Monday, June 25, 2007
I returned her call and she said, "We found Jeanetta."
Three weeks ago I spoke to Sylvia for the first time, and she had a story to tell me that was filled with tragedy and regret. Her sweet little voice belied the facts.
"I'm looking for some cemetery records, and I hope you can help me. The person I'm looking for is a family member. She's my cousin, and her name is-- was-- Jeanetta." Here Sylvia paused and her voice began to quaver. "She kind of had a tough time of it. When Jeanetta was born, her parents divorced and she and her older sister stayed with her mother, which is what happened in those days. They lived Next Door. They were really bad off, because the father left town and they never heard from him again. Jeanetta's mother worked as a waitress, and you can guess that they didn't have a lot of money.
"Well," Sylvia continued, "One day the three of them were driving somewhere, and they got in an automobile accident. Jeanetta's mother and sister both died. Jeanetta was only seven years old at the time, and she had terrible head injuries from the accident. She survived, though, and my parents took her in, and raised her with me and my sister for several years. Then the state came and took her away. Jeanetta became a ward of the state."
Sylvia's voice broke. She said, "I don't know what they were thinking, but the state institutionalized her and wound up removing part of her brain, thinking it would make her better. It didn't. It certainly didn't.
"So the years went by and we still visited her, but my parents passed away, my sister and I both got married. Jeanetta's health kept getting worse and worse during this time. Eventually, my sister and I moved away from the state with our families, and," Sylvia starts sobbing now, "we lost where Jeanetta was! I don't know how it happened! They moved her, and they wouldn't tell us where she went, because we weren't immediate family!
"The closest we can track her down is about 20 years ago, and it's an address in The Hamlet." Sylvia mentioned the address. "She was so bad off the last we saw her, I'm just assuming that she's died sometime within these last 20 years, so I thought I'd check the cemetery records with The Hamlet. Can you help me?"
Oh, Sylvia. If you'd only known at that moment who you were talking to-- a person OBSESSED with vital records, geneaolgy, cemeteries, mysteries--
"Of course! Hold on just a second while I go back to get the books," I told her. I fairly skipped to the back safe, where we keep the books, listing everyone buried in the little cemetery I love.
Back at my desk and on the phone with Sylvia, I flipped through the pages. Jeanetta was not listed in there.
"Sylvia, you mentioned Jeanetta was at that address in The Hamlet. You know, I've lived here just about my entire life and frankly--"
Then a memory from long ago came to me.
Hiking beside the creek in the valley below our house, near the cabins! The CABINS!
"Oh! Oh my gosh! I just remembered! There was a facility below our house! It was a kind of compound where developmentally disabled adults lived! It was called The Lodge, but I don't think it's open anymore." I looked up The Lodge on the internet. "Nope, it merged a few years ago with some healthcare facility. But here's the name and phone number of the director of that new facility," I said, giving Sylvia the information. "Sylvia, I just know that's where Jeanetta was. I will bet you a million bucks that's where she was!"
With a promise to call me back and tell me what she'd learned, if anything, Sylvia and I hung up the phone.
Minutes later, Sylvia called again. "I spoke to the director of that facility, T-Bone. She remembers Jeanetta! You were right-- she did live there! But," she said, "She's lost track of Jeanetta too. The last time she heard of her, about 15 years ago, Jeanetta was living in Metropolis up north, so it looks like I still have some work to do." With another promise to call with any news, Sylvia hung up the phone.
For three weeks I kept the notes from our conversation on my desk, because I knew I'd hear from Sylvia again.
Sylvia was crying, I think with happiness and relief. "We found Jeanetta. She's alive and well. She lives in a mobile home park in California. Apparently, she has a social worker who comes in twice a week to check on her. She also has a kind of helper who comes in once a week to straighten things up around her house.
"The best part is, we are flying out in August to accompany her back here for a family reunion. Can you imagine? After all these years? We'll finally get to see her. I don't even know if she'll remember us, but won't it be great?"
Sylvia, it will be great. Jeanetta has her family again.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
I've met lots of firefighters, including a particularly heroic group from New York City, who were at the World Trade Center on 9-11 (where they lost 343 firefighters). When you talk to these guys, they speak with a complete lack of pretension about what they do for a living. They just do it. They don't analyze it; they don't question it; they aren't maudlin about it; they just have a job to do, and when they are asked to help, they are right there putting their lives on the line to get what needs to be done, done. Going in, they don't think about the danger facing them; rather, they think about rescuing people and animals trapped inside the building, getting the fire out, and making sure they watch their buddies' backs. The last thing on their minds is their own skin.
