like, we're good. I got your twelve dollars. She's like, awesome, pull it out of my wallet. I give it to her.
We go home, we're reading our books, enjoying the day my my mom calls.
And of course, you know and you're having that conversation where you can't say what you want to say because you're in the room with someone else you don't want to hear.
And my mom's like, I, I can't believe you did that. How did you do that? I'm like, you're right. I said it was kind of tricky because.
What do you mean? I'm like, well, you're right.
She's like, what are you talking about? She's like, Oh, you're in the room with grandma. I'm like, Exactly. And she says, So she didn't buy it at Rasta's. I was like, no. And that wasn't the receipt. I was like cracked just like but grandma said, you got it returned and you gave her the money. I'm like, exactly. And all of a sudden you can see the light bulb over the phone.
And my mom, she's like, oh my God, you gave her your money, like.
Because it was it was about not leaving that shirt in the bag in the car, because that was a shirt that the love of her life. When she walked in the room, those blue eyes lit up and she didn't want it. And I made sure she didn't have it. Thank you.
That was Susan early, Susan still lives in Colorado, and she continued to have adventures with her grandmother up until the end, and she says her greatest service was to just be with her as she took her very last steps forward to see a photo of Susan on vacation with her grandparents in Colorado, go to the morgue.
Our last story teller in this hour is Eric Hene. He told this at a math slam in Houston, Texas, where we partner with Houston Public Media. Here's Eric alive at the math. When I was twenty six years old, I fell in love with the woman who was eight years older than I was. She had just divorced an abusive man and there was rumors that she had issues with alcohol. So this was not a good recipe for a healthy relationship.
But I was in love and I moved in with her. To complicate things, she had two daughters, 12 and 14 years old. The first thing the youngest daughter, Bridget, said to me the day I moved in was, my real dad is going to kick your ass.
I just I. I shrugged that off. I figured the mother would take care of the daughters and I would have not much to do with them kids.
But almost right away, these paternal instincts just kind of kicked in. And I'd get so I would want to help them with their homework or boys came around. I'd get really protective. That's feeling kind of fatherly there. The older girl, she was very independent. No problems at all with her. But this younger girl, Bridget, she terrorized me.
She'd call me names. She'd call me. But much of.
And she would she come up behind me and hit me in the back as hard as she could and then run off, but I always figured that maybe she is just an act and then maybe deep down she had a good heart.
As time went on, the mother relapsed into some alcohol issues. So this interfered with her parental skills. The father was a deadbeat and he had drinking issues as well.
So it looked as Bridget and I think, you know, poor kids.
And so I do stuff like I bought her a guitar and guitar lessons. I'd go to her her school programs and clap for her. She's trying to do what I could. But all through this, she still treated me just like crap.
And but I thought, well, it's it's not that bad because at least she's on the right track, you know.
But in the long run, maybe I wasn't doing so good there because after a while she started skipping classes. She got busted for shoplifting. Eventually she was starting to use drugs. It didn't look good for Bridget.
One day. One day, the older sister called me when I was at work and she said, Bridget's been arrested and mom is not in any condition to handle the situation.
So I rushed over to the police station and juvenile officer told me that Bridget had gotten into a fight with another girl and that Bridget had pulled out a knife.
They brought me back to this room back there where she was sitting. And soon as she saw me, she said, get him out of here. He's not my real dad.
So they brought me back out to the front. They said, yeah, technically, you're not the legal guardian, so get out.
Well, I went home and I looked around and I thought, what the hell am I doing here? So I didn't love the mother for a long time. Bridget hated my guts and I wasn't her father.
Right then I decided people don't change. And if you try to help them change, you're only going to waste your own life within 24 hours.
I was packed up and I was gone and I cut off all communications with them.
There's a little more to the story 10 years later, I'm living here in Houston, got a whole new life about the time Facebook came out, I joined and right off the bat, I get this message and it's from Bridgette.
She said that she'd been trying to find me for years and that she said, call me right away, it's a very important and she had her phone number there.
And I looked at her Facebook page here.
She's she's a realtor. She's volunteers for all these community projects.
She changed. I was wrong.
So I called the number and hear her voice, all these memories flooding back.
She said that also her childhood, I was the only one who really gave her much time and effort. And she said when she changed it that I was her role model for that.
And she said she said, I met this really great guy, she said he reminds me of you and she said, I want you to come give me away at my wedding ceremony next month. And I said, hell yeah, I'll do it.
And I said, But why aren't you asking your real dad? And she said, I am.
That was Eric. Eric is a former Montana sheep rancher who ended up in Houston, Texas, in a career as a federal investigator, now retired, he spends his days writing stories and volunteering his services for his public radio station. Bridgitte lives in Montana and has a family of her own, and Eric visits every year. You can share the stories from this hour or others from the Moth archive through our website, The Moth Dog find us on social media, too.
We're on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.. At The Moth this hour has been about progress. Taking the smallest step, after all, is still movement. And maybe you'll tell a story about the journey. Check out the moth schedule on our Web site and find out about our online slams and throw your name in the virtual hat. We want to hear your stories. That's it for this episode of The Moth Radio Hour, we hope you'll join us next time.
Your host for this hour was Sarah Austin, Janice Grandslam coaching by Michelle Jaworski and in the Math Teacher Institute by Tim Lopez and Nico Williams, the rest of the most directorial staff includes Kathryn Burns, Sarah Habermann, Jennifer Hickson and Meg Bowles production support from Emily Couch.
Our pitch came from Jeff Hinton.
Most stories are true, is remembered and affirmed by the storytellers. Our theme music is by the drift of the music. In this hour, from the magic lantern still waggons infinite Julian Large, Keith Jarrett, John Gaborik, Holly Danielsson and John Kristiansen, Dave Douglas Blue Sessions and Bill Frisell.
You can find links to all the music we use at our Web site. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by me, Jay Allison with Viki Merrick and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This hour was produced with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Moth Radio Hour is presented by PUREX for more about our podcast.
For information on pitching us your own story and everything else, go to our Web site, The Moth Dog. Have you ever wanted to be in the crowd of the moth stories you hear on the podcast? Join us for our upcoming live Virtual Moth Mainstage on Saturday, March 20th, hosted by moth storyteller Adele Onyango. Don't miss a night of true personal stories told live to your living room. Buy tickets now at the Moth Dogs International Mainstage.