Category Archives: humor

Uncle George O’Keefe.

Some men just stand alone.

George O’Keefe was an instantly recognizable American Irish. He’d been born in Erie, PA but never spent hardly a day in any run of the mill fashion. Devout, one might say precociously, as a young boy, while other kids rode bikes or played army this kid stood on the steps and played church, preaching to his sisters’ dolls.

Amen.

And, lest one think him a shirker, George had perfect attendance at public school. For 12, solid years.

Mum met him when he took up with her sister, Frances.

As a very young man, he’d prove traits like constancy. Our grandfather, Pappy, loved to tell the story. George would always reappear, at the door, no matter the misunderstanding or disagreement. See, George was hooked – on God, his Savior Jesus, and Fran Sweet – and, he never looked back. Not once.

Defying virtually all other Irish, not a drop of alcohol could be found at his table, unless he had just poured out the wine for Communion. Then, it was the sacred blood of the Lord. He knew this, like he knew his own reflection in the mirror.

George would marry Frances, and move to Spartansburg PA and then to Clendenin, WV. His bright bell tenor rang out everywhere he went – whether founding Bible study classes or camps, or playing outside with his children no matter the season. Becky, the eldest, said he was up at dawn every day, making breakfast for the whole family and packing each lunch for school. And, even into his late 70s, still water skiing, fishing, and hitting the racquetball courts.

Beyond all this, his influence extended into the lives of countless others. One of these was my father.

Dad had met mum on a train, during R & R from the US Army. The week he decided to travel to Erie, to check out her digs, George and Frances were on hand.

Calling the Bible a comic book, Dad had no use for the obvious brand of Christianity he would confront as he stepped foot into the home of Henry and Mae Sweet on 29th Street. Mammy, the first to hand Dad a small New Testament, set about praying for his conversion; Pappy, the hardliner, was sure this WOP was a lost cause, gruffly declaring:  “He’ll never be saved”.

But, George O’Keefe was also in the room.

And, the day Dad decided to propose marriage to Mum, he’d set his shrewd little ducks in a row; praying the “sinner’s prayer” aloud, he managed to convince Pastor George O’Keefe that he meant business.  And, George, filled with the kind of faith that gave even the hardest sinner the benefit of the doubt, was more than ready to believe it. In fact, he rejoiced; when Mum and Dad got hitched, George O’Keefe “married” them.

Two years in, Mum was pregnant and Dad’s cover was blown. He’d admitted to one of his customahs in the bahbuh shahp that he was “tired of the charade.” When Mum found out, he had no choice but to divorce her.

Ten years into that chapter, God finally made His move. Drawing Dad into the church of a family friend, Pastor LeBeau, the Almighty spoke the Gospel to him one more time. So convicted was Dad of his sins that he walked out of that service and drove to Cleveland, in search of a Burlesque show to distract his heart.

That lasted about twelve minutes.

Back to Erie, into his small one room apartment, Dad dug out his New Testament and read all the verses which Mammy had underlined for him. This time, he prayed in earnest, and repented, and accepted Jesus as his Savior. And, then he told Mum.

George O’Keefe, almost as happy as she was, rejoiced once more. And, George married them all over again, the second time – performing this ceremony in the living room of the new house they would call home for the next 50 years.

In 1995, Mum was stricken, for the second time – with cancer. This time, the disease was in her brain, and terminal. After a mere five and a half weeks, she lay in a hospice bed in the room I had always called mine growing up – mute, the tumor having taken her speech entirely.

Those closest to Mum had come to visit, if they could. Among them, her youngest sister, ending an estrangement that had lasted for years. Then, early one evening, Frances and George drove in from their cottage on Lake Chautauqua.

Mum’s face had taken on the shape of the tumor’s affect. Her mouth, drooped to one side. Her eye, nearly closed. George and Frances walked into the room, and George leaned down close to her ear.

In his bright, bell tenor, with that ever present, big broad grin, George told Mum a joke about a horse. The joke, and its punchline, would be lost to the ether but Mum, as soon as she heard it, burst out laughing – the laugh of recognition, indeed of comprehension, in a rush of affirmation. And, her number ten smile flashed across her face, obliterating completely any sign of palsy or paralysis.

