Reciprocity with sister Leslie

Another set of eyes

As I now think it about,  I developed an unstated reciprocity with sister Leslie in 2023. In recent years, she has had the opportunity to travel, primarily to Europe. She was able to give me some travel advice when we went to France.

Moreover, she sent me some documents, especially from Ireland, which may come in handy if I ever figure out who my great-grandmother Margaret/Marguerite Collins Williams’ parents were.

More recently, she has changed jobs. She still works for the same entity, but in a different department. Now she has interns, which she’s not used to having.

When I was working for the New York Small Business Development Center, we had several interns. Most of them in later years were NOT library students. But they were smart and eager and curious.

I found some long-term wishlist projects, such as adding more current statistics to our website. If I were immodest, I would say that I was rather good at finding them projects that were not just “make work” tasks.

Mystery shopping

However, my sister is too new to her department to have developed such projects. In this case, I recommended that she get her interns to “shop” her department.

The first thing I thought of was that her interns could look over their current website. They should try it on Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox.

Are there any broken links or pages that load slowly?
Are there any misspellings or instructions that are confusing?
Is the site compliant with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements?
Are there color combos that aren’t easy to read – yellow on white, purple on black, or too-fancy fonts that are difficult to read?

One intern has already discovered that the directions for people in the offices ordering an ergonomically-correct chair on their Intranet was unclear. People who are outside of a process can often discover things that those on the “inside” just can’t see.

Sister Leslie is… a year older today.

How terribly strange to be 70

Psalm 90:10

RogerGreenBirthdayCartoon490How terribly strange to be 70. I’ve used that title twice before in this blog, and you can probably guess when in 2011: on October 13 and November 5.

Now, I’M three score and ten, which is old. Or at least oldish.

Psalm 90:10 in the King James Version reads, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

In case you don’t recognize the artist, the work was created by my friend  Fred Hembeck in 2007. Fred gave me the original black and white piece, on which he indicated, “54 ROCKS!”  He’s a full five weeks older than I am.  I believe I’ll use this illustration every five years, just because.

The home church

Sister Leslie took the photo on her phone. It was when we visited Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church at the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets in Binghamton, NY, on October 9, 2022.

The room used to be the Sunday School room when I was a kid. My paternal grandmother, Agatha Helen (Walker) Green (1902-1964), taught me. Now, the room is used as a memorial to the Departed Loved Ones of the church.

On the wall, along with photos of Mrs. Armstrong (left of center), and Mr. Woodward, is my Grandma Green, more or less hovering over my head. I don’t THINK that was the photographer’s intent, but it’s a rather cool effect.

Not incidentally, the church – specifically, my father’s cousin Ruth – requested a picture of my parents for the wall. My sisters and I ought to work on that.

Anyway, it’s my birthday, divisible by five (and seven and two), no less, so that’s enough for today.

Two hospital visits on the same day

transthoracic echocardiogram

hospitalHow I had two hospital visits on the same day. Well, of a sort.

Monday, October 10: Leslie and I return to Albany, stopping to pick up a lot of Italian food. My wife also wanted us to pick up her prescription pain medication, but it wasn’t there. Her doctor’s office had failed to send the info either that day or the following morning. She increasingly needed pain relief, particularly from the inflammation of her left foot. Finally, it was filled, and I retrieved it.

Moreover, in addition to the infection of her ankle, a blister developed on her left shin. When I think of a blister, I think of a tiny, though irritated, area. This was considerably larger. As my wife later suggested, it was also appropriate for the holiday season because it like as though it was from a zombie.

Leslie and I saw my daughter before she left the next morning with about a third of the food, which was fine.

Tuesday, October 11: We were going to go to a timeshare in the Berkshires, but my wife couldn’t stand the pain of being in the car for an hour. Plan B:  After we put the one cat in the basement, Leslie came over and washed the dishes while I attempted to straighten up the house and tend to my wife.