The firefighters I met didn't dwell on the events of that morning, at least in mixed company. When they did speak of their friends, they recalled something funny they had said or done; they talked about what a great guy he was; they shared what a wonderful father or husband he was. Then they'd raise a glass and have a drink in their memory. Then they'd raise another glass, and another.
One of the Charleston firefighters stated on Tuesday, "I lost nine of my best friends."
Bravery like that is something I can learn from.
Monday, June 18, 2007
"BEEEEEE OHHHHHH AAAAAAA CEEEEEEEEE
TAKES GOOD CARE OF YOUUUUUUUUU
TAKES CARE OF YOUR MON-EEEEEEEYYYY"
This is how I would sing it:
"BEEEEEE OHHHHHH AAAAAAA CEEEEEEEEE
TAKES GOOD CARE OF YOUUUUUUUUUU
I have no idea how I created that word or what it meant, but my lyric fit very nicely in the phrase of the jingle, don't you think?
My sisters, of course, pounced on "simpituous", and now in family lore, it means "fake word or phrase used in a manner which suggests correct usage of word by the speaker/singer, ALTHOUGH IT'S A FAKE WORD OR PHRASE".
Another great example of simpituousness is a person who called into a local radio station and confessed that she used to think the hook for INXS' Suicide Blonde was actually "soup and salad bar." Imagine Michael Hutchence writhing on stage and growling:
(bass line) DUH DUH DUH
SOUP AND SALAD BAR
DUH DUH DUH
SOUP AND SALAD BAR
SOUP AND SALAD BAR
WAS THE COLOR OF HER HAIR... etc.
Lesson: when listening to a song, it's key to consider context.
I'm interested in hearing my readers' personal examples of their simpituosity. Please share in the comments section below.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
"City Public Works-- this is T-Bone. May I help you?"
Woman with German accent: "I vent to pick up my son at school today, and there was rain flooding the gutter next to de curb, and ven he got in my car, he lost his shoe!" She was very agitated.
"Gosh, I'm sorry he lost his shoe-- how can I help you?"
"Vell, de shoe washed down de street and into de drain. I vant you to stop water from flowing tru de system and get the shoe."
I envisioned our rain-swollen creek and my boss running alongside with a butterfly net, trying to rescue this kid's stupid shoe.
"Ma'am, I'm afraid we can't help you with that," I said apologetically.
"Vell, dey are his favorite shoes! I can't keep buying him a new pair of shoes every time he loses one in de drain! I just bought him dis pair-- he lost another one in de drain before! Dey cost $17.00 a PAIR!"
Maybe she should just buy a new kid-- one who's a little less klutzy getting in the car.
"Well," I explained, "The shoe is gone from our water system. Why don't you call Next Door's Water Department? They might be able to help you find your son's shoe." When in doubt, dump the pissed off German ladies with Next Door. They can deal with her.
Recently, we received a letter from a citizen saying that her tires had been damaged by a pothole at the intersection of Y and Z. She wanted reimbursement for these tires, due to The Hamlet's "refusal" to fill this pothole. Boss informed me that this particular intersection is Next Door's responsibility, as it is just outside our city limits, which is why we didn't fix the pothole. I wrote the citizen a letter advising her of such. Two weeks later, she* called.
"This is Betty. I'm calling to report a pothole."
"Okay," I answered. "Can you tell me where it is?"
"It's at the intersection of A and B in The Hamlet. I blew out two new tires on this pothole and," her voice winding up, up, up, like a generator, "I want to be reimbursed for them! They cost me $100.00! I'm on disability and I don't have the money for this! I want money for my tires today!"
"Ma'am, I'm sorry-- can I put you on hold for just a moment?"
"I guess," she said, exasperated.
I pulled her letter out of my file cabinet. In the letter, she specifically stated that the potholes that ruined her tires were at the intersection of Y and Z, located in Next Door's city limits. I got back on the phone with her.
"Ma'am, thanks for holding. You sent us a letter about this about two weeks ago, didn't you?"
"Yes. I. Did. I never got any kind of response from you people about it! You just don't want to take responsibility for blowing out my tires! I want my $100.00 for those tires right now!"
"Ma'am, according to your letter, it says that the potholes were at Y and Z, which is Next Door. We don't fix potholes for Next Door."
"Well, I'm telling you right now, the pothole is at A and B! I want my money," she concluded stubbornly.
"Ma'am, I'm very sorry-- but we sent you a letter the day after we received yours in the mail. Did you not receive that letter?"
Betty, overwrought and apparently really confused, starting crying. She said, "Well, I just don't know where my tires were blown out. I just moved here from another part of the city, and I'm all confused and turned around. I know those potholes were outside my house."
