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

Father’s Day

Lydia and Roger, 2010

One of the things I worried about when Lydia was born was whether I would be there when she grew up. After all, I was 51 when she was born, so I’ll be 70 when she’s 19.

What I had not seriously considered, beyond the normal concerns, is what if something happened to her. Her still mysterious illness in late February and much of March made me concerned because, as the doctors eliminated what it was NOT, I still did not know what it WAS.

It wasn’t until mid-May, though, that The Wife and I had a conversation with her about what she felt, I mean beyond the pain. 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

L is for Les, Leslie and Roger, the Green Family Singers

My sister MARCIA found this and put it on Facebook:

It’s a promo sheet my father created for himself as a “singer of folk songs,” never as a “folk singer,” which was too limiting a term for him.

I’m particularly interested in the set list, I’m guessing from late 1950s. Some of the songs he was still singing a decade later, when my father, sister Leslie and I sang together, while there are others (Twenty Souls) I don’t even recognize. I’m always fascinated to hear other people sing the songs he, or we, performed Continue reading

Random Memory of My Father: Savannah, GA

For my job, I used to go to the national conference of our association every year (far less so this century.) In the fall of 1998, the event was in Savannah, Georgia, this Atlantic coastal city that had a certain old world charm. Among other things, it was a walkable locale with a sense of its history.

My father, who was living in Charlotte, NC at the time, decided to drive down and visit me. It was about 260 miles and 4.5 hours away, but when he suggested it, I was all for it. I had come down on a Saturday, and while there was a mixer on Sunday, the conference did not start in earnest until Monday; it was just cheaper at that time to fly down a day earlier, even considering the hotel costs.

Well, my father Continue reading

Grandmother Agatha Green, found at last

When my parents moved downstairs at 5 Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY, my paternal grandparents, McKinley and Agatha (nee Walker) Green moved upstairs. Her name, BTW, was pronounced a-GATH-a, not AG-a-tha. Yes, it is I who she is holding.

Grandma Green was almost certainly my first Sunday school teacher at Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church, only a couple short blocks from our home. She had a certain refinement and bearing. While my maternal grandmother would nag me, this grandma gave me the parameters she expected, and I pretty much did it.
It’s rather like some Bill Cosby routine Continue reading