Tag Archives: Linda

Not the Day I Expected…Part 3

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Wednesday, I’d gone to town for coffee, banking and garbage drop-off. I arrived back home just before noon, and was pleased to see that the power was back on. I reset the clocks, made a pot of coffee, and started in on the kitchen.

The next three hours was a flurry of dusting and scrubbing, moving and arranging. Some things were almost done, and just needed finishing touches; others were jobs that had to be started at the very beginning. Files were moved to the dining room. Kitchen shelves were reconfigured and every dust-free book, basket and jar was replaced nicely on them.

The refrigerator was completely cleared: magnets, posters and photos from the metal doors; baskets, bins and boxes from the top; foodstuffs, shelves and bins from inside. I scoured it, then, outside and in. I washed each shelf and all three bins. I stood them on the rug, leaned against the cupboards to drip dry.

I poured a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer and turned it on. A warning window popped up on the screen; the controls didn’t work. “Your computer has been compromised,” the message said, “Call Microsoft for assistance in repairing this problem.” A toll-free number followed. “Damn it! I should have paid attention to all those other messages telling me to upgrade my system,” I thought, as I dialed the number.

What followed was a lengthy interaction between me and a technician. He had me open an internet sharing window that allowed him access. He showed me lines and lines of the many harmful things that were in my system. “It’s pretty serious,” he told me. he asked about the age of the computer, what virus protection it has, and whether the warranty was still valid. He quoted a price ($299.99), then explained that there would be an additional charge of $99.99 because my warranty was no longer good.

I wailed; I whined; I told him I was just starting to make progress on getting my credit cards paid down. He said, “Look, lady, you called me!” Finally, I agreed to the amount, and gave him my credit card information. He told me to leave my computer on, that the other technician would be working on it for about an hour, to remove the viruses, scrub the system and set up protection. I would get a call when they were finished.

I went back to my housekeeping while waiting for the call, grumbling about how impossible it is to get ahead. The second call came in; I sat back down at the computer. The technician – a young woman, this time – used lines and arrows to show me the security features she had added. She showed me the location of their toll-free number, should I need further assistance. She said, “Your credit card will be charged four hundred dollars.”

“No way,” I said, and seem to recall that caused her to gasp, “what I agreed to was two charges that would total three hundred ninety-nine dollars and ninety-eight cents.”

“Of course, you’re right,” she said, “I was just rounding up.”

I was feeling pretty bleak…and considerably poorer…though still proud of myself for catching that two-cent error…by the time I got back to the kitchen. The phone rang again. This time, it was a woman from the electric company. I thought, at first, that she was calling to apologize for the recent electrical outage. No, she was collecting data for a survey. She didn’t ask if I had time, or would care to participate, but just started firing off questions. I was balancing the telephone between my ear and my shoulder, while trying to reassemble the refrigerator. Juggling shelves and bins while trying to keep the phone from sliding away, my answers were peppered with curses and protests.

“How much longer??” I demanded at one point. “If you quit complaining and just answer the questions, about two minutes,” was her sharp rebuke. Such was my state of mind that day, that I meekly followed orders: I quit complaining, and answered the questions.

Hours later, discouraged, dejected and depressed…but with a sparkling clean kitchen…I sat down to dinner. The telephone rang. I almost didn’t answer it. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone; the phone had not been my friend that day. I picked it up, just before the answering machine kicked in.

My friend Linda! A friendly voice, at the end of a rough day. I started to tell her about the rotten day I’d had, from the power outage and lack of coffee to the old man’s toenail clippings to the awful telephone calls. When I got to the part about the pop-up warning with the number to call and the high cost of repair, she immediately said, “Oh, Cindy, that’s a scam!”

As soon as she said it, I knew that she was right. How would Microsoft know I had a virus? Why would I consider paying nearly four hundred dollars to fix it, when I could practically get a whole new computer for that price? How very stupid I had been! Then, I started thinking about the consequences: they had my credit card numbers! What had they been doing in my computer…and what did they actually download onto it?

“I gotta go,” I said, near tears, “I’ve got to figure this out.”

In the days since that happened, I’ve had several conversations with my credit card company. I’ve cut up my card, and will be issued a new one. I’ve been struggling to remove everything that was added to my system that day, and have been very cautious about using the computer at all. I’ve changed passwords and security measures. I have cried in utter humiliation. I have chastised myself constantly for my foolishness.

Today is my Dad’s birthday. Because of that, I’ve spent some time imagining how this whole episode would have gone over with him, if he were still alive. Dad was often unpredictable in his response. It’s hard to guess if he would be angry for me…or angry at me. I can guarantee, there would be a lot of “goddamn”s involved.

I can picture Dad going on a rant about the “goddamn scammers” who would take advantage of my ignorance. He might rail on about the “goddamn computers” which have made such things possible, and completely changed the world as he knew it. He might have even gone after the “goddamn telephone,” which he never was comfortable with.

