I stayed inside this morning and instead of pouting about not going for a walk, I decided to do a little pedaling on the exercise bike instead. Two wheels versus two feet sometimes has its virtues … getting exercise on a safe journey without leaving the confines of my home. It provides a wee bit of quiet time for soul-searching or unravelling life’s mysteries without having to look both ways for vehicles before crossing the street, or watching for people, stray dogs or icy walks that intrude into your personal space.
So, as I pedaled, I pondered, and even puzzled, like most of the world has, about what has happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which seemingly has vanished into thin air. Every day a new theory has cropped up since it disappeared a week ago today. Did it crash in mid-air and a million pieces are now strewn in the deep waters never to be recovered? Did it dive headfirst from the sky and now is perhaps submerged under the water? Was it hijacked? There are many masterminds hashing over the scenario of the lost plane’s last few hours, trying the piece the puzzle together. To me, it has been fascinating to listen to their theories … but still no plane, nor its passengers, in what is now termed a “search and recovery” effort, and not a “search and rescue” operation. It’s sad to hear this resolute terminology, and even sadder for the people who have lost loved ones and have no idea of their dire situation nor their disposition. My heart goes out to them.
A mystery which is closer to home is, of course, the mummified woman’s body discovered March 5th in Pontiac, Michigan. Her 19-year-old goddaughter, Nina Logan, has appealed on social media for people to help the police get to the root of the mystery of Pia Farrenkopf’s death, whom authorities estimate died some six years ago. Ms. Logan claims she was murdered. The authorities will not find out the cause of death until the toxicology reports are complete in some six weeks’ time, but in the interim, they hope to prove a DNA match with her sister, or that dental records will confirm it is indeed Pia, that is, if a dentist remembers Pia, their patient. So, we all wonder how this could happen? She had her bills automatically paid to creditors, which worked like a charm until the bank account was depleted, thus the house went into foreclosure, and all the while Pia pitifully was long dead in the back seat of her car in the garage, with the key still in the ignition. Supposedly she voted in the 2010 election – well there’s a boo-boo right there and who takes the blame for that blunder? Her mail was directed to a post office because she travelled extensively – did it not pile up in her post office box and threaten to spill out as each new piece was added? A kindly neighbor took care of her lawn so no one was calling authorities for unkempt property. This still begs the question of where her family was all this time? Lest you cast stones against her family for lack of interest in Pia all these years, she was known to be estranged from her family and was a very private person. So, a week goes by, a month … soon it is a year. The family reportedly tried to contact Pia to advise that a sibling and her mother had passed away. The phone rang, but of course there was no response.
This sad story niggles at my brain as it is now two decades ago a friend of our family passed away and lay dead in his bed from a massive heart attack for nearly five months before anyone knew. You are reading this and saying “well, if you were a friend, would you not inquire as to his whereabouts?” … well you are, and are not, correct in your assumption. Let me back up. Bob was a friend of my father’s, a crusty old bachelor who was invited to our home every Tuesday night for a home-cooked meal. He usually brought dessert and his manners, though he was not big on small talk and had a dry wit and was hard to understand. He hailed from Australia, and though he was in his mid-sixties and had lived here for decades, he never lost his accent. But he was a visitor to our home weekly for years and we thus considered him a friend. After my father was gone in 1984, Bob called and thanked my mom for her hospitality and asked if he might call her from work once a week just to chat. She said “sure” so he called her every Friday on his lunch hour as he did not own a home phone or cellphone, which were not as common in those days. It was strictly a platonic relationship, the small-talk conversations never lasted more than 15 minutes and he confessed that he had no friends or family and she had shown him a great kindness and he missed talking to her. He retired the following year from Ford where he worked as an engineer. He would go to a restaurant and they continued their Friday phone chats just as before.
One Friday, in early November of 1993, Bob called my mom to say he was going home to the “old sod” the following week to visit his parents’ graves and see his siblings one last time. He was estranged from them for decades, since he had moved to America, but thought he should connect with them one more time while he had his health. He said he would return after the new year and would resume the Friday telephone calls then. She wished him a safe and happy trip. The new year arrived and my mom never heard from Bob. She thought it rather odd, but figured he was busy since his return from Australia. When our respective birthdays, in February and April, passed without our usual birthday call or greeting card from Bob, we started to worry. We knew where he lived and casually drove past his condo. His bright-yellow Gran Torino was parked out front as usual. He was rather an odd duck, as that saying goes, so my mom laughed and said that maybe Bob brought home an Australian bride and had other interests now, so we drove away while musing about Bob’s whereabouts. But another month passed and curiosity and worry indeed got the better of us and finally in May we drove past the condo again. This time the car was gone. We went to the condo association office and said we were friends of Bob Driscoll and inquired if he had moved. She suggested we sit down and proceeded to relate a horrific story. The day before his planned trip, Bob told her, like he had my mom, that he was going for a six-week visit to his homeland. He said he had already made plans to stop his mail for the duration of the visit and he would turn the furnace down low and shut his blinds up tight since no one would be checking on his place in his absence, and he didn’t want anyone looking in the windows. He gave her the flight departure and return dates, and the contact information for one of his relatives. He told her he would stop by her office when he was back. He was taking a cab to the airport and leaving his car at the condo. She first began to worry when a few weeks passed and Bob still had not stopped in her office to visit upon his return. She noted that the car never moved day in and day out. She knocked on the door of the condo but there was no answer. She wrote a letter to the Australian relative to inquire if Bob had stayed on in Australia and soon received a reply letter to the effect that Bob had never arrived and they thought he changed his mind about the trip. She next called the Southgate Police Department. On April 1, 1994, they entered the condo and found Bob dead in bed. They suspected he died of a heart attack back in November, the night before his trip, which was confirmed later by the medical examiner.
To live and die all alone is very sad, and in this case his family figured he never really cared much about them anyway, so that he just abandoned the idea of a visit with his long-lost relatives. So we will ponder and make assumptions about the life of Pia, if that is indeed the person found in the car, just as my mom and I tried to figure out the story of our friend Bob. Sadly, it was not his time to fly back to the old country and reconnect with family and friends. Many times we wished we never found out the truth about Bob’s sad demise and would have just preferred to believe he had jetted off to Australia and decided to spend the balance of his days on earth on the “old sod”.
Post script: I get most of my news from the radio or reading current events that interest me from online sources. If you read news articles online, you often see the comments at the end of the story. Sometimes I peruse the readers’ comments; often they are heartfelt, sometimes they are silly or off-topic. For the most part, readers are pointing fingers at Pia Farrenkopf’s family for their estrangement all these years. Family ties are a funny thing. They can be ties that bind with hugs and kisses, but sometimes they are mere obligations. If you are close to your family, it is incomprehensible to fathom how family members become un-connected. My mother and her brother were estranged for decades and only “made nice” at my grandmother’s 80th birthday party and the funerals of each of my grandparents. It was at those three events that I met my uncle, his wife and their children. I never grew up knowing them as aunt and uncle, nor as my cousins. I wrote my uncle at his home address which I found in the family address book to advise that my mother had passed away, because, in my opinion, it was proper etiquette and the right thing to do. I never received an acknowledgment of my letter and quite honestly, did not expect one. It will be thirty years this May since I’ve seen or spoken to my father, who decided to leave this family and embark on a new life. These family tidbits tarnish my life somewhat, yet I am not horrified, nor ashamed of them … life must go on.