Lightning Struck My Great-Grandmother: a 120-Year-Old Story

I learned a number of years ago that one of the reasons I exist is because my great-grandmother was buried up to her neck in dirt. This may be apocryphal.

My grandfather told me this story. He passed away more than a decade ago. When he was running a furniture store in Poughkeepsie, a business man showed up one day raising funds for some charity. As that got to talking, it turned out this fellow had grown up as a young man in Lithuania, and where my father's parents four parents came from. Even more interestingly, he knew Janova, the city of four of those great-grandparents of mine.

Then my grandfather discovers, the guy had lived in his grandparents' house—he was a yeshiva bocher, which literally means a young man who is studying. They had taken him in, maybe as a mitzvah, while he pursued Torah or academic studies. And this businessman had a story.

My father's father's mother, Dora, had been struck by lightning as a girl and taken ill, while this man was staying with her family. This would have been before about 1895. Nothing seemed to improve her health. The village healer suggests burying her up to her neck in the earth—to ground her, quite literally. This apparently works (in the story).

So many unknowns in the story. My grandfather had a yiddisher kop (was a smart guy), but not always good at knowing if he was being spun a yarn. (His cousin, Selma, once told me that Yiddish for very smart was shpitzidick—very sharp—but I can't find that in any Yiddish compendia. She also taught me shpilkes in hinten—meaning antsy, or literally pins in your bottom.)

Did the charity fundraiser elicit details and then spin them back with this story? Certainly, burying someone up to their neck isn't an actual cure for being struck by lightning, even though it is still pursued. Small villages, like the shtetl that was Janova, might have had a healer or two, practicing folk medicine. Maybe a feldscher, which would be either a kind of moderately trained military field surgeon, or someone who used the name and pursued similar training.

I told my boys, aged 7 and 10, this story last night, a kind of thread that carries them back at least four generations—to at least my grandfather, who told me this story, and they never met—and maybe five or six, to their great-great-grandmother, who met me before she died, and even to her parents. And the story may even be true.

Important Dishwasher Update

I realize that all five of you have been wondering about the update to the dishwasher situation. It turned out worse case/best case.

To recap: everything went to hell in and around our house and then order resumed. The dishwasher, however, continued to leak. We talked to a highly rated local repairman, who advised us based on age and model to replace it. We tried. The installers came and claimed (maybe true) that they couldn't squeeze the replacement in. (Thanks, Sears, for charging my card and not refunding the price nearly four weeks later. Second pissy email sent, and will be filing a complaint with my credit-card company next.)

So we convinced the repairman to come out, who charged us $55 for an hour or more of testing and consultation, during which he determined that even if we put $300 of parts and a few hours of his time in, the thing might still leak and it wasn't worth keeping alive.

Cue figuring out how to get a well-reviewed dishwasher that didn't cost $1,200 and that would fit in the space. We needed a "short tub" (under 33 1/2 inches tall), which are for some reason also in the ADA Compliant category. I gather that they have lower racks, perhaps, and thus easier to load with disabilities? Not sure.

We wound up ordering from a local appliance company, Albert Lee, a Bosch SGE63E15UC. Not cheap at about $800 with free delivery, but the only thing that would both fit and people didn't hate. (Other suggested units had terrible reviews.)

We then also had to hire our regular contractor, now mostly retired but willing to do some work for us, to come out because the plumbing and electrical weren't quite right. The folks who three-quarter-assedly renovated the house when they owned it 25 years ago put the cutoff valve for the water behind the dishwasher, instead of under the sink. And it was also too high off the floor. The Bosch likely wouldn't have fit, because it had nearly no clearance above the valve.

Our contractor cut a bunch of holes, swore a lot, dropped a few things, and managed to replumb it to work. Then the Bosch arrived with some strange attachments, and he drilled a few more big holes, and got it all together, leveled, and running. We'll probably owe him $300 or so for his hours of work.

Not cheap, but in a family of four with two growing boys, I think necessary. Lynn grew up washing dishes by hand, and it's not terrible to do so. But the new dishwashers are actually relatively efficient compared with handwashing: time, energy, and water consumed. Based on initial loading of the new machine, I think it might hold twice as many dishes as the old one, as bizarre as that seems as it takes up the same space. And it looks like it's even more energy efficient than the model it replaced, as well as using less water. So we might use 25% to 33% the water and energy per dish, and thus pay back the high cost quickly enough to take the sting away.