Rockville Centre residents, husband and wife Larry and Irene McCoy, 82 and 81, respectively, have each released self-published books.
Irene’s, “Only Gypsies Move on Sunday,” is a memoir about growing up in the industrial, suburban outskirts of Chicago, Ill., in northwestern Indiana, with a strict, domineering father and grandmother. She then writes about leaving home and living in Germany for years at a time with Larry.
Larry’s book, “Grandma Told Me Never to Believe Anything Grandpa Says,” fast-forwards to spending time with the couple’s four grandchildren, who range in age from 12 to 31. The two will read and sign books at Oceanside Library on Nov. 17 at 2 p.m.
Irene and Larry met when they were 19 years old and attending Indiana University. Both were studying radio and television broadcasting, so they had some classes together. “He sat behind me and was picking on me ever since,” Irene teased.
Irene’s father thought it was a waste of money to attend college, so Irene paid her own tuition by taking up a stenographer job in the same blue collar town her family had worked in for decades. She and Larry graduated with their bachelor’s degrees in 1959. Then, Irene won a scholarship to continue her education and earned a master’s degree from Indiana University a few years later.
The two married in 1960 and moved to New York. Irene became an American history teacher and worked as a copywriter in broadcasting and publishing. However, Larry’s career brought the couple to Munich, Germany. They lived there twice for years at a time, moving back and forth from New York. He worked as a journalist for Radio Free Europe, wiring stories in English for other countries to pick up.
One day in anger, Irene’s father told her, “only gypsies move on Sunday!” This became the title of her debut book. “My dad was always wondering why we couldn’t move closer to them,” Irene explained, but said that she was happy to leave her home state.
In her memoir, Irene tells anecdotes of her father’s harsh parenting and her childhood. Too stingy to buy her a bike, Irene rode her father’s large, heavy bicycle as a child. “At the time, I didn’t think it was abnormal,” Irene said. “This is all I knew, and when I got to college, I thought, ‘Gee, people do things differently.’”
Then, in the second half of the book, Irene shares the struggles of living in a new country, where she did not know the language or culture. Luckily, they had a neighbor who spoke perfect English; Irene remains in contact with her today.
Larry enjoyed his profession as a reporter. “It was fun but frustrating as hell sometimes,” he said. “Every day was a little different, and when something big happened it was like, ‘wow!’” Unfortunately, the job required many night and weekend hours, which meant less time spent with their children, now 52 and 58.
The couple settled in Rockville Centre in 1980 and eventually retired in 2006. Larry now says that spending time with his grandchildren is his favorite thing to do. “They are the best part of my life,” he said. “We have a lot of fun together.”
“You realize as you get older everything is limited,” he added.
Larry relays stories of the shenanigans he and his grandkids have gotten into over the years — from a granddaughter getting stuck in a swing to Larry giving bike riding and driving lessons to all four kids. He also writes some chapters from the perspective of his grandchildren, or what he believes it to be. “They helped in the living, but not in the writing,” he said. “As I point out in the book, two of them are old enough to sue me.”
The book’s title, “Grandma Told Me Never to Believe Anything Grandpa Says,” says a lot about Irene and Larry’s dynamic — when Larry would crack a deadpan joke, Irene would quickly interject with, “he’s kidding!”
This will be Larry’s third published book and Irene’s first. Throughout their writing processes, the two attended many writing workshops at the Oceanside and Rockville Centre public libraries, some of them led by Molloy College’s writer in residence, Barbara Novack. These sessions provided them with great feedback, they said.
Irene’s book has been eye-opening for Larry — “It tells me things about her background I didn’t know,” he said. And Larry’s is a great read for Irene, too.
“I think they’re entertaining!” Irene said. “I’ve always enjoyed [Larry’s] writing because he has a great sense of humor.”
The McCoys will read chapters from their books, conduct a Q&A and sign copies at the Oceanside Library on Sunday. All are welcome to attend.