A few days ago, I was thinking about something from my early childhood, the incident of a neighborhood kid drowning in the Ohio Canal that was across the street from our house. The only concrete information I had was that his name was “Dougie.” Parents repeated this information to their kids for years. It became an urban legend – “Dougie, The Kid Who Drowned In The Canal.” I wondered if it happened as I remember it being told to me. Who was Dougie? Where did he live? I was told I played with him, but I don’t remember that.
I have an inquisitive mind and the internet has provided me with endless hours of discovery (and the wasting of time.) I belong to an Akron Ohio (my hometown) Facebook group, and questions and debate come up all the time about what former businesses were where on such-and-such a street. I have learned how to use the Historic Akron City Directories which can be accessed online through the Akron Public Library. There are two parts to each year’s directory: the first part has all the streets listed alphabetically and who lived at each address, and the second part has the people and businesses listed alphabetically and where they were located.
I turned to my Akron City Directory for 1958 and found out who all my neighbors were back then. For some reason, I thought Dougie lived across the street. I took the last names of my neighbors and went to my account on Ancestry. I plugged in Douglas and the last name. No hits on Boulevard St. down at my end of the street.
I entered my home address on Boulevard St. into Google Maps, zeroed in on the Ohio Canal across the street, and figured out what was the nearest street to the Canal that was still in my immediate neighborhood but NOT on Boulevard St. I came up with West Thornton St., a street that is at least still there after Opportunity Park razed that end of neighborhood in the 1970s. I got the range of addresses for that area of W. Thornton St. and went back to the Akron City Directory. For both sides of the street, I wrote down all the last names for a block in either direction from the point closest to the canal.
Going back to Ancestry and plugging in those last names and Douglas as the first name, I got a hit on Douglas Ferrebee who was born in 1953 and died in 1960. He died in Akron. Did he live with that Ferrebee family at 262 W. Thornton St.? The name in the directory said that “Ferrebee, JA” lived there. That’s all I had, and there were a number of Ferrebee families that lived in Akron. I found Douglas Ferrebee’s brief birth information on Ancestry. In the space for Other, it listed Carmichael. From experience, I know that the name listed there is the mother’s maiden name. So… Ferrebee/Carmichael. Would that lead me anywhere?
Through all the meandering I did on Ancestry, I found the marriage license for J. B. Ferrebee and Mildred Carmichael. Well, J.B. didn’t match up with J.A. living on Thornton St., but I’ve seen worse mistakes in printing — way worse! All three — J.B., Mildred, and Douglas — are buried in a cemetery in Pennsboro, West Virginia. (Small world. My father moved to West Virginia after his retirement and lived in the tiny town of Pullman, right nextdoor to Pennsboro.)
I still hadn’t proved that Douglas lived on Thornton St. I was thinking, thinking, thinking, and just pulling up stuff on Ancestry, my brain trying to figure out how I was going to take circumstantial information and turn it into a concrete link. I do not take circumstantial data and turn it into fact, not without having proof. This is particularly true when I’m working on family tree data.
Somewhere during all this pondering and trying to find obituaries and such, I happened upon a link that I’ve seen before on the Ancestry site. It asked me if I wanted a subscription to newspaper articles found in thousands of newspapers for decades. Seven-day free trial? I have nothing to lose! I signed up. My hometown newspaper, The Akron Beacon Journal, was available and I search for Douglas Ferrebee, hoping to at least find his obituary from 1960. Here was the article:
The “urban legend” was real. What I remember being told about the incident as a kid in kindergarten was real. The only two things that I had incorrect was that Dougie did not live “across the street” (not on Boulevard St., anyway), and he was not four-years-old when he died, which is what I had recollected from the story. However, there it was, in black-and-white and available on the internet 56 years later.
The truth is out there! You just need to know how and where to look! (If I had had that newspaper archive subscription at the outset, I could have saved myself a lot of searching once I had the link between Douglas and Ferrebee, but the route that leads to discovery is not always a straight line!)
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about my job with the Minnesota Department of Health. I work with food and waterborne pathogens of public health concern. I mentioned that we had had a birthday party for one of our team members, and the cake was one of these “poop cakes.” We all laughed uproariously and ate it with enthusiasm. It was, after all, only chocolate with candy corn for texture!
That post has gotten thousands of hits. 3517 hits to date. I continue to be amazed at how many people are using the search terms “poop” and “diarrhea” (often not spelled correctly) to find their way to this post. Really, people? Poop? What is so fascinating about poop? I work with it everyday, and aside from it containing a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites, there is nothing that fascinating about it. About all I can say for it is that it keeps me earning a paycheck!
You’re a bunch of potty-minds! 😉
The Mia/Bubba relationship is tenuous and up-and-down. Sometimes they seem relatively okay together. On Sunday when Lottie was over, we were in the kitchen standing on opposite sides of the island. Lottie was holding Mia and I was holding Bubba. They were both calm and relaxed, just looking at each other. Wednesday when I got home from work and was dishing up Bubba’s supper, Mia was under one of the stools at the island and Bubba was under the table. They were both in relaxed positions, just looking at each other. Last night, Mia was laying at my feet in front of the couch while I was on the computer and Bubba was napping on his chair in the foyer. All was calm.
