My most recent stepfather has died. Those of you who have hung around the Vinyl Village a while will surely realize that between my mother’s fiances, live-in boyfriends, and actual husbands, I’ve had a bakers dozen stepfathers.
But this was the last man mother actually married. Married, divorced, then made him a long time, often live-in, on again, off again boyfriend. With me so far? As could be easily gleened from reading a few stories about her, there is no such thing as a non-dysfunctional relationship in mama’s world–I think she would wither up and die like a flower without water if she didn’t get a daily dose of drama, and her, gosh, ten year relationship with “Dub” surely delivered on that end.
Let me give you a little background. Dub had only been married once before. That marriage ended when he came home from work to find his wife in bed with another man. He shot them both, killing her and wounding him. He spent eleven years in the slammer for that. (“But he’s paid his debt! If Jesus could forgive, cain’t we?”) Now, I’m not exactly sure how mama and Dub met, but if memory serves, he was a friend of her previous live-in, and had come by to help them with the yard work. (hmmm…screwing the ex-con who cuts the grass. It would all be very “Desperate Housewives” if Dub hadn’t looked like a third-generation inbred Jerry Springer guest–may he rest in peace)
At any rate, I never made any secret of the fact that I didn’t approve of him, so I guess it was no surprise that I didn’t even learn they had married til weeks after the blessed event happened. I’m sure it was some quicky at the Justice of the Peace’s office. It didn’t last long, less than a year or so, but the signing of the dee-vorce papers wasn’t the end of Dub. They would get back together, then split, then get back together, then split. I literally couldn’t have kept up if I had even cared to. After their first split, a mysterious act of arson was committed at mothers home. Someone poured gasoline all around it, all over the patio furniture (which, naturally, she keeps in the FRONT yard, because no white trash home is complete without a redwood picnic table right at the damn front door), and in a line up the steps to the front door, lit a match, and walked away.
Luckily, the fire destroyed nothing outside of the grass and a lovely set of plastic stack chairs, but the intent was greater. Mother was certain that it was Dub, because he had threatened to do just that when she’d “put him out” the last time. It certainly seemed likely that it was him, no one else had any reason. Of course, a few short weeks later, Dub was back. “It coulda been anybody. I don’t know it was him.”
There was a string of other such incidents over the years…cut phone lines, missing jewelry, missing prescriptions. “But I cain’t never catch him!” Mother has a problem that suspicion of guilt isn’t enough, it must be beyond a shadow of a doubt….a defense attorney would strike gold having her on the jury.
One of my most memorable conversations with Dub was a few years ago when I was having a bad kidney stone attack. I was telling mother that the prescription pain killers I’d been prescribed were hardly worth taking, because by the time they kicked in, the pain was gone anyway. (This particular bout with stones was unusual for me, in that the pain would come on strong for 15 minutes at a time, then be gone for hours, days, or weeks.) Dub piped in and advised that I should just “smash em up and snort em, that’ll get em workin quicker.” I’ve no doubt he was speaking from personal experience, and I imagine this came from recreational experimentation rather than therapeutic directives.
So, I wasn’t exactly beside myself when mom called to let me know he had died in his sleep. My first reaction was “Good.” but I kept that to myself. I managed to ask what he had died of, though in my mind I was imagining he had overdosed by snorting Tylenol or something. Mama relayed there was no known cause yet. I sat in silence, unable to bring myself to say I was sorry when I wasn’t, before finally managing “I just don’t know what to say.”
Mama called a good friend of mine and shared the news with her as well. Now, here’s the kicker, when my friend asked what had taken Dub’s life, mama said “His doctors had him on too many medicines, I figger that had somethin’ to do with it.”