Charlee Lambert Interview #2

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search This Transcript

CHARLEE LAMBERT: -- said I talked too much when I was born.

LORRAINE LOMBARDI: Yeah? Okay. You -- what do you want to do? [overlapping dialogue; inaudible]

LOMBARDI: Okay now, before we start, Charlee, I want you to tell -- I want you to talk -- I want you to talk to Morna, because I’m going to sit close to you so you can hear me when I ask questions, okay?

LAMBERT: So I’ll look at Morna.

LOMBARDI: Yeah, look at Morna and tell her the story, because that way I know you’re hearing me, okay?


LOMBARDI: You can look at me, too, but I’m just saying, that’s why I’m sitting like this. Okay?


LOMBARDI: All right. You think you’re ready?

LAMBERT: I’m ready!

LOMBARDI: All right, let’s do it. All right. Well, today is May 11th and this is our third interview together; and today, we’re going to be talking about a prescription for growing older, and you wrote your first short story about that in, I believe 2001 and then you redid it in 2006, and I’m going to read the one that you wrote in 2006. I’m going to read just a little bit of 1:00it. It says, “I am 83 years old and I will be 84 in November. I have fallen, and I’m black and blue around the face and head. I do not feel a lot of pain, except the pain I see in the faces of others when they look at me. I have spent a lifetime trying to figure out who I am, as well as searching for my own reality. At 16, I was a cocky, self-assured intellect with so many doubts, I couldn’t like myself at all. I hated my parents for moving to Florida from Maryland, and basically did not treat them well. In return, they treated me badly. I don’t remember Daddy Bob taking me out, but my mother was adamant 2:00that he should. Mostly, she accomplished this by ignoring me and what I did. I was the only girl in high school that could stayed out all night, and no one said a thing. No one seemed to care.” And so, you’ve sort of reminisced about growing up, but now you’ve come to this paragraph, and it says, “Today, I would describe myself as an older woman, a writer, feels better about how I look than when I was 16. I know that I am a sexual human being and that my need to express my sexuality continues. I am straight, sexually, but love it when my women friends hug me. Also, my men friends. I don’t like 3:00everyone, but like to communicate and discover individuals hiding in a body regardless of age or race or gender. I like diversity in all aspects of my life. I do not like groups that pull all those things together.” So I want you to talk to me a little bit about, well you brought it up, so let’s talk about sexuality and being older.

LAMBERT: Okay. Up to a certain point, I was certainly -- I’m still a sexual human being. You didn’t never get over that. You’re born with it and you die with it and... But I don’t need a mate. I can take care of my sexuality needs as they arrive –



LAMBERT: and I think that’s an important part, that you do-- you’re not needy.

LOMBARDI: You’re not needy. Don’t deny it.

LAMBERT: Yeah, don’t deny that you’re not needy. But I think it’s an important part of growing older. And I used to do a presentation in different places, and they still talk about the one I did at Piedmont Hospital. We allowed people to talk about their sexuality and really get into it and there was some interesting things that came out. There was -- the woman that’s head of the 60 plus program at Piedmont is a friend of mine and she still laughs about that presentation at Piedmont. And it was people that came from various places; it wasn’t just the nurses and the people there. But I did a lot of programs like that, and I think it was an important part for the women that attended to allow themselves to talk about it.


LOMBARDI: And what was sort of the format of the program?

LAMBERT: Well, I did a presentation about sexuality and I’m comfortable with the subject, because I did teenage sexuality. I did AIDS. I’ve done all that. So you know, this was just a thing I felt a need -- saw a need in women, not men, particularly, but women. I think men have different needs.

LOMBARDI: And what common denominator did you constantly keep hearing from all these women?

LAMBERT: Common denominator?

LOMBARDI: What were the most -- what was the most common things you heard?

LAMBERT: The most common thing I heard was denial, that they hadn’t been able to talk about it. And it was okay to talk about it and...I sort of opened up the subject, and that was what I was trying to do. I always had an objection -- 6:00objective that I was trying to acc-- get. Everything I did. Because, you know, that was my -- writing is now, that they’re all -- you said one time that it sounded like it needed disc-- now the discussion. And that was what I wanted women to do, was discuss it.

LOMBARDI: Included in being sexual is older people who we see less and less hugs or touched less and less.

LAMBERT: I get more and more. I mean, I had the yard man this morning. When he saw me enter the kitchen, he came in to hug me. [laughs] Dirty, sweaty, yard man.

LOMBARDI: Did you like that?

