362. Flunking the Test

Amidst the chaos and stress of the past weeks, I had an additional unpleasant experience –  for the fourth time in my life, I flunked a test.

Daughter Lisa and granddaughter Josie went with me to the Driver’s License Office to renew my driver’s license in time for my September 6 deadline, and I failed the eye test.  Oh, rats!

Perhaps I should explain that the first three tests I failed in my lifetime, were the first three times I failed to be awarded a New York State Driver’s License.  I very luckily made it on the fourth try, or otherwise I’d have been out of luck because New York had a “four strikes and you’re out!” policy.

The only other time I had to take a driving test was when we moved to Washington State, and I am embarrassed to say that I only passed it through trickery.  I won’t get into it here, but be assured that, yes, I am sorry for all the sins of my past life including that one.

Nobody seems to understand why I want to have a driver’s license anyway.  Disliking the possibility that I might kill a pedestrian or passenger, I had the good sense to quit driving several years ago.  So you may ask, since I don’t drive, –  why do a need a license to not do it.

The first reason is that – in spite of the photo of the ugly woman they keep putting on it – I have always been proud of having a driver’s license. It’s so cool.  Whenever anybody asks to see my license, I can’t get it out and flash it in front of them fast enough.  (With my thumb over the photo, of course.)

And the other reason I want to have one is because so does everybody else.  I don’t want to be left out.  And I don’t want people to think I’m an illegal alien.

Actually, it was a surprise to no one that I failed the eye test.  Thanks to my rotten timing, I’m scheduled for surgery in September and October to get the cataracts removed from my eyes.  A few months earlier and I might of aced the test.

The nice lady at the Driver’s License counter said that while she couldn’t renew my license, I could come back as soon as both eyes are completely healed and take it again.  Bleakly I asked, “But if my license is expired, won’t I have to take the driver’s test again?”  “No”, she said cheerfully. “I’ll make a note that you were here on time to renew the license but that you have to wait till after the surgery to take the test again.” 

HOORAY.  Thank heavens.  That means I won’t have to be the first 80 year old enrolled in Driver’s Ed after all.

In the meantime, I’m still going to flash around my Washington State Driver’s License with great pride. It’ll be trickier though. l’ll need to use both thumbs.  One over the photo and one over the Expiration Date. 

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361. Fallen Woman

Only 5 more blobs till I hit the big Eight-O.  After that, there won’t be more daily blobs, but maybe I can crank some out as the spirit moves me now and then.

Before I get to the last daily one, though, grandson Bryce keeps asking me to write about this story – so here goes.

My husband Gene and I got married in 1951 when I was 20 years old and he was 24.

At first, we lived in Miami, Florida where we worked for Pan American Airlines – Gene in Operations, and me in Flight Watch. 

I got pregnant almost immediately when we settled there.  We liked working for Pan-Am, but we really didn’t like living in Miami.  The OB doctor didn’t approve of our traveling until I got further along, but when he finally said it was okay, we packed up and moved to the Manhattan borough of New York City.

The second place we lived there was an old brownstone building on 164th Street, not far from where Gene got a job working for Columbia University.

Except for Gene and me, the neighborhood was mostly populated by Jews and a few Cubans.  We rented one room of the downstairs apartment that belonged to our landlady – a colorful Jewish woman, named Mrs. Grill. I think her first name was something like Zelda, but hardly anyone called her that. She might have been in her early sixties when we lived there. 

Mrs. Grill was a popular member of the community and enjoyed a kind of celebrity status among the other Yiddish women in the neighborhood. She was a handsome woman and she carried herself with a kind of presence that made you notice her.  But I soon observed that one reason for the deferential respect she was paid by the other women wasn’t because of her looks, or because she owned the brownstone building, but because of her extraordinary shopping skills.

In Manhattan in the early 1950s, I think there were very few grocery stores – and no supermarkets.  All our food for the kitchen we shared with Mrs. Grill was purchased at little shops on a street not far from our building.  The meat was acquired at little butcher shops, fruit at fruit stands, bread in bakery shops.  So also, dairy, fish, and most other products were sold in little speciality shops.

