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Senior Momentum - August 2015 - Bert! Where are you?


Senior Momentum - August 2015 - Bert! Where Are You?

by Zoe Tummillo

As I go around on errands and chores and business, I notice the young families gearing up for the coming school year as summer winds down. It reminds me of us when my kids and Bert’s were young!

It’s more than twenty years now; yet, you seem so close as I have those one-sided conversations – the times when I pick up a Starbucks and drive to the cemetery, sit on the wall and visit with you. I get the feeling you might know that I’m clipping the grass around your headstone and emptying still another packet of California Poppy seeds all around the edges. (I tuck them down in the dirt a little, hoping they might take hold, escape the groundskeeper’s trimmer, sprout up and bloom for you. So far, no luck!)

Nothing has yet replaced the long conversations we had those years ago when we believed we had the answers. We would look at our mixed group of kids and shake our heads and tell each other “... we have to find a way. Why can’t ‘society’ play it out like our children do – with all the colors mixed up in the same game? No problem.”

Bertha and I were almost instantly best friends. We lived about five doors down from each other and met over the heads of our kids in that Petaluma neighborhood, where people still actually knew their neighbors.  Two single mothers – she had five and I had four – with a mix of three races; a variety pak, we would joke.  But, who knew? We both worked long hours – she was a Sonoma County Probation Officer, and I owned a small consulting and writing business. We helped each other out with our kids and had BBQ’s when we could, when schedules allowed some down time!

Bert had a way with this old world that was quite remarkable. She would shake it, twist it and move it right out of her way if it meant she could “keep just one kid out of the system,” as she put it. She called all her probies her “extra kids.” If she could run interference with the bureaucracy to keep one juvenile from wearing that label, if there was a way, she would find it.

Bert, this world needs you and about a thousand clones of you on the front lines! Each time the “news” brings us another report of some horrendous event – kids victimizing or kid victims, race against race, authorities and citizens at each other’s throats – my mind goes right to Bert, where are you? We could go right out there, you and I, yelling and screaming, like we used to do when we’d get all wound up over some issue! ...and, believe me, you’d be so upset at the things that have been happening, Bert. 

Your amazing self comes into focus as summer hums along, and the young families have one last big BBQ and get their kids ready for school as we used to do. Remember wondering how we could possibly pull it all together, getting them what they needed and still have money for groceries?  It made it easier laughing together about the struggle, over their heads.

And we also laughed about how sure we were that it could all get fixed if only people could get to where they really cared enough! I have to say, I’m not so sure anymore; I’m a bit of a cynic now. Of course it would have helped if you hadn’t checked out! We could have come up with something! Right?

After everyone left the cemetery, I sat on the wall waiting for the crew to come down the hill and close your grave. As the two young men got closer, one was crying his eyes out... I asked him what was wrong, and he said: I asked for this detail. I would be in prison now if she hadn’t pounded some sense into my thick head when I was fifteen! He loaned me a shovel and the three of us tucked you in.  So, of course, I know where you are. 

But... Bert, where are you?

Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; “Pieces of My Path”©, essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American; and Senior Momentum: Front And Center!©. To contact her: email: