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Old Money Bags
Most of us, in the course of one life, unknowingly put ourselves together using a mix of chemicals and other unknowns and with such materials that frequently have little or no relation to each other but in many cases depend on one or the other for creating a meaningful person, a human being.
What is a human? We are animals, some more so than others. We play, we mope, we laugh and we hope. Sometimes, we screw up and as in life we can either make it or it might break us. Fortunately for most of us we have friends and they have us and these friends are frequently closer to us than our relatives. Without friends, who else would let us know that our cat’s on the table eating the roast?
As I am blessed with a few, very good friends and an interesting but low-paying job. I would like the job better if I could have nicer clothes, food and a more comfortable apartment. But, as in all things, hope could be right around the corner. Or not. Likewise, love could also be right around the corner. And so we hope.
leaf on our front tooth?
We have friends who, in many cases, know us better than they know.
Or we hit rock bottom and somehow try again.
create and run the ma“Yeah but what a strange book title.”
“Huh? I wasn’t talking about a book. I was talking about reality. I was talking about marriage.”
“Oh. I was talking about a book called The Screwtape Letters. It’s a very small, old, yellowed paperback. By C. S. Lewis. Whose name I think I’ve heard of, him or her.”
“Huh. Never heard of it or him or her either. It looks like a candidate for the trash. Go ahead and pitch it”.
“Its pages are literally disintegrating as we speak.”
“Back to me getting married.”
“Huh? What did you say?” Jill, my buddy in crime and book sorting has a funny way of not listening or, at best, paying very little attention and then not having any idea what I’m babbling on about. “You know, whenever you and I are talking, I always have to repeat everything I say. Everything. One of these days I should ask you for one hundred dollars just to see what, if anything, I get.”
“You won’t get very much. I can’t remember the last time I had one hundred dollars together, at the same time in my checking account or my savings account or any place else.”
“Well, anyway, I still want to get married.”
She chuckles. “Yeah, right. Just like that. To whom? Do you have someone in mind?”
“There’s this new guy at the bank. His name is Leroy. Have you met him?”
“Don’t believe so. Have you told me about him?”
“No but I’m telling you about him now. So listen up!”
Blank look. Completely blank look. “You tell me! Do I know him? Sinclair doesn’t sound familiar to me.”
“That’s what I was asking you. I told you about him Monday night. He’s new at the bank.”
“The guy you just met?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“You’re joking, right? Tell me you’re just babbling on and that I can continue with what I was doing.”
“No, trust me, I’m serious”.
“Pshaw, Lynne. You want to get to know him very, very well before you try to do any tying together of any kind of knot. Take it from me! I’ve done enough attempted knot tying to last a century. And look where I am. You sure don’t see me being married.”
“No, but you were. As I think I remember it, you were married twice.”
“You were married three times?
“The first one was very short lived and I prefer to not think about him…”
“And you aren’t married now or have I gotten that wrong?”
“Trust me – I’m not; For sure I’d have told you if I had gotten married. If I were to tie the knot, I’d have told you along with everybody in town. Probably on the front page of the Enquirer – Sunday version. Marriage! Ha! Ha! Marriage! Bah Humbug!”
“Get this. Don proposed to Sandra 3 days after he met her. I am very tired of living alone. For one thing, I’m almost 45. For another, I’m bored and finally, I’m not getting any younger. And I’m broke. Not that I would expect him to finance my lifestyle. Well unless he really wants to, of course.”
“Of course you wouldn’t want him to finance your life style. If he finances your life style then he gets to call the shots. I can’t imagine you putting up with that.”
“Well, well, I think I could handle it if he decided to pick up the tab.”
“I’ll let you work out the finances yourselves but, tell me, what does our Romeo look like?”
“He is very attractive and smart and sexy. Six feet tall and trim. Like everyone else, his hair seems to be into a full scale retreat but I find that sexy too! He is also very, very smart. And, I positively feel that he is the right man for me!”
“And you’re afraid of missing the last train out of town.”
“I’m pretty sure that train left the station years ago, but I still want to get married.”
“Has he proposed?”
“No, not yet.”
“Looks like it’s time to get back to work. I really -- well, never mind. It’s not really any of my business. If he hasn’t proposed … wait a sec, has he ever even asked you out?”
“I am going to warn you again; take it slowly. Nothing comes undone quite like a bad marriage.”
In the Beginning (at Houghton Lake)
Who Are We?
I am staring at a picture, an old sepia tone picture that I found in an old year book. I believe the picture was taken in about
1948 in Chicago, at the Museum of Science and Industry. There they are, the three basic people in my life; my father, my mother and Pats. And, of course, me. While my father’s face is expressionless, my mother’s face looks pleasant -- not overjoyed just pleasant . Mom always looked pleasant, well-dressed, well-coifed, perfectly clothed, very-well put together and how else can I say it but to say she’s content with her lifestyle. For sure If I were her, I would be too.
Who was it who said “All happy families are alike and all unhappy families are different?”
This explanation could go a long way towards defining us. What a screwed up bunch we were/are. Money, clothes, impressing people (or trying to), bank fraud. Disappearing fathers, clueless mothers and at least two teenagers running amok driving their teachers and parents crazy. Totally unpredictable relatives. Grandparents getting old and cranky. What a scary thought, getting old. The vast majority of us will make it to old age; however, the other vast majority of us would rather not.
But, back to the picture. Not surprisingly, in the picture Patsy is wearing her own big, cheerful smile (she really did love that doll house in the museum). However, unless she was in extreme discomfort, Patsy usually walked around with a big, cheerful smile on her winsome, comely face. It was one of the ways our friends and family could keep track of who it was that they were talking to. You never saw Pats without a smile and you never saw me with one. This is how our uncle Clay described us one day; “if her pretty face looks happy, you can bet you’re looking at Pats, but if she grimaces or sticks out her tongue cursing loudly, or worse yet has drool down the front of her dress, that is probably Lynne.
In this picture, we are on our way to Michigan, where we will visit with those who we (Pats and I) refer to as “the damn first cousins” (aka the rich ones, the tiresome ones, the braggarts) as we do every summer.
A Brief Inventory/Introduction To My Family and Friends using What I call Biopics (In case I forgot to tell you, I invented Biopics)
And, by the way, Biopics is my new way to look at and file old pictures.
Me (Lynne Fordham Ball) – First Daughter
To begin,as stated before I invented Biopics
In the aforementioned picture, I’m either 10 or 11 and
A lackluster student
Spends a lot of time reading
Never has enough money
Usually has trouble getting to places on time
Loves new clothes
Couldn’t solve an algebraic equation if my life depended on it
How often do you use algebra, anyway?
My parents’ first child
While we’re at it and before we go onto biopic #2 we need to have a word or two about my entry into the universe.
My mother has never forgotten that day, the day I was born. Never mind the fact that no one ever forgets the birth of their children. Everything that could have gone wrong happened on the day I was born including my being born. To begin with, I was a breach birth and if that wasn’t bad enough, my father, on that very day, was in Columbus doing whatever married men do on Sunday mornings in Columbus Ohio (if anything.) In addition, there were at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and the city streets were not shoveled and the hospital sidewalks were likewise not yet shoveled. By the time we got fairly close to the delivery room except for the tiny, infintesimal fact that she had managed to forget most of what they considered the necessities of newborn motherhood, (like scented soap, deodorant, make up and underclothes)
This time she really felt that she was ready to be a mother. No one else did but that didn’t matter. For instance, the hospital lady felt she should have a couple of pairs of under clothing and maybe some deodorant. So it seems that Hospital Lady was going to prevail again and sent mother back home this time with a very detailed list of basic pre birth necessities. Half of which mother remembered.
“But” said the hospital lady, “dont worry. We are getting closer and It looks like you’re not really ready to deliver right now anyway. Just let Curt drive you home, and when you’re there you get your stuff and then come right back. And remember, don’t linger. Whatever you do, don’t linger! Now what is the most important thing you need to remember?”
“Well, that too” she sighed “but don’t linger!, don’t linger! Please don’t linger!”
But It seems that either I was in a greater hurry than anyone expected or mother must have lingered a bit.
So , early snowy morning be damned, with very little help from anyone, i managed to become the 3rd member of our family. Born at the corner of Weiner and Oak I was followed 2 years later by Pats – the 4th and last of the Ball family at least as far as I can tell. (Who knows who could be living in Columbus these days.)
But enough about my birth. (Pat’s was not nearly as dramatic).
The rest of the Ball family
My sister Patsy
Patsy (Patsy Chester Ball)
Second Ball daughter
2 yrs and 3 days younger than me
Liked by everyone
Good at gymnastics
Millions of friends
One of my most favorite people
Can solve an algebraic equation
Dad (George Hamilton Ball)
MBA from Ohio State
Vice president at the local bank
Rarely says anything
Spent a great amount of time playing golf
Spent even more time playing poker
Broke a record for playing bridge
Ditched his comb-over in ‘65 thank heavens
It was pretty awful
No talent for carpentry, mechanics or fixing things
Would go out of his way to keep from spending money
Could do a mean disappearing act
As he has an MBA, probably could do algebra
But we’ll never know
Mom (Emma Worthlim Ball)
First (and only) mother
Tall and Slender
Freely admits to not being a very good mother
Attended University of Cincinnati for one year
Was a tri delta
Lets everyone know it
Was a Sweetheart of Sigma Chi
The last point may not be exactly true
Could find nothing to substantiate it except mom herself
Doesn’t even know what algebra is
Oh what tangled webs we weave
A typical day in the life of our family
So how did this god-forsaken group of misfits get through a typical day? To begin with, it could be argued that most of our days aren’t typical. For instance, Dad would frequently come home for dinner, eat and then immediately turn around and disappear. Mom would frequently sit with us in the dining room toying with her food until we had finished our dinners after which she would either go out with friends or sit in the den and watch TV. If she didn’t go out, she was usually happy to have us join her in the den unless she had friends over.
I didn’t know it at the time but in retrospect I think she really enjoyed our company. Also, I think she really liked us. For sure, I wish I’d known this at the time, but you know what they say about hind-site. Before we dispense with the subject of dinner, -- Loretta, our hired help, usually cooked our dinner which was almost always perfect. There were seldom any leftovers unless one of the entrees was fish. I hate fish. Point blank hate it!The hated, dreaded fish. I would be very happy to never again put a piece of fish in my mouth. Unfortunately, absolutely no one else in the entire world feels the same way.
Thus, whenever we have fish, my first chore is to set about figuring out how to get rid of it somehow before actually having to swallow it. – different tried and true approaches include stick it in my pocket and at the first opening, bury it in an indoor flower pot, or the outside garbage can, flush it down the toilet, dig a little grave for it in the back yard flower bed and so on. So, bottom line, if you invite us/me to dinner, don’t serve fish as it will, in all probability wind up hiding in what you may consider someplace sacred or disgusting, and by time you discover it in all probability you will have no idea what it is or why it is where it is.
Enough about Fish and more about us
To begin with, I was not a happy child. (I realize that you may already have figured that out). It seems that I spent the bulk of my childhood feeling sorry for myself and my sister. You may have already figured that out too. All I knew was we didn’t have a lot of the things other kids had such as the much desired any-kind-of pet. I dearly wanted a cat while pats craved owning a dog. We would both have been delighted with a Hamster or even a beautiful, luxurious mink or how about an aforementioned and/or a chirping, colorful bird to listen to all day long.. Anything but nothing! We, Pats and I, would also have been delighted with a tank full of fish, that would have managed to take care of themselves (until we discovered that in reality, the water becomes disgustingly dirty disgustingly fast and needs work, lots of disgusting work).
Our father was the kind of person who held on to every dollar he ever had while mom, on the other hand, never let a dime get too comfortable in her purse. In her opinion, there was nothing else to do with money except to spend it.If by some fluke we, Pats and I, have happened to find an unexpected $50 in mom’s purse for more than one day we would probably have used it for buying a fish in a bowl or a Hampster in a box but of course that would lead immediately to the hamster being full of germs and remember germs are dangerous) or that it was certain that the Hamster’s cage would be trapped and our dear little fingers would be broken and we’d have to be taken to the hospital and that would cost a lot of time and money. All for a fish or hamster or a pretty little bird that would sing all day or night while we attempted in vain to simply sleep, sleep sleep.
One More Thing About Our Beautiful Mom
Mom’s vocabularly; Hermes, Estee Lauder, Cardin, Channel, to mention a few. Mom was a beauty, a real heart breaker and she always looked stunning even if she was wearing yesterday’s apparel. She loved to shop and try on cheap clothes. She loved to shop and try on expensive clothes. Unfortunately for her, she had champagne dreams but draft beer reality. Fortunately, she had absolutely no trouble returning clothes to the store where she had originally found them even if they had been worn more than once. I have it on the best authority that those returned dresses, suits, blouses and heels quickly found their way to the local second-hand clothing store meaning that because of our beautiful not to mention generous mom, several young pretty girls had something to wear on dates and during the homecoming dances. Not us, though. Occasionally, we would get one of her older pieces but that was rare.
Also, our mom loved to flirt and who she was flirting with didn’t matter in the least. If he were to be good looking, so much the better.
Patsy (Pats) and Me
When we were little, Pats and I spent as much time as possible with the other kids on our block and from time to time, when no one else was available, we expanded our search for company to other areas of the city even though we weren’t allowed to cross the street. One time we did cross the street, got lost and by the time we found our way home, aided by at least 3 different policemen and our neighbor, Mr. Costello, (two houses down ) our mother was awake and furious. And then, as we walked in the door, what else did she see? That Pats had worn her brand-new Camel hair winter coat and managed to dump most of the contents of a hot chocolate all over it. Poor mom. Here she was ready to blow her stack because we were so late and it was so dark out and she was so worried about us and then she has to deal with the final straw -- we had ruined Pats coat. And Pats was drinking what? HOT CHOCOLATE! The forbidden. For the love of God, how could she have had HOT CHOCOLATE??? How could she have? Haven’t they learned anything?
Our parents’ style of living was an enigma, at least to me. Get this. Jim, who sat next to me in math class, on whom I had a huge crush, enough of a crush to simply sit and stare at him drooling, one day told me that “if I could marry your mother I’d do it in a minute”. At the time of this utterance, he was around twelve years old and she was close to thirty.
New Words same payers. One day, on our way to my room to play a little Monopoly, a friend observed that there were 2 twin sized beds in what was at that time my parents’ bedroom. “Your parents don’t sleep in the same bed’’? my new friend asked. Before I had a chance to respond, she continued. “Do you ever wonder why? That would certainly worry me if they were my parents but thankfully they aren’t. Do your parents definitively love each other?” she continued, seemingly not even having to stop for air. “Are you sure they love each other? They don’t even share a bed. Do you know why?”
