When my brother was four or five years old, my mom took us downtown and during the course of our shopping trip the three of us got on a crowded elevator. My brother was never a shy or coy kid and when he had a question to ask he’d belted it out and that day, in between floors, he was curious. “Momma,” he said, pointing to another person on the elevator, “Why doesn’t that lady wash her face?” My mom was mortified but the black lady laughed. It was the 1940s and this anecdote speaks volumes about the times and the fact that a kid from the suburbs could be almost old enough for kindergarten before seeing his very first non-white person.
My second memorable elevator ride was in the Empire State Building---memorable because it was the setting for a full-blown panic attack. Not my first, but the worst one of my entire life. It was in the 1950s, a time when I was in love with art deco architecture and I had been looking forward to this trip to the public observatory at the top. Unfortunately, once I got up there I found out that I had no more love of heights than I did for being locked inside a “windowless box” grinding and groaning its way to the top of that beautiful building.
Twenty-some years later, when Don and I was in Chicago about to get on the elevator at the Sears Tower, I could feel another major panic attack coming on so I made an excuse and refused to get in. My ancestor, Elisha Otis, founder of the Otis Elevator Company, was probably rolling over in his grave because of my behavior. But Don had a different reaction because as it turned out that elevator---which he got on to but I didn’t---got stuck between floors and it took a half hour to free him and the other passengers. When he finally got off he was in awe of me, thinking that I was clairvoyant and saw that event coming. I never corrected that impression. We were newly in love and I wasn’t about to start punching gem stones out of my princess crown.
It was shortly after Don’s stroke in 2000 when we had the next memorial ride on an elevator. Don was being transferred from one facility to another and the ambulance-cab driver in charge of transferring Don didn’t get his wheelchair far enough into an elevator and the door shut on his toes. The elevator car moved several feet while Don’s foot was going upward before the driver realized what she’d done and pushed the emergency stop button. Then it took awhile for us to get Don’s toes freed from the rubber door seals because the door wouldn’t open in between floors.
My last memorable elevator experience happened at the Christian college where Don was taking speech therapy classes. He’d spent the morning trying to teach himself how to swear; specifically to say “Jesus Christ!” to someone who’d cut me off in traffic only it kept coming out as “Jesus Crust.” He knew it sounded wrong but he couldn’t figure out how to say it correctly. Don also rolled the words ‘Jesus Cuss’ around on his tongue a few times and finally went back to ‘Jesus Crust’ all the while giving me ‘The Look’ that said, “Help me out here, woman!”
“Don’t look at me, Buddy-Boy,” I told him. “I’m not helping you learn how to swear.”
Finally, the conversation was all but forgotten until we were in communications building and was waiting for the slowest elevator on the face of the planet when I remarked: “Boy, is this elevator slow.”
“Jesse Crush!” he swore in front of a hall full of students and a few professors.
This January marks eleven years since Don passed and even after all this time I still miss his sense of humor, the way he could make me laugh even after he lost his speech. I miss his looking at me like I still have a few rubies left in my princess crown. He was my best friend, my sounding board for 42 year and that turns everything I do in the January days leading up to the 18th into a trip down Memory Lane including a simple ride on an elevator. ©
Note: if you got deja vu reading this that means you've been poking around in my archives. I originally wrote all but the last paragraph shortly after Don died. I ran out of time or desire to write something new this week. That switch will flip after the 18th has passed, I'm sure.
I'm sorry you lost your soulmate, but I'm glad you reposted this. Feel free to do it every year as a tribute. ❤️ReplyDelete
Jean, I laughed out loud at this, especially the part about "Jesus Crust". But then moved to tears reading that it's your 11th anniversary since Don passed.ReplyDelete
My husband passed 4 years ago (feels like yesterday). He had an amazing sense of humor and to this day, I like to imagine that he is still "talking" to me, making me laugh.
My sister will not get on an elevator after having her fingers get caught in the doors as they were opening at the young age of 8. I've seen her climb 12 floors, all to avoid the dreaded elevator.