The shopping was an important ritual performed in my neighborhood every day except the Sabbath. For the housewives there, it was an important part of the day – economically and socially. Almost as soon as the shopkeepers opened their doors in the morning and arranged their products, it was like somebody had just yelled “Let the games begin!”

The price of the food was labeled but completely disregarded by the housewives and shopkeepers.  The labeled price was merely to set the stage for the mighty armed combat which would ensue. The point of the game was to test the negotiating skills of the opponent, thereby allowing a price to be settled on.

I was introduced to the shopping “arena” soon after we moved in with Mrs. Grill.  I was always seasick with “morning” sickness, but Mrs. Grill was adamant that I should accompany her every day, while she went shopping for today’s food.

I presumed that the reason for her interest in having me accompany her might be due to one of the following:

1.  Maybe she enjoyed my company, or

2.  She wanted me to get out of the house to get some exercise, or to get my mind off the nausea, or

3.  Maybe she wanted me to learn how to properly negotiate with the neighborhood shopkeepers.

Any, or all of the above.  That’s what I assumed.

So, every morning, Mrs. Grill would rap on our door.  “Patty, aren’t you ready yet?” she would say urgently.  “Get up, up, UP”.

So it was that every day except the Sabbath, I would don my maternity tent, and drag my swollen feet and belly out to the sidewalk where I could waddle alongside the imposing Mrs. Grill.  In her housedress, purse hanging from her arm, she was girded for battle. I had to admire her pluck and power.

At the first street where the shops were located, we would proceed from shop to shop, and at each one, Mrs. Grill would “introduce” me to the shopkeeper and the other customers.  All the introductions and comments were spoken entirely and solemnly in Yiddish so I had no idea as what my decorum should be.  I decided that trying to smile in a casual but friendly way was the safest response on my part. 

Once I had been presented in each shop, the negotiations would commence.  In spite of my horrible morning sickness, I really enjoyed the entertainment that always followed.  Watching the housewives haggle with the shopkeepers and anticipating who the winner of each contest would be was world-class suspense at its finest. Jousting over the price of a pound of green beans may not sound thrilling to you right now –  but you had to BE there. And it was a marvelous temporary relief from morning sickness.

To this day, I remember those shopping excursions fondly.  I wish somebody would write a musical comedy about them.  It was Show Time on 165th Street.

Of all the ladies that shopped on that boulevard, Mrs. Grill racked up the most wins.  With dignity, she would hand over her coins as the  shopkeeper begrudgingly handed her a little sack with her purchase in it, and then we would proceed to the next shop. 

 Invariably, on the way home, I would catch a glimpse of a big smile on Mrs. Grill’s face. I figured it was because clearly, she had made the best deals of any of the other shoppers. Victory was hers every time.

This went on six days a week for about five months.  We danced to the same tune each time – Mrs. Grill solemnly presenting me, and then the shopkeepers and other customers earnestly discussing me in Yiddish.  And all the while, not sure as to how Miss Manners would handle it, I always tried to nod my head as though I understood perfectly, and always, with a friendly, dignified smile.

Finally, on August 16th, our first baby – Mark Peter Ford –  was born.  I had to give up our shopping trips at that point, and Gene would bring groceries home. 

A week or so later,  Gene and I were going to church with the baby, and one of the housewives I remembered from the shopping excursions saw us. She looked kind of shocked. She came over to us and, in English, asked me “Do you remember me?”  I told her I did and then, looking at Gene, she asked with a kind of awe, “Are you married to each other?”  Puzzled, Gene said, “We sure are”.

That’s when the jig was up! The lady explained that on each of our shopping trips, Mrs. Grill had paraded me before every shopkeeper in order to “explain” that I was an unwed mother and she had taken me in and given me shelter out of the generosity of her heart.  And she made it perfectly and painfully clear to each shopkeeper that she fully expected them to be generous because of her sacrifices.

And that’s how the wily Mrs. Grill was always the champion shopper on 165th Street.  She adroitly used me in order to play the charity card. Talk about Chutzpah!

We laughed all the way home, but needless to say, I was a little embarrassed to ever be seen again in any of the little shops on 165th Street.  