LAMBERT: He always does it. He wants to hug me. And that’s wonderful.

LOMBARDI: Yeah. Do you think that older people get less and less of it, 7:00though, because people are afraid of them?

LAMBERT: Maybe. Maybe some do. I’ve gotten more and more. But I must say “hug me.” You know, that unconsciously, I’m saying “hug me.” I used to see this in audiences. Little old women sitting on the -- in the audience, really corresponding with me, not when [sic] words, but saying “hug me.” And I would always go and hug them, when I got through my presentation.

LOMBARDI: And that gave them courage to ask for it again.

LAMBERT: Yeah, yeah.

LOMBARDI: And, and --

LAMBERT: It was somebody really needing to be hugged, that I would -- it was a wonderful feeling to know that somebody could communicate without words, to say 8:00this. Or I wouldn’t remember it. It was a very... But I think I’ve been easy to hug. My family were not huggers, not at all.

LOMBARDI: Your mother?

LAMBERT: No. Mother -- my mother hug me? No. [laughs] It never occurred to her.

LOMBARDI: So how did you learn to ask for it?

LAMBERT: Probably because I wasn’t getting it when I was a child. You know, that it was okay. I don’t ever remember anybody hugging me other than my grandmother. And her body was fat and wonderfully warm. [laughs] She wasn’t a pretty thing by the time I knew her.

LOMBARDI: Well, one of your points -- actually, you’ve picked out three points that you talk about having to -- to deal with when you’re growing older 9:00and the first one is to identify yourself and to not leave choices up to others. And talk to me about identifying yourself. How, through the decades, does...?

LAMBERT: We tend, in mo-- in our younger years to identify our self by how people see us, by others. And I still use a mirror for that. You know, the mirror is another person that sits there and tells me what she sees in me. Not in words just in body language, whatever it is. So we tend to accept this version rather than our own version and it took me a long time, but I worked at it and yesterday I had a visitor from one of the women from the church that I 10:00had worked with at -- we were -- I guess it was probably in the 70s or 80s, early 80s, that a group of us from Glenn Memorial Methodist Church started -- and I think I started the group -- of trying to find out who we were. And we had many discussions. Of course, I had started with those three men in Michigan, where I went in a closet and... [laughs]

LOMBARDI: You went in a closet.

LAMBERT: Well, it was a psychology room, you know, for therapy. [laughs] It was like a closet, with... But anyway, the three men and I really worked at who we were.

LOMBARDI: And, what --

LAMBERT: The two men and myself.

LOMBARDI: And did you ever facilitate it or were you sort of on your own?

LAMBERT: One of them was a psycholo-- taught psychology at Oakland University 11:00in Pontiac, one of them was a minister and me. And we were -- our purpose was to plan a sermon. But we never got around to that till the last time, because we got into who we were and what we needed to do with our lives. The minister left the ministry and went and became the boxing commissioner for Michigan. [laughs]

LOMBARDI: So he went from the church --

LAMBERT: He went from a minister --

LOMBARDI: -- to boxing? Okay. Alright.

LAMBERT: And the last I heard, he was head of boxing for this whole state of Michigan. We visited several years later, and he said, and I really -- “There’s more way than one to be a minister.” And I really believe that, that in many ways, I’ve been a mini-- I’ve ministered to people. And I am 12:00not -- that’s my Christian ethic, that I really acce-- I accepted somewhere along the line. The psychologist that taught psychology stayed in his career, but changed his attitude towards his wife, which was amazing that all of a sudden, he treated her like an equal human being.

LOMBARDI: Alright. And those are the two men, and what about you?

LAMBERT: And I -- they decided that I should go back to college. I was 49. And so I enrolled in Wayne State. [laughs] Had drove downtown to Seventh Avenue or Street or whatever it is and joined the masses at Wayne State and took a course in theater in -- Oral Interpretation was the name of the class. And I 13:00took a psychology course. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I grew up. But it was torn between psychology and theater. Of course, Ralph came home and said, “We’re moving to Kansas City.” So I didn’t go right away because I was involved with what I was doing in Michigan and came along and I decided I would go back. I found out that Kansas City Uni-- University of Kansas City was in Kansas City and that I could go there. I could transfer. So I transferred to Kansas City and got in line to register, and somebody says, “You know we’re going to have to declare a major.” And here I am torn between psychology and theater and I thought, I can do theater the rest of my 14:00life. That’s -- that was the selling point for me at 50, 49, to go back to school there. And so I went in theater and it was quite an experience. I had friends of all ages. I had a lot of 18-year-old friends, male and female. Had a lot of gay friends. You know, it was like the world sort of opened up for me. Being in that theater department, it’s -- I became the Mother Superior, you know.