To begin with, what is this word Definitively? What exactly does ‘definitively’ mean? I understand definitely but definitively?? But I wasn’t getting a word in edgewise, anyway which is ok as I couldn’t think of anything that I’d be able to use it for anyhow if I could talk but right now I cannot even do that so I couldn’t talk anyway or anyhow because she was never going to stop talking herself so why should I get my mind in an uproar anyhow or anyways.
“As far as I know, they don’t definitively even know each other,” I replied wishing I knew what that damn word definitively meant for sure. “And besides that, who would want to share a bed with a snoring man who frequently farts anyway?
“They have to know each other --- where do you think you came from? You’re thinking sex? Well, you’re right!! They have to have had sex! Probably more than once!”
Where in the world did I find this person? She had me so irritated I couldn’t even remember her name. Actually, to this day I have never been able to remember her name. The only thing I could remember was definitively. (Maybe that was her name). More importantly, having found her, how in the world was I going to get rid of her? Maybe I could bury her in the back yard with the last fish that I buried two years ago; salmon, I believe.
“Forget about it! We were both adopted, that’s what we were.” Our mother still hadn’t given us the “talk”. Which, as far as I was concerned, I didn’t want to hear anyway. What husbands and wive’s do in their bedrooms, at that point, was becoming a big, controversial subject at Winslow elementary school that I, point blank, did not want to hear about or talk about or even think about or anything else. One time while visiting grandpa, I happened to bump into him, bottomless, going to the bathroom one night and from that point on swore off male sexual organs completely. For a while.
The Last Steak AKA The Lost Steak
For years, our family had a strange ritual we went through when we were having our summer dinner out on the screened-in porch. Our summer dinner always took place on a Friday evening as long as it wasn’t raining or 100 f and as long as dad was home. And Loretta.
As usual, dad went through his motions just to get to the part in the script where he always asked each of us the “does anyone want the last steak?” question when, that particular evening, from out of the clear blue sky, comes our youngest neighbor, Masil, appears at our table, grabs the steak, shoves it into her pocket and runs like banshee spirit leaving the rest of us sitting there with our eyes wide open and our jaws on our chests. Even dad was speechless. Pats was so astonished she saw fit to duck under the dining room table and wouldn’t come out until she heard the front door slam. As for me, I slipped quietly away from the table, leaving our nonplussed dad, fork in one hand, knife in the other with nothing else to eat.
As I earlier stated, where my father said usually next to nothing, My mother, on the other hand, seldom stopped talking. One day, while walking down Monteith avenue jabbering to herself, an uninvited fly flew into her mouth and much to our (actually my chagrin), she went ahead and swallowed it. “What else,” she asked “could I do with it? Spit it out? Ladies don’t spit in public!”
“Yea,” I screamed. GET RID OF IT”. I was dumbstruck, to say the least. “Who in the world wants a fly in their stomach? Flies were filthy dirty, caused disease and liked to play in dog poop or bird shit!”
I found the escapade with the fly so unpalatable that for years I couldn’t even think about it; unfortunately, Mom and Pats both thought it hilarious and loved to tell the story over and over ad nauseum even though it made me turn green (or, perhaps, because it made me turn green).
More Supporting Cast
My Father’s Father
Noland Hamilton Ball
Our grandfather on dad’s side
not as astute as he probably was once
Didn’t spend a lot of time grooming
Ate most anything put in front of him
Drank most anything put in front of him
Smoked everything put in front of him
Became a widower at the age of 52
A former banker
Had difficulty understanding brief sentences such as “don’t forget to let the cat in”
I would have loved to have known him when he was young
He may have been very handsome
He probably smelled nicer
But more than anything, he was known as a “woman’s man”
Well, maybe other women but not this one!
Of course not as I understand there is a law against falling in love with your own relatives.
The Engine that ran the train
Extremely efficient and could cook circles around James Beard
Easy to get along with
Related to our grandfather’s maid Cleo but I don’t know how
Getting on with it – A Typical Michigan vacation
As a family we didn’t do much except for our Michigan-in-July trip to a resort called Houghton Lake where we spent the excruciatingly long days with our second-cousins, uncles and aunts. We, the Balls, were the hangers-on and, as such, we were definitely (not definitively) looked down on. We were the only second cousins that actually attended these gatherings, all the other Ball second cousins being wise enough to stay away. (I didn’t even know most of them.) It took us quite a while to figure out why we were the “lucky ones” ;. Everyone else wanted to enjoy their holidays.
Neither Pats nor I had new clothes or things to play with or games or movie magazines or anything else at all useful for impressing the affluent among us. And, trust me, the affluent among us were very, very affluent. And not particularly impressable.
Actually, Pats and I did have something to call our own -- a deck of 51 playing cards - Missing the Queen of hearts. One day, I asked dad for a new deck.
His reply “what’s wrong with the deck you have?”
“It’s missing the queen of hearts.”
His ‘sympathetic’ response -- “When I was a kid, the deck with only one missing card was the good deck ha, ha, ha”. (This particular happenchance took place at a time when I was beginning to sense that it was possible to say something to someone who doesn’t get your drift at all so that you and party 2 sit there flinging words at each other like it’s eventually going to make a difference and party 2 and you will come to a logical conclusion which, means nothing and of course, never really happens).
Did Our Family have Balls?
You bet ! (OK, a little play on words)
(Where did the Ball first cousins get their money? We were, more than once, told that it came from their great uncle, Theodore, who made a fortune from horse-drawn wagons early in the 20th century and automobiles later on. He is said to have died leaving approximately 25 million to his first cousins but nothing to the rest.) Sometimes I picture having a long conversation with Theodore about this but timing is everything and arriving at the Pearly gate too late never counts and cannot be repeated.
But back to Houghton Lake. It was on one of those ill- fated Ball cousin trips, that I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the upstairs hall mirror while I was talking to Anna Marie and somehow managed to see myself and instantly recoiled at that which I saw, in horror, and then spent the next 62 or so days or possibly the next 85 days remembering exactly how unattractive I had looked. It was more than that I wasn’t well dressed enough; I was ugly. And awkward. To make matters worse, the cousins were all comely or princely and dressed like movie stars or royalty and had great looking clothes. They had these tiny bones, those female cousins (whom I hated so much) with glistening hair and nary a pimple on their delicate, ivory faces. And great looking clothes. And thin thighs. To sum it up, the Ball first cousins were evil personified. Even if they seemed nice enough.
Sara, one of the second cousins, would occasionally come over to see how the other 10%us, lived, sat down with us and tried to make conversation but, surprise, we didn’t have much to converse about. For instance, as I remember, the year of her debut about which she went to great lengths to tell us was taking up a lot of her time. As she talked, and talked and talked some more, I looked over at Pats who was making squares with spilt coke on the formica table top with her index finger. At first I thought they were swastikas which unnerved me enough for me to drop my coke all over the table and Pats. Fortunately, it wasn’t really swastikas, just strange looking swastikas and after a brief trip to our room for a fresh outfit, we took ourselves back to Sara and her debut.
OK, what in and the world is a debut?
Answer: Something that you were doing that we weren’t doing because we weren’t important enough or rich enough or talented enough, or even smart enough etc. to do it on our own.
Left to our own devices, one day in our earlier years Patsy and I found our own leaky row boat which became an interesting distraction for us for the rest of that particular trip. We would take the boat out to the middle of the lake just about every day. Patsy would use an old coffee can to bail the boat out and I would do the rowing while we both sang “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” at the top of our lungs in the center of the lake in the middle of July. We both thought this to be highly amusing.
Looking back, it’s possible that perhaps some of our cousins’ apathy concerning us, their SECOND cousins, may have been justified.
So what was it that Pats and I had that kept us sane? --
At least, we, the second cousins, had the best looking mother. By far. And, she always looked like a work of art. This only worked well if she was close by and not out buying clothes.
The family at home - neighbors
On July 8, 1955 a new family moved into the house next to ours. They were a family of 5, Jean (mother), Eric (father) and 3 daughters; Masil (7), Basie(3) and Giselle(almost 5). Their names were derived from Masil’s grandmother, Basie’s aunt and a mixture of their mother’s second cousin’s name (masy) and their father’s first cousin’s name(Silvia). (Masil was already mentioned when she went a-steaking.)
They were the Smiths, the English Smiths and came from the city of Winthrop or Windsor or Winslow or something like that.
As the Smiths came from a small town in England they were easily, for a while, probably the most exotic people I’ve ever known. Everywhere I went I went with Masil; I introduced her as my English friend, Masil or, if for some reason I flubbed that, I would always let it be known that Masil was “from England” just in case whoever it was I was trying to impress had somehow missed that important point.
Masil and to a lesser degree Basie and Giselle spent a lot of time with us. From time to time we would be invited to enjoy an English dinner with them eating such things as Shepard’s Pie or bangers and mash. Until later on in our friendship, the girls were delighted to be invited to our house for hamburgers cooked on the Weber grill and Loretta’s home-made French fries, which without a doubt were French Fries that were second to none.
The Smith girls loved to play Monopoly and Checkers and Masil even knew how to play Chess. They, all three of them, seemed to love American television and really enjoyed watching Milton Berle and Gunsmoke. I never did figure out what was so funny about Milton Berle and have no idea why anyone would watch Westerns. But the Brits seem to love them.
The family at home – us
By this point, you won’t be surprised to hear me dub our father strange, very strange. Dad was an enigma. He was approximately 10 years older than mother, seldom said two words to her, occasionally ate dinner with us and very rarely talked to anyone other than to ask Loretta to get him some gravy or bread or wine from the kitchen. His most important companion at the dinner table was his Wall Street Journal and from the way he talked back to the WSJ, I was very grateful that I didn’t have to serve him while he complained about his precious stocks.
(But, it could have been worse. One thing I learned years ago is that no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. You could have told dad that you are or have been a Democrat; Dad could go off for days ranting and raving about the Democrats. The Democrats, it seems, had figured out how to vote Republican as well as Democrat on the exact same day, at the exact same time that they had already voted Republican”.)
One evening during the main course, Pats decided to see if he even knew who she was by asking him if he knew her full name. “Hey dad, can you tell me what my full, given name is?” Initially, he looked at her, puzzled, for a brief period of time, looked at the ceiling, looked at each of us, brushed some crumbs off of his lap and then without responding to anything to satisfy her question, finished off his glass of wine and returned to his paper, never bothering to answer her. We each looked at the other and quickly determined that it seems he really didn't know her name. To this day, I still think of that as some kind of child abuse. Of course, I never heard him use my name, either.
As mentioned earlier, dad wasn’t much of a communicator so on those rare days when he did decide to talk, it behooved you to listen. i.e., I was sitting in the den watching something on the television when he burst into the room and told me “you make sure that you take care of your sister. You hear?” I almost fell off the couch.
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
At first, I thought he was using me for some kind of friendly collusion, but he quickly set me straight.
“There are a lot of strange people out there. Be extra vigilant. People aren’t going to be that interested in you but your sister is extremely attractive and needs to be protected.
Exit George Ball.
“Wow,”I thought, “that really made my day!” I considered letting myself cry and then decided that the last thing I wanted was for him to have that satisfaction should he come bursting back into the room.
One other thing about Dad; everybody said Dad was handsome but damned if I could see it. I could see that he was an asshole but I had figured that out long before I even knew what being an asshole said about him.
Elaine Howard Ball
Other luminaries, live or not so alive
Mother of my mother
Daughter of Sylvester Miller
Is rumored to have been a beauty
Must have had a very devious mind
Lost 2 children to the 1918 flu
Died 3 years after my birth
I never really got to know her and I’m sorry
As mentioned earlier, another key player in our life was our grandfather, Nolan Ball. Years ago, Nolan fell in love with and married Elaine Howard. Elaine’s father was a Vice President at our local bank for a while until he fell, rather abruptly, from grace for committing something the bank called embezzlement which translated into stealing the bank’s money. (Needless to say, it took me years to find out what embezzlement was as anyone using the word usually whispered it. This led me to assume that embezzlement was something dirty like sex but not as much fun). Of course, it wasn’t a dirty word; it was much worse. You could be forgiven for becoming pregnant out of wedlock or being caught in the sack with your 6thgrade quarterback but woe be to the person who gets their hands on the BANK’S MONEY.
As Pats and I remembered him, Grandfather was getting on in years and didn’t seem to have much to do except sit around wondering to whomever was there, what was happening and why. Grandpa loved his whiskey and loved his cigars; he once told Pats that whiskey and tobacco was all he needed to stay alive and as he didn't even crack a smile, we decided that he was dead serious.
And Then Dad hits the ground running (we think)
One day, towards the middle of May 1956, dad stopped being an active participant in the Ball household. Note that I said one day; to this day, no one has ever figured out exactly which day that one day was. All we knew was it seemed like he was there one day and gone the next. As far as we know, he never said a word. Just vanished leaving no forwarding address. To make matters worse, it took us a fairly long time to figure out that he was gone and wasn’t simply in the back yard lurking around waiting for something to do or someone to yell at.
His closet was still full of clothes, his razor was still sitting in its little case on his bathroom sink along with his shaving lotion and his terry cloth robe which was hanging on the back of the bathroom door. His leather slippers were neatly placed right next to his bed, the very bed he slept by himself in. With no wife. I remember at that point in our lives, wondering why people were so intrigued with who was in whose bed. (Not to mention was everyone definitive, and why or why weren’t they and who gives a rats ass anyway) what about an occupied bed is so interesting?? That’s what I thought back then, anyway. And yeah, my thought process has changed a lot.
But back to our wandering father, It had taken at least 5 days before we could track down his disappearance as a bonafide disappearance rather than simply one of his bad nights out (which he seemed to have a lot of). However, this wasn’t his first disappearance but without a doubt, it was his longest. It was a Thursday morning and it was raining like hell which made taking the garbage out extremely unpleasant and if the garbage didn’t go out, the cans filled up to over- flowing by the next trash day which usually attracted the raccoons. (Loretta couldn’t carry the trash cans out as her left leg was partially paralyzed so the job fell to dad unless he was not around. And if he wasn’t around, guess who is next in the pecking order.) By the way, if the garbage managed to get ignored for more than 2 days, it started to become very unpleasant. Hint: mom couldn’t take the garbage cans out or bring them back either, and no, I don’t know why. And of course, someone as pretty and frail like Pats could not be expected to take the cans out or bring them back in. She might get hurt. Fortunately, for everyone else in the household, I could take the cans out and bring them back in during a heavy, driving rain or 16 ½ inches of snow – piece of cake.
