By Lydia Hope Wilen / New York City
Jack The Snipper
My father was a playful person. He was like a big kid. My young cousins adored their Uncle Jack. He loved fishing and during the summer, he would occasionally take one of the lucky ones to Brooklyn’s Steeplechase Pier to catch whatever was biting, including mosquitoes. The youngest of those cousins was Glenn. My father had enough rods, reels, hooks and sinkers to supply all of Brooklyn, not to mention whoever went fishing with him.
My dad was especially proud of the monofilament fishing line he used in his reels. It’s made of high-density nylon and is abrasion-resistant. It’s extra tough: doesn’t tear; doesn’t snap. There was no question about it being able to reel in if-and-when there was the big catch of the day…a 2 lb porgy.
My father was extremely handy and creative. We would joke that he could figure out how to fix things that weren’t even broken. And so, my father found another use for the monofilament fishing line. He used it to make an elaborate, intricately patterned beaded curtain for an archway in my sister’s and my apartment. It was spectacular.
Fast forward a few years after the beaded curtain was installed. Young cousin Glenn came to our apartment soon after my father passed away. He was standing next to the curtain, when one of the strands gave way and dozens of beads drizzled off the monofilament, and went rolling on the floor at his feet. It was understandably frightening for Glenn. All he kept saying is, “I didn’t touch it. I didn’t touch it.” We knew he didn’t touch it. We also knew that it was so like my father to pull this kind of high-spirited prank by snipping the strand near the bottom, causing most of the beads to fall off.
The strand inexplainably breaking, happening while Glenn was standing there. What are the chances without help from the other side?
A Matter of Time
My mother had a thing about knowing what time it was…not that she had appointments to keep or had anything she was timing. In fact, she was a great cook and never, never timed any food she prepared. Just like she never measured any ingredients she used.
Neither of us—my sister Joany nor me—ever had a curfew at home in Brooklyn. The rule was, if one or both of us went out, when we got home, we had to wake up my mother to say, “Ma, I’m home.” My mother would invariably ask, “What time is it?” Whatever our answer, she would then say, “Okay. Good. Now I can go to sleep, knowing that you’re home.” It was pointless to say, “Ma, you were already asleep and I woke you up.” So we all humored each other…our way of caring.
A few days after my mother passed away, while going through things in her bedroom, we heard loud ticking. The sound came from the top compartment of her armoire. It was my father’s Big Ben clock that had stopped working years ago. My mother kept it simply because it was my father’s. And now it was working. Joany and I didn’t touch it. We decided to let it keep going until it stopped. And it did stop a day or two later, at 9:27, and we still didn’t touch it.
A week after that, in the mail, we got the death certificate for my mother. The official recorded time of death was 9:27 p.m.
The TV stays on all day in my office, muted most of the time and usually on the Game Show Network until ABC’s Eyewitness News First at 4 p.m. Viviene, my assistant, and I, walked into my office. I unmuted the TV in time to hear the news anchor announce the birth of triplets. Nowadays, triplets are not much of a newsworthy event. Viv and I both looked at the TV, waiting for the payoff from the reporter. “These triplets were born yesterday, February 14th (2019)—Valentine’s Day.” Ahhh!...Valentine’s Day. The reporter then revealed the babies names: “The first girl’s name is Lydia Joan.”
I was thankful that Viv was there with me as a witness. Of course she was as astounded as I was. The baby’s name is Lydia Joan. I was almost expecting the parents to be Lillie and Jack, my mother’s and father’s names.
If you read last week’s “What are the Chances…? Calling People Names,” the first published book my sister Joany and I wrote was Name Me, I’m Yours! – a baby name book. How appropriate it was to have this “What are the Chances…?” happening with our names side-by-side. Especially when you consider the millions of names and name combinations available these days. I believe this was an extraordinary sign from the other side. Okay, prove it wasn’t.
If you have a “What Are The Chances...? story you would like to share, I’d love to know about it. Email it to me at email@example.com. Don’t be shy!
Lydia Hope Wilen had a successful collaboration with her late sister Joany as nonfiction bestselling authors (18 books), journalists, TV personalities, writers and talent coordinators on a Nickelodeon series hosted by Leonard Nimoy, Reading Rainbow episodes, skit writers for Dr. Ruth's TV show, Diet America Challenge on CBS, and writers of screenplays (optioned but not produced yet).
Lydia is writing on her own now and has just completed an extraordinary book for young people and their parents. It will have them laughing and learning...once she gets an agent and it gets published.