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: Somebody’s having a nervous breakdown, [where the f--?] --


LAMBERT: I thought that was my name. [laughs] You could hear them all over this building, and maybe in the business building across the street.


LAMBERT: But I knew something had happened [laughs] that needed immediate 15:00fixing. I spent a lot of time going to the emergency room with people.


LAMBERT: They found a real use for me. The other thing they found useful in me was that I had silver trays for the opening night parties, and somebody said, as I was leaving to move to here, “What are we going to do for silver trays?” [laughs] I thought, that’s my value. [laughs] But anyway, it was a wonderful experience and opened up my life tremendously, to have so many, a variety of such friends. I mean, the first time I sat next to two young men looking at a magazine that had men in black negligees, I was impressed. I didn’t listen to the teacher. I want the magazine.


LAMBERT: But anyway, it was a great experience and really helped along. But 16:00then this group -- I came to Atlanta and I wanted to continue finding out who I was and so I formed a group at Glenn, of women, and those women still collect around me. It -- you know, yesterday, one came to see me, and her husband was a theology teacher and we still talk about -- and we still get into very intimate conversations. You know, they’re glad to see me. They care about me. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

LOMBARDI: So you had --

LAMBERT: I worked at it. I really worked at it.

LOMBARDI: Well – um…

LAMBERT: And of course, it was the thing to do in that period of time, too, remember that. The ’70s and ’80s was women coming to the forefront. It was 17:00okay to be different. It was okay to be a writer. It was okay to be whatever you are.

LOMBARDI: Along these lines, I’m going to read something that you wrote, and you said, “I enjoy visiting with friends. I have good friends and proud of them. I have managed to hold onto friends for a very long time, and like having telephones where I can pick up the phone and call wherever they are. Friends may be the most important things we collect through the years. I go back, [hill to Jane in trap?], up through the friends I have made during our moves around the country. I have different circles of friends. There is a third thing that draws us together, and that’s” -- I’m sorry, let me go back. “I have different circles of friends. There are always two close friends that fill different needs. Today, they are Judy and Barbara. There is a third thing that 18:00draws us together, and that is what I call ‘my trinity.’”

LAMBERT: My what?

LOMBARDI: My trinity.

LAMBERT: Oh, my trinity.

LOMBARDI: “The third thing has to be there for there to be a true relationship. A quotation I heard recently said, ‘There can be no relationship if you look at the other and see yourself.’ These two people are both different from me as well as from each other.” So, one of the big things I noticed with you is you have a huge circle of friends.


LOMBARDI: And the circle has a vari-- is a variety in age and keeps you going, I think.

LAMBERT: Yeah, yeah. It’s a -- I like to have -- you should have a cer-- variety of fr-- ages, because they’re going to die if you don’t. If you just have your peer group, they’ll -- they die. And that’s what causes a 19:00lot of sadness in older people, is the fact that they have stuck to their peer group or to family. You know, I think you need a lot of stuff going on around you. It’s, you know -- it’s a stimulation. It’s the -- I’m really glad to see my friends. You know? It’s -- I loved my birthday party. If somebody said -- one woman said, “I don’t know this many fr-- people.” [laughs] [My trust?] have this many friends. But they came from a variety of places. My children invited people they thought would be -- want to come, and they came, and you know, it was like, they came from a variety of pl-- one was my handyman, 20:00one was my cleaning woman, my aerobics group, my garden club, which it doesn’t garden. We just talk.

LOMBARDI: Yeah and they put out a fantastic spread, too. I saw that spread.


LAMBERT: Oh, my. We have everything.

LOMBARDI: Good night. [laughs]

LAMBERT: Neighborhood. It was -- my neighborhood is partly the garden club, too. But, it was -- I could have invited more. I didn’t invite these church friends. I didn’t invite any of the people I worked with for many years, in social work around like the woman at Piedmont Hospital. You know, I consider her a friend. You couldn’t invite all of them.

LOMBARDI: In your second point of growing older, you said “Be productive. It 21:00does not have to produce income, but it must be something useful to you or others.”

LAMBERT: Yes, yes. The writing has done that for me. Has kept me feeling productive. I’m a little frustrated right now that I can’t see the keys well enough to not print gobbledygook. You know, it’s not coming out right. I’m hitting wrong keys, because the vision has been very poor recently. But I will find a way. I’ll either start recording or something like that. Because I have some stories to tell. I’ve got a story to tell about that trip to Budd Terrace. [laughs]

LOMBARDI: Budd Terrace the nursing home.


