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.

Everything reminds me, when it isn’t it

After my mother died, I thought that the hospital people might want to check out her brain, dissect it for science or something. No, they were good.

The reason I thought about this was, according to the baby sister, the rapid change in my mother’s personality over the last six months of her life.

I came across this Daily Kos story about health care and politics, when this paragrapgh jumped out at me and pretty much slapped me across the face:

“Now, my uncle hasn’t been well for awhile. He’s suffered from an incredibly early onset of Pick’s Disease; which, if you’re not familiar with it, is like Alzheimer’s, but worse. Much worse. For instance, one of the ways you can differentiate between Pick’s Disease and Alzheimer’s is that with Pick’s people get incredibly hostile – argumentative, vulgar, violent – towards family members first and most aggressively, behavior they won’t exhibit or inflict on people they’re not familiar with.”

She wasn’t that young, 83 when she died, but she became really hostile to those she knew best. Yet she was seemingly a perfect angel to strangers, or those at her adult day care, e.g.

Of course, it doesn’t REALLY matter exactly what she died with – she died FROM the stroke. And she really doesn’t fit the full profile:

Pick’s disease is a rare condition that causes progressive and irreversible dementia. This disease is one of many types of dementias known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Frontotemporal dementia is the result of a brain condition known as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). If you have dementia, your brain doesn’t function normally. As a result, you may have difficulty with language, behavior, thinking, judgment, and memory. Like patients with other types of dementia, you may experience drastic personality changes.”

Whatever that caused the changes, I feel badly for my sister and her daughter. And, I suppose my mother too, although who knows how self-aware she was about processing things.

Seven years since Mom died. Still sucks.

Sonny and Gertie: what might have been

My mother’s remaining cousin on her mother’s side, Fran, always refers to my mother as Gertie. Mom was named after HER mother, which I find endlessly fascinating.

Mom didn’t become Trudy until some point after marrying my father, Les. She pretty much hated Gertie, though long-time relatives were forgiven when they slipped into the old nickname.

Well, that guy with my mother in this undated photo, though clearly from the 1940s, isn’t Les. His name is Sonny. I don’t know a thing about him, including what his last name is. I don’t even know if Sonny is his given name or HIS nickname.

There were, in the day, a lot of nicknames for boys who formally bore their father’s names. Rather than being a diminutive of the name – Richard and Richie or William and Billy – they were sometimes dubbed Chip (as in a “chip off the old block“) or Bud (the next generation) or the initial of the father followed by J – Arthur Jr would be AJ.

Sonny, though, I always thought of as a generic nickname for any lad: “Hey, sonny, could I buy a newspaper from you?” But there are some Sonnys out there.

Gertie’s boyfriend Sonny, my mom told her kids many more times than once, would have been our father if Les Green weren’t so darn charming. This usually happened when she was irritated with our father, though she never said this in his presence.

This statement, even then, I thought was a really odd construction. If we had been Sonny’s kids, we wouldn’t have been…us. We’d have different DNA. We’d look different and sound different, and if we had been raised by Sonny, think differently.

I guess the fact that Les Green was “never a bore” is to the benefit of my sisters and me. No offense to you, Sonny, though. You look like a decent guy, even with that peculiar name.

Oh, today would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday, Gertie Trudy.

Mother’s Day 2017

HA! I was looking at my May posts I completed, and I assumed I’d written a Mother’s Day something about my mom. But I was misremembering. I had written about my sister Marcia for her birthday this week, and that post is largely ABOUT my mom.

So I decided the heck with it and picked some photos off Marcia’s Facebook, most of which I don’t believe I’ve posted before.


Here’s my mom with HER mother, Gertrude Williams, and my sisters Leslie and Marcia, in her red wig period.


My mother with her mother’s people, the Yates, including Gert (2nd left), her aunts Charlotte and Deana. I have no idea what she’s looking at. This is in Binghamton, NY.


Mom with our family friend Betty, probably at the latter’s home near Binghamton.


I could ask someone who Sammy is, but this predates my father being on the scene.


Mom with her middle granddaughter, Alex, Marcia’s daughter, in Charlotte, NC.


Mom with her eldest Yates cousin, Raymond.


Mom with her eldest child, in Binghamton.


Mom with her eldest child, in Charlotte.

I will say that, unlike THIS mom, my mom hardly ever swore, and not just in front of her kids.

Mom, 40 years ago: taking care from far away

trudy.pearlsAfter my sister Leslie and I left my grandmother in Charlotte, NC with my parents and my sister Marcia in January 1975, I went back to Binghamton, NY and stayed in my grandmother’s house. She had a coal stove, and I had SEEN her operate it for years. But seeing and doing were two different things, and soon, the fire went out, and the pipes froze.

I was pretty depressed after the breakup of my marriage to the Okie, so I mostly watched television. I mean hours at a time. My grandma’s set got only one station, WNBF-TV, the CBS affiliate. So I watched the soap operas As the World Turns, The Edge of Night, Guiding Light, and Search for Tomorrow. Don’t remember watching any game shows except Match Game. Viewed the bulk of the CBS nighttime schedule, except perhaps the movies. And, heaven help me, I watched Continue reading

Mother’s Day: no mother, again

trudy_at_churchHere are a couple more pictures of my mom, before she was my mom. I don’t know exactly when they were taken, if I saw them before, I don’t recall them. Funny how she has that head tilt in both, albeit in different directions. My sister Marcia is doing yeoperson’s job of finding photos, scanning them and putting them on Facebook.

I’m fairly sure I know where the first one was taken. 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

Grandparents Day: my grandmas, and one of my daughter’s

One of those holidays I think WAS created by Hallmark is Grandparents Day. Well, technically not, but it FEELS that way.

Here’s another picture my sister Marcia found, taken at some point in the 1940s; no idea where, when or why. The woman in the top row, second from the right is my great aunt Charlotte and the guy next to her in the sweater is her husband, Ernie Yates. Ernie died while his kids Raymond (directly in front of Charlotte), Frances (sitting on the floor), and Donald (on the blonde girl’s lap) were still young, but Charlotte had grandchildren, as Fran, Donald, and Robert (either not yet born, or an infant) all had children. Fran and Donald now have grandchildren.

The woman behind the blonde girl, partially obscured, is my grandma Continue reading