“The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.” Stanley Coren
My mom and dad were married for forty-two years, which is a long time, but my mom hated my dad. She just hated that man. She married him for his money.
She was supposed to marry her high school sweetheart, Pete, but he went away to Korea during the war. They wrote letters to each other. She wrote something in one of her letters he didn’t like and he wrote back to her that she was a silly little girl and should grow up.
My mom being my mom, that pissed her off, and she didn’t write back or talk to him again for a long time, years and years. When she met my father, who was from Cleveland, but living in Jersey Shore for a few years, she thought, OK, he’s got money, he’s rich, let’s get married.
In the meantime, Pete wasn’t worried. He thought, when my tour of duty is up I’ll go find her, we’ll make up, and we’ll get married. But, when he came home to Jersey Shore, he found out she was marrying my dad. He was sad, so he signed up again, went back to Korea, and ended up with a bride.
Pete got married to a Korean girl, but they never had any kids. When we were kids he sent my mom a birthday card every year. It came in the mail to Bay Village, where we lived.
My dad died on the first day of 1999. It didn’t take long for my aunt, my mom’s sister, to call Pete. It didn’t take long for him to call my mom. You’re the love of my life, he told her. I’m not going to miss out again.
He apologized to his own wife, gave her half of everything, and divorced her. Less than a year after my dad died my mom married Pete. I had to go to therapy because of it.
He’s a good guy, a sweet guy, and worships the ground she walks on. He loves her and that’s all you can ask for. He never had kids, so having kids now, the four of us, is new to him.
They’ve been great together for almost eighteen years. He’s a sweet man and will do anything she asks. But, he’s also a frugal man, a very frugal man. They disagree sometimes.
They got into a fight over a cast iron patio set. When my mom told him it cost $2500.00 he said it was too much. “That’s nothing,” said mom. She wanted it. They got into a huge fight. She ended up throwing him out of the house. He didn’t know where to go. It was Christmas Eve.
When I called to wish them a Merry Christmas my mom started giving me short answers.
“What’s going on?” I thought.
“I threw Pete out of the house,” she said.
“Why are you such a spoiled brat?”
“I couldn’t remember what holiday it was,” she said.
“Dear God, mom,” I said. “You hold on a minute. I’m going to call you right back.”
I called Pete.
“Pete, where are you?”
“Well, I’m in Kentucky.”
“Why are you in Kentucky?”
“Your mother threw me out. I thought I would just go live in our Florida house.”
He was driving to Florida. “Why wouldn’t you call me, or Betsy, or Brad, and say you need a place to stay?”
“I don’t know. I’m not going to bother you kids. Florida is a place to live for free.”
“You’re driving to Florida, that’s going to cost you money. Pete, turn around.”
“I don’t know, your mother…”
“Turn around! If nothing else, stop.”
He stopped. I called my mom. “You call him right now and tell him you’re sorry.”
“Mom, he’s in Kentucky, he’s driving to Florida to live in the Florida house, because you threw him out.”
“Oh, that’s ridiculous,” she said.
“Call him now!”
She did and he turned around and came home. Since then they’ve sold their house in Florida. Mom had been living there and loving it, but then all of a sudden she got sick, regressed in years, started saying she didn’t want to live in Florida. “I never wanted to live there, I’m glad the house is going, I don’t want to be there.”
When she was young she didn’t want to live in Florida. Now that she’s back at that age when she didn’t want to go to Florida, she’s back in the same place, same frame of mind.
“Do you really want to sell your Florida house?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Do you know you have a Florida house?”
Pete went down south, cleared everything out, and sold the house. My best friend Jimmy met him and helped him drive everything back up here. Jimmy had been living at our house, but cleared out and is now living in Florida with his new girlfriend.
What’s sad now is that my mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Pete feels like he’s been cheated, since he was separated from her for forty-two years. He was with her, they were together, for fifteen years and then she got sick. She’s not exactly who she is, who she was, anymore. I think he’s heart broken over that. It’s so sad, but he’s good to her through thick and thin.
There are people who get cancer and brain tumors and get better. Is there anyone who has gotten better from Alzheimer’s? I’ve never heard of anybody like that.
Pete is funny sometimes. I’m never sure if he talks to my mom like she’s still there, all there, or he talks to her how he remembers she used to be. Alzheimer’s can be a terrible thing, because the person you love is there, right in front of you, but they’re gone sometimes, just gone.
He’s a sweet guy, though, in good times and bad times.
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25% contributed to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (Specify APL in notes.)
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.