LOMBARDI: The nursing home.

LAMBERT: The rehab center.

LOMBARDI: Rehab center, yes.

LAMBERT: Yeah, some woman came in my room one day and says, “We’re going to give you a shower.” And I said, “Fine, I haven’t had one in three weeks. 22:00That sounds good.” So she took me down to the shower room; I didn’t have one in my room. There is a young, handsome black man going to give me a shower, but he is in training. This is the first shower he’s ever given, and he’s got five people watching what he’s doing and this teacher telling him what to do.

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: And I’m stark naked. [laughs] So, but you know what my feeling was during that shower?

LOMBARDI: No, tell me.

LAMBERT: I wanted that young man to feel comfortable. And that was what I concentrated on, was making him feel comfo-- and he thanked me profusely when he got through, [laughs] because he was so nervous. [laughs]

LOMBARDI: You were teaching him!

LAMBERT: Yeah, yeah!

LOMBARDI: You were being a teacher.

LAMBERT: Yeah, I was being the teacher.

LOMBARDI: You were being the teacher.


LAMBERT: Except there was a teacher and five students over here. [laughs] But he was a cute guy, [laughs] regardless of his color or age. [laughs] But I thought, you know, they picked me out com-- for a reason. I’ll bet there wasn’t many people in there where they could have tolerated that.

LOMBARDI: I see. I see.

LAMBERT: But that’s okay, but it is a story to tell.

LOMBARDI: I want to read that story, okay?

LAMBERT: [laughs] Okay.

LOMBARDI: Even if you have to dictate it.

LAMBERT: Yeah, I may have to turn to that, you know. It ju-- I don’t know what I’ll do yet.

LOMBARDI: What other stories you want to write? What other topics that you --

LAMBERT: Oh, other topics I want to -- I think I want to elaborate more on the 24:00aging process and how we go about -- you know, I wrote another one last year. Didn’t I write another one last --?


LAMBERT: It was different from the first one. I think we need some stories about growing older that helps people deal with their own aging.

LOMBARDI: What points are standing out that you want to discuss?

LAMBERT: To be careful.

LOMBARDI: Careful with?

LAMBERT: Your money.

LOMBARDI: Tell -- talk to me about that a little bit.

LAMBERT: Well, you know elder abuse was my main topic that I was recognized for, is what I will say. And it happened mostly with money and it was mostly family.

LOMBARDI: You’re saying that one of the top abuses is money management.

LAMBERT: Money management and I think we need to be prepared. You need -- you 25:00too need to be prepared for what happens to your money when you no longer can happen. And you’ve got a husband. You’ve got Janet. You don’t want Janet managing your money.


LOMBARDI: Let’s continue.


LAMBERT: And you may not want your husband to. You know, I don’t know how -- what kind of money manager. My husband was terrible at it, it came in this end and went out that one, immediately.


LAMBERT: My last baby I had, I had the checkbook under my mattress at the hospital.

LOMBARDI: [laughs] And that was to keep it away from...?


LOMBARDI: Ralph, okay.

LAMBERT: Because he would have -- when I went the time before that, he spent money that we didn’t have. He overdrew the checking account. So I didn’t trust him anymore with money.


LOMBARDI: So let’s get back to elder abuse and money.

LAMBERT: Well, as I discovered it was mostly family, and what happens in most families with an aging person: the lowest common denominator becomes the caregiver. They don’t have a job. I’ve seen it here in my own neighborhood. Couple down the street, their daughter was a schizophrenic. She became the caregiver. Sometimes she took her medication, sometimes she didn’t. Fortunately, they both lived a good long life. He was in his 90s and she was in her late -- she was same age I am. And they survived it, but she couldn’t have been great as a caregiver. But I’ve just seen that over and over again, drug dealer -- drug users, people that don’t have jobs. The man across the street’s got Charlene’s second husband. [laughs] That’s her -- 27:00his caregiver, and he doesn’t have a job. He hasn’t worked in many years. So, you know, we’re talking about people that really are not capable of being caregivers.

LOMBARDI: Who end up being this -- just that.

