When you've had the Best, Forget the Rest

The Weather Forcaster on the radio would have said “Sunny and 70 here in Ticonderoga,” that day, except radio hadn’t made it to Ticonderoga just yet, and wouldn’t until 22 years later in 1954.
But a bright sunshiny day it was that June 25th in 1932. It was a quiet Saturday, even the news was taking the day off, unless you consider Walter Waters resigning as leader of the Washington DC Bonus Army movement a major “thing.” The winds were even calm, and Lake George sparkled in the morning sun.
What was NOT calm, was the scene on Grace Avenue. There, Laura Denesha Provoncha was full term with a little girl baby that would become my mother. Born that day to Laura and my Grandfather Fred Provoncha, Ann Streeter would grow up with older brothers, and two younger siblings, Tom and Peg.
Fred owned a grocery store on Lake George Avenue and came through the depression era only slightly better than some. My mother would spend time at the store playing on the wooden floor, much to the chagrin on my Grandmother who was a much more fastidious woman.
For all the advantages of growing up on the “right side” of town, my mother was a sickly child, and would remain so for the great bulk of her life. Much later in life I would joke with her, that she would probably pass from Testicular Cancer. It was never terribly clear, to my sister or I, just how many of the illnesses that she suffered from were real versus imagined.
None the less, her sicknesses never left my Mom by the wayside. Frankly, I’ve never met a tougher fighter or a more dogged personality in my lifetime. She was ALWAYS victorious in virtually everything she ever did, right up until the end and both Laurie and I were mystified as to how she might have lost that battle as well. She was, as my father would say, one “tough bird.”
Through my early life, she was involved in every aspect of my school and/or extra-curricular activities. If I was involved in something, she was THERE, front and center, to cheer me on. When I joined the Cub Scouts of America, she served as Den Mother. Had it not been for the rules, she most likely would have been a Scoutmaster when I graduated to the Boy Scouts.
In School, she became the “lunch lady.” She sat in the hallway and sold lunch tickets at a quarter apiece. While I’m positive the income was needed at home, the REAL reason for her being there, was to “monitor” the activities of her wayward son while marching through the halls of Ti High. More than once I forgot she was there, and was caught “red handed” pulling one prank or another, and getting keelhauled in front of my associates.
I recall one time, getting into a knock down, drag out fight on the front lawn of the High School. For the life of me I can’t remember WHY we were fighting…it may well have been something quite simple, but apparently my foe and I were locked in battle when my mother showed up. One can only imagine how I felt being dragged off my opponent and yanked by the ear to the car, all the while being told that we were going straight down to see the Father at the Church, and there I WOULD straightened out properly. I begged, pleaded in fact, to just take me home and beat me instead, to no avail.
There was a time, in Pearls Department Store, when I was really quite young, that I decided to throw an all out tantrum. Now for those of you who really know me, this will remain a mystery as to how or why I would ever do such a thing, but legend has it, that I did. She simply walked away. When the store manager stopped her, she said, “That’s NOT my little boy.” She was having nothing, whatever, to do with an errant 4 year old, nothing at all.
How it is that I survived such a terrible unbringing is still under serious discussion and evaluation, but it appears that somehow I’ve managed.
My Mom was a waitress, or as we’d call them today, a “member” of the “wait staff” in Paradox Lake after High School. College was not a consideration, nor was living at home and mooching off from parents. She found work, and she hustled to build a life for herself.
My Father, Robert Sr., intervened.
Boy’s will be boys it is said, and my Father was all boy. One look at young Ms. Provoncha in her waitressing outfit and it was all over but the crying. He leaned over and told him friend Louis Bogle, “that’s the girl I’m going to marry.” He’d never so much as said “hello,” but he was CERTAIN.
Married on September 12, 1952, the same day and hour as John Fitzgerald and Jaqueline Kennedy, the two said “I Do” at St. Mary’s Church on Father Jaques Place in Ticonderoga New York. My father moved from Hague to Ti, eventually landing on Lord Howe Street.
However, fate would have it’s opportunity to play havoc with the relationship.
Dad, never a notorious drinker, and Louis Bogle, also not exactly a beersman, both enjoyed visiting the local establishments once in a while, and had done so, as friends, for a few years having grown up together.
On Saturday night, upon returning home from such an evening, My father found his shoes and a suitcase on the front porch with a note attached. A decision was required by Mrs. Streeter, of Mr. Streeter. Either he was going to be a husband, or a drinker and carouser. It appeared that he wasn’t being given the opportunity to be both.