Great post; I so enjoy your blog!
I hope you ran out of time to write something new because of interesting and engaging activities and not because of medical or other issues. I loved hearing more about your relationship with Don, although I hate that we're reading it as the anniversary of his death approaches.ReplyDelete
While still pre-school, I embarassed my mother on a trip to the 'big city' of Des Moines by asking her a similar question about a black lady on a bus. There wasn't a single black family in our town, so, like you, I'd never encountered one. On the other hand, that kind of experience can cut both ways. When I was working in Liberia, I sometimes was flown or trekked into villages deep in the bush. In one, I was sitting at the fire one night when I felt something touching my hair. It was the kids. The elders explained that few white people ever passed through there, and the childdren never had seen a white woman.ReplyDelete
I still laugh when I remember that my Kpelle name was Nenekweli. It means 'bright woman,' and at first silly me thought that referred to my intelligence. Nope. 'Bright' was a Liberian idiom for white skin.
I appreciate this post, Jean. Although I'd never thought about it before, life could be compared to a series of elevator rides. Sometimes, the journey is difficult, and other times, they can be sweet and healing. But each of us must take those trips to get to our destination.ReplyDelete
Hoping you have many sweet memories this month!
Great elevator (and husband!) stories. And I like the soundalike curses, too. They might be satisfying enough facsimiles for those who feel the need to get close enough to the Real Thing but don't want to use it.ReplyDelete
Brilliant, Jean! Thank you for reposting. I especially liked "I wasn’t about to start punching gem stones out of my princess crown" and "Jesus Crush!" Don sounds like he was a great guy and quite the character. I think you guys were lucky to find each other. Next November will be 10 years of widowhood for me. I don't have the same great memories as you but that doesn't mean I don't love reading about yours!ReplyDelete
How lucky you are to have such wonderful memories of your life with Don.ReplyDelete
Your first story about your brother reminded me of my childhood. My family nickname was "Aunt Blabby" because I would sometimes blurt out embarrassing comments like that and my family never let me forget it! :)
I totally get it Jean. BLReplyDelete
I know this is a hard time for you. It doesn't take much to trigger the memories, does it? It's been almost five years for me, but sometimes it seems like yesterday. And elevators! I've always had a bit of a phobia about them and can relate to your panic attacks. Jesse Crush, for sure. :)ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing the hole in your heart with us today. Now I know that I won't stop missing my beloved husband in 3 years, or 5 years or 15 years after his sadiversary. Why do other people think I should be healed 15 months later? And, I am coming to grips with the reality that I will need to move to a CCRC facility like yours (but in Texas) because aging alone in a 4-bedroom house is exhausting! Happy to hear that you are still enjoying your weekly mahjong games; it is a fun pastime!ReplyDelete
Lizbeth, I'm in Texas, too, and such a search may be in our future, too.Delete
This is beautiful, poignant and very funny -- in one of those cringing kind of funny ways. Those anniversaries bring their own stuff with them. I will have trouble with my parents' and we are talking 45 and 30 years. Bittersweet -- the good memories and the tough ones, too. I'll be thinking of you. And so glad the laughter never stopped.ReplyDelete
Eleven years. Mine will be ten in May. So many things to miss about them and laughter is a big one. Thinking of you!ReplyDelete
I don't mind you slacking a bit, this was a good read! And it got me to thinking if I have an elevator story, but I don't think I do. Now as for escalators....my grandmother was terrified of them and anytime you went shopping with her, you were forced to wander to the darkest halls of the store to use the elevator which in those days, was often a dirty freight elevator.ReplyDelete
I'm with you... I don't know what caused it, but a couple of years ago I became terrified of escalators. Could be that my older sister fell on one (upside down, mind you) and they wouldn't move her once she reached the end for fear that she'd hurt her neck and moving would cause her to be paralyzed. So she laid there, upside down with the blood rushing to her head. Horrifying... I can't bring myself to take that first step onto a moving metal plate. So yes, I head for the elevator too.Delete