LAMBERT: The families that tend to put that in the way. That was one of the problems I saw. The other problem was just pure greed. Or, they wanted to not leave the parent any say so. For instance, I had a man who told his mother she was too old to have cataract surgery. And she was going to have the cataract surgery, and I said, “You really don’t” -- I told her over the phone, I says, “You really don’t have to do what your son says you have to do. If 28:00you want cataract surgery, they will pick you up and take you to the hospital and bring you home.” And that’s what she did, but she said she cried all the way.

LOMBARDI: Because she was disobeying --

LAMBERT: She was disobeying her son. And it was -- there’s a lot of that, that -- actually, Barbara and I had this conversation: What is the role of the family? In taking care of older people? I told my children, “I will ask for help when I need it.”

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: Which is Barbara’s --

LOMBARDI: Have you?

LAMBERT: Not really.

LOMBARDI: I’m just asking.

LAMBERT: I don’t think I’ve really asked for it. Sometimes they want to do more than I want them to do.

LOMBARDI: All right. But you understand where that’s coming from.

LAMBERT: Yeah, they want to take ca-- there’s a coup-- they’re pretty -- I talked to Christine, my youngest, this morning. She says we’re all 29:00controlling figures.


LAMBERT: Including mother.


LAMBERT: Mother and six children.


LOMBARDI: What about when you get older, knowing when to cut back, sort of like knowing when to move out of the big house into something manageable, knowing when you need help?

LAMBERT: Had this conversation with my friend yesterday. They’re moving into Clairmont Place, and she says, “I’m trying to do it before I really have to.” And I think that may be a good...

LOMBARDI: Way of doing things?

LAMBERT: Good way of doing it. And she talked about the difference between going to Clairmont Place and to going to Kingsbury, which was probably about equal. You have to buy into Clairmont Place and you pay by the month at Kingsbury, so that gives it a little edge. But it’s hard to know and it’s hard to know what you can afford. It’s not cheap. And if you wait till the 30:00state decides what to do with you, that’s not always very good. You need to decide for yourself or at least converse with your children. Several years ago, when I was working at Legal Aid, I did all my legal stuff -- my springing power of attorney, healthcare directives, all that -- and then I called them all together, and they hated that meeting and cannot remember having it.

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: Not one of them.

LOMBARDI: You’re saying we had denial here?

LAMBERT: Yeah, right.

LOMBARDI: You had communal denial?

LAMBERT: Communal denial, yeah.

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: And I was probably in my 70s, you know. It was a good while ago. I really didn’t feel like I was growing older till I had breast cancer and they did that radiation, which knocked me out for awhile.


LOMBARDI: That’s the first time you felt your age, maybe? Yes?

LAMBERT: Mm-hmm.

LOMBARDI: What -- how old were you when that happened?

LAMBERT: I think I was 80 -- I think it was 2003 maybe.

LOMBARDI: So you have -- you had breast cancer and came through, but it diminished your lung capacity, because of --

LAMBERT: Yes. They burned my lungs and my lung -- I couldn’t walk up hills anymore. I still can’t walk up a hill or an incline.

LOMBARDI: I want to tell you that I find you remarkable because you might have a -- what I would say a disappointment as in, I can’t hear as well as I used to, and for you, that’s true. You have macular degeneration. But you -- but what I admire is the fact that you have always successfully adapted.


LAMBERT: I think adaptability is one of the most important things we have. I always said about my mother -- because she lived with me her last seven or eight years -- that if she got a problem, she made an in-run and found another way. And I think that is what we have to do. If you can’t walk uphill, you find a way to avoid it. You don’t really like that feeling of not being able to breathe and so you find another way to get up the hill.


LAMBERT: Like, people take me up the hill.

LOMBARDI: [laughs] And for you, you can’t see well, so your bridge partners play with extra large cards.

LAMBERT: They’re not extra large cards.

LOMBARDI: Is it the printing?

LAMBERT: But it’s the color of them that is important, rather than the -- I 33:00can see the cards here and I can see the cards here, but I can’t see both of them. So it required a different set of brain power to do this, to look at this, look at the board and figure out what you’re going to do. They’re always yelling at me, “Have you got a club?”


LOMBARDI: They’re not supposed to do that.

LAMBERT: You play the spade. [laughs] But anyway, it’s an interesting group. We’re -- they’re very comfortable with my disability.

LOMBARDI: Well, heck, they found you -- they came to Budd Terrace, right?

LAMBERT: Yeah, oh, they came to Budd Terrace and we played up there in the dining room, and I got noted for being the -- I got noted up there.

LOMBARDI: Yes, I think you did, yes.

