My cousin Patty died this week. In memory of her, I want to share this story, which I recall with loving humor.
When I was ten and my cousin Patty was five, her mother, Millie, became extremely ill. Feeling a little desperate for a sitter, Darrell (Patty’s dad) and Auntie decided that I seemed old enough for the job. (Maybe so, if Patty had been an ordinary child.) Patty never fit the description of ordinary.
Although Patty and I had strict orders to leave Millie alone, Patty was equally determined to telephone her mother. All afternoon, Patty and I struggled over the telephone. Finally, when Patty picked up the phone, I took some scissors and cut the line.
“Oh my gosh! You are going to be in so much trouble,” five-year old Patty shouted. (Yes, I was a little worried.) Sure enough, as soon as Auntie’s car drove up, Patty charged out the back door screaming about what a horrible and unlawful thing I had done. Aunt Maggie walked in and looked at the cut wire. I watched carefully until I noticed a slight smile. Although Patty continued to rant, Auntie never said a word. The next day, a man from the telephone company repaired the damage I had caused. We never talked about the telephone event.
At that time, our phone number was 29. When we wanted to telephone someone, we held the handpiece to one ear until we got the operator. As soon as we heard a voice say “operator,” we told her the number to dial. The system provided a simple and wonderful communication device unless several people shared the same party line.