Then at other times, there will be a hissy fit. I’m proud to report that it has been Bubba letting loose with a big hiss at Small Stuff most recently and she has scampered away! I’ve been telling him, “Atta boy!” Last night, though, he went to eat some more of his supper and in going back to his chair through the TV room passed by Mia resting by my feet on the floor. He caught sight of her and then started to move very, very, very slowly across the room. It looks like he’s tiptoeing, like he doesn’t want her to notice him. He got as far as the rug in front of the front door where he sat down. I went to him and picked him up, rocking him and talking to him. When he started to purr, I put him down on his chair where he settled in. So, things are still touch-and-go, up-and-down, but I think with time, they’ll get a working relationship figured out. It’s going slow but we’ve got a 17-year-old tomcat who has had a very stable life with his mom and dad and one sister his whole life. This is a big, big change – for all of us!
I had my pet loss support group last night at Moo U. There were nine of us there, a pretty large group. There were several first-timers again last night with very recent losses, like within the last two or three weeks. That room is so full of pain! Many people are going through exactly what I’m experiencing with the loss of Katie. There are those in the group who have been dealing with a profound grief for months now, some for years now. At the end of the group, I shared that we had adopted Mia three weeks ago and I passed around her photos. I agreed that Mia isn’t Katie, Mia will never be Katie. Mia will never replace Katie. There will never be another Katie. I still miss Katie as much as ever and mourn her loss. But Mia is Mia, and she’s special and very loved. I received a few cheers and applause when I introduced Mia, but one woman – a woman who has been grieving for months now – said, “Well, everyone is different.” Certainly. It made me realize, though, that in spite of my tears and my pain that continue to be a part of my daily life, I have made a lot of progress in moving forward with a new phase of my life. That’s quite obvious when I hear where others are at with it. It helps to know that and keep it in perspective.
Mia was sleeping on the bed with me this morning and woke up for a morning schmooze. She settled on her back, all sprawled out like she does, and enjoyed having her tummy rubbed. I encircled her with my arm, and she rested her soft little paws against my cheek, purring. Eventually, she fell back to sleep that way. What a precious little girl! I hated to get up and interrupt our snuggle but I had to.
Small steps. A day at a time. It’s the best I can do. The tears still come frequently but there have been smiles, too.
Inspired by a friend asking the question yesterday, “How do you cope when Dale is gone on business?,” I wrote the following little essay. It really brings to light just how different my husband and I are — different but very complementary. When he’s gone, the differences really come out!
Over the years, Dale has has traveled extensively on business, from Toronto, Canada to the Dominican Republic, from Atlanta, Georgia to Tokyo, Japan. Sometimes these trips have gone on for several weeks at a stretch. He spent almost six weeks in Puerto Rico without a break to come home in 1986, the longest he’s ever been gone. He spent four weeks in Nirobi, Kenya and several weeks in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. (Or was it Thailand? Who can keep track?) For some time, his frequent trips to China over the last couple of years were running two weeks at a time every month.
Recently, his trips to China have only been one-weekers which is a piece of cake for me. A week goes by fast, especially the work days. I get up and feed the Bubba-cat his breakfast and pills. I have my coffee, read my email and check Facebook updates and go to work. I buy my lunch over at the Revenue Building across the street since there probably aren’t any leftovers to take. I work until 5:00 or later since I don’t have him waiting for me to carpool home. More often than not, supper is eaten out someplace, often at Key’s Cafe close to our house. I always have a book with me and read while I’m eating. (In my moments of temptation, I hit up Old Country Buffet for their fried chicken and soft-serve ice cream for dessert!)
I come home after supper out somewhere, apologize to the cats for their supper being late (again), flip through the mail, and once the cats are taken care of, I sit down with the computer to check for an email from my traveling spouse. I usually send off a reply and then play on Facebook ad nauseum. Occasionally, I indulge in a movie he wouldn’t care for — like something scary or suspenseful, which he typically avoids if there is violence in them. Then bedtime. I usually read in bed for awhile, something I don’t do when he’s home. Luckily, I’m a woman who doesn’t have any anxieties about being home alone at night. I sleep well, in fact probably better than when he’s home because the bedroom is much quieter.
The bad thing is that he’s been leaving early Saturday afternoons on these China junkets, leaving me with the rest of the weekend on my hands. I tend to rattle around on the weekends. Sometimes I spend too much time on the computer, just wasting time. Sometimes I sleep too much. I don’t have anyone to suggest that we go for a motorcycle ride or pop in at the art fair in Afton, no one to voice an interest in trying out a new restaurant or taking in an indie film at the Lagoon. I don’t do these things by myself, and I seldom ask anyone else to do them with me. I think that it’s my longstanding history of depression that makes initiating social contact, especially on the spur of the moment, difficult for me.
My mealtimes are off and my sleep schedule gets weird. I’m a night-owl by nature and can get my days and nights turned around very quickly when I don’t have someone else here to help me stick to a normal routine. In my younger days, I had been known to go to a 24/7 grocery store at midnight or go out and mail a letter at the post office at 2:00 in the morning. I don’t do that kind of thing anymore, but you get the idea of some of the things I do at odd hours when left to my own devices.
Since I eat most of my meals out when he’s away, I wash dishes once a week. I mean, what’s to wash? I use the same coffee cup everyday, rinsing it out between uses. I end up with a sink full of cereal bowls, cat dishes, and spoons, a glass or two. The night before he comes home, I eyeball my mess and clean it up so he doesn’t know I’m a slob. (Yeah, right, like he hasn’t figured that out after 38 years of living with me!)
I pray it doesn’t snow much when he’s gone because clearing our driveway is a tough job for me. I dread getting six or eight (or more) inches of snow when he’s gone. I do what I have to do, but it’s hard.
My coworkers have been instructed to never, ever blow it off if I don’t show up for work someday when Dale is gone on business. They are to call and check on me. If I don’t answer the phone, they are to find out why. I realize just how alone I am when Dale is gone. No other humans are in and out of this house on a predictable basis when he’s gone, and no one would know if I’m sick or injured. My coworkers are the only ones who know my patterns on a daily basis, and they would be the first to know if something is not right. I depend on them to keep half-an-eye on me when I’m home alone — just in case. My coworker who lives only a few miles away is always asking me if Dale is here or gone. Sometimes I think she’s nosy. Other times, I’m glad that someone asks and knows what my status is.
It took me a lot of years to appreciate this, but my husband has a very stabilizing influence on my life. When he’s home, I eat three square meals a day, usually fairly balanced, because he is an excellent cook and does all of the grocery shopping and meal preparation. My bedtime is fairly predictable because he is one of those “early to bed, early to rise” sorts of people and if I stick pretty close to his routine, it ensures that I don’t stay up half the night (or all of it) and then sleep most of the day. (This applies, of course, to weekends and holidays.) Things get done on schedule when he’s home, whether it be errands or snow shoveling or auto maintenance.
But what I miss most when he’s gone is someone to share some wine with, someone to talk to about the random things that pop into my head, someone to snuggle with on the couch. None of that happens when he’s gone. I don’t drink when he’s gone, I talk to the cats, and although Bubba is sometimes up for a snuggle on the couch, it just isn’t the same. Even though I enjoy a few days of my “alternate lifestyle,” I miss my soulmate when he’s gone, and all feels right with the world when he’s home again.
I have a lump in my throat after reading this just moments ago.
Text of a letter Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., wrote before his death to send President Barack Obama, as provided by the White House:
May 12, 2009
Dear Mr. President,
I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me — and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.
On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.
You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.
When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the president who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me — and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.
There will be struggles — there always have been — and they are already under way again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat — that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.
And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will — yes, we will — fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.
In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign — and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young president who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young president inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.
So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend — and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.
At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.
And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.
With deep respect and abiding affection,
My husband took this photograph from our back porch this past weekend. His hobby of photography can be pursued in either hot or cold weather and anything in between.
Yes, this has been a winter that feels like it has gone on forever. Energy levels have been low, and I have felt the need to hibernate. It’s hard to stay warm. Spirits have flagged, and increased consumption of spirits remains high.
Kim Ode, one of the columnists for our cities’ largest newspaper, The Twin Cities Star Tribune, wrote this piece in today’s paper, and I’d like to share it with you:
It’s not as if winter catches us unawares, or that we don’t well know it will be long and brutish. But this particular winter hurts.
Trudging across a windswept parking lot leaves our cheeks feeling as solid as grocery store tomatoes. Waiting for the bus gives us the piratical sensation that we’ve sprouted peg legs. December was the coldest since the turn of the century, which is how a person begins to talk when envying the piping hot baked potatoes Ma Ingalls gave the cousins to hold during the long sleigh ride home.
January may end having never surpassed freezing.
What’s worse is that we know there have been colder winters. We know that people who live where lakes never stop lapping at their shores do not, in fact, regard us with a certain grudging respect, but as lunatics.
To paraphrase our usual summer lament: It’s not the cold, it’s the humility.
A winter’s duration also chips away at our ability to cope, which might be a factor in this season’s especially challenging chill. Last winter overstayed its welcome, lollygagging until baseball’s season opener to dump 5 inches of wet snow on us. Then it seemed we’d hardly earned our careless, carefree tan lines before temperatures began heading back down in August.
In other words, it’s not only that we’re so cold now, but that we weren’t warmer long enough. This imbalance chafes at our psyches. We know that people who live where shovels are used only for sand castles do not, in fact, regard us as intrepid, but as lunatics.
We’ll have the last laugh, of course, mukluking into spring with the firm conviction that our essential character is as hardy and resilient as ever. Soon we will strip to shirtsleeves before the pussy willows puss, and skim Frisbees over decaying snowbanks.