Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Little Oil and Feathering

Don’t you just hate it when you write two pages of anything and then you sit back and, for seemingly no reason, it disappears off your computer screen. The first thing you do is hit ‘paste’, because you think you might have inadvertently hit ‘cut’. Sure enough, it pastes but not what you had lost. Then you think, I should have saved while I was writing—what a dope I am. But it’s too late for regrets. The imagined poetry that flowed from your mind to your lips to your fingers is just a memory. (Excuse me while I hit ‘save’).

It would be much too difficult to reassemble, but the piece started out by saying that I would no longer be able to just get on a plane to see my mother. The costs were too high, and the flights too limited. And I added that my mother was going to be seriously pissed at whomever was responsible for this catastrophic situation. Who is responsible? David says it’s not the oil companies it’s the oil commodity traders. I’m not sure I believe that given the mega profits the oil companies have accumulated, but if it’s the commodity traders I say let’s put them on trial for treasonous greed. And then let’s not even bother with a trial—let’s oil and feather them and drop them in a refinery in a foreign oil gouging country—where they don’t speak the language.

But that’s not what I wrote either. I was trying desperately to remember something about my mother when I got some incredibly sad news. When we were little kids, my mom hired a woman to clean the house and make sure none of us (my brother, cousins, and often friends), didn’t get into any trouble. What started out as a simple set of tasks for Helen Costello, became much more complicated over the years--for many reasons. She was a loving protective soul who hated it when my mother tried to discipline me. (I was never easy). Whenever my mother yelled or tried to give me a whack, Helen would race over, pick me up and run away – sometimes to another room, sometimes out into the yard. If I was crying, she would cry. Eventually we would calm ourselves and laugh and she would send me off to school or to play. She would return to her responsibilities. I’m not sure what happened between Helen and mom when she went back into the house but it never resulted in anything bad.

After my dad was diagnosed with MS, Helen stepped in to help supplement our care. I would go to her with questions, problems, confessions, and for a big hug. This continued well into high school when, much to the chagrin of the principal, my friends and I would take off at lunchtime and go to my house to watch soap operas. Helen was always there to support our actions, provide a tuna sandwich and some comment on what life should be. Helen was an enormous part of my life. Although often in my thoughts, I hadn’t seen her for many years until she came to visit my mother in rehab last April. She walked with a cane and could hardly see, but was obviously spry and her spirit remained untouched. Helen was younger than mom but we always thought she was older – maybe because she was not spoiled, more mature. And as close as they were, even after years and years of being together, Helen never called my mother anything but Mrs. Groman. I asked her why and she said, “It is a matter of respect”.

Helen died yesterday. She still lived alone and her daughter thought that she had probably fallen and hit her head. I am saddened by the loss of my wonderful friend— more really, my other mother. And, in reflection, I am saddened by the end of the ‘Helen’ era. A time when respect for another person was valued. A time when kids could run freely and play by themselves – even on the street. A time when people were not consumed by wanting what they didn’t have and were happy just to have something – a job, a family, a reliable car, a small house, no astronomical debt.

This country will never be the place it was when Helen was an everyday part of my life. It will be forever changed by the economic crisis we face. Nothing will be simple or without consequences. The war, the cost of living, the choice people make everyday between food and energy-- we are in serious trouble. Maybe an Obama will lead us to a better place. But I’m not ready to discount a good oil and feathering for those people who clearly never had a Helen Costello in their lives. We’re Just sayin... Iris


Anonymous said...

So, I had the "Shoe" cartoon framed and have it on my wall and everyone who comes in my office wants to know why. It is hard to explain but generally they leave laughing - luckily they are used to a pastor who drinks beer and has an occasional cigar!

I've been enjoying your blog - thanks.

I am just trying this to see if this actually works - never tried to comment on a blog before!

Anonymous said...

Your story brings back fond memories. As children, our family was also blessed with a 'Helen' for many years. Her name was Ms. Odelia (Arceneaux).

For some strange reason that I'm now too old to remember, we called her Ms. Josey. She was older than my parents and like most of the elders spoke only in Cajun French, the rare exception being when there was no French translation of an English word. Although she could sometimes be short and to the point, she was one of the most gentle, loving and caring persons I will ever know. She had no family of her own (except for us)and was our second mother until her death years later.

Life was indeed much simpler then. Regardless of current economics or politics, thanks for reminding me of Ms. Josey.