But I really do or did love Pats regardless.
On this particular day, as we were packing up our books and getting ready to catch our school bus,when Loretta suddenly emerged offhandedly and asked us if we had seen “your dad” lately. (Thursday was Loretta’s payday). I remember standing there for a moment waiting for someone else, such as mom, to say something like “Oh, yeah, he was shaving in his bathroom this morning or he’s taking out the garbage”. However, none of the three of us said anything and simply stood there staring at each other until Pats took it upon herself to run up the stairs and see if he was in his room but quickly returned shaking her head “no and his bed is still made”. I checked out the den and his office. Nothing. Pats then had the bright idea of looking in the garage to see which automobile was still there; his expensive Mercedes (6 weeks old) was gone. That gave us a clue or two; maybe he ran off with his secretary in his luxury 6 week old Mercedes leaving his aged BMW in the garage (most likely) or perhaps he’d been kidnapped by sea-going pirates and forced to walk the plank off their boat or maybe he simply got tired of living with us and driving a 5-year old BMW.
Finally, mom said that come to think of it, she hadn’t seen him, she thought, since the prior Friday and Pats said she didn’t remember when she last saw him and I know that the last time I saw him was Saturday and Loretta gets weekends off starting on Saturday and here it was Thursday. As we stood there trying to make some sense of his comings and goings or lack thereof, mom was beginning to act a little strange. One moment she was almost giddy and the next moment she looked a little worried and remote. Sure, Dad was frequently gone but he had never simply stopped coming home completely. He may have been a pain in her ass but he earned money and paid the rent and provided for the groceries and kept the water and electricity turned on. Another thing – he, weekly, paid Loretta and Loretta made the house run smoothly. In addition, he also could manage the business-type things that keep people out of trouble whereas mom could not.
(I’m not sure mom ever figured out how to pay a bill or even take the garbage cans back to their shed or had any idea of what a tax was. One day she actually asked me to write a check for her for a blouse that she wanted to order from Neiman Marcus leaving me to wonder if she even knew how to write a check.)
However, if mom was distressed that dad was gone, for the time being, she seemed to be holding up pretty well.
It was at this point in time that Pats and I immediately put our heads together and decided to not tell anyone about our missing dad, thinking he’d come back sooner or later but when the next Friday rolled around and he was still AWOL we both began to get a little uncomfortable. It wasn’t that we were going to miss him or needed attention from him, we just really didn’t have any idea of how we were going to get along without him. Miss him? No. Need his expertise? Yes. Also, we really didn’t want to tell people that he was gone. We were pretty sure that if his absence continued, that his being gone was going to turn into some kind of scandal and the last thing a 14-year-old needs is a familial scandal. Without a doubt, dad was a very indispensable, disposable person, who would occasionally be sorely missed but not all that badly and not all the time. There had been, in the past, many times when weeks would go by without his name (or face) ever coming up.
This time, however, turned out to be the penultimate disappearance as week after week went by with nary a word or letter or phone call. Nothing. No dad. No policemen at the door. No phone calls (at least not from him). Nothing. To add to the confusion, one day, our grandfather, dad’s father, called MOM and asked to talk to him (dad) about problems with his front gutter leaking water all over the kitchen whenever it rained. “Huh”? Was all I could think to say. At that point in my life, It had never occurred to me that houses even had gutters, leaky or otherwise, so I quickly gave the phone to Patsy who shrugged and hot-potatoed it off to mom who tried to give it back to me but I at least had the sense to duck into the kitchen thus putting the onus back on mom to finally call the police and report dad gone. After mom alerted the authorities of our missing father, Patsy and I decided to wander up to grandpa’s house to see if we could
1. Make any sense of his earlier phone call and
2. Miss a day of school. (OK, Pats never liked to miss a day of school because she didn’t like to play catch up with her work but to me, an extra day off is like a walk in the park as long as the park doesn’t contain a teacher or parent walking along with me asking me to name the first 8 presidents or the trees on the river. (Boy, talk about your worst nightmare! How about determining the number of inches in a liter without the help of a book?)
A little more about the eldest surviving Ball, our grandfather. Most of the time, grandpa didn’t seem to be able to make much in the way of sense about anything anymore, the gutters and leaking roofs were just the tip of the iceberg. Rather than doing any work around the house, he had Cleo handle the food and cleaning and occasionally we would be dispatched to do any heavy lifting or to see if he needed anything. Every so often, Mom would make it a point to stop by just to see if he was still breathing. This was probably unnecessary given the fact that grandfather was one who either snored loudly enough to shake the entire house (thus you knew he was alive unless you were deaf) or was wide awake and ready to corner anyone who might be passing by.
And then there’s dad
If for some reason, you came to help out at our grandfather’s place it would probably take a great deal of time before you figured out that the two of them (dad and grandpa)
were related. For one thing, our dad would probably not be there. He rarely was. In addition, our father had never, that we know of, done any repair on any house in any way except to occasionally hire a painter. Thus, if there were any tools in grandpa’s house, they were pretty well hidden. Our dad in real life was a banker, an MBA; call him what you will he didn’t do gutters or leaves or garbage or snow removal. For one thing, he didn’t like having dirty hands. And he never wore blue jeans or shorts or athletic shoes simply because he didn’t have any. His casual clothes, if you could call them that, were all from Brooks Brothers. One day, mom found a men’s shirt in Macy’s that she thought he might like. He didn’t and by the time he got her straightened out about buying such a shirt (“how could she ever imagine seeing me in something like that”) everyone in the neighborhood were aware, too. She took it back never to buy another one again.
What is in that Eave?
Anyway, having gotten ourselves to our grandfather’s house (an extremely impressive abode to be sure) the first order of business was to talk to grandpa for a moment or two in an attempt to see if he remembered who we were (my guess is he didn’t) and then go upstairs to see the aforementioned leaky spot. No, he didn’t remember who we were and by the time we made our way up to the second floor any leaky spot from the roof seemed to have disappeared, if there ever was one which I was beginning to really doubt -- wondering if it was possible for 'leaky roof' to be some kind of cover for something else.
However, after further investigation, and to our utter amazement, when we finally found and looked inside the crawl space to the attic, what did we find? We found a dirty, rumpled canvas bag full of what felt like a lot of paper and/or junk. Moreover, when we opened the very same bag, what did we find? We found that it was full of paper, paper money, lots of paper money, lots of dirty, paper money. It turns out that there was somewhere around 300,000 bills (Due to fire and other exigencies, such as the necessity of paying ourselves walking around money, we never did get an actual count but rather settled on an in-the-ballpark cold, damp, musty smelling, bag of cash that looked as though it hadn’t seen daylight in years) or possibly ever. It appears that the money had also simply been stuffed into the aforementioned bag with no rubber bands or clips holding it together. The bills were in any order and also not sorted. What was really odd, though, were several, detailed ledgers, written in long hand, each containing 4 different columns; one entitled Dates of Trans., another entitled Actual Amt., another entitled Documented Amt. and, lastly, a Carry Over Total. In all but one of the entries, the figure entitled Documented Amt. was greater than the column called Actual Amt. Also, Carry Over Total amounted to a different value on each page.
Who, what, why, when, where and how?
At first, the notations on the ledgers didn’t seem to have anything to do with all of the numerous piles of money; but wait, they are going to become extremely relevant.
The Queens are in their counting house
It seemed like hours before we were able to make any sense of what we had found, and for a while we would find ourselves simply staring at each other while trying to sort and count out our newly found money. I, for one, had the dickens of a time keeping track of how much I had counted and kept needing to start over.
If there was one thing we didn’t expect to find in our grandfather’s house, it was a large stash of cash. Actually, when you get right down to it, it was the last thing we expected to find in anyone’s house. It was so unexpected that after I pulled myself together I swore Patsy to secrecy while tucking the money into different places; our training bras, blue jean pockets and our sweatshirt pockets. It didn’t take very long for me to go from being a size 8 to a size 10. It also wasn’t very long before I found myself getting a little hysterical, hysterical with joy, beside myself with joy. The more I counted, the happier I became and quickly began to drift into a delightful, hysterical glee.
I, we, were going to have MONEY! Our own money! We would be able to buy new clothes, new ring binders, star magazines and food! Bicycles, roller skates, cameras and sleds could, would soon be ours. Sodas! We could have a coke every day of the year – maybe even two. Pictures of stuff for us, for our house, for mom were appearing as dream segments running by themselves in my brain. Add 2 decks of cards (one deck per person) of 52-card playing cards and voila! There, dad wherever you are, take that!
Not so fast!
But there is always a snag. Where I was luxuriating in dreams of boundless money, Pats was not. Pats was trying vainly to get the money arranged in some kind of order despite the fact that I kept disturbing all of the piles of cash and ruining everything she had managed, thus far to do.
Thus, before getting too comfortable, it seemed as though she and I needed to put our heads together and figure out exactly what we were going to do with the money, how we were going to do it and where we were going to do it.
As I was the oldest of the two, I immediately voted for “Yea, the money is ours”!
Pats, though, felt differently and was more inclined to say “wait a moment, slow down” however, and had a completely different reaction to our new fortune. She felt that the money belonged in the hands of the authorities. I wasn’t too sure of who the authorities were but I’m pretty sure she meant the police. This, by the way, is as close to a fight that she and I ever got into because, as you have probably determined, I felt so much differently than she did.
OK. The money was in our grandfather’s house and we had our hands on it, the grandfather was ours ergo the money was ours. (What about grandpa? For one thing, he was rich! He already had his share and didn’t need anymore. Everyone knew that! He never needed money so why should we worry about it? After all as far as we knew he never did anything but sit on the porch in summer and next to the fireplace in winter so what in the world did he need with bag after bag of old, dirty money?) He had a gigantic house with 5 bedrooms and six baths that I knew about and who knows what was in the other wing of the house. (Owls possibly?) It had been closed off since Grandmother died because Grandfather no longer needed his nighttime “peace and quiet” and for sure Grandmother didn’t.
Moreover, as the money, when found, was crammed into a bag that was being stored in grandfather’s house, in a location that he couldn’t have possibly gotten to on his own he obviously didn’t need it to survive because he wasn’t… he just couldn’t get to it on his hands and knees unless someone was doing it for him and who in the world would that someone be unless grandpa had captured dad and locked him in the roof??? No, no way. But it certainly would be a worth a look/see.
Pats, as stated earlier, was responding to our fortune a little differently than I was; she wanted to figure out exactly whose money it was, and hopefully get some kind of really generous reward for finding it. Needless to say, unless we managed to get this ironed out, keeping the money might take some doing. But, and I said this over and over again, the money was in our grandfather’s attic and our grandfather, to the best of my knowledge, had no other living relatives, just us and possibly dad. If there still was a dad. And no necessities other than his booze and his cigarettes. Or so we thought – we hadn’t yet been introduced to Cheri.
OK, who is Cheri?
Friend of Grandpa???? According to Dad
Friend of dad???? According to Grandpa
Not a scholar
Attractive in hard kind of way
But oh, what those five feet could do! According to grandpa and dad?
There were a few other roadblocks to deal with vis a vis the money. One of the problems we needed to solve was Dad. According to Masie, It seemed likely that our neighbors had probably been or were still wondering:
What happened to our father
When it happened
How we were managing to make a go of it without him.
Was Emma dating anyone?
If no, why not?
If yes, who? Question 6 was of interest only to Phil Stockton whose wife had just recently hit
As for the money, I felt that the number one thing we should decide on was what we would do if dad did show up and started searching for what he might conceive as his bag of money. At this point, I was pretty certain that the money was his and or grandpas. How else would it have gotten into the crawl space in grandpa’s roof? As such, Dad was no dummy and it wouldn’t take long for him to figure out that his dollars were gone from the leaky eave and, in addition, that we (his daughters’)had their own newly found dollars that must be coming from some place and probably not from heaven. So a very important
question would be, “how would it play out if our money actually was his?” I kept remembering that grandpa had attempted to call him about the leaky roof problem on the very day when he got ahold of us instead and that was why we went to grandpa’s house in the first place. And what did we find when we got there? No water in the gutter and lots of money in the roof. And look out for that blond bombshell.
What to do with the cash
Patsy, it seems, was afraid that someone or multiple someones with guns and or knives would find us and because we had taken the money, finish us off just like in the Saturday Matinees. I think she was also concerned about issues of heaven and/or hell which, to my way of thinking was not a consideration; from the way my life had played out so far, I was pretty sure we were already in hell and having lots of money would mitigate that unfortunate feeling at least somewhat.
The way I saw it, the money, in our grandfather’s house, had already been adopted by me and Pats and from that point on would automatically be known at least by me as “our money”. And what was so exciting about having ‘our money’ was the fact that I doubt if anyone else had a clear, clean path to ownership of the money. For one thing, no one at all was saying anything about this money. In my entire life, I had never even once heard anyone mention the “canvas-bag-of-money” or “the dirty-bag of money” or simply “the money, you know, that money” that was stuffed in the eave in the right hand wing of the Ball mansion. You could almost convince yourself that it wasn’t really there even though it looked very much like it was. It’s not like anyone was going to walk into the house and say “how’s the money, today? Or “say, have you located that bag of dollars, yet?”
So we’re dealing with a large bag of money and as far as I know, no one has even opened their mouth and paid homage to it. All I knew was it was money, it was in our relative’s house and therefore the money is ours (unless it’s dad’s). So unless, the principal owner(s) are very much alive and also fairly certain that they knew where the money was stashed, we probably should decide what we were going to do with wads and wads of bills and then not waste a lot of time talking about it. We also agreed, Pats and I, that there should not be anything of any kind written about this money anyplace even if the writing was in Mandarin or kurdu. As stated earlier, Patsy thought we should turn the money in to the authorities, especially since we had this issue of competence with our mother. OK, let’s give Patsy a break. Patsy was a little younger than I was and probably a little more than naïve. If she (mom) should get her hands on the money, it would disappear “like a snowflake in August” Pats said the next morning “And then, if the real owners show up, they are going to want their money and what will we say?”
“How about why’d you leave your money in the eave, dummy?”
“You would say that to who?”
