I took a last minute trip to Virginia the week before Christmas. My great uncle died.
He was the last of nine siblings. At our last family reunion, which occurred 3-4 weeks after I found out my husband was cheating on me, there were two left. My Uncle Donnie and my Uncle Gene. Uncle Donnie was actually the youngest of the nine. He died a year later on Christmas Day.
I loved my Uncle Gene. He always told the best stories. He was an amazing storyteller. He spent over 30 years as a state trooper so he had a lot of stories. I hadn’t seen him since 2016, a few days before I moved back to Indiana. I went mainly to be a support for my mom. Originally I hadn’t planned on going at all. I didn’t really have the time to take off. But this was going to be difficult for my mom so I went. She drove and I flew. It turned out they planned the visitation on Tuesday and the funeral on Wednesday. I couldn’t take that much time but there was a flight that left here at 6 in the morning and would get to Virginia by 10:30 so I could make it in time for the graveside service.
Why am I telling you all of this? I will tell you why. The first thing out of the mobster’s mouth upon hearing that he had died and we would be attending the funeral was, “I want to be there for you; I want to support you and your mom.” He rearranged his route and put things off all so he could accompany me to this funeral.
To most of you that might not seem like anything out of the ordinary. To me, it was extraordinary.
During the twenty years I was married to Jerry Lee I lost both of my grandmothers and my sole surviving grandfather.
In 1999, almost five years after we got married, Jerry Lee accompanied me from Mississippi up to Indiana for my grandpa’s funeral only after my mother threw an absolute fit upon hearing that he might not come with me.
“What do you mean, ‘He might not be able to come?’ That’s your grandfather and he’s your husband. He should be by your side.”
Yes, you read that correctly. He wasn’t sure he could take that much time off of work. Ironically, my grandfather’s visitation was on a Saturday (could have been Friday and Saturday) and his funeral was on a Sunday. I remember because my dad and aunt talked about how my grandma paid more to have it on Father’s Day instead of waiting until Monday. So Jerry Lee wasn’t missing much work. Three to four days at the most.
The funny thing is this was my dad’s father, not my mom’s. Yet, she was still incensed at the idea that Jerry Lee would allow me to travel 8-10 hours on my own and attend my grandfather’s funeral by myself.
So, he acquiesced and made the trip with me. Had my mom not thrown that fit, which in turn made me lean harder on him, he would not have gone with me. I have absolutely no doubt that if I hadn’t pushed he wouldn’t have gone. The sad fact is I’d come to expect that from him already at only five years into the marriage. It didn’t seem that unnatural for him to choose not to come with me.
My Mamaw died in 2007 when we were living out in Utah. I made the 30+ hour drive by myself. Well, with my two young children I should say. They were 7 and almost 5 at the time. Not big helps when it came to driving by any means.
I got the news on a Saturday that she had taken a turn for the worse and they didn’t expect her to live much longer. Father’s Day was that Sunday and so as to not ruin Father’s Day for him and take his kids away from him on “his” day I waited until later in the day on Sunday, probably around 5 or 6, before I finally left. I remember driving until around midnight and stopping at a hotel in Nebraska. Picasso had no interest in sleeping for some reason so I locked the door, put the chain on it and went to sleep, letting him stay up as long as he desired. I was woken up by a small boy straddling me and staring down at my face. When I reluctantly opened my eyes he greeted me with the chipper greeting, “Wake-y, wake-y!” It was five or six in the morning.
I got back on the road and discovered a few hours later that the air conditioning that had just been fixed was once again broken. The mechanic had warned me the belt might break. I forget why now. As luck would have it my father-in-law worked at the automotive center at Wal-Mart and if we could get to Kentucky and buy a belt he had a co-worker that could put it on for us. We drove from Nebraska to Kentucky with no air. I started driving at six in the morning and didn’t arrive at my in-law’s place until just after midnight. I was exhausted.
The belt was bought and replaced. I drove the remaining four to six hours and finally we got there. My Mamaw was still alive. She held on for four days, I think, if not more, before she finally let go.
He was not there with me. He didn’t even have his company send flowers. I made a 30+ hour drive to watch my beloved Mamaw die and he couldn’t be bothered to be with me. He had to work. We’d been married over ten years at that point.