"Ma'am, did you receive our letter?"
"Well. I suppose I did. But later I thought about it and realized that the potholes that caused my tires to go flat were the ones outside my house, not those other ones."
"Ma'am, I need to ask you this and I'm sorry if my question upsets you-- but how do you know that for sure?"
"I DON'T KNOW THAT!" she screamed, "I don't know! I just know that my tires had to be replaced and I can't afford it!"
God, she is losing it, poor thing, I thought. But I also wasn't going to let her try to pilfer us out of $100.00 because she wasn't sure which potholes caused this. I tried one last question, hoping she'd give me the answer I needed to help her.
"Ma'am, did you file a police report or an insurance claim or anything that'll tell us exactly where your tires blew out?"
"Nooooo! I didn't!" she yelled.
Oh well. I tried.
Following is the eight week-old message on Boss's voicemail. What started off as a credible, run-of-the-mill call quickly turned into something... not so credible and yes, a little creepy.
"This is Sue. With all the rain we've been having lately, I'm really concerned about all the erosion. I live near the mountain and lots of it is washing down the street-- lots of dirt and mud and lots of other stuff too. One thing I'm really worried about are the bodies buried up on the mountain. You know, I've heard all those stories about people being buried up there, and then washing down the mountain when the rains get really bad. I just want you to know that I'm keeping an eye out for those bodies, you know. There's lots of stories around town and lots of people who bury people up on that mountain, and I want you to know that I'm watching for them-- the bodies-- because did you know that there is no statute of limitations on murder? All the people in The Hamlet know about those bodies. So I want you to know that I know all about it and I'm watching for them. Because there's no statute of limitations on murder, you know. Have a good day!"
* Why are the barking mad callers always female? It's perplexing.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
I haven't done this in a long time, readers. Months and months.
I daydreamed about my life, my possibilities. I daydreamed about things I want to do, things I want to accomplish, things I want to overcome.
In thinking of these things today, I felt hope and happiness.
The old me is sputtering to life again.
Friday, June 01, 2007
Jew Food burst from my brain as a result of a forwarded email. This email asked we list, from A to Z, particular things in our life that we enjoy. I forwarded the email to my desired recipients, dutifully deleted the existing answers and added my own answers. After hitting "send", I had several responses from those who had received my forwarded email, and they supplied their answers in kind.
The Brunette, under Y, shared that she had recently fixed a Yummy meal-- "Swedish meatballs with latkes with lingonberry sauce" as something she'd made recently for her boyfriend and my nephew. It does sound good, doesn't it? But of course the Redhead and I couldn't just leave it at that. Rather, we honed in on the Brunette's idea that we have Jews in our family tree* and instead of saying to one another, "Wow. That does sound like a nice meal!", we started to feed off of one another about the Brunette fixing latkes.
Following is my A to Z list, originally prepared for the Redhead, of our purported Jewish heritage.
A- Anadama bread, which Marcy makes. She's a Jew.
B- Babushka, which our ancestors in Russia wore, and balaliaka, an instrument our Jewish ancestors probably played.
C- Cossacks, soldiers that raped and pillaged our Jewish ancestors in the ghetto in Russia, where we came from.
D- Dreidl, for Max.
E- Eastern Europe, where our ancestors probably walked on their way to Germany.
F- Frankincense. Gift for Jesus, who was a Jew.
G- Gifelte fish, which Jews eat.
H- Hannukah, which we celebrate right before Christmas, because we are part Jewish.
I- Israel, the holy land where our ancestors are from.
J- Judaism, which I practice around Hannukah.
K- Kosher kitchen, which I keep.
L- Latke. Good with Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce.
M- Moses, head Jew, and Madonna, studying Kaballah, mystical Jewish text.
N- New York. Lots of Jews live there.
O- Ohio. Not so many Jews.
P- Purim. Holiday that us Jews celebrate.
Q- Quest. That's what the Jews where on when they were in the desert for 40 years with Moses, head Jew.
R- Rabbi. Guy at temple on Saturday night.
S- Sandwich. It's what Jews eat for lunch.
T- Torah. The thing we read at temple on Saturdays.
U- Uvula. All Jews have them.
V- Verklempt. Yiddish word for how I'm feeling.
W- Why doesn't anyone believe I'm part Jewish?
X- Xray. Jews get these when they have broken arms.
Y- Yeshiva. Where rabbi studied.
Z- Zipper. We Jews have these on our pants.
* Which is fine, you understand. It is, however, unsupportable by any documentation we have of our family's heritage, which is why we give the Brunette such a hard time about it. We do love her very much, though!