”.Whoever has his hands on my money – (or yours)
My plan for the money was much different than Pats. “If we give the money to the police or government, we won’t have any way of paying for food and necessary stuff for ourselves and the house not to mention Loretta. Remember, right now we have no dad to pay the bills and money does not self-perpetuate to make up for missing dads. And I imagine what money we may have had when dad went missing has been sadly depleted. In other words, if Dad is really gone, like completely out of this world, what will become of us? If they decide that we have been left on our own with no adult supervision, we might be put in an orphanage or foster care or worse. Maybe they wouldn’t even allow us to stay together. Besides, what would keep the police from pocketing our money themselves?”
Pats didn’t think that the authorities would do anything like that. “Sh-h-h-h, don’t talk like that. Someone may be listening!” Pats was always worried that someone was lurking behind a sofa, a chair or a piano listening to what she perceived to be going on. Unfortunately, much of what she heard and what she saw had error issues partly because every thing they were reading had errors.
I, on the other hand, was very comfortable with our new found wealth. “In the first place, we need the money. Don’t forget with dad gone, we only have our mother to pay for groceries and clothes and electricity, and Loretta etc. Think of life without groceries, clothes and electricity. Remember those two days when we didn’t have any electricity; no hot water, no light, no television? Remember having no heat? Remember when it was 94 degrees out and we had no air conditioning? Remember saying “boy, l hope we never have to go through this again?”
Think of life without Loretta packing our lunches, washing our clothes, changing our sheets and finding lost items. Loretta is the master of finding lost items. How many times have you, Pats, heard yourself saying, Oh, Loretta, thank God! Thank you! I would have never looked there!”
Someone has to pay Loretta or someone will have to learn to iron and wash dishes not to mention cook. OK, no one is going to iron the dishes unless they’re more confused than I am.
“But as I was saying someone has to do the housework and It goes without saying, it won’t be mom. It also goes without saying, I don’t want the new someone to be me.”
“Bottom line, If we give the money to the Police, we won’t have any money. The police have enough money to pay their bills but, unlike the police, WE NEED THE MONEY.”
The money conversation begins something like this.
Patsy starts up with the questions. “The money. Where would we keep it? If the people who stashed it are still alive and not locked up, they will probably want to come back to get it.”
She walks around the room for a minute and then continues.
“What happens to us if they have guns or bombs or poison or worse still, guns and bombs and ugly thugs?” Another brief pause before she asks the 200 million dollar question. “And who do you think put the money up there in the roof in the first place? Grandpa? Dad?” That is something I can’t answer but I would certainly love to know.
Our grandfather was in some ways very much like our father. Except for his daily Maker’s Mark, our grandfather lived a very frugal life. One year, he gave both of us a kickball for Christmas. We didn’t each get a kickball, we each got the same kickball. In a nutshell, we both got ½ of a kickball for Christmas from a former bank executive who lives in a multi-million dollar mansion and may or may not have any bank savings. (My guess is that he had bank savings.) I was pretty sure that trying to get money from our grandfather was about as unlikely as trying to get money from our mother but for different reasons. She had no money to give because she spent it all and he had no money to give because he never …used his money. For anything or anybody.
That left us with no other source of money unless you factor our dad in. And what good does it do for us to factor dad in if no one can seem to find dad?
There was this nagging morsel of a problem as far as I was concerned; maybe the stash of money was grandpa’s. But, if so, why didn’t he say something about it to us when we went up to look at the water damage which, by the way, we still hadn’t found? Why hadn’t he sent someone else upstairs to look for the money? We know unequivically that grandfather has not been down on his knees in decades, crawling around in the roof of his house. It has to have been someone else like dad or some criminal(s) or possibly an innocent bystander. “Let’s scratch the innocent bystander. If he is there, in our grandfather’s house, with a big bag of money, he is not an innocent anything.”
“Neither are we” says my erstwhile sister, “Neither are we.”
“Damn,” I thought but then chose to ignore her and continue on from where we were. “Let’s move the money. Not spend it, just move it. We could each take a $20 bill so we can get something special for dinner tonight. Maybe we each could take $40 just in case we can’t get to a bank tomorrow. No one would ever miss $40 unless it was our father ” (This and possibly the fire might explain one of the reasons we could never figure out exactly how much of a windfall we had found).
Where to put the money
Pats wanted to know where we would put the remainder of the cash which sounds like Pats is beginning to back down on what to do with the cash.
As I was the older of the two of us, I conferred the title of “The person who is in charge of deciding what to do with the wads and wads of money” on myself.
And, unlike Pats, I really, really, really wanted that money. There is no way I can tell anyone how I felt about the money. The longer I had it, the crazier I felt about it. I was, in short, in love with it and I didn’t want to live without it anymore. I had big plans for it. There was never a moment that I didn’t look at something on a table, or in a desk or in a bookcase and wonder how much I could sell it for.
Patsy and I did both agree on one point; our mother should not know about the money. Of all the people in the world who shouldn’t know about the money, mom was on the very top of the list. I, for one, would tell the police about the money before I told my mother. At least the police might give us a reward. I would tell the bank officials before I told mom. I would tell Al Capone before I told mom.
Actually, I can’t think of anyone at all who should know about our good fortune except us. So, all we need do is just take the money, bundle it up, find it good living quarters, and come up with policies for managing it and it’s ours.
But, I digress
Getting back to what to do with the money. Patsy suggested that we just move the whole stash of money to the eave on the other side of the house. But I disagreed. “If they (whoever they were, but probably dad) went to where ever they expected their money to be, and couldn’t find it, how might they react? At their best, they would look in other places until they found it or until they decided to figure out what has happened to it. This is where ‘at their worst’ could come in. They can’t find the money? That means they would not be feeling patient. I put myself in their place and I would, at that point be at my worst; I would probably start trying to figure out how to do harm to the people whom I believed took “my money”. For myself, I don’t think I’d take it well. I would want the money. I thought if we were going to hide the money we should really hide the money. My sixth grade science teacher was fond of saying that nothing is worse than something half-baked unless it’s baked Alaska. Lesson -- if you’re going to do something, do the whole something.
“So, aren’t you worried about our safety if the rightful owners can’t find the money?” she asked. “And aren’t you afraid that they may hold us responsible for something happening to it?”
“Isn’t that more proof that we should just turn the money over to the officials?”
“To me it’s more proof that we shouldn’t because then they would know precisely who took their money and they might decide that we had already taken a few dollars. And they may also decide that we need to learn a lesson – or worse. Remember the money was not sorted and counted so there wouldn’t be a way for us to prove we hadn’t spent any.”
I think this is where I suddenly sensed someone that was in all likelihood our grandfather, very slowly climbing up the steps probably to see what was going on or coming up to see if we were still there. I put my finger over my mouth and quickly tiptoed over the carpet in the bedroom shoving the bag under the bed – the twin bed with the long bedspread with the badly sagging mattress and the gigantic NB (Nolan Ball) monogram. Patsy had seated herself on the floor with a Newsweek magazine while hiding her little stack of greenbacks in her jacket. Our grandfather, when he finally got to the doorway, was the first to talk. “I’m sorry but I seem to have forgotten who you beautiful ladies are and why you are here. Do I know you?”
It’s nice to have made such an impression earlier on our kin. Oh well, at least we’re beautiful.
“We’re your granddaughters. I’m Lynne and this is Patsy.”
“Granddaughters?” He looked like he was either trying to figure out what a grand daughter was or where he might have gotten two. (Given certain rumors about our parents’ relationship, we might have also wondered the same thing.) “Where did you come from?” he continued.
“Polk Street, three blocks away from here”.
“I think I know someone who lives there but it’s been years.”
“Yeah, you’re right! We live there” Pats said, “but we’ve probably changed a lot since you were there. Six days ago.” Damn Pats and her exaggerations; The last thing I wanted was to get grandfather perturbed.
“Oh, yeah. And who are you again?”
“Patsy and this is Lynne.”
Scratching his head, he mumbled “that’s what you said earlier”.
“Well, good. That must mean the answer is right.” I said.
“We are the two kids you gave the kickball to for Christmas last year.” Patsy picked up the conversational ball.
“The what?” he asked.
“Never mind,” she sighed so he gave us a puzzled look and then began his unsteady shuffle back to the hallway.
“I don’t know what it was I came up here for but I must not have needed it very badly.” He said.
I remember thinking that I had seen the khaki colored sweater that he was wearing endless times. It looked to have been the victim of many a meal with little in the way of protection from falling forks and shaky spoons and overfilled coffee cups at every meal. Perhaps we might buy him a new sweater with OUR MONEY. Perhaps we might get him one in navy blue. And while we were at it we could also replace those tan, leather slippers that looked like they were stuffed with some kind of not-real fur, from a not real animal.
As he retreated, I couldn’t help but notice that grandpa never picked up his feet. Maybe he couldn’t. Maybe we needed to replace his bedroom slippers with OUR MONEY also. Then again, maybe we needed to replace his feet. Him?
“Don’t forget to turn off the lights when you come down and don’t stay too long” He continued and then had to stop to breathe for a moment.
“Lights?” We both looked around for anything that looked like it might illuminate and that could be turned off or on but neither of us could find such a thing. There was a ceiling fixture in the hall but I don’t think it had worked for years leaving us only with the light we had from the windows at the end of the hall and one forlorn 60 watt bulb in the second floor hallway. “Thanks, grandpa. We’ll be quick.”
This brought him to a sudden stop. “What did you call me?” He didn’t sound angry, just confused.
“Never mind, Grandpa.”
I don’t know if Patsy was trying to get his goat or if that was just a slip of her tongue but he glanced at her for a moment and then continued on toward the steps. In retrospect, It was so hard to associate this version of the man with the portrait that graced the wall in the downstairs hall. I believe that it, the picture of him, was taken when he came home from some World War; in the picture he was wearing his Army uniform and a big smile with what looked like it might be a bright gold tooth. I don’t remember my ever seeing him with a smile, let alone a big one. Actually, I don’t remember ever seeing him with any front teeth and the fact that this was the same man but in almost every way, totally different was compelling. Was the same kind of thing in store for me? Good grief, I would really need that money.
“Wow, he is weird,” Patsy said. “And just keeps getting weirder! Weren’t we just here last week?”
“Well, he is getting old and according to mom people start to lose their minds when they get old.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that. But then there are times when he sounds like he really knows what he’s saying. And then there are the other times. Do you think that’s going to happen to mom?”
“Are you sure it hasn’t already?” I asked.
“Good point.” She shrugged and got another stack of 50s out of her jacket. “You know, If we are keeping the money, I really believe that it’s important to get it in a safe place so we don’t need to worry about it all the time. You know, it seemed to me like he was up here checking on it or on us or on something. And then he forgot.” Finally, I felt like Pats was coming around to my way of thinking.
“Yeah, I got that same feeling.”
“Ok, getting back to where we were in the whose-money-is-it game, we need to be careful to not let anyone else know about it. People have been known to kill other people because of disagreements about money, right? Remember that Al Capone movie?”
“Good point but I don’t think anyone would try to kill us because it seems to me that the money is ours and the money is in grandpa’s house therefore it is probably grandpa’s money and I can’t think who else but dad would even know about it.
“Ok, let’s say it is our money. Where should we put it?” She wanted to know. “What about taking small amounts of money and hiding them in different places; that way, if they find one bundle, they won’t find them all.”
“Stop, stop, stop. I am more than sure that this money is probably grandpa’s so I don’t think we need to worry about people other than grandpa and dad. And we don’t even know if dad is still alive.”
Mentioning the possibility of dad’s early demise gave us both chills through to the bone. “OK, let’s get on with this. What do you think we should we do with it?”
We thought about using a safety deposit box one of which I had seen for a few minutes several years ago but neither of us understood the concept well enough to try one. We had the same reaction to using a post office box. And in either case, we weren’t sure what the “authorities” would think of us trying to rent a safety deposit box or a post office box.
And then I suddenly remembered that there was a closet behind the furnace in our basement which was full of cleaning supplies, dust rags, untold numbers of rolls of unused wallpaper, paint, stacks of old National Geographic Magazines and all that other such stuff. We could wrap the cash up in some of the old paper and put the package of money under the magazines. Out of sight out of mind.
It looked for a moment like Pats had had enough and was somewhat worn out and a little tired of playing “where can the money go?” as she simply mumbled a “yea, ok, you win! ” and gave me a weak little slap on the back. In retrospect, we were probably both somewhat overwhelmed by the events of the day and needed to store the money in what we considered its rightful place and see what Loretta might have fixed us for dinner. So now, all we had to do was actually move the money which, as it turned out, took us a lot longer than we anticipated as each of us needed 4 trips to and from the 2 different houses to get all of the money in what we thought was the right place.
So it seemed as though we were done with the money for the day, or so I thought. But when I got to the top of the staircase who else was there but our grandfather standing in the doorway of the bedroom staring at us with a very strange expression on his face. Questions began to run around my brain looking for answers. Had he observed what we had been doing? Had he figured out what we had done? Was he on to us? Were we in trouble? Would we be locked up in jail with the money going to who knows who? I immediately jumped to my feet and asked:
“Grandpa, is there something you need? Can we help you with something?” The moment I said “grandpa” Patsy jumped too. He had been so quiet that she probably thought he was still downstairs sound asleep in his lounger. Was he ever going to say something? The verbal pause seemed to last for hours as he stood staring at the two of us and we both anxiously waited for him to say something – anything.
“Well, I heard you talking about money. Do you need some?” He was holding a $5 bill and offered it to me.
“Grandpa, we don’t need your money but thank you, anyway.” (“Where were you yesterday when I could have really used it?”) I wondered to myself.
“Go ahead and take it. There is more where that came from, if only I could remember where it came from. Ha, Ha. And I was just wondering what you are doing and when you were going to leave. I think I need to go to bed.”
My first thought was “why does he want to go to bed at 2PM”? So had he heard what we were talking about? Was he suspicious about us taking his money? Was he going to look for the money when we left? Did he want us to leave so he could get his money out of the eave? How could he possibly do that in the shape he was in? But before I could come up with anything else to worry myself about, he suddenly lightened up, snapped his fingers and said “I know why I came up here – it is time for lunch”.
I tried not to but I think I breathed a sigh of relief. “Here, let me help you get down the stairs,” I said.
Patsy had turned a pasty white and looked like she was going to faint dead away.
“You mean I don’t sleep in this room?” he asked?
“Not the last time I was here’” I said. “You also don’t eat lunch here. Come and let me take your arm. We’ll go find Cleo and see what she has fixed for lunch.”
If he had heard what we were saying about the money and if he had understood what we had been talking about or doing, it didn’t seem to show. It looked like eating and going to bed were his only concerns. Thank God for beds, and food, and fatigue and old age. I think.