When Mark was two weeks old, some of my family came to visit us.  Here’s a photo of us outside Mrs. Grill’s brownstone building.  On the left is my dad Jim Gorman holding my niece Chris Fitzpatrick (now Milner), then my mom Josie, my brother Richard, and my sister Joan. The little girl named Judy lived in the building,  Gene is the tall guy in the back row, and in front of him is a character who lived in the building.  The woman he has his arm around is Mrs. Grill.  I’m the one turned to go up the step, and the man behind me is another character from the building. 

About two months after Mark was born, we knew we had to have more room, and we found an apartment on 73rd Street. 

Mrs. Grill never really forgave us for moving away and spoiling her shopping fun.  But I’ll always admire that proud spirit of hers, her generosity to us, her indescribably good cooking, and the shameless way she used me in order to negotiate the best deals. 

Here’s one more photo of her taken in the room we rented in her brownstone building. It was  taken on Mark’s christening day.  On the left is Mark’s godfather, an actor and friend named Harry Scully and his sister Rita.  To the right of baby Mark is Mrs. Grill and I’m the one leaning over her looking at the baby. 

So that, Bryce, is the whole sordid tale about how your Grandma was once – briefly – an unwed mother. 

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360. Peaceful Co-existence

No time to blob today, but since you’re here, please checkout this great story about “Sharing”.

A dog and a cat which have recently given birth in China are taking it in turns to look after the “kids” for each other.  Both animals are owned by Gao Shunhong, of Fushun, Liaoning province, China, who adopted the dog two years ago and the cat one year ago.

‘They get along together incredibly well for a cat and dog,’ he told the Fushun Daily newspaper.  Two weeks ago, the cat gave birth to a litter of two kittens, and three days later, the dog produced a litter of six puppies.

Both mothers put their cubs together in the same box, and rotate in nursing them,’ said Gao.  ‘When the dog is out, the cat will lie down and nurse the kittens and puppies, and when the dog came back, the cat would go out, leaving the nursing job to the dog.  If both mothers are in, the cubs can get quite mixed up, with the cat nursing the puppies, and the dog nursing the kittens. It’s really odd – but a great picture of harmony.

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359. Home Again!

Just brought Matt home after getting discharged from Harborview Hospital.  All is well and peace reigns.  Deo Gratias!

Sticking with Latin, Gratias also is expressed to the superior world class care given by the gifted staff at Harborview.

And to all of you who provided the prayers and support that got us through the ordeal. And to friend Linda Lewis for offering her total unconditional support for any respite she could provide.

And to the other Linda (Covey) Atkinson – my “daughter-in-law-once-removed” for all her encouragement and hope.

And to my granddaughter Little Gretchen (Warden) and her husband Joe Stark who showed up one bleak day with one of Little Gretchen’s home-baked raspberry pies and time to stay for a visit with Big Gretchen, son-in-law Brad, and me.

And to all of you who have been helping author the blobs during the crisis: grandson Bryce Covey; granddaughters Elizabeth and Josie (who wrote about Little Gretchen and Joe’s anniversary – that blob had 420 readers, the most any of the blobs have had!); and daughter Susy, granddaughter Elizabeth, and niece Rene’ (Fitzpatrick) Melchior who wrote the stories about their dogs.

And I won’t forget to thank the drivers who kept patiently ferrying me back and forth to the hospital. First, daughter Susy who got us to the hospital on the night he was admitted, and then sat with me through the six or so hours the process took.

Next, was daughter Gretchen who is also painting the front of my house.  Several times, she got out of her paint clothes, jumped in the shower, and whisked me up there, and then climbed up on the roof once again.

Finally, there was the one and only T.T. Covey – my granddaughter from next door.  T.T. – just back from 5 weeks in Europe – hadn’t even got over jet lag before she got nominated to be “Grandma’s driver”.  She’s a good driver and also knows her way around a GPS. We always got there safely and on time.  And she’s fun to visit with!.

THANK YOU EVERYBODY.  And let’s hear it once more – DEO GRATIAS!

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358. Bow-wow-WOW!

Here’s one more family dog story to add to my collection. It came from my niece Rene’ (Fitzpatrick) Melchior.

This is Carmel. She came to us about 2 years ago. 

One afternoon, I was driving away from therapy with my three small ones in the car. I had just discussed texture issues that the twins were having during the therapy sessions. 