LAMBERT: That -- they saw me as different. And they would -- somebody would always say on Monday, “Are we having bridge tonight?”



LAMBERT: “Yes...” They didn’t let me get by many weeks without -- I didn’t have it when I was hallucinating. That was not in my --

LOMBARDI: No. That was not your agenda.

LAMBERT: No, I had other agendas at that point.

LOMBARDI: Well, if you’ve adapted to your vision by making adjustments in your playing bridge. You no longer able to read so you have at least three books going at once, but they’re audio books. The keys on your computer are yellow and black and extra large.

LAMBERT: Yeah. My -- I have a program for the blind where you can make the size of the letters any size you want, or magnify them or --

LOMBARDI: Do you memorize --

LAMBERT: Realign --

LOMBARDI: Do you memorize where things are, to help you?

LAMBERT: I find that hard to do, again. I tend to get in the wrong place, and 35:00then I get gobbledygook. I’m frustrated with that, but I will probably find a way.

LOMBARDI: I think you will.


LOMBARDI: I know you will.


LAMBERT: I can’t let it stop me from doing what I want to do.

LOMBARDI: Your third point here is, “Have fun, but first learn what it is you really enjoy rather than something that others say you should enjoy. All of this depends on you.”

LAMBERT: That’s part of finding out who you are.

LOMBARDI: How do you have fun?

LAMBERT: Oh, I -- my books are fun. I’ve been feeding -- reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

LOMBARDI: Let’s talk about that, shall we?

LAMBERT: [laughs]

LOMBARDI: I want -- I don’t know [why?] --

LAMBERT: I got tired of it.

LOMBARDI: You -- I’m -- let’s -- why did you get tired of Fifty Shades of Grey?

LAMBERT: Because I, you know, I don’t like just sex.

LOMBARDI: You don’t like just sex. What did you want it else to do?

LAMBERT: I wanted it -- some -- I wanted a plot.


LOMBARDI: Doesn’t have -- I haven’t read it, so, it doesn’t have a plot?

LAMBERT: No, it had no plot. You know, other than the fact that -- it’s a wonderful description of a woman’s feelings about sex and I think that’s a good part about it. Because I don’t think many women accept these and we must learn how to. Of course, I did it with writing about sex all those years and aging and sexuality.

LOMBARDI: There you go, “in the tulip garden of Sandy Springs,” it says here.

LAMBERT: Well...

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: Yes, I did both tulip gardens.

LOMBARDI: Let’s not get off the subject. Let’s get back to Fifty Shades of Grey.

LAMBERT: But I think Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s well written and it’s well written from a woman’s point of view, because it’s a woman writer.

LOMBARDI: So do you think the book is more therapy than --


LOMBARDI: -- gratuitous...?


LAMBERT: And she go-- and it gets kinky, you know. But I do think, as we go along in our sexuality that we enlarge our horizons and do more than we did when we started.

LOMBARDI: That’s a little obtuse, but I’ll take it.

LAMBERT: You’ll take it.

LOMBARDI: Yeah. [laughs]

LAMBERT: Well, I think that sexual activities get larger, get more -- they expand as we learn more about our bodies.

LOMBARDI: There you have it. I’m wore out just talking about it.




LOMBARDI: [laughs] All right. Now, I know you like to play on your computer. Is --

LAMBERT: Oh yeah --


LAMBERT: My computer is -- I missed my computer at Budd Terrace and I think if 38:00I ever had to go back and do that sort of thing again, I want to get a laptop [telephone ringing] that I can take with me.

LAMBERT: Okay, back again.

LOMBARDI: So the computer. You’ve played computer games.

LAMBERT: Yeah. A lot of them, every day.

LOMBARDI: Every day. You make it a habit to do that?

LAMBERT: Yeah. I look at my emails, I look at my New York Times and read the headlines -- because I can’t read anything else -- I look at Facebook, I look at my bank account and then I play games. Every morning.

LOMBARDI: Every morning?

LAMBERT: Every morning. And it really tells me how my brain’s working, and my reflexes.

LOMBARDI: Which I see are quite good, after watching over your shoulder and you play a game or two.

LAMBERT: Oh, I ju-- I’m shooting at things. I’m...

LOMBARDI: Yes, you are. You’re rearranging things.


LAMBERT: I’m rearranging things. I’m finding pa-- pairs of things, like --

LOMBARDI: Mahjong, isn’t it?

LAMBERT: Mahjong. I’m playing Free Cell to make my brain work on the numbers, and I play this game where you collapse every -- I’m really good on that collapse game, because it’s colors I can see. So my reflexes are good on finding that and getting... The other -- many of the games, I’ve not been as good at since this last...

