Trudy, the hinge between Les and Gert

March 12, 1950: Bride Trudy between Les (left, behind her) and Gert (to the right, dark hat); Deana is to Gert’s right

My working theory about relationships among three adult is that, when there’s one person who has a relationship with the other two but that the other two don’t have a natural relationship with each other, it spells trouble.

I’ve been there, getting along with two guys at the coffeehouse we lived at c. 1975, but they inexplicably hated each other. I mean throwing chairs at one another. I was the hinge in the middle, trying to make peace, generally unsuccesfully.

A better example is when I lived with my sister Leslie and her then-husband Eric in the summer of 1977 in Jamaica, Queens, NYC. Leslie was the hinge, trying to keep peace between her spouse and her sibling.

Unfortunately, I know my mother, Trudy, spent years being the hinge in the relationship between her mother Gert and her husband Les, probably since Les and Trudy got married in 1950.

It was fairly clear that Les did not particularly like Gert. One time when we were having Sunday dinner at our house, someone asked Gert if she wanted any peas. She said, “A couple.” Les spooned exactly two peas onto her plate.

Even now, decades later, I experience a mix of mortified embarrassment, amazement at his passive aggression, and a mild amusement over his literalism.

I have to think a lot of that animosity came from Les’ male ego. He was living in a house, 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton, owned by his mother-in-law, where he was paying, as far as I know, no rent, just the utilities, since the house was paid off. His mother and stepfather lived upstairs and paid minimal amount of rent to cover the taxes.

To be fair to my father, though, Gert’s tales, some designed to scare her grandchildren into submission, could be irritating. Her sister Deana, who unfortunately died in 1966, was often my ally, and at least one one occasion said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!”

My dad was SO thrilled when he and my mother bought a house at 29 Ackley Avenue in nearby Johnson City in 1972, when I was off at New Paltz. I even lent them some money for the down payment from the money I had been saving for college, since my Regents scholarship covered my first-year tuition.

Les and Trudy and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. As Gert was alone and aging in Binghamton, it was clear she could no longer live on her own. Leslie and I “kidnapped” her and took her down to Charlotte by train in January 1975, where she had a room in Trudy and LES’ house until she died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982.

The writing exercise, in which Dad’s paintings appear

painting
Back in May, I participated in this ninety-minute writing class from a woman named http://www.dianecameron.info/ Diane Cameron. Among many other things, she’s a freelance writer who appears in the local newspaper regularly.

The directive was to think of three doors that were important in your life. Then you write about one of them for four minutes. And by “writing,” this means not taking the pen off the paper, not editing, just letting the words take us where they would.

The first door was the outside door Continue reading

The Wife and the tax compromise

1040sc_Page_1I’m playing cards (hearts) the day after my birthday, and someone mentioned preparing taxes. I noted that the Wife and I get someone else to do it for us. My friend did not understand. “It’s EASY with TurboTax” or some other software. I repeated that we outsource our tax prep because it was best for us to do so. My reaction was perceived as passionate, maybe even heated, although it did not feel that way to me. It was just what we do to insure domestic tranquility.
Continue reading

Blogging revolution #9

9-page-headerNine years of blogging, every day; nine trips around the sun. This is remarkable, or remarkably crazy; the line between the two is paper thin. There were weeks this past year when I could write only one or two posts. It was almost never out of a lack of content ideas, but rather a lack of time. Then there’d be an outpouring, usually at 4 a.m., when my mind was swimming with the thoughts I wanted to write.

It’s rather like the pushmi-pullyu of Doctor Doolittle Continue reading

That damn song about ancestors

Les.Trudy
Right after I got back to Albany, after my mother’s funeral in February 2011 in Charlotte, NC, I attended the church service of my current congregation. It was Black History Month, and I had helped organize the events, but did not participate much in them. I’m standing in the congregation, rather than singing in the choir Continue reading

JiFKa: the 50th anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

A couple years back, I asked What was the first public trauma – as opposed to a personal trauma, such as a death or divorce in the family – that you recall? And while not my first event, the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, when I was ten years old and didn’t understand what happened next – I was not yet seeped in Presidential succession law – was terrifying. The death itself was already scary enough.

It certainly didn’t help that Miss Oberlik, our fifth grade teacher, told us the news, LEFT THE ROOM, for some reason Continue reading

The popcorn story

By demand from Island Rambles. I mean Shooting Parrots asked for it, but IR INSISTED!

When I was forced to get rid of my microwave by my lovely bride after we got married and moved in together, one of the things I most missed was making microwave popcorn. Now Carol would say, “Oh, you can make popcorn on the stove.” Well, no; maybe SHE could, and occasionally/rarely she did, but I could not, unless you considered creating a smoky and scorched pot, oddly filled with burnt popcorn AND unpopped kernels, “making popcorn.” I used the oil, even moved the pot as instructed but to no particular success, unless the goal was to make a mess without having a satisfactory culinary outcome. It’s OK to mess up a lot of pans if there’s a payoff, but without one…

I must have mentioned me missing this appliance at a gathering of her birth family, around Thanksgiving or Christmas of 1999. When we all got together for Mother’s Day the next year, they brought ME a box of microwave popcorn, which I accepted graciously. This was just the wrong response for them.

What I was SUPPOSED to do is kvetch, “But we don’t have a microwave! What am I to do with this?” At that point, they were going to then give us a microwave, which we could use in the new house, where we were going to move into the following week, and there would as room for it. Instead, I figured to just use the microwave popcorn at work.

Finally, the following weekend, they brought us the new microwave, as a first anniversary/housewarming present, disappointed that they did not have a little fun at my expense. Indeed, inadvertently, I had some fun at THEIR expense, and I wasn’t even trying.

AND, after very little practice, I almost NEVER burn the popcorn.

LISTEN: Buttered Popcorn by the Supremes

13 years of wedded bliss out of 14 ain’t bad

I was flicking through the TV channels a couple weeks ago and discovered there’s some new reality show about newlyweds that’s going to be airing soon. Couldn’t tell you the name of it – and truth to tell, wouldn’t bother to look it up – but the clips were full of Sturm und Drang, because doesn’t that sound entertaining?

The running joke The Wife and I have is that we’ve been happily married 13 years; we’ve been wed 14 . The skill of fading memory makes that first 12 months not feel THAT bad. Continue reading

Eight years of blogging

eight

I started blogging eight years ago today, apparently without much forethought. because, in the lyrics of that Rufus featuring Chaka Khan song, “Once you get started, it’s so hard to stop.” I’ve managed to blog every single day here.

To be sure, occasionally it was just a single YouTube video, but even then, it almost always had a soupçon of contextual verbiage. (Here’s a question for you all – how does one type a ç from a standard US typewriter? The one in the previous sentence I cut and pasted.)

One of the ways I have maintained whatever level of sanity I have is that I don’t blog here nearly as often as I used to. Some days early on, I would blog here more than once a day. I’ve tried very hard not to do that anymore. Continue reading