There happened to be a lady set up on the corner of the parking lot we were pulling out of. She had a sign set up that said, “AKC Dogs and Puppies for Sale”. Well, that would be interesting, and maybe we could involve some of the texture issues that we were having. It sounded like a good excuse at the time.

There were several dogs to see, and I asked why she had such a variety to let go. Due to the economy she needed to downsize her kennel. The children were looking from the car, and seemed very interested. Josiah (shown on the right) couldn’t sit still in his car-seat. He absolutely wanted to get hold of one of the dogs. 

Carmel was sitting in her kennel in the back end of the mini van looking at us with HUGE eyes. She was very sad. As I spoke to the woman, she began to ask about the kids. 

We discovered that she had a close friend that also did foster care and she admired that in her friend. We also found out that she also had twins.  Somewhere in the conversation we discussed where we worked and exchanged numbers. After a lot of petting, licking, whining (human, and canine), we said our goodbyes, and drove away. 

After a while I heard a small voice from the back seat saying, “Can we take Carmel home with us?” To be honest I was feeling a little that way myself.

Now if you knew my husband, you would understand why we had to leave without her. We already had a golden retriever at home. That would be enough for my husband. He loves animals, but he likes to be spontaneous about getting up and walking out the door to go to the Zoo, park, camping, et., and the dogs put a little kink into the plan. There’s the whole pottying,& feeding thing and not all places are pet friendly. So on home we go. 

The next morning I called my new friend. I figured that Carmel had gotten a new home rather quickly. Come to find out, Carmel is small for her size when it comes to Shitzus. She seemed fine to me. I guess she was the runt. Anyway we met again later, and I had the kids with me again. (I always do. This is BaLee and JoLee on the right.) Seems after a long day on the corner with the dogs and time to ponder, this nice lady decided to GIVE Carmel to us. Now I was in a pickle !!

Dan didn’t want another dog, and I had to figure out how to handle this gift. I had a brainstorm. My daughter Meg (shown on left) was looking for a small dog, maybe it would be a good fit for her, and we could still have the benefit of being close to Carmel. 

When Carmel came to us that day things were a little hectic. I had my three little ones (below on left), and Meg had her two little ones (below right), so we could all meet Carmel together. As fortune would have it, as soon as Carmel hit the ground with all fours, my two girls with there on all fours and started screaming like banshees, and doing a dance and Josiah was on the floor in Carmel’s face trying to play with her. To say the least, Carmel was a little overwhelmed. After some cooing and coaxing all around things settled down a little bit. Meg eventually decided that with a 4 year old and a newborn, a dog at that point might not be a good idea. So now it was up to me. 

Well I guess it goes without saying, I’m a sucker for a pretty dog. After my new friend left, Carmel began to wail in dismay and wouldn’t be soothed. The next thing I know the door was open a crack and out she went to find the car that had left her behind. 

What she did find was some deep grass that she could hide in.  When I found her she looked like an Ewok, peeking through the tall grass at me. Come to find out she had run through the front door of someone’s house straight through to the back door, before I found her. I think she was happy to just let me carry her around for a couple of hours. After that it was love, and she followed me everywhere. 

Now Dan can be a sucker also, but only for my pout. I don’t like to use it much, it’s dangerous. We went to Fall Creek Falls with her and the kids, and she hiked the whole three miles straight down with the kids and three miles straight back up with the kids. She is a tough cookie. 

Now days she is holding court from her position on the back of the couch. From there she can see what is going on in most of the house. She looks like a cat sitting up there. If she isn’t there she can be found on my bed, or Josiah’s bed. Josiah is always delighted to see when she chooses him to sleep with – he considers it an honor.  Well, that’s Carmel in a nutshell.

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357. Corny But True

In case you didn’t know, today is National “More Herbs Less Salt” Day. No kidding.

Right after I got home from church this morning, son Matthew called me from the hospital.  He asked if I could bring popcorn when I came to visit today.  For everybody in the unit. – let’s see – that’d be 20 patients and an assortment of nurses and other staff members. And, oopsie, yes, he’d already told everybody it’d be coming. I knew right away it was going to be a pretty corny day.  

