Up at the Big House
Pauline was generous to a fault. Mind you, there were hard times when her generosity could only come in the form of moral support, for which the fountain was bottomless, but if she had the bling, she was more than happy to bring it with her to the table. What happened next would go something like this.
“So, if I LEND you this thousand dollars, how do I know I’m going to get it back?” she asked me, in June of 2011, when Annie and I were scuttling around like chickens after a fat worm, trying to rustle up enough loot for plane fare to Ireland. It was a lifelong goal of Annie’s to travel to the Old Country, whereas it was a forty-year-long, self-imposed ban on flying, that I was more interested in remedying.
So we trotted out the ledger, a four-by-six-inch spiral notebook, into which she would enter amount, date, and some sort of notation, to the effect that I was indeed, planning on making good on my debt. It was business as usual. She provided a similar service to many family members I can think of, including one grandson in particular, who picked the wrong night to hang out with a dude who chose-for whatever reason-to drive though a gate.
Unfortunately, the gate was closed at the time, and the damage came to somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500. When the integrity-challenged driver of the vehicle refused to pony up the compensation, said grandson was left holding the bag. At the time the bag was empty, but after the ledger was brought down off of the refrigerator, and an entry made, with all of the relevant details, the bag contained a check for the necessary amount.
It was the best of all worlds. Interest was a dirty word, when it came to dollars and cents, but there was always wood to be gathered, wood rings to be filled, compost/ashes to be taken out, or mail to be picked up at the post office, once grandsons were driving cars. Not only was interest "repaid," but conversation was had, bridge might be played, or that stellar black and white film, "Them" might be playing on the VHS machine.
Pauline was almost as excited for me, as I was to be contemplating flying-first to New York-and then on to Ireland, after having flown 35,000 miles while in the service, but then vowing never to fly again. It's not that I found the experience unpleasant, it's just that I had had enough.
Eric was the organizer of the whole Ireland gig, having contacted the owner of a beautiful, four-bedroom, very modern home in Carigaholt, a tiny village in County Claire, on the bottom, left-hand corner of the island, for the purpose of renting the house for six weeks.
It was full speed ahead, and Annie and I were slated for the first two weeks in September. Many family members were able to take advantage of this superb opportunity, pulled off by one of the best in the business, Eric. We went the last two weeks, because so many others had to be back by the start of school.
At 59, I had made a full comeback in the carpentry business, and was working under Casey, building a 42 by 28 foot home, for a pair of former students, who were also classmates of Casey throughout their time in Laytonville. The work was brutally savage, but lucrative, and I had no problem being able to pay Mama back.
However, as I sat there with the goods, all one thousand of them sitting on the kitchen table, up at the Big House, the day before we were set to drive down to San Francisco, in preparation for boarding our plane, she asked me, “Well, Kiddo, do you have any spending money?”
“Hey, do I look like the kind of guy who would travel across the Atlantic Ocean, without any money?”
Of course she saw though my transparent ploy. “Broke, huh?” she queried.
How does she do that, I wondered? “Broke is a four-letter word,” I said, indicating once more why language arts was always my strength. “I’m not broke-I just don’t have much money.” But I hastened to add, “Eric says we can buy food at the local grocery store, and cook at ‘home,’ thus saving a lot of loot, and having fun at the same time.”
“And what are you going to use to buy those groceries?” You had to get up pretty early in the morning to put one over on Mama. And thus it was settled, the money was back in my hand, but I walked out the door, flummoxed.
The ledger was nowhere to be seen.