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The 1966 Car Chase

It wasn't Proust's famous madeleine. It certainly didn't evoke sweetness. My stomach churned, and I still feel nauseated and shaken. 

"NEW MILFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut State Police say a 32-year-old man avoided a trooper's gunfire during a chase through several towns that ended with a crash and his arrest." (Friday, July 17, 2015)

Flashback to a Brooklyn December Sunday afternoon in 1966. Bear in mind, the memories are from a child's point of view, so distortions are freely disclaimed. 

In 1966 my grandmother lived with my parents (z"l), my sister, and me in our row house in Brooklyn. I was a kid, and she and I shared a bedroom (something I resented in typical pre-teen fashion - I'm letting you know so you know I'm no paradigm of perfect grandchild).

May 1955
Annie Angelson was born in Russia in 1878, and in my memory, she was always an old lady. I remember her as very small, very cuddly, very old-world'ish - which made sense because she had emigrated from Russia in the early 1900's - and very superstitious. 

She was also incredibly sad. Her middle child, Jack, had died at a way too young age from cancer; her husband, my grandfather Max, had died two years earlier; and now she was stuck living with her daughter's family in the home she and Max had purchased. 

(A brief detour - story to be continued in a future post - takes Max and Annie from Brooklyn to Lake Owassa, NJ, until 1964.)

Anyway - Max had died, and Annie moved in with us. Annie hated it there. She spent her days sitting in a chair in the dining room, alternately crying, watching television, eating candy ("gumming," really since she had no teeth), and emotionally torturing the women who were hired as my parents' housekeepers. One anecdote: she kept insisting to one woman, a Polish lady, that the "Papa" - the Pope - had died, causing the poor woman to break out in hysterical tears. 

Her only happiness seemed to be the Sundays she spent at my nearby aunt and uncle's house (my mother's older brother). He picked her up in the morning and drove her home after dinner in the late afternoon/early evening. 

But this Sunday in December was different: they never made it back to my house. 

A kid - the son of some political bigwig New York somebody - stole a car somewhere, the police chased him all the way through Brooklyn, and he finally stopped after crashing sideways into my uncle's car. My grandmother was killed outright; my uncle spent the next months in and out of hospitals recovering from his life-threatening wounds. The kid's punishment is vague; all I remember is my mother's bitterness that he got off with the proverbial slap on the wrist because of his family's connections. 

[Aside: Being the ever-selfish pre-teen that I was, the accident was all my fault because I hadn't said, "Drive safely" when she and my uncle left the house that morning. Not too self-centered and control freakish, right? The bottom line is that I spent almost 30 years in a spiritually wounded state. More to come about this, too. See what happens when Pandora's box gets opened?]

That's important, though, because while I am intensely grateful to have grown up and pretty much left magical thinking behind,  here I am almost 50 years later, feeling ill after reading about a police chasing a driver for almost 29 MILES because the guy had been speeding. A later report described how the perp assaulted police and, the very next day, tried to commandeer a police cruiser while he was being taken out of a hospital; clearly this guy is no saint and deserves to have the proverbial book thrown at him. But to high-speed chase someone across town lines, on a highway, risking civilian and police lives? The only police chases that come to relatively happy endings are on television and in movies, and even there - well, the record's pretty spotty. In real life, these things usually end quite badly, even if the police do get their guy. 

So much for the joyful memories of a madeleine.  


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