You can't hide anything in Oberlin
I love having been born and raised in Oberlin. I’ve always loved being a small town girl, even with the inherent “everyone knows everyone else and tells everyone else everything” necessity that goes along with it.
For me it started early. I began working at my aunt and uncle’s insurance agency, Sperry-Gorske, when I was 12. That, of course, is located on South Main Street. What was right across the way? The Tap House. It was the only place in town that served 3.2 beer in what was otherwise a dry town.
Now, I loved her dearly, but my Aunt Helen was definitely not one to reckon with. Each day we would go to The Campus Restaurant for a coffee break. One day she announced that I would not be getting hot chocolate because it was time for me to start drinking coffee.
“And you won’t be getting any cream or sugar in it. You’ll learn to drink it black because there won’t always be cream and sugar available.”
No questions or protests were allowed and I drink it black today. Now my Aunt Helen believed firmly in the “dryness” of Oberlin and, as a teetotaler herself would have been appalled to see or learn of her little Patty going into the Tap House.
I’m now 60 years old and still look over my shoulder toward Sperry-Gorske when I go into The Feve.
Under Aunt Helen’s watchful eye Sperry-Gorske was often “information central.” My mom, sister Paula and I had a very bad automobile crash in 1956. My mother was laid up for well over a year, patched together by plates and pins, bone grafts and the like.
Aunt Helen posted a blackboard in the window of the insurance agency so everyone could stay abreast of Mom’s progress.
Mom’s health seemed to be on display in this microcosm called Oberlin throughout the years. One time, while relaxing at Vermilion’s community pool, one of my Vermilion friends approached me to express her concern that mom was in the hospital. Since I hadn’t told anyone in Vermilion, I was surprised, until I heard that Chris had run an errand in Oberlin and while waiting in line had overheard several others saying what a shame it was that Doris Gorske had gone into the hospital. The world shrunk that day.
In later years, as an adult, I did quite a bit to take care of my mom as her health began to fail. Each week we trekked to the grocery store together. We often went out to lunch. I had the luxury of teaching for only half days then, so I had the flexibility to spend a lot of time with her. There were times, however, when I wanted to slip in and out of town without taking time to visit. It was impossible. Someone, somewhere, would always see me, call mom to report and I’d be laid out my next visit for not having stopped in!
That brings us to present day. Most of you probably already know that I had an accident in Hawaii. My sources tell me that rumors are running rampant about the circumstances of my injuries. It’s time to set the record straight.
Joe and I had taken a group of orphans snorkeling because no one else cared about them. During the sojourn my keen powers of observation drew my attention to a shark that was swimming menacingly toward one of the orphans. With Herculean effort I punched the shark directly in the nose with my foot. Although he limped away in penultimate fear, my foot ricocheted onto a piece of coral, shattering my ankle.
At least the orphan was saved…OH, wait a minute…that’s the story my daughter wanted me to tell. I guess it might be a bit exaggerated since the truth is that I took two steps onto a catamaran, my feet slipped out from beneath me and I slammed my left foot into the dock that was only inches away.
I dislocated my foot (it was at a 45-degree angle to my leg — really ugly and scary looking) and broke my ankle in three places. I spent four days in the hospital in Hawaii where I had surgery and terrific care in a small hospital much like Oberlin’s.
We flew home first class, thanks to a travel insurance policy, where I had to sling my leg over the console between us to keep it elevated. We are now at home where I am ensconced in the recliner with Joe as my attentively wonderful caretaker and Luke, our beautiful dog, as my constant companion.
Now you know the rest of the story; I do like the orphan version better, though. Don’t you?