Then, her eyes closed and she went to sleep, never to wake again. By morning, the sun streaming in through the windows, Mum had released her spirit and was gone from the earth.

But, Uncle George had brought the gift of his presence into the room. He’d provided us one more glimpse of our mother, before death came to take her body.

This past Sunday, Uncle George passed away. He was 98 years old. And, he left with that same broad smile on his face.

Thank you, Uncle George. Thank you for being such an important part of our family and the far more inclusive family of God. When the voice of the archangel heralds the trump of God, we’ll be ready to rejoice with you for all eternity.

 

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/11/18

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SOCIAL MEDIA: It Was Supposed To Be A Party.

 

Dear Social Media:

[The ones who haven’t hidden my posts.]

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It’s been 7 years. Is this the itch?

Here’s what I think of our relationship. (Like a good therapy patient, I’ve made two lists): Good Stuff and Not So Good Stuff.

Good Stuff:

  • Re-acquaintance with old friends, remote family, DNA determined ancestors, and former students;

  • New friends, some special and close;

  • Community Bulletin Board announcements, including:

          a.) “In a ‘relationship'”; b.) marriages, c.) births; d.) pet acquisitions; e.) deaths;

  • Photos and video of fine art, music, dance, soccer goals, and drama;

  • Promotion of performance based events;

Not So Good Stuff:

  • False picture of the social landscape in the real world;

  • Subconscious drive to “keep up with the Jones’s”;

  • Political proselytizing, not always fact-based;

  • Passive-aggressive verbal warfare;

  • Flat out braggadocio;

Consequently, each of us has unwittingly submitted to a cinematic characterization of ourselves that distorts public perception.

The Introvert, Extrovert and Ambivert: It’s a @#$% Party!

Introverts rarely post; they read, and draw conclusions. Extroverts enter one liners, then leave the house to actually go and be with their people. Ambiverts, caught between creating in print and communicating with intent, post excessively – leaving themselves wide open to extrapolation and interpolation, only to wonder why cliques shun them in public.

The Interpretation

We have come to interpret reactions to our persona on social media with far too much of the alternate angst, delusion, and regret. The Blocking Feature has been deadly, cutting off all hope of public reconciliation; it’s as if that 3 foot barrier in three dimensions has taken on an anti-gravity shield, distinct from any currently being employed by the alien civilization presently closest in proximity (sic) to earth.

And — how many of us knew it was just a @#$% party!?

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  9/30/16    – All rights those of the author. Thanks!

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Mercury Retrograde.

Man, Alive.

Whoever said “believing can make it so” has never lived through an astrological prediction.

Mercury Retrograde had three whole weeks to wreak its magic: September 1st through the 22nd. (Check any Astrology site for the lowdown.) Today, the 21st, opened bright and sunny, reeking of possibility. But, Mercury Retrograde still had 24 hours and, apparently, making its final 12 intolerably spectacular was the order of the universe.

10:45 am: Sunglasses appointment, 300 State St. Fair enough. Easy. Tool down Peach St; pick out the latest tortoise shell horn rims; find out that Anthony, who has recently lost weight, also has four kids in all and one set of twins; and, give him the money: [too much.]

Done. No casualties.

11:55 am: The Pontiac tank is on Empty. Post Office box, first, before the lunch rush. Endless catalogs; several Thank You notes from Erie Gives Day; the UBS annual report; and:

Peebles’ coupons.

Peebles has cosmetics. Maybe check to see if they have DermaBlend, to cover the scar on the chin caused by face planting onto the found engagement diamond from 1993?

Oh; but, they have clothes.

12:10 pm: Peebles, Liberty Plaza. On sale. 50% off. 30% off. Red Line.

12:33 pm: Twelve hangers later, I’m at the check out. Do I have my Peebles’ charge? Of course, I do not. And, of course, none of the sales are valid without it. Of COURSE. (This is Mercury Retrograde, isn’t it?). Wait; only the Red Line sale items require Peebles’ charge. Had I selected any Red Line items? Please keypad your phone number. Please keypad your zip code. Residential? Please keypad your Social. Not accepted. What? Not my Social? Please keypad your Social, again. Not accepted.

