I had to go up to Cincinnati over the weekend for a funeral. My stepmother, Ginny, died last Tuesday, 1-11-11. Her death was not unexpected in the least. She was 88 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years.
My mom (Ruby) died on 8-8-1992 of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. About three weeks before she died I was up in Cincinnati visiting. She was washing the dishes after supper, and I was drying them (SOP). From somewhere out of the blue she told me:
“If I die before your father does, he’ll be married again within a year.” She said it very matter of factly, with little or no emotional inflection.
Sure enough, she died about three weeks later. Dad married Ginny (a widow one year his senior) on 6-20-1993, about 10 1/2 months after Mom died.
I liked Ginny. We (the family) all liked Ginny. We did not resent the fact that our father remarried so soon. We were happy for him and for her. I was particularly amused that Mom had predicted it all so accurately.
My dad (John) and Ginny were very happily married, especially at first. “When it comes to sex,” Dad told me today, “18-year-olds couldn’t have kept up with us when Ginny and me first got married.” Not bad for a 70-year-old (he) and a 71-year-old (her). It was all BILL and COO back then. Or maybe NAUGHTY and NICE, as the case might be.
Every marriage has its ups and downs. The downs came later, when Ginny’s Alzheimer’s got so bad that Dad was virtually a prisoner for the past year or two just taking care of her. “It was like taking care of a 90-pound three-year-old with temper tantrums,” Dad described it.
My sister Jan also helped a lot. She was geographically the closest of us four siblings. She still lives in Cincinnati. The other three of us (the three males) are scattered.
So I got the call from my sister Jan on Tuesday afternoon and told her that I would be up on Friday for the funeral on Saturday. Her husband Tom picked me up from the bus station. Tom and I lunched at the Skyline near UC (where he teaches).
Jan and I babbled a bit Friday afternoon, waiting for our oldest brother Mike to show up. Jan told me that Mom told her that she (Mom) thought that Dad had numerous affairs with other women, mainly his bridge-playing partners. (Bridge was Dad’s avocation; he became a Life Master in 1975).
I was somewhat taken aback by this revelation. I searched my memory banks and told Jan the search results. Namely, I had asked Dad about that five or six years ago (probably when I was drunk), and his verbatim reply had been: “I always behaved like a perfect gentleman.”
I told Jan that I took that statement as a categorical denial of having cheated on our mom. I also conceded that a lawyer could construe that statement as LESS than a 100% denial of the allegations. I told Jan that I would mention it to Dad if I got the chance and see what he had to say.
I got the chance a couple hours ago, about six hours after we finished the funeral and burial ceremonies for Ginny. I decided to stay with Dad the rest of the day instead of going out with Mike and some other friends that night. Dad fixed some chili for supper. It wasn’t quite Skyline, but it was pretty good. Dad did some boasting about his sexual prowess with Ginny (see above). That seemed like as good an opening as any. So I told him about my conversation with Jan and asked the question.
He did not take umbrage at the question. He categorically affirmed that he did NOT cheat on Mom while they were married. When he was out playing bridge with all those other women, he explained, it was all about bridge. It was NOT about sex. He told a few stories to support this assertion. Dad loves to tell stories. Genetic inheritance.
I will repeat one of his stories as totally typical. Back in the late 1960s or early 1970s he was playing bridge in a tournament somewhere. The two opponents were young ladies from Kentucky with VERY short shirts.
“Could you young ladies pull those skirts down a little bit?” Dad solemnly requested. “They are disturbing my concentration on the game.”
The two young ladies promptly hiked their skirts up even higher.
“So were they REALLY disturbing your concentration?” I inquired.
“Heavens, no!!!! It was all about the game. It was never about sex.”
On that note I decided that I believed the old man, our father. I have communicated accordingly to Jan.
Apologies to anyone who might find the true story above inappropriate for a blog mainly devoted to Thoroughbred pedigrees and statistics. But a blog by definition is a place where you can write about ANYTHING you feel like. I felt like writing this story. Catharsis: “The purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.” Or telling stories.