A Fall From Grace


So what Ever Did Happen to Little Jimmy

 When we were older, perhaps in our twenties, my paradigm of perfection cousin Little Jimmy became engaged to a Jewish woman, Cynthia. A very sweet and likable person, she was also a musical genius who was blessed with the rare gift of perfect pitch. She had one great trick whereby if you told her an endless sequence of random numbers, she could recite them forward and backward based entirely on memory of voice pitch, but not necessarily because she memorized the numbers themselves.

Unfortunately Cynthia also had Chron’s Disease, an illness characterized by chronic inflammation of the large bowel for unknown and idiopathic reasons. This causes numerous food intolerances, cramps, diarrhea, radical weight loss, malaise, multiple drug regimens and a general feeling of misery, often culminating with a partial bowel resection, a colostomy, or usually both. At least in those days it did.

Jimmy asked me when I was home from medical school for a holiday what I thought. I told him that there was no cure, that the disease was relapsing, chronic and that he would have to temper his love with all the realities as well as the potential problems that were going to come along with it.

For good reason, Cynthia was chronically under weight and because she could not ever tolerate much of it, she became obsessed with food. Every once in awhile we would get together for a weekend at which time, being a case of craving the most the things that one can never really have, all that she and Jim would talk about was what they were going to eat at each succeeding meal.She would plan for it, then cook it but was never was able to actually eat it. They talked about food so much it came to a point of actually becoming so nauseating, that nobody else wanted to eat either.

Although Cynthia, as well as Jimmy, was a concert level musician, absences due to her illness kept her from being able to hold a regular job.

At some point Jimmy had to leave his job with the orchestra in Florida for reasons I cannot remember, which put some financial strain on the marriage. Eventually Cynthia did have to have a partial bowel resection with a colostomy, a physical issue that cannot be without its own stressful interpersonal and interactive consequences, especially when it comes to visual imagery, odors and sex.

To help make ends meet Cynthia then started giving music lessons at home; while Jimmy picked up some regular work.

The marital relationship must have slowly disintegrated, and then finally ended for good when Jimmy came home early one day only to find her giving a little more in the way of personal attention and less in the way of music lessons to two young brothers. The teenagers had apparently been learning a lot more than just their scales and had graduated to doing very nice harmonies as a sexual trio instead.

I cannot remember what Jimmy’s subsequent jobs had been, but do believe at one time he may have been a Hospital Attendant or had worked for a Social Service Agency. Whatever the case, however, he always seemed to surface when a family member was health stricken, such that he made a second career out of being an unofficially self-appointed personal home aide.

He always seemed to be around when the angel of death was lurking, and under these circumstances managed to present himself as the self-sacrificing diligent martyr; who afforded his services for only room and board. This may account for how he managed to abscond with Grandma’s best furniture pieces after she died. Who knows what else he got and from whom, for similar activities.

In any event, I gradually stopped hearing about him or from him and I don’t think he ever really lived up to those great expectations that my father and everyone else had for him.

You see the Jews are not the only people who have a tendency to play the long-suffering martyr. Italians are especially good at it too.

                                           The Martyr’s Lament 

Don’t worry about me. You go out. You leave. Take the kids, too. All of you go and have a good time. Don’t even think about it. Stay out as long as you want. Enjoy, enjoy. Have fun. And don’t worry about me. While all of you are out having a good time, I’ll just stay home alone; keeping Grandma company, maybe later cook her dinner and then after I clean up, sit and eat all by myself .


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