Wednesday, October 12: Leslie and I went to the rental car place to return the vehicle. She Ubered to the airport, and I took the bus home. I certainly didn’t mind taking care of my wife, but it ate into most of my time for food prep and just helping her to get from one point to another.

The day without end

Thursday, October 13: My wife and I had separate medical visits. I went to the cardio section of St. Peter’s Hospital to get a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). What is THAT? It is “a test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to create images of your heart. TTE can determine how well your heart is functioning and identify causes of cardiac-related symptoms.”

I’m getting this test because of this. I used to get one annually, but then my cardiologist retired, and no one in the office followed up. So I had to get my primary care physician (PCP) to contact another practice in Schenectady, who I had seen a couple of weeks earlier. BTW, the Ellis Hospital main phone line sucks. I was in phone hell for ten minutes before abandoning it, Googling the directish number I needed, and calling that.

Part 2

So after the test, I went home, ate lunch, and watched a recorded episode of JEOPARDY. But before I could finish it, my wife called and said that HER PCP was displeased with the progress of her leg. The antibiotics should have done more. She should go to the emergency room and be admitted. I was to meet there, at St. Peter’s, where I had just come from.

We both arrived around 2:30 p.m.; she’d gotten a ride from the church friend who had taken her to the doctor. After two hours, she was called to the triage office, which involved her using her crutches to hobble there. Yes, the nurse there said my wife should be admitted. She finally got a wheelchair.

Around 6, I went home to take the trash to the curb, feed the cats, and, most importantly, make my wife a sandwich. The selection of graham crackers, saltine crackers, and Lorna Doones has dissipated over time. The bottled water is gone, with just some ginger ale cans.

Finally, my wife gets to go to a bed attached to the ER. I go in about a half hour later as it becomes obvious that she won’t see anyone for a while. At about 11 pm, I go home.


Friday, October 14: She tells me that several medical folks saw her overnight, some of which involved doctors waking her in the middle of the night. Around noon, she’s on the fifth floor. But she doesn’t have a room yet. And she hasn’t eaten or even drunk water since 8 pm the night before because the vascular surgeon was supposed to see her.

I arrive on the 5th floor at about 1:45 pm and find my wife, who doesn’t yet have a room. She’s on the floor, with some partitions providing a modicum of privacy. Then I got a call maybe 10 minutes after I arrived. It was my MIL wanting to know how her daughter was doing; I hadn’t spoken to her since we were still in the ER.

Finally, at about 2 pm, my wife gets a room. More importantly, since it was established that the vascular guy WOULDN’T see her that day, she got some food!

I was very distressed by all of this. It was my impression that her PCP could call the hospital and bypass the hours of waiting. I figured it would be like my last ER visit in August. Of course, that was a perceived heart thing in a less busy hospital. One of the medical professionals we spoke with subsequently said that’s just how health care is, especially in the last three years.

Grandma Gertrude Williams

August 10, 1897-January 24, 1982

Gertrude WilliamsIt occurred to me that I’ve written a few times about my paternal grandma Agatha Green. For instance, here and here and especially here. I am reminded that she was born 120 years ago on July 26.

I’ve written far less about my maternal grandma Gertrude Williams, born August 10, 125 years ago. I think it’s because my relationship with her was more… complicated. She was born Gertrude Elizabeth Yates, daughter of Edward Yates and Lilian Bell Archer. For the longest time, even my mother believed she was born in 1898. I always remembered it because it was the year of the Spanish-American War.

Then one day in the mid-1960s, she went to register to vote. Unwilling to lie to a government official, she confessed her true age.

I thought Gert grew up in the house my mother always lived in until mom got married. But in the 1905 New York State Census in Binghamton, NY, she lived at 53 Sherman Place, a street razed c. 1960 to build a park near 45 Carroll Street. By 1910, she lived at 13 Maple Street with her parents and her younger siblings, Edward, Ernest, and Adina, or Deana as everyone called her. Gert had an older sister who had died before she was born.