Let’s get it straightened out
That done, I knew Pats was going to want to talk and I knew about what. Interestingly enough, I was feeling somewhat more confident now. The money had been in our grandfather’s house and many of the bills were very old. Grandpa apparently couldn’t find the money or he couldn’t remember anything about the money but he also didn’t look too perturbed. Dad was gone and apparently no one else knows anything about the status of the money or even that there was money to assign a status to. The only other person who could likely know anything about the money would be mom. And if mom knew where the money was, the money wouldn’t be there anymore and likewise if any of dad’s cronies were privy to it. Pats, however needed some heavy duty convincing and we stayed awake discussing it that night until it was the next day and we were comfortable in making sure we understood each other’s concerns and agreed with what we had decided upon.
We (or possibly only I) decided that our decision to keep the money was reasonable. In as much as the money had been in our grandfather’s house, it must be our money; who else could it belong to? We WERE the only true heirs unless you wanted to count our mom. I chose not to.
Taking care of Mom
Pats and I decided that Mom was probably going to need some money for herself and decided to send her $100.00 each week from nowhere In the form of a traveler’s check. (In town there was a derelict, decrepit old man who was famous for his collection of vintage rubber stamps one of which when used, created a return address, in large official looking letters, reading, Office of the Bureau, on the top line and Oakdale, Ohio on the second.) We hoped that this guaranteed that she had enough money to live on if she lived very modestly. And by the way, where the Dickens is Oakdale, Ohio?
We both had a little chuckle about mom living “very modestly”.
On the other hand, if she forgot to save any money for food, and she was the designated cook, we always had the option of getting our own dinners; we made it a habit to keep a few extra bills in our pockets; not enough that mom would question but enough to keep our stomachs full. No more moldy bread for the Ball girls.
Grandpa moves on to a better place
And then, June 7, 1957, grandfather died. Initially, we didn’t know how this was going to affect us; for one thing, we still hadn’t heard from dad, grandfather’s son, in a year or so and had kind of assumed we wouldn’t hear from him again. And Now Dad’s dad was gone. At this rate, I thought, there will be no one left to lay claim to the money except Pats and me. Not that I was worried about people claiming a right to what I saw as our money… Boy, did I have a few things to learn.
On the day that he died, Mom had been shopping for something to wear to a tea when a friend found her to deliver the news. Mom stopped doing what she was doing (trying on clothes) and immediately came and got us from school.
“Do you think this is going to cause us any problems?” she asked us each at least 3 times. “I am so surprised. I had no idea. I thought he was doing so well. Did either of you notice something I should have known about?”
For sure, we didn’t know; we had recently lost a father (lost being the operative word) but had never lost a grandfather before (or at least one that we knew). And this was an entirely different “lost”. At least this time there was a body.
I couldn’t figure out why grandpa’s dying should be a problem; eventually, all old people died, didn’t they? But when we got to our house, there was already an official of some kind from some governmental department I’d never heard of who immediately started quizzing mom about ‘Mr. Ball’ but like everyone else mom ever talked to, she just gave him a big, blue-eyed wink causing him to believe-it-or-not blush and then instantly turn to me and continue with his interrogation.
To this day, I am still puzzled about what he needed to know. Grandpa was dead, he had died in his lounger and we were as surprised as everyone else was. The guy from the government immediately started to probe us for information about our father. Well, we couldn’t help with that either. He tried talking to mom but didn’t get very far so then he turned to me. What could I say that she hadn’t already said? “Our Dad? He disappeared 16 or so months ago and we haven’t seen him since.”
“Well,” he said,” Did you file a report? Did you try talking to the police?” Why, I wondered, was he asking me? Did he feel that filing the police report was my duty and if so, why? Gape mouthed, I said, “Hey I’m just a kid. What do I know about filing reports about dead people?” This apparently didn’t satisfy him and so he turned and introduced me to another man, Officer Hall, who was standing to his left.
“Are you sure your father’s dead? Does your father have a will?” were his next questions.
“A what?” I asked. I still couldn’t imagine why he was questioning me. “And, by the way, why isn’t mom helping out with this?” I wondered aloud. “Also, how could I know if my father’s dead? No one else that I know actually knows that for sure.”
“What is a will?” Pats asked in the background but was summarily ignored.
And then I heard mom tell him that dad did have a will and that a copy was in dad’s desk.
“Never mind,” he said and then turned back to me. “Who is your primary care person?” Officer Hall, the other policeman nodded his head quickly pointing to our mom.
“So can a mother be a primary care person?” I wondered aloud but a quick glance around me brought no response so I took a stab at a guess and pointed to her. “Is there any reason she couldn’t be?”
Officer Hall quickly responded by telling us that she couldn’t be a primary care person if she drank too much, or owed too much money or endangered our lives in some way.
“Well, then, she is our mother and primary care person,” I replied “because she doesn’t drink too much or owe money or endanger us in any way.”
“Well, she flirts outrageously,” he said.
He still didn’t look too confident but went ahead and stepped over to whisper something to the other, unlabeled, interrogator after which they both chuckled and returned to me.
Finally it looked like either they had all that they needed or all they were going to get so they gave mom some papers and a few instructions on where to send everything and then they left. Finally.
To this day, I’d love to know why I was the point of reference for this meeting.
A New me
I have never been a model child. Pats got the model child genes. But, after finding the $300,000. I felt an instantaneous change in my personality. I’m pretty sure it’s because I knew that I now had some money. I knew immediately how important it would be to not call attention to myself arousing any kind of unwanted or unneeded scrutiny. Rather than drawing attention to myself, I decided to become a shrinking violet, of sorts.
Perhaps this may be a good approach to curbing juvenile delinquency. Just give the little thieves a bundle of money and threaten to take it away if they don’t behave.
Life goes on
For a long, long time, we were deluged by numerous government not to mention bank officials trying to figure out
where our father is/was
where our maternal grandparents were (In Boca Raton)
Wait a moment – maybe they’re dead
If they’re not dead, they’re pretty old – maybe 70 or so
what our source of income was
How our mother provided us with a living
It also came to our attention that the officials were visiting our neighbors for information also to no avail. None of them had ever been able to figure out our comings and goings and nothing in that respect had changed. Our mother, as stated before, is a stunning blonde. When conversing with her, it occurs to you, before long, that either she isn’t making any sense or you aren’t making sense out of anything she is saying or that possibly no one is making sense and probably never will so why get your gall in an uproar.
Whether or not you make any sense out of what she says, she says it so smoothly that apparently you really don’t care. If you are male, you just want to gaze at her fetching cleavage for one thing to see if you can determine if they are real. Guys (except for our dad) seem to be much more susceptible to her than women. But everyone who has ever talked to her, when they were done, simply nodded their heads and then just turned and left. Apparently satisfied. Mystified but satisfied. Or if not satisfied, convinced they never would be and just as determined to not worry about it.
One day, several years later, I was reminiscing to myself about grandpa’s death and his fortune. It never occurred to me, at the time, that grandpa probably left his money to dad and that’s why everyone needed to know where dad was. All I knew about our father was, if dad was still alive, perhaps he was living on a desert isle with Jimmy Hoffa because like Jimmy Hoffa, all efforts to find our dad completely failed. Eventually, Mom inherited Dad’s and grandfather’s money and she was beside herself with joy. A real merry widow, for a while. And before long, a not very rich one.
AND THEN COMES CHERI
What can I say about Cheri? Not long after grandfather died, Cheri came along and tried to convince us that she and grandpa were lovers and that grandfather had promised her his fortune when he died. Lovers? Excuse me?! Grandpa couldn’t even get himself up the steps let alone get anything else up.
The next day brought us her lawyer, a real sleezeball in a very ugly, navy blue sport coat, wrinkled, and black, faded cotton trousers and a whitish, shiny shirt through which sprang a lot of black, curly hair.. Mom chased him out and told him not to come back until he had some evidence of an “affair” or a gift or a will.
Cheri’s next approach was to start calling us every hour so we took the phone off the hook and I disconnected the wire from the doorbell and in so doing, knocked out the electricity and gave a hearty jolt to myself.
Her third ploy was to hire three “friends” and sent them over to our house to threaten us.
Mom called the police. Exit Cheri.
From time to time, I have wondered if Cheri was grandpa’s paramour or dad’s or both. How freaky would the third one be? Dad and grandpa sharing Cheri.
Grandfather’s last words
Ball, Noland Hamilton
Beloved husband of the late Elaine Howard Ball, Father of George Hamilton Ball, born January 18, 1900, preceded in death by his parents and possibly by his son who hasn’t been heard from in 2 years. Noland was a proud banker and an avid golfer; served in the army in WWI in Ballou Woods; graduated from University of Cincinnati in 1920; in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Cincinnati Heart Association. Any one having an address or some other form of information concerning of George Hamilton Ball is encouraged to report this to the City of Cincinnati. There will be an award for this information.
Things start settling down
Before dad disappeared, Patsy and I had never experienced such things as Coney Island, zoos, swimming pools, movie shows and so on. But now the floodgates were open and we began to live life the way we thought 2 teenagers should. Rather than being preoccupied with money, food, school and other necessities, we started to actually have some fun. Also, our standing in the neighborhood and at school seemed to have improved; people actually began to talk to us and call us at night and ask us to go places. Except for our cousins but who wanted their company, anyhow?
And then I became a senior and Patsy was a sophomore, on the honor roll consistently as well as the honor society. Her, not me.
One day, on our way to a movie, out of the clear blue, Patsy asked me if I had loved dad. As much as I wanted to, I could not answer yes. I didn’t know dad. Asking me if I loved dad was like asking me if I loved Champagne; I had never experienced either. On those days when he did come home he got there around 6 pm every day; he would come in the door, sometimes argue with mom for a few minutes, check with Loretta about “things” and perhaps go up and change clothes, eat dinner, and then leave.
I turned to Pats and asked her how she felt about him and, more importantly, if she missed him.
“What’s to miss?” she replied.
Meanwhile, at some point during the next year, mom acquired a “male friend” who answered to the name of Tim. He seemed to be ok and easy to get along with except for the times that mom disappeared and left us alone with him. One time when Pats asked him what he did for a living, he gave us some kind of smart-alec answer and then changed the subject. As we will see shortly, I have decided that I will never, ever forgive Tim
34 years old
Bassoonist in the Symphony Orchestra
Pretty good looking
In a way, at first, Tim was fun to have around since he kept mom occupied most of the time and also because he could be really amusing. He taught us how to play poker, how to cook a steak rare, (boy what a difference that made) and how to chug a beer – or two. He got us the beer without our asking. Actually, come to think of it, he never asked us if we had ever even had beer, which we hadn’t. Talk about making a difference!
And then, one evening, he demonstrated, to both of us, how to get rid of a sore neck using a little light massage. At first, I found this demonstration a little uncomfortable particularly since he was using Pats neck for the demo and she seemed so young. Seemed young , hell. She was young – but it’s a little late for that now. But, she didn’t seem to mind and I was drinking my second beer and all of this seemed to be ok, at least at the time. (About me and the beer, I hated the taste but loved the effect.)
disappearing men might have left me with some kind of complex or something but at this point in time, I was just relieved that things had quieted down and that I had a little money. Managing mom, Pats, the money and myself was more than enough for me to deal with.
After what seemed like a Mom/Tim breakup, She never said anything about it, he just disappeared. Mom was mum about Tim. But if she was worried about us and her relationship, she managed to keep it a well-hidden secret. Maybe too well kept.
It was a few weeks after grandpa’s demise that mom invited The Smith kids over for hot dogs and potato salad. Masie and Pats walked up to Safeway, bought some chalk and drew a hopscotch on the driveway. I would have loved to have seen the look on Dad’s face when presented with the Hopscotch. He would have had a fit! Drawing on his driveway! He would probably had have us get down on our knees and scrub until our fingers fell off and it was nothing but a memory of its prior self. But, alas for poor dad, he didn’t get to object or even see the product of our artwork.
And then next evening, we (Pats, mom and I) went to the Honey Lamb for dinner and did some shopping. Pats and I both decided that Mom was becoming much more human and easy to get along with; warm, concerned, relaxed. I don’t believe I would have ever thought of her as relaxed when dad was still around. And we actually held a conversation and after dinner, we went to the mall and “updated” our wardrobe. Imagine that. I had “new” clothes. Afterwards, Pats wondered if we were sending her too much money which was a hoot! Too much money for mom? Is that even possible?
“You know what I mean” she said.
Games People Shouldn’t Play
And then came one of the worst days of my childhood life.
Masie and I were riding bikes one afternoon when she “innocently” asked me if I knew what I looked like. ???? I asked did she mean if I ever looked in the mirror (which admittedly I didn’t do very often) but no, that was not what she meant.
“Boys know what they look like all over but girls don’t. Even when we’re grown up, we don’t get to see ourselves. But guys can see us. ”
“Huh? I’m not sure I get it.” But deep down inside, I thought I did and that was the bad news.
“Come on, Lynne. A boy knows what he looks like down there because it’s right out front of his body. But us girls got the short end of the stick. “Why should he know what I look like when I’m naked but I don’t know what I look like?”
So I was beginning to understand even though I didn’t want to. “Oh, are you talking about, ahem, between the legs?”
“No! What are you suggesting we do?”
“Well come back to my house and let’s play doctors.”
I did NOT want to play doctor. But I didn’t want to tick Masie off so I decided to do this doctor-playing thing as quickly as possible. ‘Biff, Bam, thank you mam’ personified.
We were still small enough that we could lie on our backs on her desk which is exactly where she was when her mother found us, me standing over Masie with a mirror reflecting her nethers. I have never seen or heard a grownup quite so mad. As she chased me down the steps all the way from the third floor to their front porch, she railed and ranted at me like I was some kind of criminal and worse than anything else warned me to never, ever set even one foot on their grass again. “I don’t allow queers in my house”, she finished. I still remember the word “queer” coming out of Mrs. Smith’s mouth with Mrs. Smith’s English accent.
From that point on, I avoided the Smith household like I would a mixture of poison oak co-mingled with third degree burns. Occasionally I would see Masie and we’d each wave but I never, ever again stepped onto their precious grass. No queers allowed. Ever.
Then came Frank whom we DID NOT like. Yes, he was handsome, (despite all the gold chains and the diamond ring), yes, he had a big expensive Cadillac and yes he kept mom busy. But he was scary. Patsy said she didn’t like him that much but I hated him, and cringed every time he came in the front door which he quickly learned to do without knocking or ringing.