Love the elevator stories I don't like open heights been on a chair lift once and never againReplyDelete
Thank you all for your comments. I'm not going to try to answer them individually, Because I'm in the hospital Will be here another day or 2. I fell iand broke two ribs and They need to be able to get my pain under control before they are gonna let me go home. What about bummer! I'm doing voicemail typing for the 1st time on my kindle never too old to learn a new skill.theReplyDelete
Jean! OMG. I'm shocked and so sorry to hear this ! You are in my thoughts and meditations with hope for gentle and swift healing. Sending big hugs. (But not too tight.)Delete
Well I just hate to hear this, Jean! I'm sorry for the discomfort and frustration. Fingers crossed that they figure out the best way to control your pain. Hoping and praying that each day gets a bit easier for you.Delete
oh no! I hope you feel better soon!Delete
Well, my goodness. And here I thought I was the only 'faller' in the group! I have bruises all over my body from recent falls. I so hope your pain gets controlled very soon. Ribs take forever to heal... healing thoughts coming your way.Delete
Oh No, so sorry to hear you had a bad fall Jean, Healing Energies sent your way so you can return Home soon. At least where you live now they probably keep monitoring such things so that they know when a Resident has an injury or accident and attend to it right away. It's scary when we begin falling, I've had a couple Senior Falls myself.Delete
Oh Jean. Yeowch to breathe let alone laugh or cry. Wishing you speedy mending!ReplyDelete
They tell me I'll be dealing with a lot of pain for 2 week and then lessing pain for 6 weeks. Just got out of bed for the first time since getting here yesterday late afternoon. Even with a.nerve block and meds pump the pain meds it wasn't. But on the good side I'm get a lot of blog fodder.ReplyDelete
Don't push yourself too hard... know that it will take time and go easy whenever you move. Gentle, healing hugs...Delete
I am sorry to hear about your fall and broken ribs, Jean. Please take it slowly and carefully so you recover smoothly. Rest and relax as long as you need to!Delete
I'm so sorry to hear about this new hurdle for you to face, Jean. I hope they've got good pain control now.Delete
Sad. So very sad. My anniversary is next March, six years then. I miss Beloved still so much.ReplyDelete
You have encouraged me to delve into specific aspects of the past, I have my diaries of the time to read and of the many joyous times we had together. It's not easy, is it?
Good heavens! 'Bummer' hardly covers this one. I suppose the good news is that your ribs will heal, as some of my friends have found. On the other hand, the healing process is no fun. Be sure that we're all here to cheer you on. I'd make a small joke that just occurred to me, but as a friend with broken ribs once told me, "Whatever you do, don't make me laugh!"ReplyDelete
Thanks for posting this. I'll admit I'm not thrilled with elevators, so not living in the city works for me. I'm glad you're taking the time to look after yourself this week.ReplyDelete
A relevant tribute no matter how many years pass. Loss never is easy and voids remain where someone or something is irreplaceable. Dawn...The BohemianReplyDelete
I hope you are feeling better as time goes on. Take it easy and take care.ReplyDelete
Latest word is I Will be going to a rehab facility before going home because I'll need more help to move around than home therapy can provide.ReplyDelete
That's good. You know your way around those places, and know how to deal with the bureaucratic complexities that sometimes arise. Just don't be too proud to ask for what you need! If you shouldn't get what you want, they'll tell you, but otherwise? A happy patient is a quick-healing patient!Delete
Can' be proud at hospital with your butt in the open and everyone looking at your chest because there is all the connections are for tubes and crapReplyDelete
Ah, shoot. It's no fun going through something like that, but at least you're conscious -- and learning a new skill (voice dictation). Keep your chin up. Every day ought to be a little better, especially when the pain starts to moderate. Tell the nursing staff to treat you right, or your blog buddies will come up there and give them the what-for.Delete
Oh, Jean. I’m so sorry to hear about your fall. Just reading this post and comments and wishing you a speedy recovery. Take care.ReplyDelete
Oh no! Horrible news. Sending healing vibes. I can not stand pain of any kind. Speedy recovery.ReplyDelete