LOMBARDI: This last go-around?

LAMBERT: Mm-hmm. That’s okay; it’ll get better.

LOMBARDI: You are getting better, actually.

LAMBERT: Yeah, I’m getting better. But, it --

LOMBARDI: You have nine lives, you know that.

LAMBERT: Yeah. I’m like the cat, just bounce back. That was what everybody said, I bounce back.


LOMBARDI: Is there something on your mind that you would still like to do at 90 and beyond?

LAMBERT: Yeah! I haven’t given up doing things.

LOMBARDI: No, something that you would like to do.

LAMBERT: Like to do... What would I like to do? I really like having friends, that -- and the interaction with friend. Judy and I have a get-together every week and we really talk about our childhood and our memories of how we grew up and why we’re the way we are. We’re still identifying who we are. And Barbara, too.

LOMBARDI: It doesn’t stop, does it?

LAMBERT: Uh-huh, uh-huh. And I really like that. I like having a mirror to look in, that I can tell what she thinks of me compared to what I think of me.

LOMBARDI: Do you have any regrets?


LAMBERT: I regret my marriage didn’t work any longer than it did. It worked for 40 years, but, you know, it disintegrated.

LOMBARDI: How different do you think things would have been, if Ralph --

LAMBERT: Oh, I’m glad to be rid of him.

LOMBARDI: Oh, well, then.

LAMBERT: [laughs]

LOMBARDI: I guess we won’t go further with that question.


LAMBERT: No, there’s really not many reg-- he said all along, in the last probably 10 or 15 years that we were married, that he -- I would be better off without him.

LOMBARDI: Why did he think so?

LAMBERT: He thought I would be able to develop my own talents better.

LOMBARDI: Do -- he saw that in you?

LAMBERT: Mm-hmm. He really did. He was not a dumb man or I wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. Plus, we were sexually attracted our whole marriage that never got over. But I did regret the reason we -- my marriage breaking up. 42:00I really tried to make it work. I got him sober, you know, at one point I got -- went -- sent -- got him to rehab and that was when the marriage ended, right there. He did not want to be rehabilitated and he’s now drinking again. Yeah! At 91! So we don’t give up much of who we are, anybody.

LOMBARDI: Why, because it’s safe to stay...?

LAMBERT: Probably and it’s what you’re familiar with.

LOMBARDI: Even if it’s not good, you still --

LAMBERT: Even if it’s not good. It’s what we’re familiar with. We want to be comfortable, but we want to have, not family with fun having. I mean, dinner time was, you pushed the dishes back and played games. Every night. 43:00There was no lack of fun. I mean, they were just fun loving. Even my mother was that way but, you know, she wasn’t a very good mother but she was a good role model for me and she was insistent that I would be a writer. Then, I used to say I wanted to be a dancer, a singer, an actress and she would always add “a writer.” She gave me a lot. She gave me a literary association. [laughs] When you don’t read children’s books to a child, but read adult books to them, what are you doing to them? She read Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, Kristin Lavransdatter. Has anybody ever read Kristin’s Lav-- 44:00I talked about it so much, Judy read it, and she said, “That’s a wonderful book.” I said, “Yeah, it was. It was fun.” Experiences of a woman in Sweden. But, so I really do appreciate what my mother gave me and she read cowboy books every once in a while, to read -- please my father. So I knew about Zane Grey and whoever.

LOMBARDI: Well, you know, it looks like, if you give your okay, today your plays will go to the archives and I was wondering how you felt about seeing them go, leaving this room.

LAMBERT: Leaving what, now?

LOMBARDI: I wondered how you felt about your plays leaving this room.

LAMBERT: It’s a little bit of a “I don’t want them” and a little bit of 45:00“I do want them.” It’s not a simple feeling. My f-- this is so much of my part. But I would rather it be somewhere where people could read it. And that my children are very relieved that they don’t have to do it. So I’m -- it’s a good feeling, you know, in general. And I want to empty the office out. You know, all this stuff is another whole game I’m playing --


LAMBERT: -- with pictures. And I’m really not trying to leave a legacy for my children. My mother left a legacy of flowers, you know, I’ve still got flowers in my yard that my mother planted. She li-- didn’t leave a dime, but 46:00she left the flowers. And the deck on the back of the house, she left that. I’m not a great lover of flowers, you know, gardening, but I have children that are. She left it to them. But she left me a different set of things. She saw into who I was, in spite of her -- she was not neglectful, but she wasn’t loving. And she came back in my hallucination last -- when I was at Piedmont Hospital and she was still the same way. [laughs] She hadn’t changed. So I’m, you know, I’m okay with that now.