In March 1912, her father died. Yet, in July of that same year, her mother Lillian married a guy named Maurice Holland, a guy from either Texas or Mexico, depending on which subsequent Census you believe.

In the 1920 Census, the household was Harriet Archer (Lillian’s widowed mother), Lillian, Maurice, and Lillian’s four children. Gert, now 22, was working as a maid.

My mom enters the picture

Gertrude married a guy named Clarence Williams around 1927, and they had a child named Gertrude. (She will hereafter be referred to as Trudy to avoid confusion.) And they had a second child, who did not live long and died in early 1929.

In the 1930 Census, the household consisted of Lillian and Maurice; Gertrude, Edward, and Deana, Ernie having moved out; a nephew of Lillian named Edward Archer, 17; and my mother Trudy, 2. Here is a picture of Gert with her mother, sister, and daughter.

But where’s Clarence? Fuzzy gossip suggested that Lillian and maybe even Harriet (d. 1928) drove him away. I never got the real story. Gert is 32 and working as a servant.

By the 1940 Census, the residents were Maurice (Lillian d. 1938), Gert, Edward, Deana, and Trudy. Gert only had a 6th-grade education, and she was working as a housekeeper.

My sister has many undated pictures of people visiting 13 Maple Street, eating in the not-very-large backyard. So it was some sort of cultural mecca. What was THAT all about?

I’ve just seen the 1950 Census

It shows Edward, 47, as head of household, naturally(!), because he was the eldest male; he was a truck driver. Adenia, 42, was a stitcher. Gert, 52, was now listed as separated from Clarence (d. 1958) and not working outside the home. Trudy, 22, is a shipping clerk. She married Les Green, 23, on March 12, 1950; he was a cleaner doing remodeling work.

Eventually, in 1950, my parents-to-be moved into 5 Gaines Street, about six blocks away. It was owned by Gert and presumably her siblings.

I enter the picture

I was born in 1953. In 1958, when I was going to kindergarten, I was supposed to attend Oak Street School. Since my mother worked outside the home, at McLean’s department store, it was determined that 13 Maple Street would be my school address so that I could go there at lunch and after school, tended to by Gert and Deana. Ed had moved out by then.

Deana was cool. We’d play 500 rummy and Scrabble. I taught her canasta, which Grandma Green had shown me.

Gert was a pain. She would tell stories, but it was difficult following them or believing how much, if any, was true. She would indicate that we should not go near this person, who turned out to be a relative. Worse, she forbid her adult daughter and us to see her brother Ed because he was living with a woman, Edna, who was not his wife. After Ed died in 1970, my strongest memory was of Gert and Edna crying on each other’s shoulders at the funeral.


There were “bad men” lurking in the Oak Street underpass, we were told. The boogie man existed.  When I washed the dishes, which I did at home regularly, she told me I shouldn’t because it wasn’t manly. This was one of the several times that Deana said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!” When Deana died in 1966, I was devastated.

My mother was in a tug-of-war between her mother and her husband, which I alluded to here. Dad clearly did not like Gert. One time, we were having dinner, and someone asked Gert if she wanted some peas. She said, “I’ll have a couple.” My father put two peas on her plate. It was shocking and bite-your-lip funny and may explain why I can be such a literalist.

Mom’s first cousin Frances Beal, Ernie’s daughter, tells a Gert story here, in the fifth paragraph from the end.


When my parents and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC, it became clear to everyone except Gert that Gert needed to move down with her daughter and son-in-law. She had a coal stove, which required going to the basement to shovel the coal into pails and carry it up rickety steps. I did this a lot as a kid, which I oddly enjoyed.

It was the task of sister Leslie and me to take Gert to Charlotte. She railed against it. Where would she get stockings? “They sell stockings in North Carolina.”

