Friday, October 12, 2012

Better Said Than Done

The good that men do is oft interred with their bones.

That’s a mighty and highflown statement of Shakespeare’s…but I must say, it reminds me of my late and unlamented second husband, John Tomme.

Not that he did good. I can’t think of a single thing that I would laud him for doing. And, let me make clear, he did not…surely not intentionally…do bad. It’s just that even though he started out as a fairly pleasant though unremarkable person, he turned into a miserable human being.

Still, he did turn a phrase upon occasion. Two expressions entered my lexicon: 1) That’s the kind of hairpin I am; and 2) It’s nice out, I think I’ll leave it out.

And another phrase became a saying one night in 1950 among a bunch of us sitting around the apartment where John lived with his two roommates at the University of Illinois.

John, Ron, and Bob had rented an attic apartment on East Oregon Street in Urbana. It had three small bedrooms. I shared Ron’s bedroom more often than not. Ron became my first husband and John and I got together ten years later after I’d had two children and Ron and I went our separate ways.

Something had broken in the apartment, which happened frequently. Of the three guys, John was the handy one. Ron was inept and Bob was a little too refined to engage in dirty-hands work. That particular night, another friend, Dickie, joined us. We were all having a few beers while John tried to fix whatever it was that was on the fritz…a lamp, I think. It got to be midnight and now Dickie was having a go at the repair. Dickie finally opined that what was needed was not at hand and might need to be purchased. At which point John said, “There’s an all-night hardware store in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.”

Just the other night, sixty years later, I said the very same thing to my cat Fiona when I needed a 9-volt battery and none was to be had in the apartment. And Fiona and I did what John, Ron, Bob, Dickie and I did all those years ago. We settled back in our chairs and had another beer.

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