LOMBARDI: You’re okay with it?


LAMBERT: I really am. I accept what she left. And go on to something else. And my children may not be acce-- as pleased with what I did as I am. But that’s okay, too. Some of my grandchildren are, I find, more receptive. My children tend to worry about me, and feel like they should do more, and... But they’re busy people. Also doing, you know, controlling [laughs] whatever position they’re in. But I’m satisfied with my life, and I still have fun. Every day has -- I have fun.

LOMBARDI: I know you do. I know you do.

LAMBERT: I think it’s hard for me to be depressed very long.

LOMBARDI: Yes, that’s correct.

LAMBERT: And that may be a lack of depth or something.


LOMBARDI: [laughs] No.


LAMBERT: I don’t know what it is, you know. But it was certainly ingrained as I grew up that fun was important. And I think that may be what’s missing in our society, is the ability to know what is fun. People think going to a bar and getting drunk is fun. I don’t thi-- I never found that fun. I had to play games that [laughs] required my mind and it was mind games that we played and I still like to play them, the children’s games. But adults played them in my growing up. But that was fun around the dining room table and in the winter, we -- you know, it was too cold in there, got too cold, because you didn’t -- you cooked in the middle of the day, so it was warm in the middle of the day, but the -- at night, you had to go back to the living room and the 49:00fireplace. And we used to -- our winter occupations were shelling corn and peanuts for seeds. And you sat around the fire and you ate a lot of the peanuts, you understand, while you’re shelling -- is raw peanuts. But -- and talked. It was real communica-- real discussions, of all kinds. And so I learned that was fun, too. And I had medical books that I played with.

LOMBARDI: Describe playing, with medical books?

LAMBERT: Oh, I loved the pictures. [laughs] I’m -- my grandfather, great-grandfather, was a surgeon during the Civil War, and he had these medical books. I mean, they were big books, you know, thick, the only books that I knew 50:00of that had pictures in the house, you know. So I would take them down and look at the pictures and nobody stopped me.

LOMBARDI: Were they drawings or picture pictures?

LAMBERT: They were drawings, yeah and more diagram sort of stuff.

LOMBARDI: I would think, yes. I wouldn’t think they would be --

LAMBERT: But I’m sure I learned a lot.

LOMBARDI: I’m sure you did.

LAMBERT: [laughs] It was interesting books. And I’m sorry they got lost. They got eaten up by rats. But they were wonderful books; I would have loved to have had them. Do you see what I liked when I was five years old?

LOMBARDI: [laughs]

LAMBERT: Or four years old, [laughs] sitting on the floor, reading the big books. There was a -- the uncles and aunts that were around and my grandmother, and -- you know, I was raised by a bunch of teenagers, is what happened, and the 51:00teenager-- you know, I’ve got a teenaged point of view, is what you’re seeing. And I’ve accepted that. It’s -- I have more in common with the 18 year olds than I do with -- [laughs]

LOMBARDI: Right now?

LAMBERT: Yeah even now, I find that true. But, I know one of the things I don’t do is pay much attention to people’s ages.

LOMBARDI: Instead, what they have to offer.

LAMBERT: Yeah, yeah. And some of my 18-year-old friends were wonderful. There was one young man I used to go -- in Kansas City, we went looking -- we were taking a geology course and we would go hunting for fossils in bank buildings. [laughs]

LOMBARDI: In where?

LAMBERT: In bank buildings, where there was a lot of marble and stone. And I -- he was about six feet six and the two of us running around town, you know, a 50-year-old and a six -- 18-year-old, and I kept saying, “James, you’re 52:00going to get us arrested.” [laughs] But we never did. I think people in Kansas City got used to us hunting for fossils in bank walls. [laughs] But anyway, that was the sort of thing that we were both enjoying. I’m glad I did. I’m glad I knew James. He’s not somebody I’ve kept up with, but you know, I was glad to know him. And Valley Hinley was another young woman that I knew that was in -- just out of high school, and we’re -- after our dance class, we were struggling up the stairs and I’m -- and I started complaining. Valley says, “Charlee, shut up. I’m 18 and I can’t get up the stairs either.” [laughs] So, you know, it was like, they put me in my place in many 53:00ways. They helped me know who I was.

[End DVD 1]