Wisely, he chose the former, and thus I grew up with a dad. While he might have a beer ocassionally, I can tell you that his carousing career came to a calamitous halt thereafter, and another discussion on the matter was never required.
I came along in September of 1954. I was always happy to inform anyone who would listen, in our later relationship, that my I’d been born on September 3rd, and my parents married on September 12th. Coyly leaving out the years, an unknowing person might draw a completely awkward (in those days) conclusion. I would laugh with delight, my mother on the other hand, gave me “that look.”
My Grandmother Provoncha died when I was but six months old, leaving my mother without a source of guidance and support. At the same time or nearly so, my Grandfather Provoncha was diagnosed with Tuburculosis and was admitted as an in-patient at Ray Brook NY. This left two young teens in the home to mind themselves, and anyone who knows my brother/uncle Tom can tell you, that this was NOT a satisfactory arrangement.
My Dad and Mom moved to Grace Avenue, and thus tragedy of certainty was avoided.
It also let me to being tied to a tree.
Literally.
Grace Avenue must have been far busier in those days than it is today, because it appears that I had all kinds of difficulty staying OUT of the road. My kids would often hear me tell them (in jest mind you) to go play in the road, but this was not yet a thing and my mother was having nothing to do with it. Her solution was simple. She got a rope, measured twice, cut once, and then tied me to a tree in the front yard so as to limit my ability to make friends with passersby on the highway.
It’s weird too, because ever since, I’ve been outstanding by the highway, trying to make friends.
My mother, as I said earlier, was a strong woman. We never “feared” her, but my father taught me to have tremendous respect for her. Failing to do so was not an option, or even an aquired taste. One “taste” of the razor strap would convince most mere mortals that it was easier to comply with directives than to seek forgiveness for having not.
I was, I am sure, the original “handful” when it came to children. My mother, God Bless her, never let me know that. She cheered me on, brought me meals, and stood rock solid in my corner at every turn of events. She could be, in one fell swoop, a Defense Attorney, and then Judge, Jury and Executioner.
When my Dad died at age 50, he left a woman of 48 who had lived with a man who placed her, and kept her, on the proverbial pedestal. She was, in a sense, a “kept” woman, who had no need to learn to balance a checkbook, pay bills, or any other thing that we all think as normal today. She contributed at every level, but my dad protected her with every ounce of will in his body, and that was a considerable thing, given his size and personality.
I moved my family back to Ticonderoga in the aftermath of his death, and the roles became reversed. Suddenly I was “Robert” and not “Bobby” and it fell to me, to get control of things and transition her through an incredibly difficult time.
I can attest to her stubborn streak personally, and without any fear. I wanted to get her to learn to type so that she had a “skill” that was marketable and thus, hirable. This steely eyed woman was having NOTHING to do with learning to type, and to her dying day, could not do so.
We sold the house on Lord Howe Street. She wanted to sell it for cash and split the money with my sister and I. It was a touching thought, but my father would have arisen from the grave and beat me to death had I allowed it. I sold the house “on time” and the payments, for many years, kept her afloat.
My sister became the “heavy lifter” of the family after 1983. She and Mom would live together for years in the Plattsburgh area. I would return occassionally to visit, but I never stayed.
And so it was, on a bitter cold April morning in 2013, that I found myself back in Ticonderoga, sitting on the dock of the bay. The night before, I’d delivered my Mother’s Eulogey. A few days before that, after sleeping on the floor next to her hospital bed, I’d had the great gift of holding her hand when she passed.
I had a mission that day, and I intended to see it through. Against everyones wishes and desires, I’d chosen to be a pallbearer for my Mother. It was ceremonially “inproper” I was told. My anwer, I thought, was clear and consise and left no margin for misunderstanding.
“My Mother carried me into this world,” I said, “it’s my intention to carry her out of it.”
When I set the casket on the grave, I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. It wasn’t the heaviness of the casket, but a relief knowing that I had done what my Father would have done had he lived long enough to do so. He had loved this woman from the moment he saw her across a crowded room, and he loved her, even beyond the grave.
My mother would never remarry. While I’d tell her occassionally, that I wouldn’t mind calling someone else “Daddy” if he was well to do, her response was always the same: “Once you’ve had the best, you don’t need the rest.”
I was, after all, a fortunate man. I had the best Mother in the world, and I still do.
Happy 87th Birthday Anne M. Streeter. You are Missed.
Greatly.

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