Had absolutely no taste
Tiresome to the max
If he works, we don’t know where
5 foot ninish
Curly, black hair
Thinks he’s so-o-o sexy
Frank liked to refer to himself as a wheeler-dealer and he liked to swat Patsy on the butt which really rankled me every time I saw him do it and I know that one evening, he got Patsy drunk; drunk enough to make her sick. Also, it seems to me that thoughtful, intelligent people don’t refer to themselves as wheeler-dealers.
And then there were hours when I couldn’t find either one of them and another time that mom came into our room and asked where Patsy, was. This was all the more worrisome as I was afraid Pats might get drunk and spill the money secret to him and that really worried me as I knew he would be interested in a bag full of cash. What wheeler-dealer wouldn’t? One evening, as if he could read my mind, he mentioned something about running out of cash and wanted to know if I could lend him any. I unequivically replied “NO! I do NOT have any money!”
“Okay!” he backed off, “gees, don’t get your ass in an uproar. I just wanted to borrow it to take your mom out.”
“Well, leave and take out your own damn Mom!”
“She’s dead. And you know what? You should really do something about your temper.”
“If you think my temper is bad now, just stay around a little longer!”
“Ok, ok, ok” he said and quickly backed out the door ”but before he was out of site I thought it was a good idea to let him know how young Pats was. “You know my sister is 13, don’t you?” (I lied, Actually, she was 14.
In retrospect, there I was worrying about the damn money when I should have been worried about Patsy.
Speaking of Pat
And then, Pats got sick. Normally, Pats was a very healthy person, as healthy as an ox; so much so that through grades fourteen, fifteen and sixteen she managed to rack up 3 years of perfect attendance at school. Worried, I offered to call a doctor for her but she quickly declined.
“I hate going to the doctor,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
However, when you looked at it, there were no two ways about it; she was pale, weak and miserable with lots of throwing up. Trying to not panic, I offered to call her a doctor again but she insisted that she only had the flu.
And then, at about the same time, Frank stopped by again but as quickly as he came, he went, never to be heard from again. As far as we know, he managed to abscond with grandpa’s Rolex and as it was a good Rolex (not that there is anything like a bad Rolex) mom got the police involved. A few years later, mom decided that Frank had probably joined dad on his desert isle and that they were all living off the proceeds of the Rolex and Jimmy Hoffa’s cash (If he had any cash).
The next day, Pats was huddled under her blanket again but finally made an uninspired attempt at getting dressed. “Patsy, are you just trying to get out of school?” I asked like I was joking. Of all the people who wouldn’t fake an illness (like me), Patsy was on the top of the list.
“No, I’m really sick. I was just throwing up – that’s not something I could or would fake.”
I was really just being funny when I said, didn’t really ask, “you aren’t pregnant, are you ha! Ha!”? I was waiting for her to roll her eyes or something when, instead, she bent over and burst out in tears. As I stood there looking at her, transfixed, I know that my eyes were at least as big as dinner plates. “Patsy”, I couldn’t quite get my words together. “Patsy, what are you trying to tell me?” I asked but she was becoming hysterical and so was I. I was wondering where mom was and if she could hear what was going on. I really didn’t know if I wanted her to hear or if I didn’t want her to hear. In retrospect, I should have wanted for her to hear. For certain, mom at least had some experience along these lines and might be able to calm our worst fears. I had discovered, in the last year or so, that mom wasn’t all that dumb when you were talking about subjects she understood and also that mom didn’t have a nasty temper; add to that the simple fact that mom had had two children herself made her a very good source of information about possible pregnancies and what to do about them. Or so I thought.
If Pats were to be pregnant, if this was real, then it was the worst news I had ever had in my life. Patsy was not only my sister, my own sister, she was my best friend and a good person to have around in times of crisis. Unfortunately, this was a time of crisis and for the only time in her life, she was the cause. “Are you sure?” I all but pleaded.
“I don’t know. I’m 2 weeks late and I keep getting sick in the morning.” The reference to getting sick in the morning scared me to death. Mrs. Bascomb had talked at length about that in Junior Health Class.
I dropped to the floor. “Holy shit! Now I really feel sick. Is it Frank’s, what I mean is if it is a baby, is it Frank’s because I’m going to kill him.”
“No, it’s gotta be Tim. I can’t stand Frank. I’ve never been able to stand him. I can’t even stand to be in the same room as him.”
“TIM! No, I thought I liked Tim. Oh my God, Is that why he stopped coming around here?”
“Mom kinda kicked Tim out one evening and he was feeling really blue and so I tried to sit down, have a few beers and comfort him but things really got out of hand. He just kept doing things to me and taking off my clothes and kissing me such that I couldn’t even yell “stop or quit”, it was awful and I really hated the whole thing.”
“Where did all this take place?”
“In his back seat.” She replied.
“Shit.” I replied.
In 1956, we all knew the rules of the game. You didn’t get pregnant unless you were married. That was the rule, pure and simple. If you were rich and got pregnant out of wedlock as they call it, you got shipped off to some relatives or a church or some such thing. Rumors were rampant that doctors had this procedure called D&C that took you from being pregnant to not being pregnant but I never found this out for sure. Most single girls just quietly had the baby and then came back to their family, with their tail tucked between their legs, and never, ever said anything about the child again unless they were really brave or not too bright. A few pioneers had their doctors perform a D&C like my friend Alice Mergenstorm but Alice’s mother was really with it and refused to be shamed by a bunch of “old crows” (her description, not mine). (But I agree). For sure, Tim didn’t have to see a doctor or have an operation.
“We’ve gotta talk with Mom about this” I said hoping that our mother wasn’t an old crow.
“No, don’t. Please, please, please no, Anything but mom.”
“You know, I think mom might be pretty understanding. I think she also might be able to figure out what to do.” I said putting my arm around her shoulder.
“No, no, not mom. If you tell her, I will never be able to face her again. Besides that, she’d probably have a heart attack. And how would she ever handle the cousins? Would you want to tell mom if it were you?”
“Hell no,” was my short reply. “And screw the cousins; but we do need mom and her sisters, badly. Your aunt Trudy for sure. She handled this exact thing with Sharon. You’ll have to live with someone out of town for 9 months, someone who can be trusted to keep her mouth shut and Trudy would be good for that.”
“No, don’t tell mom. Please don’t tell mom or Trudy or anyone! Please! I’m desperate. Tim knows a doctor …”
OH MY GOD! What is she threatening to do? “Patsy, are you thinking about an abortion? Tell me you’re not getting an abortion! It’s against the law. They’ll throw you in jail! Sorry, they’ll throw all of us in jail!” Somehow, it felt like I was whispering at the top of my lungs and couldn’t stop. “Abortion would be a worse sin than stealing the money. And also a crime.”
Pats, however, was resolute. “Tim says he knows of a place or a doctor in South America or Central America or something around there, I can’t remember where, but he is going to schedule an appointment.” She said and then continued “If I am pregnant, then I have to get an abortion. There is no other way out of this mess.”
“How do you feel about him?
“I wish I had never seen him and when this is over, I promise I never will again.”
“What did it feel like?”
“What did what feel like?”
“She slammed her hand down on the table and yelled at the top of her lungs. Listen, I can’t believe you asked me that and don’t ever ask it again. But, since you did, let me tell you that it hurt, a lot. I hated it. It’s gross! Yuk!” She went on to tell me that she, herself, would not do it again.
“Ever?” I asked.
As much as I wanted more information, I didn’t want to upset her any further. What do you mean it hurt? Wasn’t it supposed to be sublime? But no, I had to find out all of that on my own.
I didn’t sleep all night and at 3 AM got up to have an ounce of gin. Who am I kidding, I didn’t measure the gin, it may have been a cup. And then I had another. It felt like I couldn’t breathe or that I was going to choke to death or throw up or all of the above but at the same time, was breathing like I’d won first place in a race. I adored Patsy and was terrified for her but I could understand how she would not want to let mom know what she was about to do. Which, of course, was a mistake. Mom would probably have handled it much better than I had. She sure couldn’t have handled it worse.
Five AM, two days later, I looked out the living room window and saw Tim’s car pull away from the curb with Patsy in the front seat.
That was the last time I saw her alive.
Life Goes On Despite a Broken Heart
By far, this was the absolute worst thing that has ever happened to me. It was the worst thing as I could remember to this day how hopeless I felt. I would have gladly given all of the money away to have Pats back. All of it and then some. I don’t ever remember feeling so awful about anything in my life.
But, as they say, life goes on and eventually, I began to learn to deal with it as did mom. I’m pretty sure mom was just as devastated as I was, maybe even more as she probably felt like she hadn’t given us the full attention, the mothering, we needed when dad was still with us.
But slowly and surely, Mom and I become closer, much closer. And from time to time, she would bring up the subject of dad (who, by the way, still had not been heard from) and what a weird old bird he had been. After we had split a bottle or two of merlot one night, she confessed that she had “often wondered if he was gay as he never seemed to want to make love.” Needless to say, I almost choked and spilled red wine all over my new white blouse. There are some things you don’t expect to share with your mother and her sex life, or lack of one, is right up there. But now that she brought the subject up, well this may be a good time to tell her about grandpa and dad and Cheri. Sharing Cheri. Mom loved that!
I went on sending her the $100 checks until one evening she told me that I could stop. I’ve never straightened out how she knew it was me but she said she knew my handwriting or at least she thought she knew my handwriting and that I had just confirmed her suspicions.
This was the point in my life when I stopped thinking I could manage anything that came my way and determined that much of what happens to me or any of my friends or relatives is often times out of my grasp.
Good old Money Bags
In addition, and to my utter surprise one night, she brought up the subject of the money bag which she told me turned out to belong to my Grandmother who had died 3 years after I was born. What Mom knew about the “Ball money” had a lot of holes in it. What I knew about their money also had holes. Fortunately, Mom’s holes and my holes (questionable description) were different and when we put them together they managed to explain close to almost everything that we needed to know in order to understand THE MONEY. This then should clear up how the money managed to make it to our domicile.
In the true style of the Ball family, grandmother, known to the entire city as Elaine, and grandpa had been confiscating what they saw as their money, month by month, in retaliation for the bank having fired my great grandfather (her, Elaine’s father) some several years earlier. Mom said that as they were really rich and didn’t need to take the money, they just wanted to get back at the bank. Rule #1 in Oakdale back then should probably have been “Do not tick off the Ball family”.
What I knew about the bag of money was that;
Contained over $300,000 in paper money
Much of the money was very old
Came about as the result of some kind of criminal activity
Originally, the criminal activity didn’t seem that bad
But it was
The money originally lived in a canvas bag in grandpa’s roof/eave
And now it lived comfortably in our basement storage closet.
What Mom knew about the bag of money was that:
It existed somewhere
The money came from the bank
Elaine was responsible for pilfering it
Various bank officials have been working assiduously trying to find it for years
Various citizens were also trying to find it
And the most important fact of all – If we, Pats and I, hadn’t gotten the money out of the roof on that rainy, nasty day, well—let’s put it this way – we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Elaine, the Balls and the money
Mom had heard some of the whisperings regarding the money but she had no way to verify what she knew. As she told the story, she took great pains to say that she couldn’t actually prove anything and not to go spreading what she said around. She said that someone else’s version might be very different and not to rely on anyone’s details.
She also said that for years, she only suspected that the money existed (from information gleaned at coffee breaks and such) and could not back up this information with even so much as one, tiny, little fact. Not that I would ever tell anyone about it. Not even one, tiny, miniscule, little fact. Ever.
According to mom, who got it straight from grandpa, It all started off with Elaine innocently depositing some money in the Third National bank. She was cleaning out the west wing of the Ball mansion collecting treasures and selling them mostly to friends and aquaintances and also Antique dealers all over Ohio. At this point, she had accumulated approximately $1000 to deposit from the sale of 16 place settings of sterling silver and a small oil painting which she saw as some of the spoils from her father’s having been fired.
About 3 days later, she opened up her desk for her checkbook and found an envelope with approximately $200 in it which puzzled her greatly. It turns out that unless someone had sneaked into their house and left her a present (which seemed to be very unlikely), that it had to be some of the money from her previous sale. At first, she panicked and made a bee line for the bank; but halfway there, she said to herself “wait a minute”. If they haven’t discovered the shortage yet, why would I want to tell them about it now? So she decided to not say anything to anyone about it but to turn around and drive back home and…. Well she had to tell grandfather. Eventually.
A week later, while making the next deposit, she took pains to do it correctly and everything went smoothly. But when she got home that day, she simply couldn’t stand it anymore and told her husband about the whole peculiar thing and his suggestion was make a shortage on the next deposit to see if she got by with it again; and she did. This time the shortage was $300 and once again, no one said anything. No questions, no repercussions. The teller just separated the money into like denominations, put the money in his drawer and gave her a receipt. For too much money.
The way mom described it every week, apparently Elaine would put several $20s or $50s and $100s in an envelope with a deposit slip and deposit this in the bank. Unbeknownst to the tellers, and everyone else, the amount written on the deposit slip never truly reflected the actual amount of money in the bag – according to Mom, what Elaine was depositing was always short several hundreds of dollars worth. (Try getting this to work in today’s banking environment! On the other hand, don’t try it!)
Thus, on Monday she might deposit $500 in the bank with a deposit slip that read $700. On Friday or sometime the next week, she’d return to withdraw the extra $200 in cash and put it in the bag. Curiously, except for one teller, the bank didn’t bother to actually count the money she was depositing and after that one teller counted the money and found her “mistake”, she cooled it for a week and then was extra careful to stay away from his window which could be tricky if his was the only teller spot open. Apparently no one, not even the bank manager, guessed that Elaine would be so bold, brazen and, not to mention, dishonest as to steal the bank’s cash.
Even though her father had been embezzling generous sums of money for years from that very same bank, the Third National Bank management was confident that Elaine was trustworthy and could be depended on. “Good heavens” you can hear them saying to themselves, she was the president of the Oakdale PTA, the vice president of the local SPCA and a big deal with the Cancer Society. Rule #2 in Oakdale (or probably everywhere). Always count the money. And who else wouldn’t?
And then came the bank audit; the Third National bank failed (in capital letters FAILED) the audit to such an extent as to almost ruin this revered institution. Word leaked out; investors were besides themselves, employees were in a state of panic; how could this have possibly happened? The bank president got his gun out and ended his life before someone else could beat him to it.
By the way, I’m pretty sure that I’m a carbon copy of my paternal grandmother.
