Rochester, NY

How Just $7.00 Changed My Mother's Life: A Son Remembers

Herbie J Pilato
Frances Turri Pilato (center), surrounded by her children, Pamela R. Mastrosimone, and Herbie J Pilato.Photo bySam Amato

My Father (Herbie Pompeii Pilato) died of lung cancer on April 6th, 1995, and my Mother followed him to Heaven on May 5th, 2008, after being challenged by dementia and heart disorders.

After my Dad left this world, it was a rough road for my Mom. They were very close, and she was very dependent on him (as she didn't drive, etc.) So I tried to do the best I could for her, even once attempting to move her to L.A. with me (to disastrous results).

But once she was settled back in Rochester, New York, our hometown, she became a member of the Pinegrove Senior Center in the suburb of Irondequoit, New York. And every Monday through Friday, from June 1999 to nearly the day she died, my Mom enjoyed that Senior Center.

In all, it cost her approximately $6.00 a day - a price that included lunch and service for the van (that picked her up and drove her home). So, thirty bucks a week for a senior's regular activities wasn't bad at all.

In addition to enjoying a nice daily lunch at that simple-treasured Senior Center, my Mom also played cards, went on picnics, and played bingo. She especially loved the bingo. A whole lot. I never realized how much really. Until, one day, when I started giving her "extra" quarters with which to play the game. Not a lot of quarters. Just seven dollars worth.

Not ten. Not nine. Just seven.

Every other day, I walked into her apartment and interrupted her daily viewing of Seinfeld or The Golden Girls, walked over to her, kissed her, and asked her to open up her hand. At that moment, I poured out the seven dollars in quarters.

As I did this, her reaction was one of astonishment. She looked as if she won the lottery or the mega-jackpot in Vegas. "Oh, Herbie J," she'd say with so much joy, "...what a great son you are! I have to pay you back! I have to pay you back!!"

"Ma," I would reply, "You just go have fun at the Center."

And she did, all the more...with that mere extra seven dollars. Not a million. Not a thousand. Not nine. And not ten. Just seven.


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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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