Lois was up and down in mood all that summer, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary, not that I had anything to compare her mood swings to. Still, I counted it as normal and perhaps the hormonal changes that came with pregnancy, once it was establish that she was. We all assumed her bouts of illness were attributable to the pregnancy, and perhaps a growing sleep problem she had developed as well. Let's face it, expecting a baby is a convenient reason for everything.
She was beginning to complain more about the neighbors. She had always been stand-offish, but now she viewed them with a growing amount of suspicion, especially the Andrews. I could not fathom her dislike of these people. My only real experience with Frank Andrews was a bit embarrassing, but hardly hostile
In really began as a simple gesture of neighborliness. Andrews, The neighbors on our west side were Hispanic. The husband was Frank Andrews, but I forget the first names of his wife and two children, a boy and girl. The children were very young, pre-school. I know Andrews doesn’t sound very Hispanic. Maybe he wasn’t and just his wife was. It “don’t make no never mind”, as my Grandmother used to say. Who cares what his ethnicity was? The husband had observed me with the guitar as we moved in.
I really don’t know what possessed me to purchase the instrument. I had not done well learning the clarinet because it required fingering with both hands. Why then a guitar that took all your fingers? On top of that, because of my hearing problem I had a horrendous time trying to tune it. When I moved into General Warren Village I had yet to learn how to play.
One day, Frank saw me outside and sauntered over.
“I see you have a guitar,” he said.
“Yeah, but I really don’t play.”
“That’s all right,” he said. He pointed up the street. “I play guitar and got this friend up the street does as well. We get together each week, every Thursday. Why don’t you join us this week?”
“Thank, but I don’t play very well.” I waved a dismissive hand as I said it. (“Don’t play very well?” Truth be told, I barely played at all. I could plink the strings.)
He wouldn’t take no for an answer, assuming I was only being modest.
“Ahh, don’t worry about that,” He said. "We’re all amateurs. Just for fun. Nobody’s gonna hear us.”
So I agreed like a fool, too afraid of offending to say no.
The next Thursday he met me at my door and we walked up the street together, he carrying a nice guitar case, me with mine slung over my shoulder like a sack of flour. With my lack of ability on the instrument, it may as well have been a sack of floor. We sat there and strummed the strings and Frank suddenly stopped, looked at me, and said:
“You really don’t know how to play, do you?”
I never had another guitar get together with those two guys. Andrews was quite polite and all about it, but I was feeling pretty silly as I slunk out of there and went home.
I did eventually teach myself how to play the instrument -- sort of.
Meanwhile Lois was becoming more frustrated with what she considered our isolation. Even though she had her driver’s license, she continued to be very reliant on me taking us anywhere.
Looking back on those early years of our marriage I am rather stunned and ashamed by how dependent we had become on my parents. Although Lois will say today that my folks did nothing for us, except criticize her, my own opinion is we had become quite the leeches. We were constantly running to my folks or they were coming to do for us. The single month of March is a good sample.
On March 2 we were at my parents around 1:00 PM, from where we went shopping in Pottstown with my grandmother. We came back from town and ate supper there
We were back to my parents around noon on the 12th and had lunch, then returned in the evening for dinner.
March 16 we came up, but they weren’t home.
We arrived at noon, lunchtime on March 17 and then my Dad took us all on a 35 mile ride above Harrisburg to show how ice had broken along the Susquehanna River. It had piled up and torn down houses and cabin walls along the road. I’m pretty sure we stopped for dinner on the way home and I’m pretty sure Dad treated.
We brought my grandmother up to our place on the 19th and she stayed over until March 21. During that stay she helped Lois do housework and cooking.
I sort of reciprocated on the morning of March 23. I was in Bucktown during the morning to rake their grounds, but I was also freeloading by getting some cement blocks to take home. (Later on, in the fall, my dad and Mr. Heaney would spend a day at our home using those cement blocks to lay a walk behind our house.) Lois and I returned by 4:00 in the afternoon for supper and then went with mom and grandmother’s Married Couples club to Philadelphia to see the Cinerama movie, “How the West was Won”, a film that probably did better showing the vistas in widescreen than the multi-star cast did with the plot.
By the end of the month I was bringing my burnable trash up to dispose of and on the 27th my grandmother was mending Lois clothes. I took Lois into Philly to the doctor on the 29th (we still didn’t know what was going on with her) and the next day we were back to my parents in the evening.
This type of thing went on for the next three months and beyond, actually. We had been doing this since our wedding and we would continue so for at least a couple more years, with the added feature of sponging money off my parents regularly in the year ahead.
I registered at Temple University for the Summer Session. I signed up for one course, Sociology 101: Introduction. I believed this would give me an indication if I could do college or not. I thought Sociology would be a good subject for a writer to know. I begin attending a two-hour class three evenings a week.
I found the course interesting and stimulating. We had to study four other books besides the main text, all squeezed into the shortened summer session. Man Alone: Alienation in Modern Society edited by Eric and Mary Josephson was the most fascinating one to me. The book touched me in a personal way, I mean, I always felt somewhat alienated from the world around me.
Oddly, the confessions of a mugger that were told within those pages imbued me with a habit that stayed with me my whole life. I stopped shining my shoes. The mugger told how he selected his victims. He would look at the shoes. If a man came by with dusty and scoffed shoes, he would pass him up, figuring he was probably down on his luck and didn’t have much of value. If a man walked into his path with well shined shoes, then that was a man of means and he would be the man mugged.
I got an A for the course. On the last day the professor approached me as I was leaving. He asked me what my plans were.
I explained I had just taken the course to find out if I could do college work.
He told me, “If what you did here is a sample of what you can do, then you definitely should continue in college.”
I took him at his word and I registered for four courses in the coming fall semester.
Except Lois was pregnant.