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Story ID:597
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Location:Walton New York United States
Person:Linda and Jeffrey
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By Fred Wickert

I feel terrible. What good am I? I feel so useless. What an awful feeling to have. It downright hurts. I can’t stand this.

My adopted daughter, her husband and those two beautiful children are suffering, and I do nothing. I can do nothing. It is only possible to pray, and that I have done plenty of. I just hope it will be enough.

It all began on a Tuesday afternoon, the last week of June. It is now Sunday, July 1st and it continues.

Fifteen years ago, a Chinese family opened a restaurant in a nearby town where we do our shopping, get medical and pharmacy services, banking services and the nearest feed and garden supply store. My wife and I were delighted. We went often. The family was warm and friendly and we became good friends.

There were two sons. The oldest had a bride. After a time, the oldest son opened a restaurant in another town about thirty miles away. His wife had a baby boy, and the mother of the family took care of the baby while the mother worked in the restaurant.

One day, the younger son, with a very bright smile on his face, handed my wife and I an envelope. The envelope contained an invitation to his wedding in China Town in New York City. We could not go, but were honored that we were invited. If we had been able to attend, we would have been the only non Chinese there. We expressed our regrets and gave a gift. The restaurant was closed for two days for the wedding.

The next time we went to the restaurant, we met the new bride. A lovely girl named Linda. We were treated to the loan of a video tape of the wedding, and were given a set of the still pictures, which we treasure. Linda was a beautiful bride. Our friend Kin Man had chosen well.

My wife and I made frequent trips to the Capital District area of Albany, the state capital, and neighboring city of Schenectady. We had invited the mother of the family to accompany us from time to time. Now we invited Linda. Linda was a wonderful, bright and enjoyable companion on those trips.

The time came when Linda, of whom my wife and I had become very fond, became pregnant. She never stopped working in the restaurant, right up until it was time. The doctor’s office was on the opposite end of town from the restaurant. We were concerned about her. She was already on her feet for long hours in the restaurant, and then she walked all the way to the doctor’s office when she had appointments. More than half of the trip was up hill, though it was down hill on her way back. She took it in her stride.

Eventually, the grand event occurred in the first week of July. A son came into the world and was named Jeffrey. We among others, delighted in watching Jeffrey grow. We delighted more in having her bring him to our house and watch his animation as he interacted with the dog, cats and birds.

The time came when there was an opportunity to get a restaurant of their own. There was a Chinese restaurant in Walton, forty miles away, that the operators were going to retire. They were looking for someone to buy out their equipment and take over the business. Our couple became the new proprietors of the business. They lived upstairs over the restaurant. They rented the space in the building, and took the apartment above. They also took the adjacent apartment and hired two cooks who use the second apartment.

In the beginning, they did well. It was a struggle for a couple of years to make ends meet, but they did. We missed them terribly and drove to Walton as often as we could to see them. They in turn always felt badly because we traveled so far to see them, and as we have become elderly, they were always concerned it was too much for us, which of course, it wasn’t. It was a fifty three mile journey, but we didn’t mind.

There were always gifts for us, and no amount of protest would stop them from giving. Linda made the trip to our house as often as she could, always loaded down with gifts.

One year a different kind of Christmas present came along. It was a beautiful little girl named Cindy. If you have never been in love, all you have to do is meet Cindy one time and you will be in love instantly.

We began getting together, Linda and the children, Linda’s mother in law, and her sister in law, and us, for mothers day and it has become a tradition. One year, Linda announced to me, “Fathers Day, I’m taking you out for lunch.” She took me, my wife, her father in law and her mother in law all out to the Capital District for the day and we had a wonderful time. I announced that day that I was adopting her as my daughter. My wife made it a point that all heard it.

Soon after, we received a letter in which she said she loved being our daughter, and that she saw us more often than her real parents. She was happy with the idea. When my birthday came in the fall, she presented me with a card and a nice gift. The card said,

“It’s wonderful to have a Dad
Who’s such a special man –
You’re always there to give advice
And help out
When you can . . .

There were a few tears of joy in this grown mans eyes.

The years have come and gone. Many happy occasions have been enjoyed. She and her family come to our house for Christmas. We have Thanksgiving together. We enjoy Mothers Day and Fathers Day. She never forgets my birthday or my wife’s. She is always concerned about us and always tells us, to be sure to let her know if we need any help of any kind at any time.