She lived in Charlotte until she died on Super Bowl Sunday in 1982. She was cremated in Charlotte but buried at Spring Forest Cemetery in Binghamton, less than 100 meters from 13 Maple Street.

I did love Gert, I believe. But I didn’t always like her.

The Lydster at Carnegie Hall

As I noted, my sister was in a mass choir singing the Mozart requiem at Carnegie Hall on Monday, June 13, at 8 pm. To be honest, I was willing to let my daughter blow off school, go down to NYC with me on Sunday, then we’d come back on early Tuesday morning.

But then the school calendar changed. A sheet sent home to us and then subsequently mailed had stated that there was a mandatory senior meeting on Thursday, June 9. Caps, gowns, and honor cords were to be distributed. I was unaware of honor cords for the high school level. They are tokens “consisting of twisted cords with tassels on either end awarded to members of honor societies or for various academic and non-academic achievements, awards, or honors.” My daughter had ones for Honor Society and Art Honor Society.

An audible

But this meeting got moved to – you guessed it – Monday, June 13. So instead, my daughter came down to NYC after school that day, leaving at 3:30 pm to catch an Amtrak train scheduled to leave at 4:10. But the train was delayed and not expected to depart until 5:30, which would provide us zero time to get from Penn Station to Carnegie Hall.

Fortunately, my wife could switch our daughter to a 4:30 pm train, which arrived at 7. We took a taxi to the venue and got there by 7:30. Coincidentally, my sister Leslie was standing right where we got dropped off. My daughter and went to our VERY good seats, J1 and J3 just left of the center section.

The program

The concert had five ‘acts.” The first was the National Youth Festival Chorus, a mass choir comprised of seven choirs from seven states. The groups had been rehearsing individually but not together until two days earlier. They sang six songs, only one of which I knew, Children Will Listen by Sondheim. The c. 270 kids, roughly from 10 to 18, were very good, except for one kid near the end of a row who rocked back and forth with his thumbs in his pockets and distracted my daughter and me.

The Masterwork Festival Chorus included eight ensembles from six states, plus some stragglers, including my sister and five of her compatriots. The soloists were very good, especially the tenor (Anthony Webb) and the mezzo-soprano (Kathryn Leemhuis)/ They were accompanied by the New York City Chamber Orchestra. They too only sang together since Saturday. Following the Sunday rehearsal, they were given COVID tests. If they got called, they were positive and, therefore, out. At least seven folks couldn’t perform. My daughter recognized a couple of movements, notably Lacrymosa, probably from its use in TV and movies.

Wait, there’s more!

After the intermission, the Columbus International Children’s Choir performed. Their director, Tatiana Kats, must have perfect pitch, for she gave the notes without a pitch pipe or other instrument. They did four songs, including Ev’ry Time I Feel The Spirit, which I’ve sung since high school. It was the William Dawson arrangement but slightly altered. Why We Sing by Greg Gilpin had hand gestures that were quite touching.

The Trinity University Chamber Singers did three pieces, including If Ye Love Me by Tallis. A very good group. Both the Columbus and Trinity groups were part of the Mozart Requiem.

The final act was the Tara Winds Clarinet Choir, the first clarinet ensemble to play at this festival since 1935. I liked Two Songs without Words by Holst. I LOVED the Marcel Dupré: Variations sur un Noel.

Then my sister told us to go to the gift shop, so my daughter could pick out a souvenir, but the building closed at 11 pm. From there, across the street to Trattoria Dell’Arte, which was fabulous. Lots of hours oeuvres, enough to fill one up, and wonderful service.

We took a cab back to the apartment, where my sister gave my daughter some presents. They all went to sleep at some point, but I didn’t because my daughter and I needed to take a 7:15 train back to ALB, and I got anxious. We took an Uber to Penn Station, got food, and took the train home. I’m told I fell asleep for a time.

My wife picked us up and took my daughter to school for her last day, then took me home, where I slept for four hours.

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