Friday, May 25, 2018



"You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears."
James 4:13-17

Yesterday I received the sad news that my dear cousin Bobby Jenckes  died. Speaking to  his son who called to tell me the news, I felt  a great wave of sadness and disbelief sweep over me.  Bob was my oldest Jenckes first cousin and someone who had helped me in so many ways throughout my life.  Bob was stoic and totally dependable.  He had a dry sense of humour  and he was also unfailingly kind.  He never drew attention to himself; he just quietly fulfilled the ministries of family  devotion and dedication.

  I recall especially when  my Aunt Grace was failing in health and staying with me, Bob started to just show up in the early morning with coffee. He would help me by lifting Grace so that I could wash and dress her for the day.  
Then in the evening he would return to reverse the process.  Grace trusted him totally because of his steadiness and strength. She would  insist that we wait for him if  I tried to start the procedure before his arrival.

     She loved that he made light of it, never  pointing out that he was  there to help, but just saying that he  had  thought we might like some coffee. Aunt Grace picked up on his style--truth be told--he had probably learned it from her. She told me to buy a bottle of good  Cream Sherry. And each  night we would pour out the small snifters in a row of three and await his coming in the door. She wanted to see it as a social occasion, and then that made it acceptable to Grace. 

In my own  experience I have sometimes been frustrated  by the reticence of the Jenckes clan--my father's Yankee side of the family.  But I see that it was always a form of  mutual respect. Sometimes carried too far but better than interrogating people about their life choices. 
Bob demonstrated  a kind of respect for the dignity and integrity of each person and a refusal to violate that with questions or any judgement.  I would say that  was true about my Aunt Grace and my Cousin Bob---they both stood  firm in the judgement free zone and they  protected it like home court.

I had the good fortune to have had Bob's companionship from childhood. Many Sundays my Aunt Grace would come by bus to   our house in Pawtucket and take me with her by bus to Providence--a quick stop for ice cream at Shrafts--and then onto Warwick. There I would join  Bob's three sisters and we would pester him to play with us.  I remember that he sometimes let me  sit on the back of his bike.  That was a rare privilege and I  knew it.

I would say that the windows that Bob and I shared as adults were  infrequent and unexpected. When I returned from graduate school at the University of Illinois to Rhode Island after my divorce, I taught for a year as an Instructor in the English Department of Rhode Island College. That same year Bob, who had finished his stint in the Navy. returned to College to complete his education at RIC.  It seemed to amuse him that I was teaching where he was  attending school. We would  bump into each other on campus and sometimes we  would share a coffee.

Bob must have noticed that I was  a little at loose ends--living as a single mother with my six year old son in an apartment in Providence. He suggested that I come to his house on Saturdays and keep his wife company while he was at work.  He put it in those  generous terms-- as if I would be doing him a favor. 

When I  accepted his invitation  and showed up on Saturday, his wife was very welcoming.  My son Joe played with her son Stephen and that friendship really helped my acceptance of  raising a child with no father to help.

Bob  represented two dominant traits from the Jenckes DNA--he had great height and he was a workaholic.  The Jenks/ Jenckes  colonial  founders were famous for their great height.  Joseph Jenks was a  foundryman and  started the first foundry in the Bay Colony in Saugus, and then his son came to the Blackstone and  began the First Foundry  in what would become Pawtucket near the Falls,
When I think of them I picture tall and strong blacksmiths.  They must have really stood out in the  mid 1600s when average height was much shorter,
They passed this trait on --one Jenckes father with ten daughters --each 6 ft or better--was quoted as boasting that he had  "60 running feet of daughters": see there's that dry wit I spoke of earlier.

Anyway not all Jenckes' are giants but none are short.  Every once in a while the gene shows off, and Bob was about 6 feet 7 inches.

