(Not my best title, I know. I’m almost 47… I’m tired!)
Looking at the modern-day workforce it’s hard to imagine there was a time when the superior sex could afford to stay home while their male counterparts labored at occupations that paid workers a living wage.
But these days most couples/families can barely survive even with both partners working.
While there weren’t nearly as many working moms in the Seventies as there are today, our economic reality meant my mom had no choice but to go to work in a jewelry store while my father worked on cars. And so I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, a German immigrant named Ellie Dzieyzk.
Being a poor (but hard-working) immigrant Ellie had to seek accommodations that fit her budget. Her apartment was located in St. Catharines in a typical Seventies weathered four-story complex that was crumbling but brimming with character.
And it was overflowing with plenty of colorful characters.
Take for example, the Dutch couple one floor up; their names escape me though I do remember it contained more vowels than an entire phone book. (Remember those?) They were your United Nations garden variety European transplantees that would invite Ellie and I over and serve us lavish sixteen-course meals consisting of foods that would take my ten-year-old self hours to finish (it sure felt that way at least). They were sweet but like most old school couples they fought like stoners in roomful of weed – and one piece of rolling paper.
Love the imagery, don’t you?
The husband, much like my grandfather, drank to forget. And much like my grandfather, he forgot when to stop forgetting. One night, after a bender that kept him away for three days (and apparently made him randy as hell) the husband stumbled in and expected his wife to greet him with open… arms.
But she was having none of that. Or of him. They screamed in Dutch. They yelled in broken English. They fought. Chairs were thrown, tables were overturned and chachkies were rendered even uglier. Fortunately for the neighbors, they left the door wide open so everyone could witness the wife reach her boiling point. She grabbed a cast iron skillet and… well, let’s just say it was a good thing he was drunk and feeling loose or else he would not have gotten back up.
Being knee-high to a grasshopper, I was horrified at the whole affair. Ellie, having lived through a world war and an event more tumultuous marriage, was unphased. She explained this sort of thing was commonplace for the Dutch couple. I was sent back downstairs to watch TV while Ellie helped the wife reset the apartment after the husband stumbled off to bed.
Apparently he did this sort of thing often: He’d drink for days, come home and go ten rounds with the wife before slinking off to bed and sleeping the bender off for a few days. And so the wife left him alone and enjoyed some peace and quiet.
It took her two days to realize he was dead.
Needless to say, I never had to suffer through a four-hour meal of Dutch delicacies again.
TAKEAWAY: Old people are nowhere near as boring as you think. (Especially old school immigrants.) Pay attention to them while they’re still able to communicate with you without the assistance of medical tech.
And for God’s sake, if you’re married to a Dutch chick, never, ever fight with her in the kitchen. And if you do fight with her and she leaves the room and heads in the direction of the kitchen… make sure you’re fuckin’ gone.
See you in the lobby and down Memory Lane, kids…