Forward Living: ‘Bad’ behavior may hide untold stories

Last month, Frank and I attended the oldies concert in Riverhead. We had a wonderful time dancing and enjoying the camaraderie of friends. Funny, the way I was flitting around and dancing, one would think I didn’t have a care in the world. Hardly! My mom, who at 92 was livelier than some folks half her age, is seeing the last of her days. Despite her tenacity, she is losing her battle with cancer.

Our friends George and Grace were among the merry-makers. George is facing a serious health challenge, yet he was rockin’ and rollin’ (quite well, I may add) with Grace. As I scanned the crowd of partying folks, it occurred to me that everyone has a story.

It was the late comedian Flip Wilson’s character “Geraldine” who coined the phrase “What you see is what you get.” Well, folks, this ain’t necessarily so.

I know of many instances where folks are in a state of angst over the economy. Frank’s son, James, is a good example. A hard-working guy, James is learning a new skill by attending school during the day and working the graveyard shift to make ends meet. For him, sleep is catch-as-catch-can.

On his way to school one day, James stopped to get his usual cup of hot tea. He became annoyed because the counter person handed him iced tea, and this wasn’t the first time. He said in part, “Why after 20 years of ordering tea, I’m now getting iced tea?” Splitting hairs? Maybe to the counter person, but I know that James is sleep-deprived and worried about his future.

Our home phone number is similar to that of a local medical practice; consequently, we get tons of wrong numbers. Even if we let the call go into voice-mail, sometimes the caller will leave a message. Truly, patience is not my strong point, especially now, when I’m waiting for Mom’s doctors to call.

Recently, I had a eureka moment after one such call and thought, “Have some empathy, you share a common thread with these folks.” So, I’ve started giving out the correct number and, if the caller leaves a message, I’ll call them back. Lest you think too well of me, think again; the calls are still annoying.

When I lived on Staten Island, there was a neighborhood kid who was really a pain in the (fill in the blank). He would tease our dog, trample the flowers and get into all kinds of mischief. Subsequently, I found out that his parents were divorcing. The poor kid was simply acting out and crying for attention; however, I was too aggravated to hear him.

Back then, at work one of the nurses sent a proposal to the medical director. When the director didn’t respond in a timely manner, the nurse barged into my office and erupted into tears. Her mind tricked her into believing unpleasant things about the director. In reality, there was no reason for her to get that upset, unless she was a soothsayer. Afterward, we received a memorandum stating that the director was called away on a family emergency.

While I was out walking, a lovely gal stopped her car to ask if I was all right. She noticed that I had my hand on my hip (something I do when I’m walking and thinking — I know, don’t ask!). She wasn’t aware that I was trying to write this column or that I was sad over Mom and weary from my frequent trips to New Jersey to care for her. This gal’s kind attitude made my day.

Perhaps you know part of my story because I’m here twice a month, but do I know yours? You may be the server who screwed up my order, the guy who cut me off or the gal waiting in the long supermarket line with the screaming kid. If I showed my annoyance, mea culpa! I forgot you also have a story.

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.