Friday, January 23, 2009
I heard the water dripping somewhere, realized it was the faucet in the bathroom and went to turn it off. Bob had made the cabinet that holds the marble top. He has left his mark all over this house. He made the wooden frame that holds the house numbers. When I took apart the piano in a day long seige he came over later and put the putty in the gouge in the floor. He planted a Rose of Sharon in my back yard. He helped Jeff re-finish all the windows and install storms, redo the front porch, put wallboard over the worst peeling surfaces, and hang wallpaper. He refinished two desks, a bureau, a children's table, and my favorite, the dining room table. Those are just the surfaces of things.
He helped raise my daughters. Drove them everywhere, picked them up at friends houses, after school, took them to ballet, and doctors' appointments. When they were sick he made them grilled cheese and rented movies. He took care of Winnie when I went away. If I asked my mother for help she said yes but it was Bob who actually did the task.
And for all that, I did not give my love easily. He had to stand next to the ghost of Joe Iredale, the brilliant, charming raconteur who died young but still showed up regularly at family gatherings. We spent hours trying to figure out the father who was gone while the man who faithfully filled the role sat quietly with us at the table.
Okay, this guy wasn't a saint either. He always seemed just a beat behind what was going on. He could be a little inappropriate. When the moment was just right to say, I wish you were my daughter instead he would say I wish I were ten years younger. And he was angry, too. Like my dad all he wanted was my mother's undivided attention and when we showed up he would say, "what are you doing here?" It made me wonder what was below the surface but I was a little scared to plunge those depths.
He was born in New York City, graduated from Frankford High School in Philadephia, went to Franklin and Marshall but left and joined the Marines. He worked in public relations at one point for the Franklin Institute. He was married for years to a woman named Connie. They didn't have any children and she made his life a living hell. I always thought he won the lottery when he met my mother 30 years ago but now I realize that we were the ones who won something.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
Step off the train and see people slumped on the benches, waiting. Put today's news in the recycling bin. Take the escalator and see the homeless people gathering on the benches here too, greeting each other after a long night. First pass the blind woman with the dog, singing spirituals and holding a plastic jug for the money. Then see the man who strums his guitar and sings in a sweet tenor but stops and curses you when you don't put money in his guitar case. Next there's a woman who's well dressed in full make-up with an oxygen tank who asks you to share some change, not spare some. There's the lanky man who plays the accordian. Step on the escalator and listen to the woman who's laughing and coughing and talking all at once. To no one. Keep walking, keep walking and you'll see a man who sits against the wall with no legs. A woman who starts the week looking almost normal but who slides down by the end of the week, the dirt deep in her skin, her hair wild, her lips slack. At 15th and Sansom there are two people asleep, spooning surrounded by piles of bags, looking like angels. Turn left on Walnut and pass the Rite Aid. There's a man in a wheelchair with no legs who still looks surprised that his limbs are gone. One more man staggers around the front of Williams Sonoma asking for change. They'll all be there tomorrow and so will you.