I like to think, though – because Dad could be light-hearted, too – that he’d be impressed with my ability to tell the story, and that he’d see a bit of humor along with the tragedy of it. I can picture him wagging his head from side to side, with a look of both sympathy and understanding. I can clearly see his mischievous grin as he speaks: “Cindy…how the hell did you get to be so goddamned STUPID??”

Before I Move

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It seems I’m having difficulty moving from one address to the next. Once I pull up all the memories of a place, from wherever they’ve lay hidden, it’s hard to move on. I want to linger there, with the young person I was and with all of her unreasonable dreams.

We got our first stereo system when we lived at Charbridge. Before Terry and I got married, I spent way too much money on a nice radio. It had all kinds of special features – or seemed to at the time – all enclosed in elegant dark wood. My mother had always had a radio, for news in the morning and music through her day. A radio seemed necessary.

In college, in a discussion with other students, something was said that caused me to say I didn’t have a stereo. The looks of surprise and pity  elicited by that comment caused me to realize it was a music system that was necessary. We went shopping that very weekend, and put one on lay-away. It had a turn table, an eight-track tape player and a recording feature with two little microphones. Somewhere, still waiting to be converted to compact disc, I have old eight tracks of my little daughters playing Donny and Marie. Jen sings, “I’m a little bit country…” to which little Katey responds, in baby talk, “…an’ I a idda bit wock an’ wo-o-ooh!”

Mrs. Baldry took care of my daughters when I was attending classes. She had a daughter, too: Lara – named for the character in Doctor Zhivago – was just a bit older than my Jen.One year she knit sweaters for each of my girls. Jen’s was red, white and blue ombre’ yarn; Kate’s was in shades of pink.

Jen went to Schickler School for kindergarten. She brought home more songs for our repertoire: “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”  and the Schickler song (“S-C, that’s the way I begin, H-I are the second letters in…C-K, those are the third…L-E-R is the end of the word…”). In classrooms set up at the dining room table, in the basement playroom or on the living room floor, she tried to teach Kate everything she learned.

My sister Brenda and her family moved back to Lapeer during the time that I lived there. She often visited me at Charbridge. We’d play games while we visited. One time, her tire went flat on the way to my house. It would be difficult to stop, on the highway, to deal with something like that. Her husband was at work, so she couldn’t call him, even if she could get to a phone. I was expecting her. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. She continued to my house. There, we could see that it was, in fact, a serious flat tire, and pretty mangled by the time she parked in front of my house. Obviously, she couldn’t drive it back home. Without a second thought, we got out the backgammon board to entertain ourselves until our husbands could deal with the problem. Turns out, that wasn’t the best course of action…according to the guys, anyway.

I got my own car, when we lived at Charbridge, so that I could drive to and from my college classes in Flint. It was an old Volkswagon Beetle. Most of the floors were rusted away; the gas gauge didn’t work; the windshield wipers were missing; there was no heat. It was a standard transmission…and I didn’t know how to drive a standard transmission. The price was right; we decided it was perfect. Terry spent a few evenings trying to teach me the particulars of driving a stick shift, then gave up in frustration. “Just drive it,” he yelled, “you figure it out!”

So, that’s what I did! Lurching and stalling, swearing profusely, shivering to beat the band, I drove it to and from Flint to my classes all winter long. I’d dress in layers: with no heat, and all the gaps and holes in the car, driving on the highway was like standing in 70mph winds. I’d pull off on Oglethorpe Drive to pick up my friend, Linda. She’d come running out with afghans, scarves and her son’s ski masks. And a big grin.We’d be off again, jerking through the gears, pulling off to chip ice from the windshield as needed, hoping not to run out of gas.

The future seemed huge, in those days, and anything at all seemed possible.

 

More of Charbridge

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Jennifer, summer, 1975

“Pivotal,” I said, regarding the not quite four years I lived at Charbridge Arbor.

Many things contributed to the impact those years had on my life. Few were directly related to this address.

My daughter, Katey, was born in December of 1974, less than two months after we moved in. Having a child is life-changing. One would think that having a second child was more of the same…but, no. A second child changes everything: the worry; the work; the family dynamic; the love. It’s much more than double…it’s more like one hundred-fold. So, that was the first big change in my life during the years I lived at Charbridge.

I started college. I was not one of those people that thrived in high school. I was smart and capable, but hated almost everything about school. I couldn’t wait to graduate, to be done with that forever…but, I found, forever is a very long time. Once I was married and had children, I had fulfilled every goal I was brought up to reach for. What next? First, my friend Linda and I took a couple evening enrichment classes at the high school. My sister Brenda enrolled in classes at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan, and suggested that I do the same. I was terrified; I would have never done it without her encouragement. I may not have anyway, but…

Because my daughters were born via caesarean section, and  Kate was born with pneumonia and other complications that required a ten-day hospital stay, and we had no health insurance, we had racked up a very large hospital bill. Once hospitals cure you…or deliver your baby…they have little recompense to get you to pay the bill. For this reason, it is my theory that they hire the vilest, cruelest, most demeaning bullies they can find, to try to collect. One day, after a particularly harrowing conversation with one of those gentlemen, our telephone service was turned off for lack of payment. Inconvenient…but a relief, nonetheless. A couple hours later, the electricity was disconnected for the same reason.

