The “meet the parents” day came and I was a little anxious as I knew I would be. I was in Asheville and he was in Greenville. I was going to drive down there and I remember thinking that I really didn’t want to go. Ours was such a strange relationship. He was fresh out of a marriage to a woman it seemed to have taken him five minutes to forget.
I began to wonder. Did he treat her the same way he treated me? Did his send his little brother on their dates because he was too busy drinking beer and playing music?
But I went and met him at a service station and I watched him drive up in his parent’s car. It was the first time I had ever seen him drive a car other than mine.
I followed him to his childhood home. It wasn’t really impressive. It was just a ranch-style house with a double carport. There was a chain-linked fence around the property and behind it sat a bank and a strip mall.
When we walked in, only his daddy was in the room. He didn’t stand to greet me or shake my hand. He just sat there and looked at me like his son had just dragged in a stray cat. He was soft spoken and cordial but aloof, like Jude.
He had salt and pepper hair and you could tell that he had suffered with the same childhood acne, although not as severe. I had very little interaction with him. Aside from the initial “hello,” we didn’t exchange many words.
I’m not sure he knew exactly what to think. He didn’t seem to be very interested in knowing anything about me or even having a casual chat. He and Jude went outside on the porch to talk, leaving me alone in the den…to wait for “mommy.”
She finally came walking in and said “you must be Pam.” I stood up and said “yes.” She had a whiny, “I’m all sweetness and light” voice that was nauseatingly pretentious and she didn’t fool me for one minute.
She had black hair and a huge gap between her front teeth which could have housed a Mack truck and they were brown and slimy. The protuberance that masqueraded as her bottom lip was packed with snuff and made it necessary for her to talk with her head tilted back so the spit wouldn’t dribble down her chin. She was far from what I would describe as beautiful but not what I would describe as ugly.
There was the initial and expected “third degree” from her. She wanted to know everything about me and it made me uncomfortable but I obliged as much as I could.
There were pictures all over the house of Jude and his first wife, who unfortunately, shared my name. There was a huge picture of her in her wedding dress hanging over the piano in the living room and I wondered why it was still there.
What was going to become another lifelong pattern in my life with Jude had already begun. He had brought me there and had essentially left me to my own devices. He spent the entire visit out on the back porch talking to his daddy while I sat there and listened to his mama talk about his former wife.
She mama dragged out the high school year books for Jude and his two brothers. I had to watch her thumb through every page of his as well as both of theirs. I really wasn’t interested but I didn’t want to be rude.
After the year books came the scrapbook. It was full of pictures of Jude and his wife. Every birthday and Christmas was documented in pictures with little comments his mama had written and attached to each one. She smiled as she recounted their lives from high school until they got married and she talked about how much she loved her. I just listened and wondered why she felt it necessary to describe their relationship to me.
I had expected the snuff dipping but Jude didn’t tell me that his mama was a drunk. She had obviously been drinking long before I got there and hadn’t stopped. The more she drank, the more apparent it became that she was not pleased with who her son had brought home.
Jude mentioned a few weeks earlier that she sewed and thinking that it might be a common factor, I mentioned to her that my mama was an excellent seamstress. I told her that my mama could make anything, was a wonderful cook and that she and my sister kept such clean houses that if I was invited to dinner and they served me on the floor, I wouldn’t hesitate to sit down and eat off of the floor.
She took violent exception to that statement. She jumped up and said “I happen to know that nobody keeps a cleaner house than I do. I’m a perfectionist, you see.”
I honestly wanted to say “if you’re such a perfectionist, why are there nicotine stains running down the bathroom walls and an inch of dust on top of the magazines that you have stacked almost to the ceiling in the living room?”
I wanted to say it but I didn’t. I often wonder if I could have saved myself thirty years of pure Hell if I had only opened my mouth on that very day.
She wanted to know how old my mama was. She didn’t like it when she found out that she and my mama were the same age. She wanted to be younger. She also wanted it understood that SHE was the best seamstress, SHE was the best cook, SHE kept the cleanest house and that this was going to be ABSOLUTE LAW.
Another superiority sniper was rearing it’s ugly head.
Mercifully, the visit was coming to an end after she fixed lunch, which consisted of cold pork ‘n beans straight out of the can, served with the worst pretend “slaw” I have ever eaten. Those lunches were going to be the staple of all future visits. These “meals” were always shaded by her passive-aggressive criticisms of everything I did wrong or couldn’t do right. Ah, but as we left, there was always the gratuitous hug, accompanied by those three word I would come to despise.
It had only taken a short period of time for there to be no doubt whatsoever, that there were only three things that were important to her. Those three things were…..drinking as much Vodka as she possibly could…..being the only woman who mattered in her oldest sons’ life….and making sure that she made me feel as worthless as she possibly could.
As I drove off, I kept asking myself the same question. “And he said I reminded him of this woman?