After my great grandfather (Borden-Elaine’s father and confident) died, Elaine apparently put all of the money they had stashed into its cloth bag and stored it in the eave on the second floor But, a little later on she thought, that isn’t a very good place for all of that money and I don’t particularly want to go to jail for embezzling money I really don’t need so she and my grandfather decided to declare it dead money and buried it in a grave. The tombstone read:
For many years, a bouquet would appear on the grave on Elaine’s birthday.
And then, perhaps being satisfied at having evened the score, Elaine apparently died a few weeks later ruining the plans for celebrating their windfall on a 2-week, no holds-barred cruise through the Mediterranean Sea. (I’m still trying to picture our grandfather on a cruise In his dirty old sweater and his furry bedroom slippers wondering who the handsome purser is and when he would be leaving.)
Mom didn’t know much more about the money including where it was but she readily admitted searching every nook and cranny of our and grandfather’s houses for it for weeks after dad disappeared. Mom went on to tell me that everything she knew she picked up from comments that she overheard and would really be hard put to prove anything. She said she searched everywhere for the money except the eaves. She finally gave up and figured out that dad must have taken it with him to wherever he had gone.
I don’t think mom ever really believed that dad was dead. And then, she started getting these envelopes containing $100 every week… At first, she thought they were from dad. Needless to say, when I told her that the envelopes were coming from me, she said “Oh, of course. I must have been dreaming; he would never send me money!”
So having straightened out where the “Ball” money came from and why it existed, things were making a lot more sense. I knew where it was and approximately how much there was. Mom knew about why the stash existed. She went on to say that she was so impressed that we had not only found the money but, more importantly, that we hadn’t told anyone.
My sister and I commit grand theft larceny and my mother is impressed. “Mom? Do you realize that this might be a bit of a legal snafu?”
“I know! But just think of it. Do you have any idea how many very talented, knowledgeable people have tried to find that money?” she exclaimed. “This town has been crawling for years with people looking for that money.”
Start with your father! Your father, the guy who thinks he’s smarter than anyone else in the world. I think he has examined every nook and cranny in the entire state of Ohio and maybe Indiana and Kentucky, too! Think of all those nights he spent in hotels, all the expensive restaurant food he ate and all the rental cars he paid for while trying to find the money. One time he had to put up with renting and driving a Ford Falcon with standard transmission and no air conditioning – he was madder than hell!
But it wasn’t only your immediate family looking for the dough! For instance, don’t overlook me as well as those snotty Ball cousins. And all of the bank examiners from all over the Midwest”.
Then she went on “promise me one thing. Judith is probably going to be the next Ball to get married.”
“To the prick, Henry?”
“To the prick, Henry. When that happens, get yourself a drop-dead new dress, rent a convertible, a Cadillac, and go to the ceremony.” Mom was really getting into this. “And do not be the shrinking violet. Red is a very good color on you and red is a great way to get everyone’s attention. Much better than people thinking you couldn’t come.”
It is sounding more and more like others than myself are aware that the Ball money is not the world’s best kept secret; for a long, long time, I thought that my father and possibly my grandfather and mother were the only people who had any idea that there was any such money thus I have been spending it rather freely. What a rude awakening. What in the world will happen if I have to come up with $300,000 (or so) to repay the bank’s money? Is there any possibility that no one really knows how much money exists in which case I can merely lie?
And by the way, if I could find someone to give the money to, who would it be? My grandfather is dead, my grandmother is dead, my father is who knows where and my great grandfather is dead and let’s not forget Pats. That leaves mom and me. Mom, by the way, seems to have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s and spends her days in a nice but simple old folk’s home. I don’t think she quite places who I am when I stop by to visit but visit her I do and she usually has a smile for me when I show up.
Another problem I am facing is that we (ok I) have already spent a little of the money. Possibly a little more than a little or even a little more than a lot. There is no way in the world to get it back unless I were to stop spending it this very moment and start saving it and adding to it right now. But by now it seems that it would be easier to give up heroin than to give up spending. Maybe Patsy was right. Perhaps we should have just given it to the bank. (I have always figured that I could justify spending the money as it really was our family’s until I found out that the money I spent was actually stolen from the bank and its customers). Or something like that but much more complicated as some of the money rightfully belongs to the bank and some to the Ball family. After all, when I spent that money it was going back into our town and the people who live there. So at least I have been positively affecting the local economy if nothing else. And my other problem was that I shouldn’t have spent any of the money in the first place and if the bank figures out that I have, I bet I’m toast. The name Ball is not exactly highly revered in Ohio and guess why? It’s also a good money name. Ball. Who can’t remember the word ball?
Finally, on this same subject, at least the money was up and available to the city now rather than moldering in a dirty canvas bag in one of the oldest houses in the state or worse yet in a moldy, old grave.
Bottom line. I keep going back and forth with no end in sight.
So it seemed to me that whether or not I gave the money back it is going to follow me around wherever I am and talk to me at night and wake me in the morning and ruin my lunch and later on my pre-dinner beer and my dinner wine.
Hey, you can’t write this stuff.
Time Rolls On
Somehow, in the midst of all this, I graduated from college and I got a job as a secretary for Ball Used Cars. Which means that I won’t have to rely so much on the Ball dough for my living expenses.
I have always loved cars, especially good, late model ones.
Unfortunately, secretaries, in 1962, did not earn enough to afford a good, late model one.
Time Rolls On Part II
On the plus side of things, I’m still alive and not in jail and I haven’t spent any more of the money. Absolutely none at all, except for a hundred dollars a few times when absolutely, positively necessary. Unfortunately, One hundred dollars doesn’t last worth a darn. On the not so plus side of things, that which has been spent is gone but somehow is still following me around in spirit urging me to come clean. I call it the ghost of my grand theft past and I need to get rid of this spirit soon. But it all comes back to how will I do this and still remain free? And solvent. Nothing scares me as much as going to prison. Or all of the publicity. Or of going broke.
I’m not getting any younger so I really need to come up with something; what I’m going to do is to try for a compromise. To my fellow citizens, I will give back the remainder of the money and my 401k has been left to the bank in my will. Unfortunately, there is only $15,000 in my 401K but it beats nothing. The bank is rich and isn’t expecting the gift anyway. But I will go to the bank tomorrow to make the deposit. I promise that! Oops! I have a physical tomorrow which usually takes up most of the day. It will have to be Wednesday.
Lynne the avenging angel
Half of today’s front page was devoted to a local young mother who is way behind in her property taxes and could be threatened with going to jail. She owes $1,596 in back taxes over the past 3 years. And unless she makes do immediately, she might be incarcerated. The authorities want her locked up for owing $1,596. (What would they do with her kids while she’s in jail? Mop the floor? Take out the garbage?)
Imagine how long I would be locked up if they sent me to prison for owing $200,000 to the bank
Idea: send the poor young mother enough to pay off her debt. I really like that idea. Maybe send an extra $100. Then wait and see what, if anything, shows up in the headlines.
06/16/60 So far, no headline
06/17/60 no headline
06/18/60 A small article on the last page of the financial section. She won’t have to go to jail as “concerned citizens” have sent money to a fund to cover her indebtedness.
06/19/60 today I sent her an additional $500. I loved being able to do that. A real and modern Robinanna Hood. And that was really money well-spent. Elaine would be so impressed. I can’t help wondering what Grandfather would have made of it.
Things like this tends to ruin your faith in authorities as well as their financial expertise and just plain old common sense.
How could she ever earn the $1,596 to pay the money back if she’s in jail?
Shouldn’t someone know if a financial instution is short some $300,000? Why is it they can track down her $1,596 but not our $300,000?
Mom and I were having a peaceful dinner on our veranda one evening last year when she rather abruptly asked, “do you smell something burning?” Mom is always smelling something burning, so I ignored her question at least for a few minutes. But then it started to became very clear that something was on fire and that it smelled like whatever it was was burning in the basement, home of the Ball bag of money. As I tried to assess what could quickly become a conflagration, mom decided to take action and ran down the steps to see what was happening. It’s an understatement to say that she made the right move.
It quickly occurred to me that when Pats and I were hiding the money, we used the oily rags as a cover-up for the bag of money probably exacerbating the possibility of a fire – remember sixth grade science class and spontaneous combustion?? Following in my mother’s footsteps, I ran down the basement steps, the wooden basement steps, the ones that may catch fire, to try to staunch the fire, and hopefully keep the old, dry money and the wooden stairs (not to mention myself) from going up in smoke.
This is when we discovered that the flames were beginning to wrap around the wooden steps that were built in front of the closet that was on fire and that if we intended to get out of the basement we better do it soon. Our communication with each other was, of necessity, at a bare minimum. Who had time to talk? Who had oxygen to talk? Mom could really be quick on her toes though when she needed to be and this time was no exception as she located a gigantic stack of old, army blankets and threw them onto the burning stairs. She then grabbed ahold of me and we made a very hot and uncomfortable exit from the basement. The basement where the money still was. That money that I don’t seem to be able to exist without.
We momentarily fell into each other’s arms and then determined what we needed to do to was rescue what was left of the money not to mention get rid of the scraps of burnt money before the firemen got here. That meant that someone, likely me, needed to go back down the steps again. It was not like we thought we needed to keep running up and down the stairs; we just weren’t exactly thinking straight. The steps seemed to have stopped burning under the massive heap of blankets as well as the oily rags but the only way we could make sure of that was to go back down and investigate. I volunteered myself for that assignment as I figured that Mom probably wasn’t young enough and limber enough to keep running up and down the burning steps.
The money bag was exactly where we put it -- in the closet. As the bag was the unfortunate occupant of the closet where the burning rags lived, it was partially burned as well as its contents. What to do? What to do? There was a metal trash can on the wall opposite the stairs which I dragged over to the steps. I dumped the bag into the can and then poured at least three 12 oz. cokes from one of the several cartons of coke into the trash can.
“Watch out,” I heard my mother yell “or it will get so heavy you won’t be able to get the can up the steps. Or you won’t be able to breath. Hurry!”
“Oh yeah, good thinking” I replied. Why do I keep thinking that her mental acuity is shot and her alzheimer’s is worse?
By now, I could hear what sounded like the fire trucks coming in the distance.
“Hurry up and hide it!” she yelled.
“Where?” I replied.
“How about the garage? Hurry, hurry, hurry!” Was immediately followed by Lynne, they’re getting closer and the smoke is getting denser”.
By this time I was at the top of the steps and started for the garage when mom intercepted the trash can, fortunately, as I still needed to clean up some of the mess in the basement. It would be a little difficult to explain a bunch of half-burned $ to any of the authorities.
Mom wasn’t too happy when I started back down the steps but I thought it necessary. At this point, the smoke was extremely thick and breathing was getting very uncomfortable. My sweeping was very rudimentary but I knew I needed to get back upstairs as I was getting a little woozy. I think I barely made it and may have even passed out for a minute at the top of the steps where I think I came to a few minutes later hearing someone yelling to someone else something about oxygen. The next thing I knew I was being dragged away from the basement door to our veranda. I could still barely breathe and was trying to tell that to a fireman (very handsome) who had lifted me up and placed me on a gurney. And then came the oxygen. This must have been when mom pushed the can out the kitchen door full of half burned, coke-soaked greenbacks with a centuries-old army blanket on top (probably my grandfather’s from who knows which world war).
The fire was limited to the area around the kitchen and the basement. The steps needed replacing, the kitchen floor was ruined and there was a generous amount of smoke and fire damage but the house, for the most part survived. The damage to the money came to about $6,000. Painful but not a show stopper.
Solution, i.e., coming clean in a way
Last night, I turned on the television and sat down with a large, very large glass of Merlot. When I had consumed the glass, I went and got the bottle and helped myself to the remainder which lately I’ve been drinking out of the bottle saving a little dishwashing. Watched the news. One of the stories they covered was a man who literally was walking around giving money to people, just plain people in New York or New Jersey, can’t remember which. That gave me what I decided was a wonderful idea for tomorrow. Give a gift to Oakdale for Christmas.
Today, I withdrew thirty thousand dollars from some of my savings accounts, drove over to the local Kroger’s and gave out presents in the sum of $500. Per person. This was great fun; most of the recipients took the money and hugged me and/or jumped in the air and squealed and fell all over me thanking me while a few others waved me away and wouldn’t accept it; a nice looking older man took up his own spot and gave some away also but since he hadn’t withdrawn extra, he had to quickly give up. A very pretty young lady had left her purse open in the cart while she was looking for fresh fruit; I stuck the money into the unzipped opening. The most satisfying recipient was a very tired looking pregnant woman with three young kids. I gave her $1000 and each of the kids $100. They practically went crazy with joy. To what looked like her oldest boy, I heard her Whisper “Let’s not tell your dad.” Sounds like a plan to me!
Later on today, I went to the local K-mart and bought toys and children’s clothes and then went to the Deaconess hospital down the street and gave them all away. A nun gave me a big hug but even better, a very sick little 4-year old wished me a very merry Christmas and waved her tiny little hand and I almost broke down crying. Ok, I did break down.
Christmas is here at last and I still have $600 or so to put in mail boxes. While I was playing Santa Claus, someone suggested that I might want, next year, to rent a room out for a party for anyone who wants maybe a warm place to celebrate the holiday with some comfortable chairs and a nice snack.
As far as giving away the money in my 401K, I have willed it to the bank to try to make up for some of the money that rightfully belongs to it but was diverted instead to the Ball thefts; as expected, my lawyer (whose father also worked at the bank) tried to argue with me about doing this, but I remained resolute. Needless to say, he thinks I’m crazy and stupid and he may not be all that wrong. But, of course, he does NOT know about where the money that I’m so generously giving away came from and he won’t, unless I also get Alzheimer’s or drunk or both. And I never will. I hope.
Continued my gift giving until my feet couldn’t stand it anymore. Stopped long enough to get food for my own late Christmas fete at the butcher’s and of course some wine.
As I was leaving the butcher shop, I saw a Salvation Army volunteer with his bell and his tub for collecting money. At the time, I had a lot of money left so I gave them approximately $150.00.
Better hurry; Christmas is only 364 shopping days away!
By far, this was the best day of my life. It is better to give than receive.
Now, back to living (part II)-
Runs every day
Blond with brown eyes
Can add 5 and 6 digit numbers in his head
Wonderful in bed
I have spent a great deal of time lately wondering if I have split personality. There are days when I don’t even think about the money and enjoy what I can do with it and have a perfectly clear conscience. Then, there are the days when I feel so guilty I don’t even want to look in a mirror. I get in my car and it’s a really nice car and I want to congratulate myself for owning such a nice car; and then the next day, I tell myself I should be ashamed of myself. Look at how much I paid for that car with money that isn’t all rightfully mine. Occasionally, I can actually see the spirit of my relative; the one who brought down the city bank. The same thing occurs when I buy a $25 bottle of wine, put on my Estee Lauder perfume and eat a filet mignon.
