FREE FOR ALL...

My mother was good at getting the good person discount. 

She took over my grandmother's house, the one that was supposed to be left to her in a will that disappeared.

My parents were separated. My father worked at the fish market and one good thing that came out of all this was that when he visited on weekends we would have lots of seafood. 

My mother was good at making thin air into something edible.

She was basically rehabbing the house alone, I am not sure why because father  had all those skills, I did not.

We lived in a small town, one that was near Scranton, Pa (not sure why anyone would claim Scranton as their own.

It was known for bars, churches, banks and Rite-Aid pharmacies.

So my mother would hire people and they would begin their work and then start the job and not show up. They would go to the bar before church and then become Baptists  in church and then go to the bar after church and pray that God would help them get over how they acted in church. Who knows the troubles they had seen? 

Wars, depression, working in coal mines, just making both ends meet and keeping a roof over your head.

And everything was a crisis. And each time my sister came to visit it seemed we were out of toilet paper and the local news or Sear's Catalog would have to do.

Sears was our Wal-Mart. It had everything including the worst 1970's clothes one could imagine. 

Part of me even despised the smell of the store; it smelled like poverty. 

And my mother would go with paint on her hands to the Saint Joseph Novena on Wednesday nights and feel embarrassed and she would let me paint the door before she painted over it.

Watching her from another room and playing with my wiffle bat that became a gun, a helicopter or  anything I could imagine in a freezing cold room with multiple jackets on and enjoying the conversations we had was the norm.

Ever since that time I still enjoy watching others work and perspire. That is probably why they made me a supervisor so many times. 

The cavalry never showed up to help her. It was her Calvary.

She would go to bars and hunt the workers that had left their tools and beg them to finish their work. 

They had other things on their minds, if work truly set them free, why this behavior? What were they being labored by?

And then I thought about what they were calling Hippies at the time. And how they would stop by and always were so polite to my mother. Respect.

And so it came about that we needed a roof. And it was one of the few times that I remember my mother and father in discourse about a project and even involving me.

It was a big deal. These were the times when it took you until retirement until you paid off the car loan and the mortgage. When very little went to waste.

And then the salesperson came to the house and they signed a contract to have the roof done. Don't ask me why my parents' siblings didn't kick in. 

They all had a knack of how to do these things. Later in life I would think these projects should be more inline with the Amish way of thinking. 

And yet they weren't. It was a big deal to sign that contract and I don't think they knew where the money was going to come from. 

Yet they took a leap of faith and signed. Don't know why my father and uncle didn't do it; afterall, they had installed the original roof.

And so one fall Monday morning they started their project. The roofers arrived in droves. Get the job done quickly and move one.

So I am coming home from school that day, jumped over the bushes and noticed we had a new roof. It was different from the old one. 

It looked like snow on a Christmas tree. The other one was black. Then I noticed the flashing and was curious about those dents in it. 

Or maybe I just made it all up.

"They put on the wrong roof," my mother stated as I entered the kitchen. She had a contorted Edith Bunker look on her face, not sure whether to laugh, cry or scream.

And then the representative of the roofing company came in and apologized again and again. My mother was telling him that it was no problem. It was okay. 

She was feeling sorry for him.

They had put on the wrong roof and it was the wrong color and they made some big mistakes. 

He stated that they would rip up the contract and that insurance would pay for it and my mother begged for him to let her pay.

My story of praying to Saint Joseph was a little bit different. The ramshackled apartment that I lived in needed repairs. 

The steps were destroyed by the landlord when he needed to fix a broken pipe and a door frame needed to be fixed because the new refrigerator that I bought didn't fit in the door.

So I said my prayers and each saint told me that wasn't their department until I reached Saint Joseph. And I prayed for help. And it didn't come. 

And I attempted to fix the steps myself it looked easy and the acquaintances I had on the bus told me that it could do it and so did the books that I had gotten from the library.

Seeing this done tons of times on This Old House and after taking a Tony Robbins course I knew that I could do this and yet I couldn't.

Finally I got an answer from Saint Joseph, "Hire a union contractor." $800 later the job was done and now I needed to figure out how to pay the rent.

Later I learned that contractors would often ask carpenters to make steps because it was a lot harder than it looked and they could tell if one had the right stuff by how they created steps.

And there was a chef that would ask someone to fry him an egg. Not that difficult a task and yet to do it perfectly takes some knowhow.

Coming home from school one day I saw some workers in front of the house. Jumping over the bush that I would always jump over, the one my city cousin didn't understand why I jumped over, I saw some men bringing a statue to the corner of our house.

How did my mother get a marble statue of the Sacred Heart? There was a fire at Marywood College, the convent my mother was friends with I believe Sister Jerome, the head of the convent. And the she asked. And for a dollar she got a statue. My recollection is that she offered the workers across the street some money for moving it, maybe ten dollars, a nice sum in the 1970's and they refused to take it .

People would give directions on where to catch the bus by saying, "And you'll see the man waiting for the bus..."

And then there was a drunk who was so startled by the statue coming home late one night that he vowed to give up drinking. Other's reflections may vary very much.

My mother needed tile to re-decorate a bathroom and sure enough she met someone who owned a tile company and liked her and gave her the tiles for free.

And that's the way it went.  She asked and she received. Isn't that amazing? Sure it didn't always work guaranteed that there were times that prayer didn't work in her favor

My mother had a friend this is back in the days of landlines except they didn't call them landlines they called them phones and they talked very often and then realized it was getting expensive. 

They decided to only talk once a year and when they had lower rates and they would talk for as long as they wanted. Don't know if that made any sense but it did to them.

And that's what they did. They talked for hours and my mother was worried about the bill. Well not worried about the bill-worried that the charge for that call would be very expensive. My thought is what that would even mean back in the Seventies.

So she gets the bill and the charge for that call was something like .43 cents.

And my mother being my mother calls the company and asks what happened.

My mother reported the mistake and the customer service told her that there was nothing she could do about it it was some random computer mistake, maybe a decimal place out of order and not to worry about it. 

And still my mother wanted to do the right thing and pay what she thought she owed.

Then there was the time that as a child in grade school I had a dream. "So this guy called Schaft was running for Governor and he said, 'Give that woman two ton of coal.'" My mother laughed and at some point either wrote or called the governor's office and sure enough-there was a program just started to give people two tons of free coal.

And that's my story and I am sticking to it on my journey from Saul to Paul.