I’m sure Santa Cruz has its share of goofy news too, but I swear Mad magazine could stay in business for a long long time by just reporting daily events in Cincinnati. All one has to do is scan the local section of the Enquirer for a week or two. One recent rash of strange happenings has involved on the actions of our elderly population. I’m not sure whether it’s fluoride in the water or perhaps the cumulative outcome of years of frustration with the Bengals, but there appears to be a growing social phenomena in Cincinnati which might appropriately be labeled Revenge of the Cranky Old Folks.
Because it made the national news, you might have heard about 89-year-old Blue Ash grandmother, Edna Jestor, who was arrested and charged by police with petty theft when she confiscated the neighborhood childrens’ football after it landed repeatedly in her yard. One of the kids’ mothers claimed that Mrs. Jestor has kept ten of the children’s footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls, though Mrs. Jestor insists it’s only three. Mrs. Jestor responded to the parents’ complaints: “That’s my only way of getting through to these (horrid) children.” After some weeks the court dismissed the charges, citing insufficient evidence of culpability. Mrs. Jestor stays vigilant, and the neighborhood remains on edge.
Another Cincinnati elder, Charles Marten, 67, got even more agitated about protecting his property boundaries. When a neighbor kid, Larry Musgrove Jr., age 15, walked across his lawn, Mr. Marten sat on the porch and waited for him to return. When Larry eventually did come back and stepped on the lawn again, Marten mowed him down with his .410-gauge shotgun. He then phoned 911, calmly reporting, “I just killed a kid.” Marten told the judge that his lawn was extremely important to him, that he mowed it every five days, and that the teenager had trespassed on it many times in the past. The judge, no spring chicken himself, wasn’t that sympathetic. Cranky old Mr. Marten will be eligible for parole review at age 83 (by which time his lawn will be taller than cornstalks).
In Cincinnati and probably elsewhere, old folks and guns just seem like a bad mix. According to another recent Enquirer story, 86-year-old Kou-Hwo Li, owner of the Wok and Roll Restaurant in Springdale, had had an argument in 2004 with his 34-year-old nephew and co-worker, Cheng Zheng. Though they have gotten along fine for the five years since the argument, the past blowup seems to have been percolating in the tiny recesses of Mr. Li’s brain. It’s a little unclear what set him off anew, but Mr. Li recently shot his nephew in the back five times outside the Wok and Roll. Then he reloaded his gun in front of the Bead Crazy store and put a slug right between his eyes. Mr. Li’s son witnessed the whole thing in horror. The detective in charge speculated that Mr. Li’s argument with his nephew five years earlier was the cause: “He was an older guy so maybe it just sort of lingered.”
It is clear there is a lot of stuff out there for old people to get really upset about. One good example is the case of Doug and Harriet Thomson, ages 70 and 69, who had to put down their 14-year-old Labrador when it had a stroke. That’s bad enough. But then they applied to Dachshund Rescue of Ohio to adopt a 1-year-old puppy that they found online. The rescue people told them they could adopt a 6 year old dog, but not a 1 year old dog. The reason: “You need to chase after some of these young dogs and you can’t do that when you’re 70.” Perhaps because they were licensed by the state to care for foster children, the Thomson were pretty irritated about their rejection as puppy adopters. But, with no gun at hand, they didn’t respond with violence. Instead they bought a baby poodle from a Latonia breeder.
Losing a puppy is one thing, but losing your dead spouse for eternity is over the top. Roger and Jayne Philips had purchased a double-decker lawn crypt at Spring Grove Cemetery which was designed for couples to rest together forever, bunk-bed style. Roger has been buried there since his death in 2003, and Mrs. Philips has anticipated joining him. However, she missed a couple of monthly payments, and Spring Grove resold the top half of the crypt to one Maggie Brammel for her burial on April 1, 2009. As you might expect, Mrs. Philips didn’t take this lightly. She was quoted as saying, “I was supposed to be on top when my time came. No disrespect to this woman. But I never shared my husband. We always laid together. We were always faithful to each other in life. Now I definitely don’t want another woman on top of him in death.” It would seem that Mrs. Philips has a convincing point, but the cemetery refuses to budge. I wonder how pretty Ms. Brammel was and what Mr. Philips might have thought about it all.
While older folks have often been viewed as helpless victims, our local oldies aren’t just sitting around like bumps on a log. When two twentysomethings observed Art Lemmen, 89, cashing a social security check, they followed him to his house, hit him on the head, grabbed his money, and made a run for it. Lemmen chased them down the street, shouting at the top of his voice, “Where are you going with my money?” Finally he thought what am I doing, called 911, and went back home to clean up the Frosty that he’d spilled all over the front steps. The cops did catch the crooks, and the prosecutor was amazed at Lemmen’s detailed testimony. Lemmen himself was unimpressed. "I'm just an old goat," he said. "When you get to be my age, nothing much bothers you." He worried momentarily about possible retaliation, but decided that he still had the jui jitsu skills that he’d learned in World War II, so that if anyone messes with him “we’ll have a good tussle.”
Another person who took things into his own hands and let them know that he isn’t going to take it any more is 92-year-old Sidney Lisimbee. Mr. Lisimbee is a deacon in the New Prospect Baptist Church. One recent Thursday morning he called the police at 5:15 a.m to say that people were outside the door of his low-income, senior apartment dwelling. He was afraid they might shoot him. The dispatcher told him the police were on the way. When the police arrived and knocked on his door, Mr. Lisimbee shot at them through the door with his 38-caliber handgun. He didn’t hit any of the police, and they arrested him, charged him with felonious assault, and took his guns away. The charges were later dropped, though the Metropolitan Housing Authority did proceed to evict a now weaponless Mr. Lisimbee.
What are we to make of all this? Is there, in fact, a revolution brewing? Will things get worse as mounting numbers of baby boomers enter senior citizenry? My mother-in-law Helen used to say that one of the great perks of growing old is that you can say or do any thing that you want to, and people just attribute it to your advanced age. The media, of course, are skewed toward dramatic events, and we should keep in mind that not all of the post-60 folks have lost their minds. One can’t be too careful though. I keep an eye out for gray-haired people on Ludlow Avenue more than I used to, and I have been thinking about getting myself a gun.