Bob also was extremely active and hard working. After he "retired"
at or around 70 years, he still kept busy with three part-time jobs.
In the last two years I saw less of Bobby, and although I was always invited to family gatherings, my own limitations or hospitalizations and rehab stints prevented me from accepting. Most recently after Bob's surgery I  had to content myself with phone conversations.   I  limited myself on those because I did not want to tire  him.
He said that he was  doing better and I believed  him.  But then he said that he was very tired. And  that was a new note.
He is resting now.  I pray that his children and all who love him rest in the knowledge that he is in a better place and that his spirit is busy watching over us all.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


HOPE IS ONLY HOPE WHEN THERE IS NO CAUSE FOR HOPE---otherwise it is an expectation

Tonight I am rooting for the ROCKETS and they may just take this game.  They are at home.  That certainly helped the Celtics last night. 

Now in the 3rd Quarter the Rockets are trying to pull ahead  in a more decisive way.  They had a lousy first half with most of Mr. Hardin's shots missing.  But the energy has increased and they must know that this is their chance in their home court with the crowd roaring for them.

OMG they just announced that a big  basket by CP3 did not count.  Well wonders of wonders KD just missed one of his 3 pointers.  Hope has raised her  lovely  head. Always a ravishing sight
 This is riveting.  Wow Hardin just ran down court and slammed a basket in. 

two minutes to go  Houston is up 3 points.  They just trampled CP3 in the shooting lane. OOOOPS!!!  

 Eric Gordon  my new hero just  threw for three and landed it.

One minute left and the Rockets are  up  by just 1 point.
WOW CHRIS  PAUL  and I have something in common--hamstring injury and horrible spasms. 

Now a three point lead and  Gordon just shut it down with a second free throw.  




I  am in a funk and the game last night only added to my sorrow.  I received the sad news that my dear cousin Bobby died and  with a grieving heart I began to watch the game  hoping the CAVS  could lift my spirit a  little. Instead I saw that LeBron is too heavily burdened with the lifting of the entire  team and I could not add my sorrow.  

I turned the game off and went to bed when LeBron went to the bench in the last moments and seemed to down a quart of water in one long gulp.  I woke up several times in the night with the sadness and thought that  letting myself care so much for his victories meant that I cared  too much about his defeats.  They felt like they were mine.

My mother always  tried to stop me when I would wax too passionately about one of my idols -- TED WILLIAMS  and ELVIS, and  yes, when I was  a toddler ROY ROGERS,
Being Irish she would use derision to stifle my attachment--
Asking rhetorically--here you are worried about Ted Williams--how many times do you think he talked about you today?

And that was the end of the talk-- but not the devotion.  I was hurt and had no response. It would  be many years before I recognized that she challenged in me a trait that she hated in herself  --  mothers do that,
She had worshipped an English Channel swimmer Gertrude Ederle and often delighted in the wins of a woman tennis player .  She  even made tennis whites for herself and had her picture taken swinging a borrowed tennis racquet.  She knew what hero worship was all about.  Like me she enjoyed a rich and lavish fantasy life.

Gertrude was the first woman to swim the English Chanel and that happened in 1926 when my mother was 16 and that made a big impression
on her. She talked about it all the time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Something that is still there in the Bucket

When I begin to write about a  particular place in the Bucket it must excite the old neurons and I find myself  suddenly recalling new details.  I am not always sure if they are trustworthy

They usually do have some basis in fact.
 So today I was recalling the allure of the Barrel Yard. After I made our ritualistic trip to Salvation Army on Central Avenue  to  give them the fruit of yesterday's excavation  of the patio storage with Mikey,Yash wanted lunch.  So I swung by Wendy's and got two burgers and no meal. Then drove to find my favorite spot right next to the falls in the Pawtucket Country Club Parking lot --open and pretty empty.
It is a sunny day and I could see the waters splashing below the falls and hear that  murmur of the river- so soothing.
After we finished eating , we went into Slater but my mind was  thinking of  checking out the old Dunnel Lane. 
So I swung  right on Newport and then a quick left onto Columbus. I turned left on to RI AVE at  McCoy stadium.  As I cruised by and  reached the intersection with Dunnell Lane,  I turned left.  Then once I was into the  industrial area  I swung left again and

 THERE IT WAS.  Just as I recall and an old sign hung over the office shed and  announced that we were in John Collins Barrells.  I drove in and turned around and there were the bright blue barrels and there were also some large rectangular plastic containers.  I was very happy to see the barrels still there. Towards the back of the  yard the gate was wide and I could drive into another area  that showed that telltale sand  that had once been surrounding Dunnell's Pond and that had been part of the terrain of the backlots.  AND I was glad to see that was not changed.

