A Recipe for Community Building:

Misfortune, rescue, & healing laughter

Vytas Stoskus
4 min readDec 15, 2021

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A smiling elderly Al, Jr. in the setting he enjoyed most — nature — leaning on a tree stump.
Al, Jr. in his later years.

When my straight-laced sister would visit after having run off & married her fiancé’s best friend & set up housekeeping with him & his family in neighboring Canada across the Great Lake Erie, her visits home were joyous occasions. Our apartment having only 2 bedrooms meant I’d end up on the couch while she, along with her husband & kids, would reoccupy her old bedroom, complete with all her old furniture, which included a double bed.

Why a double bed for an individual young woman? Because the plan had been for her to marry the guy downstairs, with whose parents our parents had jointly bought the 2-family dwelling in an inner-city working-class neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio in 1952. The bed was to be their wedding bed. This was known in those ancient times as “planning ahead.”

Things worked out differently, however. On trips to Canada for ethnic events & friends’ weddings, my sister met & spun the head off a guy from Hamilton, Ontario who happened to be her fiancé’s old buddy from the Displaced Persons Camps (refugee camps) in post-World War 2 Germany.

On one of these happy reunions with me & her parents, she arrived with 2 kids, a girl just a little over a year old & a baby boy of just a few months. The kids slept on the top mattress which was laid out on the floor next to the bed itself while their parents slept on the bottom foundation mattress, the box springs, which remained on the bedframe located slightly higher. The room was just wide enough to accommodate the 2 side-by-side without an inch to spare.

Al Jr., needing a nap as infants often do, had been parked on the slightly higher mattress on the bedframe, but a bit too close to the edge. Sure enough, he rolled off. When the crying began, everyone rushed into the bedroom, but there was no Al Jr., just the sound of his wailing from underneath the bed. Like a pinball, he had ricocheted off the edge of the mattress, which had conveniently cushioned his fall but had also sent him rolling onto the wooden floor under the bedframe supporting the other mattress.

To extricate him became the challenge. There he was trying his utmost to imitate an ambulance siren to accent the urgency of his situation, but he was being of no help…

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Vytas Stoskus

Social psychologist, psychotherapist (Worldwide thru Skype), conflict mediator; organizational, creativity, & unschooling consultant; Heretic, outside agitator.