December 12, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
It was not surprising that my childhood friend, Rose Marie Strippoli, appeared calm in announcing via Facebook that her beloved cat, Maggie, had passed after 18.5 years. I recall an earlier serenity under stress.
Living then — spring 1952 — in south Spring Valley, N.Y., I had just learned to ride a bike, and I took my maroon job down the Old Nyack Turnpike to Harold Rickle’s house on Central Avenue. Up the hill lived Rose Marie and her mom, a nurse.
Harold, Rose Marie, another young person and I soon found ourselves playing hide and seek, which was always an adventure at Harold’s house since it was two-family, and he either lived upstairs or downstairs depending on the tenant’s preference. This visit, he was below.
I hid behind his family’s large refrigerator, the original electric type that had its round condenser on top so that the square machine looked like a robot.
Running outside, I saw someone spot me, so I moved toward the back door. Just as I went to open it, the other young person, a girl who was the cousin of either Rose Marie or Harold, pushed aside the door in a hurry to escape someone else.
My right hand went clear through single-pane glass, and I began spurting blood at the wrist. These were the days before 911 and EMTs, and since there were no adults about — all were at work — it was up to third-graders to figure out what to do next.
In stepped fine Rose Marie, calm as can be. She took me by the hand and walked me up to her house, found her nurse mom and had her look at the wound. Rose Marie’s mother cleaned the wrist, realized it needed stitches, and knowing that my grandfather worked down the street as a foreman at the Briarcraft smoking pipe factory, called over, and my gramps took control.
We went downtown to a doctor, who injected painkiller and stitched the wound.
My grandfather went back to work, the kids I was playing with were relieved, and I learned how to ride a bike home with one hand (I told my gramps that I was just fine.)
I have never forgotten how masterfully calm Rose Marie was, and how that helped defuse my situation. The memory was recalled after reading her Facebook post about Maggie.
It could not have been easy for her to lose her cat after so many years, but Rose Marie handles crisis well, thank you.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org