Three years’ shy of collecting Social Security;  Social Security number not accepted.

[Mercury, Retrograde.]

Oh; not my z.i.p c.o.d.e of record. (NOTE: Social Security number now dependent upon correlating zip code of record.)  Oh; try b.i.l.l.i.n.g zip code? Aha. Social Security number accepted.

Driver’s License, please?

Twelve hangers, and no Red Line items selected. I will pay with my EFCU card, of course. Or, Mastercard. Both of which are with the driver’s license in the Altoids Peppermint tin in the — where is the Altoids Peppermint tin?

Could it be stuck at the sunglasses appointment?

1:10 pm: In the parking lot, I call the eye doctor’s office. No; they have no Altoids Peppermint tin on their counter. This is because the Altoids Peppermint tin is caught in the front seat of the car, ready to slip into oblivion like everything else that ever falls out of the purse.

But, why is the driver’s license not in the Altoids Peppermint tin? Because it is still in the card slot of the piano sack, from the recital at the Tuesday Morning Music Club, of course.

1:30 pm: Home for the driver’s license.
1:41 pm: Back to Peebles. (Yes; This is Erie, Pennsylvania: Five minutes, Home; Five minutes, Away. )The lady clerk has hung all my selected garments by the register. And, there is my brother’s ex-wife’s twin sister, Jean, waiting in line ahead of me. Hadn’t I seen her at Peebles just seven years ago?

After I answer Jean that my brother, her ex-brother in law, is still alive, Jean and I laugh our heads off about everything. Then, Jean buys one blue top and off she goes.

2:02 pm: I step up to the counter, making some crack about my looking like an Arab to the woman standing beside me. She tells me she’s Native American, and we exchange stories about being mistreated in the airport because of our facial bones. The cashier rings up my sale: $216.31 YOU SAVED $192.65

2:12 pm: I take my big fat savings to the car, and then remember I have to check at the cosmetics counter about DermaBlend. No; they don’t sell it. But, the clerk is the parent of a former Perry student, and she takes pity on my chin scar and breaks every rule of good merchandising and tells me DermaBlend is sold by Sephora at JC Penney.

2:25 pm : I have to pee, have not eaten, and the tank still reads Empty, ding ding. Stop home; chug a protein shake; check email.  Skip filling the tank, still ding ding dinging. Somebody has said you get miles on Empty.

2:50 pm:  Head up Peach to JC Penney. The first person I see in the store is a former Grover Cleveland student, Leah, and her mother, who both work there. Mrs. Papucci takes me to Sephora. They don’t have DermaBlend. But, ULTA might; ULTA is in the strip mall, outside.

3:00 pm: Mrs. Papucci and I walk back into Penney’s. I can’t get to my car without passing through the clothing department.

75% off sale. Evan Piccone dresses. Liz Claiborne curvy fit jeans.

3:42 pm: Twelve more hangers. Gush at flirty baby in stroller. Pass on the Evan Piccone.
But, this time, I have all my cards, and the girl is quick because I tell her the roofer is coming at 4:00 and I have twelve minutes to get home in time.

4:01 pm: Home. No roofer. An hour later, still no roofer. I text; I call. Mike, and Bo’s buddy, Dave, can be there later, around 7:30 or 8.

4:15 pm: Set up Judy’s Kyrie cello obligato, and start to read the French horn accompaniment.

5:23 pm: Eat sweet potato ravioli, and then remember that “Midnight Special” is playing at FILM at the Erie Art Museum, and the exquisite boy who plays opposite Michael Sheen in MASTERS of SEX is the star, and I have vowed to attend. I call the roofer; can he come by 6:45, or Thursday?

6:25 pm: Mike calls back. He decides to come Thursday; I put on my denim long shirt (from JC Penney), and drive to the art museum.

7:00 pm:  The introduction to the film features several trailers for upcoming movies, saved on laptop Powerpoint, as well as a joyful announcement involving the Film Society of Northwestern PA’s recent collaboration with the Erie Phil, an orchestra with which I recall playing for 27 years until 2012.