Now, with a six-month old baby and a three-year-old, I was getting concerned. Where was my husband, anyway? It was hours past the time he should have been home. I had no car, no telephone and no lights. I fed the baby and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Jen. My husband came home after dark. He had quit his job, he explained, then went to the bar to get up his courage to come home and tell me about it.

Looking back, I can think of several different conclusions this scenario could have brought me to. Many of them even make sense! At the time, I thought, “Obviously I cannot count on him to support our family, so I’d better plan to do it myself.” To that end, I did not intend to go out immediately and get a job. No, that would have been far too practical. Instead, I enrolled for classes at the community college with my sights set (I was just so unbearably naive!) on an Arts degree!

Finally, Charbridge Arbor changed the view I had of myself. It’s a testament to how very young and insecure I was, that a nice home could bring up my self esteem…but it did. It changed me from the inside out. I tried out different things. I permed my hair; I pulled it back into a bandana (“She looks like she could tell fortunes,” was Grandma B’s assessment of that look!). I bought Puma running shoes and tried to take up jogging. I piled my daughters into the stroller and walked all over the town. We went visiting: we’d stop in to see Terry’s Uncle Chet and Aunt Ada, or we visited my sister Nita on Court Street (she lived in the same apartment I had started out in!). When Jen started kindergarten, Kate and I would walk with her to the door, then we’d often get in the car and go to see my Mom and Dad. We went to the park so regularly, Jen thought it was hers. I enrolled my daughters in swimming classes, and then took them myself, too. I taught myself to cook Chinese food. I baked fancy sweet breads for holidays. I started collecting baskets, and books. Many of these patterns have stayed with me, and help define the person I’ve become.

When we left Charbridge Arbor, it was for the adventure of moving to Beaver Island.

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Katey, Easter morning, 1978

Linda

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The people we count as friends, as adults, seem to reflect some version of ourselves or our lives.

Maybe political viewpoints differ, but we attend the same church, or our children are in the same class. Maybe our ages and those of our children are vastly different, but we support the same cause, or work for the same organization. Maybe our husbands are good friends. Or next door neighbors. There’s something there that we can relate to.

The people we choose as friends, as children, don’t reflect who we are, but show us who we can be.

I am fortunate to count my best friend, Linda, in both of these categories.

We have been friends for close to fifty years.

It’s amazing to me that I have so few photographs of Linda and I together.

There are a couple grade-school snapshots and an eighth-grade graduation picture. There is a distant shot of the two of us in our caps and gowns at the “Swing-Out” parade, the year we graduated from high school. One – in caps and gowns again – when we graduated college, and one group shot at a dinner party when I got my Master’s Degree. There is the photo, shown here, when we met in Charlevoix for a weekend of shopping and catching up, one taken of us together here on Beaver Island, and one group shot taken at her father’s eightieth birthday party.

That’s just about it.

Yet images of Linda run through my memories of most of my life.

I remember whispering and passing notes, staying over-night, doing whirling ballerina dances in undershirts and petticoats, walking holding hands, playing with “Barbie” dolls, buying penny candy, eating lunch under the bridge, and Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation. Together we giggled about whatever we could find out about the mysteries of adulthood, compared our bodies, our first brassieres and the best means to pad them. We experimented with make-up and hair-styles. We compared notes on shaving legs and plucking eyebrows. We fell in love with the Beach Boys, then Fabian, then the Beatles. We watched horror films hosted by “Christopher Coffin” until I cried and begged for mercy. We read all the “MAD” magazines. We followed dance styles: the “Swim”, the “Frug” and the “Watusi”…Linda could do them all. We went from our little parochial school into the large, public high school with equal parts fear and excitement. A new world of boys and acting out opened up to us: drive-ins and parties and double-dates, experiments with smoking and drinking and skipping school…we made it through, as best friends, into adulthood.

Linda was the maid of honor at my wedding; I was the maid of honor at hers. We had children. We learned the joys and challenges of parenthood, comparing notes as our babies played together. We struggled with poverty, isolation and other limitations of marriage that we hadn’t anticipated. We read. We took a couple night classes together. We started getting interested in causes. We went back to school. When Linda and her husband separated, he came to sleep on my couch, until he could get his own place. Twelve years later, when my husband and I started divorce proceedings, he went to sleep on Linda’s couch. When Linda’s Mom died, I took off work and headed across the state to be with her. When my Mom was dying, Linda was right there beside us, a part of our family.

These are the ways our lives have intersected, always.

I remember Linda’s big smile and shy “hello” on the first day of school in Sister Aloysius’s sixth-grade classroom. She had transferred from another school. From sixth-grade to nearly sixty, she has been  there! I can’t imagine the person I would have become without Linda as a part of my life.

Saturday, my dearest friend turns sixty.

Happy Birthday, Linda!