Four years later my sole remaining grandparent died. We were still in Utah. Again, he couldn’t bother coming with me. He didn’t have the time to spare. So once again I grabbed the kids, put them in the minivan, and made the drive. This time the drive was only about 24 hours so I got a bit of a break. But once again I was alone while burying a loved one.
In contrast, when his father died in 2010 I got the kids excused from school, got their homework, boarded our two dogs at two different places, finished up the laundry, cleaned the house, put both kids in the minivan and drove all night long to get to him so he wouldn’t have to go to the family visitation or the funeral without me. I pulled over around 8 in the morning at a rest area to sleep for a bit. I left the van running, the air on, a SpongeBob video in the DVD player, and locked the doors while I took a nap so I didn’t run off the road and kill us all.
Twenty years and he went to one out of three of my grandparent’s funerals with me. Hell, he didn’t go with me to his step grandfather’s funeral. My mom accompanied me and a year old Rock Star. That funeral took place only a few days before 9/11. I remember driving home that day, wondering if we were going to be safe or if there might be another attack. I actually asked him if he thought it would be safe if we drove back or if we should stay there. Naturally he didn’t think there was any danger. Aside from one gas station with some high gas prices he was correct, I suppose.
The mobster has been with me for less than three years and he volunteered to go to a funeral with me. He brought it up before I ever had a chance to. His attitude was, “Of course I will be going with you!”
It wasn’t just that he was willing to go to this funeral with me either. There were many family members there that he had never met. Jerry Lee had never met them because he never went to Virginia with me. Yet here was the mobster. I was taking him by Mamaw’s house, sharing memories with him. He met my uncle (my mom’s brother). He met many of my cousins. He chatted with them. The restaurant was filled with family and the mobster didn’t bat an eye. He was amazing.
He kept asking me if Jerry Lee had been there or if I had shown him these things I was showing him. I had to keep reminding him that in 20 years of marriage Jerry Lee had never been to my Mamaw’s town with me. He’d never been to her house. He had never met any of my Virginia relatives aside from my Mamaw. He had no clue.
He was supposed to go to the cemetery with me that summer (2015) so we could plant flags on the veterans’ graves. That was something we had just started doing on Memorial Day. Most of my uncles served and my favorite cousin’s son was KIA 4 days after arriving in Iraq back in 2012. That year we would have been honoring my family. Of course, Jerry Lee was knee deep in his affair with Harley so he couldn’t come out of his room and be with us. I once again went by myself. Or rather, the kids and I went by ourselves.
That was all a foreign concept to the mobster. He kept saying he couldn’t understand that. Yeah, well, in hindsight, me neither. Probably should have been a giant red flag.
The mobster has been a godsend. My cousin adored him. Everyone I’ve ever introduced him to has come away with that feeling. They all tell me they really like him (and believe me- I’ve let them all know I’m vetting the shit out of him!). They comment on how easy he is to talk to. He really is. He’s one of those guys that never meets a stranger. He can always find something to talk about. And it’s not in that fake, schmoozy way either. He has a genuine interest in people and can always manage to find a topic to talk about. You never get the feeling that he’s making small talk to kill time or because that’s what he’s supposed to do; he’s trying to find a real connection with the person he’s speaking to.
It’s been two and a half years for the mobster and I. In that time he’s been to two weddings and a funeral with me. Jerry Lee has him beat on the weddings so far. We went to six together, I believe. Then again, he had 20 years and most of the time he was more of a pain in the ass than as asset.
These few short years with the mobster have shown me how a relationship is supposed to work. At least for me. Maybe other people enjoy doing everything on their own. I did it because that was the hand I was dealt. I did it because that’s what I saw in my parent’s marriage for the most part. I did it because I didn’t think it was all that unnatural. I did it because “I didn’t need anybody holding my hand”. Well you know what I’ve discovered? Having someone hold your hand is pretty nice.
I’m rambling now. The point is the mobster is once again showing me everything I missed out on in my twenty years of marriage. He shows up. He wants to be there for me. He is amazing and I am the luckiest woman in the world.