I thought I knew how the remainder of my life was unfolding. But no, I have met Leroy. There is an old German adage, “we grow too old soon and too late smart.” This is certainly true of me. I could possibly have given back some or perhaps all of the Ball money 10 years ago and gotten on with our romance; it would have been hard but possible. Now it not only would be hard it would be impossible. Whether or not I like to admit it, I have gone right on spending the money like it was all mine to spend. For a long time, I thought it was.
Leroy is pretty much of a straight-arrow. If he had been my sibling, he would have opted to give the money back to the bank and gotten a job to earn his own money. Also, if he had any idea that we had what one might call stolen (misappropriated?) money in the amount of approximately $300,000 in 1955, he would probably have walked out of my life and never returned. Then again, maybe not.
About Leroy. He is so much fun, so nice to be around. He likes to cuddle up and do all the romancy things people who are in love like to do, not that I really have any idea about how people who are in love like to act. I certainly haven’t witnessed loving couples on any great scale.
I’m going to take that back. It turns out that my mother was warm and loving but I just didn’t know it until our father disappeared. And, for sure, Pats was. As for Leroy – well the jury’s still out but I do think he qualifies.
My new love life
Leroy and I have been seeing each other pretty regularly; it seems that he likes the same kind of movies that I like such as old Alfred Hitchcock movies and Starwars and the same kind of music such as The Stones, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. He is a vegetarian which I’m not; but who needs meat when you have love?
And he talks about his family, friends and his job a lot. Well, he doesn’t really say that much about his job other than it’s boring and if you have to do boring things all day, for the love of God don’t waste time talking about them after work. And he really doesn’t say much about his family other than they like good food and NYPD blue.
He brings me presents like bottles of wine, earrings, a red cashmere sweater that wasn’t cheap. He wants to get married. I really can’t imagine, after all these years, that I could possibly get married!
But as happy as I am with him, I worry – big time. For one thing, I have this picture of myself waking up in the middle of the night, talking to myself about my grandfather’s money (or more realistically my not-really-my-grandfather’s money) and finding that Leroy is listening. Or worse, that I’m being charged with grand theft and needing to pass a lie-detector test and Leroy is watching and wondering whether I’m guilty. Or opening the morning paper and seeing a picture of me with an “is this person guilty?” caption under it and Leroy has already read the business section.
He proposed again last Saturday and I said yes but then took it back on Sunday and then acquiesced again on Monday. And Leroy doesn’t give up easily. In the process of proposing, he got down on his knee, (the right knee as the left one needs a great amount of cortizone) and opened a ring box with a lovely 1 karat diamond. I am/was completely flummoxed. Now, what do I do? I would happily listen to any one’s suggestions on what my next step should be other than returning the money and/or confessing my sin. That would easily ruin our relationship. Besides that, there isn’t much of the money left. I would be ruining the rest of my life for about $50,000. But, then it sounds like I’m actually ruining my life by living a lie. Or by being a thief. Or not marrying the man I love.
No one at the bank really knew Leroy, least of all me. It turns out that he showed up one day and got a job and everyone there thought that everyone else knew him except they themselves. It turns out that he worked for the FBI and guess what he was doing in Oakdale. Could it be the Ball money!!!
One very memorable night we had been out for dinner and a movie and were driving home when he suddenly turned off the radio and slowed down to around 25 mph and started to talk. All evening he had been unusually quiet which is not his true persona. If there is anything Leroy likes to do it is to talk. But now, the floodgates were going to open.
“I’m not going to beat around the bush. The reason I’m here in Ohio is because of your bank and some missing money”. My heart stopped for at least 5 minutes, possibly more and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that somehow some, or maybe all of my chicanery had managed to seep out of my pores. I was pretty sure that I knew exactly what was coming. As we slowly drove down Foster Blvd. he reached over the back seat and pulled out a dirty looking fabric bag. “When I got here” he continued, “we didn’t know what had happened to the Ball money but we did know it had existed and that now it was gone and had been gone for a significant amount of time. Unfortunately, as you are probably aware, the money that is known as the Ball money doesn’t really belong to the Ball family. Needless to say the money belonged to the bank from which it was taken years or decades ago and your family was very high on the list of possible miscreants. At first, we thought your grandfather might have taken it. And then I met your grandfather and that quickly dispelled that theory. He was a really nice guy but couldn’t work his way out of a wet paper bag if his life depended on it. Also, your grandmother was close to being a prime suspect but your grandmother was dead before the last faulty deposit”. The last faulty deposit – ouch!” So, it sounds like Leroy and country knew not only what my grandmother had done but how she did it.
“We knew, by that time, that it wasn’t your dad as he was already being grilled and mauled by a gang in Mexico City and if he could have found the money he would have happily given it to them just to get away. Alive. Also, we had a ringer in his group who was working for the government.” He had been able to keep track of things from a snitch in Oakdale as he had been able to more or less follow the contact into your grandfather’s house from time to time. The snitch said that without a doubt, the money was in an eave in the roof.
We had no doubt that it wasn’t your mom. There are a lot of nice things that can be said about that lady but “extremely clever” is not one of them.
“That left us with a big question mark, where the hell was the money? After searching high and low we surmised, from whispers we had heard that it had to be in your grandfather’s roof and yet, when we went there, it just plain wasn’t.”
And then I met you. For a long, long time, I was positive that you were innocent, as a matter of fact, I didn’t even associate you with the missing money. Who would have even given it a second thought? You come from a rich family and that’s why you drive a BMW. Not just any BMW , a brand new BMW . And look where you live as well as how you live. Do you even know how fancy your condo is? You have 6 rooms including a kitchen that’s bigger than the Taj Mahal and enough bathrooms for a different one each day of the week. And all that on $40 grand a year? So, l assumed that you must have inherited a princely, or princessly sum when your dad disappeared or when your grandfather died. But no! I then quickly discovered that your inheritance was a little more than $75,000 which isn’t enough money to cover the cost of your diamonds. And then, to put the guacamole on the chip, I found this”, he said. What he was holding looked like a little note in an old and slightly worn envelope. The front of the envelope said simply Lynne Ball. But I instantly knew the writing. I didn’t know where or even if she was still alive but I did know that lefty’s backward slant.
“Where did you find this?” I cried.
There wasn’t the slightest doubt in my mind who had addressed the envelope. For a few minutes, I luxuriated in the hope that Pats was still alive; Of course, if she was, what has she been doing all this time”? That might be the really bad news.
“It was in the briefcase of one of our contractors who retired last Wednesday.” He said. Someone had given it to him years ago when it was found in a desk in an old Mexican savings and loan.
“I opened it,” he continued. “I’m sorry but I really had to open it. There just aren’t that many Lynne Balls in Ohio. Actually, they aren’t that many in the country not that I’m keeping track. One seems to be more than I can handle.”
The note from Pats went way back to the day of her abortion. I read it.
“Lynne” she started off, “I feel better than I thought I would and can’t wait to get home and see you and mom and of course the money. Doctor says everything is ok if I am hearing him correctly but I am having trouble with the accent and I don’t know any Spanish! I should see you in a couple of days.
Don’t worry, I’m tough. Besides, I have the weight of the world taken off my shoulders!
PS: Take care of that money!
I looked at Leroy and he looked at me.
“The money. So you figured it out” I was squeezing his arm with a death grip.
“Yesterday.” He replied. “I mean, take care of that money? What the hell else could that mean?”
“I don’t know what to say.” I continued but the question that hung over us for what seemed to be an eternity was “is Pats still alive?”
I was painfully aware that I should have said something about us and my feelings for him and how much I needed his love, but the only thing that came out of my mouth was “is she still alive?” From the bits and pieces of our conversation, it sounded like dad was possibly still alive (in Mexico) so I was hoping against hope that she was.
“No. I believe she died years ago” was all he said very coolly.
He gave me a very searching look and I stared at him. Leroy wasn’t handsome but he was very attractive in an not so handsome way.. In other words, he was not a Cary Grant but rather a John Wayne who had been on a diet for a while. Given the depth of his feelings, I knew I should do whatever I could do to keep him. However, part of me determined that right now there was too much water over the dam to try and fix that which we had had. Everything that had transpired in our relationship was now altered by my past; the loss of Pats as well as mom (she had died 2 years ago), the loss of my job which I had not yet replaced and all of the money I had spent that I couldn’t recover.
“I wish I knew what to say” he mumbled.
“I wish I knew what to say” I returned. What do you say when there’s nothing to say? Nothing? Do you cry? Just sit there? Blubber about what you’d done wrong? Promise to be good in the future? Pray?
Given all of the choices, what I finally did was to get out of the car only to remember that it was my car we had been in so then I quickly got back in. I should have, at that point, looked at the gear shift. It was on DRIVE. But I didn’t, thus proving that hindsight really is 20/20. Then Leroy started to get out on his side of the car, giving my hand a little squeeze which made me feel so much better. I interpreted this squeeze as Leroy saying, “I really care about you and I don’t want to break this off”. However, that is not, definitely not, how my life works. In my entire life one good thing has happened (the money) and at this point even that could be interpreted differently.
Then he closed the car door and this is where things got really strange. I tried to scoot over the gear shift into what I thought would be the driver’s bucket seat but somehow I hit the gas just in time to see Leroy’s horrified expression, his eyes reflecting the Beemer’s lights. And then, and I think , mind you I think this is what happened; I didn’t see him but I heard him shout at the top of his lungs. I panicked. If you’ve ever started to run over someone, you know what I’m talking about. Things get really crazy.
For my part, I was almost seated, but not quite, and was hitting things willy-nilly trying to get the car to stop, or go backwards or anything but forward; but no. For one thing, I couldn’t quite get my foot on the brake pedal. And I also could not get into REVERSE. Forward was the only thing the BMW would do, the only place it would go. I had no idea where Leroy was, what condition he was in and how to get to him to help him assuming that I could help him. The only other thing I thought to do was to hit the horn which didn’t do much to stop the car but certainly got the attention of everyone in the parking lot many of whom came running to where our accident was taking place (for what seemed like an interminable period of time). I was distinctly aware that I was yelling at the top of my lungs while I tried to stop the car. It, however, just kept going its own way. I swear. My trusty BMW was not accepting input from me. And then, it’s hard to believe, but then, the car suddenly lurched backwards and then I felt the unmistakable bump of Oh-My-God-I’M Killing-Something-I’ve-Run-Over and then I heard another agonized cry (a cry not like any other cry I’ve ever heard) and lots of people shouting things like STOP and DON’T MOVE and TURN OFF YOUR CAR and CALL THE POLICE and finally, I heard someone, who was not so loud say “at least I got her license number. Boy, what a dingbat,” followed by another voice asking “do you really think she thought she could get away in reverse?”
At this point, it did feel like I should get the hell out while everything and everyone was in a jumble and beat a path to Aruba or Belize, or Panama. Of course, my passport is in my safety deposit box in the bank. Wouldn’t want to lose my passport; the one I need to get out of the country with; the passport I can’t get out of the country without. That passport!
The bad news: I have been grilled by the authorities for hours. It was arduous. I must wear this strange, ugly thing on my right ankle for ages. It keeps bumping my poor left ankle.
Leroy has a broken knee and a sprained ankle. And a broken foot. And a big gash on his face which he thinks was caused when he tried to save a cat by grabbing it by his/her tail.
I have been accused of attempted murder, theft, armed robbery (who would ever have guessed that Leroy had stored a pistol under the front seat of my car) and reckless driving as well as attempting to flee the scene of an accident, in reverse. Killed someone’s pedigree cat. Who’s ever heard of a pedigree cat?
The good news: Leroy is still alive; they couldn’t charge me with theft for taking the money that was older than ten years because of the statute of limitations and also because some of the money did belong to my family(?) I think that’s what she said but she was very hard to understand.
No, I couldn’t rent a Cadillac and the proceeds from the sale of my BMW were used to pay my bail and a policeman would take me to the church.
I was allowed to attend the Ball/prick wedding but I wasn’t allowed to get that new red dress. They were somewhat put out that I even asked. But they’re men and if there is anything men don’t understand, it’s women’s clothing.
Possibly good news; Leroy stopped by the house the other night. He stayed for close to 3 hours.
News that is too close to call
I tried to hug him but he kept a very safe distance.
He did, however, tell me I look good
Prison life sucks. I thought mom’s cooking was bad but it turns out she was a gourmet in comparison. But I am out. I have a record so getting a job in a bank is probably out of the question. I have found employment with an office building cleaning service. After paying for my utilities and food there is a little money left to support my high-roller life style.
My new apartment has 1 bath (shower only) a combination bedroom and living room and enough of a kitchen to fix a bowl of cereal as long as it doesn’t need to be cooked. I drink box wine and eat private brands. If I go to MacDonalds, I help myself to a generous handful of napkins, some extra Sweet n Low and some sugar.
I no longer drive a BMW; it’s more like a 10 year old Toyota Corolla. But it runs. Faithfully. I better shut up.
I do see Leroy every so often and occasionally we even go out to dinner together – dutch.
I don’t give out money anymore but would certainly take some if it were offered.
But I get by and when you consider that I no longer need worry about whether or not someone is going to find my money, life isn’t bad; of course it isn’t exactly a gala event either.
And Iike I said, Leroy is still around.
I did manage to keep around $450 which is stashed in…
One day, last week, Kirsten told me that I had great legs and should wear shorter skirts. And the guy at the desk behind me gave me a big wink this morning. Other than that, I don’t believe anyone has ever paid me a compliment. So, I need to get married. Right now.
7 My trusty BMW was not accepting input from me. And then, it’s hard to believe, but then, the car suddenly lurched backwards and then I felt the unmistakable bump of Oh-My-God-I’M Killing-Something-I’ve-Run-Over and then I heard another agonized cry (a cry not like any other cry I’ve ever heard) and lots of people shouting things like STOP and DON’T MOVE and TURN OFF YOUR CAR and CALL THE POLICE and finally, I heard someone, who was not so loud say “at least I got her license number. Boy, what a dingbat,” followed by another voice asking “do you really think she thought she could get away in reverse?”
The bad news: I have been grilled by the authorities for hours. It was arduous. I must wear this strange, ugly thing on my right ankle for ages. It keeps bumping my poor left ankl