For the next four hours, my stove top popcorn unit was more than overtaxed while popping its heart out, cranking out 32 bags of popcorn.  You don’t even want to think about how much salt and butter the final product contained, and there was nary an herb in sight.

At 4 o’clock, granddaughter T.T. Covey and I hauled all the bags up to the nursing unit, where we were welcomed with open arms.  “Wonderful!”, said one of the nurses.  “Could we have the popcorn about 7 tonight?”, Matt asked her.  You bet”, she said.  “Let’s have a ‘Movie Night’”.

After T.T. and I came home, I cleaned up my salty kitchen and wondered if I would ever enjoy eating popcorn again.  Little did I know, though, that I was about to get a reward for the afternoon’s popping.

At about 7:30 p.m. I was just trying to figure out what to blob about tonight.  After climbing my way out of an avalanche of popcorn all afternoon, I didn’t have any appetite to eat, and was just going to skip supper.  

Phone rang.  Daughter Gretchen next door is having a meeting at their house.  “I’m going to bring you a plate of this good food”, she said.  

“No, don’t, Gretchen”, I argued.  I’m not hungry tonight.”

She brought it anyway.  Holy Toledo.  Best meal in town!  My son-in-law Brad had grilled steak kebobs, and with them, their guests had contributed delicious potato salad and baked beans.  (Luckily, no one had thought to bring corn.) I can’t begin to describe how good it was or how fast I devoured it. So much for my delicate appetite.  I ate like a longshoreman and enjoyed every minute of it.  It sure beats popcorn.

Ah-h-h.        

 

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356. The Great Outdoorsmen

Today is the birthday of two of my relatives who may not know each other, but who have a lot in common.

They are my nephew Edward John (Eddie) Ford, and my great-nephew Adam Jacob (A.J.) Bush.  Eddie is 51 years old today, and A.J. is 7 years old.  In spite of this disparity, they have a lot in common.

1.  They share the same birthday – August 28. And they were both weekend babies – Eddie on a Sunday, A.J. on a Saturday.

2.  They are both natives of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and definitely corn-fed from an early age with that finest of all Iowa crops.

3.  They are both drop-dead gorgeous.  Check ‘em out!  You can’t get more handsome than that!

4.  They both have some smarts.  Eddie is a successful practicing physician, and A.J. is still a little kid who looks like a candidate for top grades. (Tell the teachers Octo-woman says so.)

5. The main habit Eddie and A.J. share though might be the time they spend outdoors.

My nephew Eddie is the son of Bob and Arlis Ford.  He got his M.D. in 1986.  Since then, he specialized first in Rheumatology, and currently in Emergency Medicine.

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I’m pretty sure, though, that the real purpose of Eddie’s medical career is to subsidize his time in the outdoors. 

Whether he’s mountain-climbing, deep-sea fishing (or any kind of fishing) mountain-biking, hiking, snorkeling, diving, water skiing, sailing his catamaran, ice hockeying – you name it – he’s doing it every chance he gets.

If he spends too much time in the indoors, he probably breaks out in a rash.

 

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The only cousin on our side of the family born during the same year as Eddie – is Steve Ford.  He lives in Medford Oregon.

Steve and Eddie love to fish in the waters of the Northwest whenever Eddie can get out here. 

I keep hearing a rumor that a trip out here may be happening pretty soon, but so far . . . . 

 

 

Now about our other birthday boy, A.J. Bush.  From most of A.J.s photos, it seems like he must love the great outdoors, too.  A.J. is the first child of my niece Elizabeth and her husband Chester (C.J.) Bush. 

He may not be out trolling the seas for great white sharks yet, but here he is with his first “catch”.

And here’s a few more shots. The boat may not be quite as hot as Eddie’s catamaran, but, hey, it floats.

A.J. has several cousins and second cousins who were born during his birth year so they’re all 7 years old together:

On the left is Braxton – son of Meghan Melchior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In the center are Gigi and Jack, Leanne (Gorman) and John Dudas’s twins from Virginia, and on the right is Virginia, daughter of Elizabeth (Gorman) and Bob Brown from Arizona. 
 

Happy birthday, Eddie and A.J.  I hope you’re both spending the day outdoors.  Live it up, guys!

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