A Week of Contrasts in Roland Park

May 27, 2011|By Kathy Hudson

Within an hour on Monday we received the news that one of Roland Park’s bright lights, Jill Palkovitz, was fading and that we had a healthy, six-pound, four-ounce great-niece in Pittsburgh.

My husband and I were with Jill when my sister-in-law put the good news of the new baby on our answering machine. We heard it after we came home from Long Green Nursing Center in Homeland, where Jill had spent most of her time since January. In between she’d had a few more trips to Sinai Hospital.

In both places, except when there was an imbalance in her system, she was always herself: funny, full of life, sharp as a tack. Just last Thursday she did a wicked imitation (albeit in a quiet voice) of the Texas twang and accent she had had on arrival in Baltimore 30 years ago. My husband said at the time, “No wonder you liked linguistics.” I’d forgotten she’d received a master’s in linguistics from Hopkins.

Just then I realized why the three of us always spent a long time talking whenever we met. Jill was not only an artist, a designer of clothes and one of the most creative people my artist husband has ever known. Like me, she was also a lover of words.

When we talked, whether it was at our next-door neighbors’ where we first met, on walks on Roland Avenue or on Hawthorn Road where Jill, her husband and two children lived, our talks felt like a ping pong game. We'd warm up with pleasantries, then one of us would say something. Jill would return a reply with a clever twist, my husband or I would add a comment and back to Jill it would go.

It was always hard ending these conversations, even when we visited her at Sinai or Long Green. “You talk,” she’d say. At first I thought that meant she was too tired to talk and would listen instead, but Jill never stopped returning the conversational volley until the last hours of her life.

I’ve been hearing her drawl since Monday evening. I’m a poor imitator, but I am looking forward to picking up that baby great-niece and trying to say, “Hiii!” just as Jill would. Although unrelated, that little girl in Pittsburgh will always make me think of our Roland Park Texan, who died too young.

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