Monday, December 18, 2006

Rumors of My Demise...

If you have never overheard a conversation about yourself, it's a little like being at your own funeral. Since I have lived in the same small town for my entire life, with short detours for school, everyone knows my family. But not everyone knows me, specifically. I'm my parents' only daughter. Quite often I get "are you an Olinger?" based solely on my looks. Sometimes I'm asked which brother I married when a cashier or teller reads the name. But today was something special. I was standing in a line at the Roche Brothers checkout when I overheard my family name.

"I haven't seen Lanie Olinger in a while," said one little old lady. Lanie is my mother. The two little old ladies were both short, ancient, and white-haired. They could have been anyone.

They mispronounced the name, but large portions of the local population are convinced they pronounce it correctly, yet don't. This is because my father and brothers are all passive aggressive and won't correct people. My brothers are actually such wimps that they adopted the other phonetic rather than admit they've been wussing out for 40 years. As a result of this my nieces and nephews also mispronounce their own name. You can probably tell by now that this annoys me. I still correct them.

Anyway, back to the two little old ladies... They proceeded to have a very long conversation about mum, which rolled around eventually) to me. Gotta love those long holiday lines.

"Her daughter has been very ill. She was in the hospital for a very long time," one said sadly. "Emphysema and cancer, I believe."

"Ohh, that's too bad. She's a lovely girl." (I'm 41, appreciate the lovely... and I'm standing right there!)

At this point they could not decide if it was me who died recently or somebody else's daughter. (Just for the record I don't have emphysema and have been cancer free for a month, but was never hospitalized. My Nana 'Rie used to call that "wishin' it on ye.")

Now, the fun bit about this is that both of these women smiled and thanked me when I invited them to jump ahead of me in line. They smiled and thanked me when I dug up a spare dividing stick for them to place on the conveyer. They gossiped away and occasionally smiled and nodded while they were doing it. Not so much as a blink. Looking right at me.

Well, to quote Mark Twain, another New England writer (of much greater success and fame), rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. And I can't help but think of my favorite author, Terry Pratchett's wonderful Granny Weatherwax, who is so often found lying in a meditative state with a sign on her chest that reads "I ain't dead."

The name, by the way, is Olinger as in OWE-rhymes with grow, LING-rhymes with sing, GER-like what your dog does when he's cranky. If you hear a handsome guy somewhere in New England say it incorrectly, slap him in the back of the head and tell him it's from me.

It was a very, very odd experience, but I can't help but wonder if it was also some kind of message. Perhaps I need to be more alive in 2007. While I work on a game plan, do me a favor? Spread the news... I'm still here.

3 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

R.G. ALEXANDER said...

That is beyond surreal. I think the one thing that can never be said about your life is that its boring or uninteresting. Which is a good thing. Right? :}
Plus-Good Goddess is it full of great story material!LOL

Anonymous said...

I am also an Olinger and glad to hear that I have been pronouncing my surname correctly. I do sometimes struggle with my given name. Dan is tough!! Fun Blog and an enjoyable story.

Chrissy said...

Thanks Dan! Nice to meet you, cuz.

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