Driving  away I chose to continue up Dunnell to Prospect and there at the Corner  was a closed Pizza place that stands where Barney Donnelly's store once stood.  He was a bookie that took my father's "ACTION"  And then continuing on Prospect I saw to my left apartments built where  there once stood the Prospect Street School.  I  turned  right down Melrose Avenue and at the foot of Melrose as it T's into Rhode Island on the right was the strange  triangle attached to a tenement that once was  Dick's Variety. No sign of anything commercial there now.

When I got home I Googled Collins Barrells and learned that they have been in business in that spot for more than  a HUNDRED YEARS.

Why does that make me so happy?? So glad to find a still standing witness of the past that haunts me and  attests to the truth of my memory.



I almost missed it last night.  I  tuned in for the opening because I find SHAQ and Charles and Kenny so funny talking together.  I admire how Ernie manages  those  triple threats.
Then the game began and it looked like the start of a slaughter and I did not want to watch that.  So I looked elsewhere to the LITTLE WOMEN  show and even the Louisa May Alcott   bio story after with the real facts of the lives of the Alcotts.
I have visited the House in Concord many times and  have brought visitors and students there.  I have broken down and  wept there like I did when I visited the room where Keats worsened off the Spanish Steps in Rome. I was not the only tourist weeping and trying to stifle it all with a cough or noisy nose-blowing.
What struck me about the Alcott house was not how nice-- but how small and mean-- and I recall my thought:  Louisa you made much of very little. 
Now I see that is the job we all have -- because every moment is both so small and so HUGE-- sometimes just breathing is enough. My father always said: "you can only play the hand that you were dealt."

I could only stand so much of the Puritanical restraint and I turned back to the GAME ---AND GLORY HAD BROKEN LOOSE!!
Houston was in the lead.  Although the Warriors took back the lead, I stayed with the game until the  marvelous conclusion --THE WARRIORS MISSED SHOTS!!
My cousin Mike had discussed it all with me earlier in the day and he feared the worse.  But instead we have both conferences now in an even game situation. Some team must win two of the next three games.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Going Deeper into the Backlots

If we so chose we could walk even further back into the lots and we  would reach Dunnell Lane and a fenced off area that was the Barrel Yard and that was  heavily sign posted.  KEEP OUT

We could not see into the Yard but we could hear the deep yells and curses of men and sometimes the scary sounds of dogs growling fiercely, barrels rolling and crashing. We longed to go inside--at least I did.  But only very bold  boys would venture across that barrier and climb that fence.  AND  they only did it as the twilight deepened and we were  near darkness. 
WE had to go home  when the streetlights came on--but that was their signal to risk invading the barrel yards--and rouse the junkyard dogs waiting there.

What did they hope to find there?  I would not learn the answer to that for years. 
Bur now we would begin to  run fast up the hills  to emerge in one of the yards on Rhode Island Avenue and then back to my house for supper.  And no one would be the wiser. All my mother would see if she stood on our porch was  me obediently coming up Brewster street as the lights  flashed on.
Once inside I was  expected to wash my hands and set the table for supper.  My sisters never came to the lots with me--they were too unsteady on the steep hill and the boys there were too rough and would make fun of them. And then I would have the task of  making them pay for that. Not possible.

Those boys were the rough boys that hung out at Dick's Variety. Let's go there next.
And what did they find at the Barrel Yards? I did not find out until I  began to date a boy who lived on RI Ave, and told me of his Barrel Yard adventures and showed me his loot. 

it's all on the line tonight


As my cousin said when we parted on  Friday,  "When we  get together to work again on Tuesday, things will be clearer."
  Yes, either the Cavs will have evened up the series or the Celtics will have  pushed the CAVS into a Dead end of 3 Celtic wins and only one more  needed to win the series.
So that drama is ahead and I have so many clashing thoughts about it. 







I am going to have a small dish of Bliss Brothers Strawberry ice cream.  That will settle my nerves.