Last Tuesday evening, after several days of heavy rain, with no warning at all, the East Branch of the Delaware River overflowed its banks in the vicinity of Walton, New York where they live. In a couple of minutes water four feet high had rushed into their restaurant. They rushed for hoped for safety to the stairs leading to their apartment over the restaurant. Once up the stairs, they used the cell phone to call 911 for help.

Four hours later, volunteer fireman arrived with a boat in ten feet of water, and took them to safety. They were taken to the fire house where they found many others who had been rescued. There they had to stay for the remainder of Tuesday night, all day Wednesday and Wednesday night, and at 11:00 A.M.Thursday, they were given the okay to walk back to their restaurant and apartment.

Everything was a shambles. Everything in the restaurant in the way of groceries and restaurant supplies was destroyed. A coating of three inches of mud covered every thing. The electric cash register was destroyed; the motors in the walk in cooler, the freezer, refrigerator, and soda pop coolers were probably worthless. There was electricity, but no water and no sewage. How does one clean up such a mess without water? The phone system was ripped out, and both cars, one of them new, were destroyed.

With the possible exception of the cars, insurance will not cover any of it. What are they to do? It is their livelihood.

I know they need help, though they will not ask. I want desperately to get there to help them, but I can not. The roads getting to Walton are closed. There are no ways to get into and out of Walton. The entire town is shut down and lies under debris and mud. The clean up task is enormous. I, her brother and his brother are all unable to get there to help them.

It is a feeling of total frustration and total helplessness. Take it from me. It hurts. We love our adopted family dearly. If we were in trouble, they would be there to help us in a heart beat. Yet, when they need all the help they can get, we can not be there for them. It is total FRUSTRATION.

There is one other sad note to all of this. Linda called me around the end of February or the beginning of March. She knew I went to Oneonta every week. Her son Jeffrey was taking piano lessons and progressing very well. He had been playing on an electronic key board. The teacher said he would not be able to go any farther without a real piano. Linda and her husband had been saving their money for months to buy a piano. Linda had tried to find a decent used upright piano in Walton and Delhi, but had not been able to find anything more than junk. She wanted to meet me in the city of Oneonta, and asked me to help her choose a piano there.

We met as arranged. We went to a piano store that had several used upright pianos. We found a Kwai piano in excellent condition, far superior in sound quality, and a piano tuners dream. It was about $350 more than she was prepared to spend, but it was so much better than what was available for what she could afford. She called her husband and he said for her to decide. She bought the Kwai.

Jeffrey was delighted with the piano and did very well. He excelled at a recent recital and his teacher said the quality of the piano had been a help in the achievement.

The piano was also under water. I went to the piano store. They repair and rebuild them there. They remembered Linda and I and they remembered the piano. They said it was a shame, but once under water like that, there is no saving them. They also lamented the loss in particular as they remembered the specific piano and its superior quality. They said it could never be replaced. They don’t make them any more and the chances of finding another one like that would be like finding two more original Mona Lisa paintings.

Jeffery has his 9th birthday this week. Happy birthday Jeffery. I wish I could replace your piano. Forgive me for being such an inadequate third grandfather.

Anybody want to donate a good piano?

July 21, 2006 update:

My daughters family is doing all right. They are tired, but healthy and well and in good spirits. FEMA has said they will not help them. They do not help businesses, but homes only. They are on their own according to FEMA. The insurance company has declared both cars a total loss, and has towed them away. They have not yet given them a check for the cars which were both insured. The landlord has said it is their business and he had no flood insurance, so even the building damage is their problem in the area of the restaurant.

The photos show the aftermath, both in the restaurant and outside the building.

UPDATE, September 3, 2006

Repairs are still going on. Little by little things are returning to normal. Some things are repaired, work for a while and conk out again. The insurance company finally paid for the two cars that were destroyed. They have one cheaper car now but it is okay. Last night, Kin Man, Linda's husband worked half the night after closing the restaurant, trying to get the restaurant dining room furnace working. It had not been a priority before but evenings in the mountains are begining to get chilly. While working on the furnace, he surprised a burglar trying to break in the rear door. The burglar was frightened and fled. Had he not been working on the furnace, they would have suffered greater loss. What kind of low life would victimize them further?