7:20 pm: “Midnight Special” begins. It is riveting, from start to finish; perfectly paced, superbly acted, brilliantly conceived. During the Discussion Period, those of us in the know keep mum about what we believe concerning extra terrestrials; there is one comment about Michael Shannon, one Brush with Greatness anecdote, and no discussion.

9:20 pm:  On my way out of the museum, Betsy asks me if I can put together some background music for the annual Oscars party at the Sheraton. I suggest string quartet playing arrangements of the nominated songs. Brian’s date tells me she likes my track shoes. I remind that the foot surgeon has ordered only sneakers until the end of October.

9:30 pm: Hungry for Dairy Queen GF vanilla, I drive up Peach Street to Taco Bell for a Cantina Chicken Bowl. Pulling up to the drive through, behind two other cars, I look down at the tank reading Empty, and turn off the engine to save gas for the coast down Peach that leads home.

9:35 pm: I turn the key in the ignition. The car sputters; the battery light comes on.  I turn the key, again. The engine shakes in the manifold.

9:37 pm: I get out of the car, and walk toward Taco Bell. A LIFT driver exits, and I ask if he’ll push my car with the dead battery out of the drive thru to a parking spot. He and another guy approach my car, look into the cab, ask me to turn the key, and say:

“You’re out of gas.”

They heave my car into a parking spot, and retreat.

9:42 pm: In my denim long shirt, yoga pants, leg warmers, and sneakers,I start walking north on Peach Street, toward the Citgo Station a half mile down the hill.

9:50 pm: I reach AutoZone. The two guys inside say they don’t sell dry gas; they sell gas cans. Do I want 2 gallons, or 1?  Hau, from Viet Nam, says he’ll drive me to Taco Bell.

9: 58 pm: I walk to Citgo, with the can. I can’t get the nose off the can. I take it inside, where a customer says my leg warmers remind him of Olivia Newton-John. The two clerks inside jimmy the nose off; I go back outside, fill the can, and walk back up to AutoZone. My foot is hurting, and I am biting my lip to keep oncoming traffic from recognizing me as the auto lights pass by on the road.

10: 05 pm:  Hau drives me to Taco Bell; Mike, his manager, follows behind. Hau fills my tank with the gas from the can. I ask Mike and Hau to wait while I start the car. The engine sputters and shakes, and stalls out. Mike takes the keys. Mike turns the key in the ignition about twelve times. Hau lifts the hood. The engine shakes in the manifold. Mike looks at the battery, and asks when I have replaced it.

I haven’t.

10: 20 pm: Mike jumps the battery with his cables from his SUV. Nothing happens. Mike speculates that sediment in the empty tank has clogged the fuel filter. Yes; AutoZone sells batteries, and installs them; no, AutoZone does not replace fuel filters.

10: 25 pm: I call AAA. I ask them for a tow to Greg’s Auto, and a battery. They tell me I can have one, or the other, but not both.

I take the truck.

10: 33 pm: I walk up to the Taco Bell window, and order a Cantina Chicken bowl, double chicken, no black bean.

11:10 pm: Just as I finish the last bite of the Cantina Chicken Bowl, AAA arrives. His name is Don. He pops the hood; he tries the key in the ignition; he looks under the hood. Then, he goes to his truck, pulls out a 3 gallon can and a long funnel, and pours 2 more gallons of gas into the tank.

11:14 pm: Don turns the key. The engine ignites; the car idles; the battery is fine. The car is, too. Don has saved the car, and the tow. Don says that 1 gallon of gasoline is not enough to stimulate the [Pontiac] fuel pump to get any gas to the engine.

11:20 pm:  I pull into TOPS parking lot, get out, go in the store, and buy one 1/2 cup of Haagen Dazs vanilla for $1.79. I bring it home, add a tablespoon of almond butter, and sit down to eat it all.

11:24 pm: I turn on the TV. The news announces another fatal shooting of an African American by a police officer, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina, where my cousins live.

I am safely home, safely nourished, and safely past Mercury Retrograde.

But, a believer?

You had better believe it.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 9/22/16   All rights those of the author, whose story it is, would you wish this on anybody? and, whose name appears above this line. Thank you. Happy Birthday, Abby!

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