Sunday, January 16, 2011

No Monday Microfiction ...I couldn't sum this all up in 140 characters!

Last week was...odd.  We received a little snow, topped with a nice sheet of ice which kept me home last Monday.  We, in my southern neck of the woods, are not prepared to handle such things as they only show up maybe once a year.  Southern snow is usually great: here today, stops everything for 24 hours, gone tomorrow.  This time a coat of ice kept it here a little longer, meaning work started later on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I still canceled the seniors' Tuesday lunch as they didn't need to try and drive on still icy roads.  My Boss called Tuesday to let me know I didn't need to go to the "second half" of my daily job for the rest of the week.  But not to worry.  I hadn't done anything wrong.

That's good.  Because the week BEFORE she'd come into our monthly Staff Meeting,  wished everyone a Happy New Year before adding that she needed to speak to me.  But not then.  She was on her way to a meeting.  I called  5 hours later to see if she "needed" anything from me.  Why yes, it was a fishing trip.  Would you like to be left hanging like that?  All I received was, "Don't worry.  Nothing bad.  I think you'll be pleased but I'll talk to you later."

A week went by.  Not a word.

So on Tuesday, the Boss called to promise to "try" and drop by Wednesday to discuss it with me.  By Thursday morning, I just made myself forget about it.  Because by then, I'd gotten word that my favorite (I know, I'm not suppose to have a favorite) senior, Herbie, had died.  As you may recall, Herbie turned 100 in November and use to regale me with tales of his life, the most memorable being that as a young man, he actually RODE the streetcar named "Desire" to work when he lived in Louisiana.  Frankly we were all a little angry to discover he'd been in a nursing home for the past month and none of us had a clue.  Herbie was always out having lunch with different folks, so we just figured we'd called during one of his "social butterfly" moments. 

Friday morning had me explaining to those who hadn't read the local paper about Herbie and once again we all felt crappy for not knowing what had happened.  Then I drove half way across the County for one of our mandatory group events with the seniors.  Okay, so it was a bit surreal this time.  This one is located WAY out in the country, meaning I was the only lily white face in the bunch.  No big deal.  After all, I've known most of these folks for years.

And yet it's always interesting to see how they sneak sly glances at me whenever the discussion turns to Martin Luther King Day or Black History month.  Fortunately, being born and raised locally, I understand they ARE the generation who lived through that horrible time of separate restrooms, drinking fountains and hotels.  Sounded like horrible ancient history when I was a kid and Mom would describe seeing such as a teenager.   But working with this group has made it real by living it through their stories.   I appreciate the struggles they endured along the way and why their children still tell of those struggles in a type of oral history.  They lived through a horrible time and talking about it helps.  And I don't mind listening.  To them.  I have no patience for their grandchildren who have no desire to work but are fond of yelling "discrimination!" if it'll get them something for nothing.  Most of that generation would fold under what their grandparents endured on a daily basis.

But I digress.

So Friday, I listened as a young black man read Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, which I've never heard in it's entirety.  I found it to be like a living history lesson, even if there were more eyes than usual cast on me when Dr. King's speech listed what "negroes" had endured and what they should no longer endure.  A couple of folks glanced at me as if they expected me to react harshly, to stand up and declare the white man superior.

Not hardly.  The white man of their generation had not been raised as I had: after all, I began my elementary school career as part of that new social experiment called integration.  I'd always gone to school with black kids, so why should I feel odd sitting in a room with their grandparents?  My applause may not have had all the heartfelt enthusiasm of theirs but I had to smile.  If they only knew.

The only white chick in the room was born on Martin Luther King Day.

So I went from a step back in time to Herbie's funeral which was a step into the surreal.  Let's just say the Priest they found for the service was older than Herbie.  He wanted to go one way and the funeral guys wanted him to walk in front of the casket.  I guess he was a little hard of hearing because they finally grabbed him by the arm and placed him in front of the casket, then started pushing the casket.  The funeral director asked all of us to stand.  We did.  The Priest had a prayer, blessed the casket with holy water (I think; I couldn't see it but he described what he was doing), then started talking.  And talking.  Fifteen minutes later he was still talking and we were still standing.  Some of the attendees weren't much younger than Herbie and they were beginning to sway a little.

First time I ever attended a funeral where the Man of God forgot to tell his Flock it was okay to sit down.

The Priest said another prayer, seemed surprised to see everyone standing, then told us to sit.  It was an odd service, not the least bit personal on the religious end.  I thought only Baptists tried to save your heathen soul at a funeral but this little Catholic man outdid every Baptist sermon I ever heard growing up.  He did finally remember to put Herbie's name in a sentence.  Then his daughter got up and rambled on oddly with things only the family understood, stopping at an odd place and taking her seat.  

I skipped the graveside burial after this hour long circus.

I did stop by the office long enough for the Boss to see me and say, "I know you're wondering what's going on and what I haven't said to you yet?" 

I told her worrying didn't seem to change much in local government and she smiled.  Although the plan is still being worked on, the good news is I no longer have to attend the afternoon circus.  I feel sorry for the kids but if they get fed up, they can simply go home.   The plan for me is still being carved out and it'll probably mean some of my afternoons spent in the lair of the Office.  I told the Boss I figured she just wanted me to help with the occasional "special project" and I swear, I think she sighed in relief.  Time will tell.  And yes, I'll probably torture you with it as well.

Saturday was my birthday but there's an archery tournament this weekend so we were too pooped to do anything special.  Although Hubby did find time to get me some wonderful gifts AND a cake.  I wonder if he realizes he's really the best gift of all?

I'm off Monday so after reading this lengthy diatribe you'll probably be happy not to have to hear from me again until or Tuesday or so.  I'm in for another odd week: having to go hear the MLK speech means I missed out on the mandatory "Employee Birthday holiday"...which I'll be taking this week.

When I finally get back to a regular, 5 day work week, I won't know how to act.

Here's wishing you a wonderful week!  And thanks to those of you who stopped by to wish me a happy birthday.


Jerry said...

Gosh, you are one busy lady. I understand the segregation heartache of earlier years. And it's true, only the older generation has a clue as to what it was all about.

Peggy said...

Happy Birthday my friend.
Where is my head these days...don't answer!
Your story was beautiful. Living history of the past.
I remember my boyfriend(husband now) went to the funeral of his family's. babysitter/household queen. She was really great, long story shorter, we were the only pale faces there. I remember the music was so wonderful and I wished that I could go back again.
I was 16 at the time.

Hope you new duties in the afternoon are just what Hope would order. :)

Titus said...

Happy Birthday!
There is so much I could say to all that, but I reckon you don't need more words right now.
Just get some more cake and rest assured that somewhere, miles across an ocean, some people here are thinking of you. Hell, we might open a bottle of champagne on your behalf!
Sending you forbearance...

steven said...

when i tell my classes about the time you describe when segregation was commonplace they look at me as if i have three heads on my shoulders. it makes me so happy. steven

samurai said...

A nice tribute to Herbie, and the wonderful people you work for/with. Seniors have so much to share... but the world rarely slows down to listen.