Aunt Cathy works at a Seven-Eleven near Allentown. She serves like Judy Jetson from behind cash registers, gas pumps, cappuccino machines and carousel hotdog stands. At sixty-nine, she is tired and never should have ran from a wealthier, simpler life as a Three Springs housewife.
Cathy bought a trailer in Eastern Pennsylvania from what she snagged in a divorce settlement. She is my informal, adoptive mother and I felt abandoned. She divorced Uncle Daryl when I was away in the Army. I only heard pieces of the story; never enough to put the facts together, or come upon a conclusion as to why what seemed like a perfect marriage of twenty-five years, could end so quickly.
She was ousted from the family for a cardinal sin from what I gather. Her’s was the unlawful, unjustifiable act that is grounds for separation according to the Bible. It is men like Uncle Daryl; men who rarely read their Bible’s ,who fail to distinguish the difference between sex and love when it comes to God’s word. They miss the mark when it comes to understanding the true failure of divorce. How many in life have not carelessly slipped consciously away during the precious union with their lovers to find themselves making love with someone else through the minds eye? There are a few who do not use that trick of imagination, but never should the error of ‘cheating’ serve as the ultimate grounds for divorce when there is so much imagination to life. A family that stays together, prays together, is how I see it.
Her infidelity was the gravity that pulled Uncle Daryl’s apple from the luscious tree of paradise. Their once beautiful home was shattered as if an emotional flood of Biblical proportions had set in. Daryl still lives there, collecting coupons from packs if cigarettes for new hats and gloves.
Daryl was angry, as most men are, when he figured out what Cathy did to him. He used the same excuse used that many others turn to when they are bored with life and decide that geener pastures are not just places in fairytales or in heaven. Cathy had sex outside of wedlock. Uncle Daryl always had a wild side of his own. It’s such a shame they did not learn to live like Mormons in Three Springs, or better yet, swingers in oak trees. They were part of my life and already I had faced one divorce with my real parents when I was a child. I was crushed when I learned Daryl and Cathy separated.
Women, as time wears tracks over wrinkled skin, face a great fear that even husbands cannot calm with the simple act of a kiss or repetitious humping. Such was the case with Aunt Cathy. Females sometimes assume too much of the authority figure during periods of hot flashes in mid-life, which is the real reason why Daryl must have filed for the divorce. Aunt Cathy? A common tramp? What got into her? I didn’t believe a word of the rumors. Poor Daryl must have felt that he wasn’t enough for even a woman who was barren from the beginning– one to never bare much fruit, or so it seemed. And she still cheated on him?
Aunt Cathy couldn’t have kids. She was in a bad car accident when she was young and had to have skin grafted from her butt for her face. Why would a woman who cannot have kids and a butt face try to go get pregnant from another man? It’s called life.
Eventually she would have tired of that stranger and return to loving arms of her husband who would always know her best. After Daryl sacrificed his seed to her and she went of and…it is no wonder why it was so hard for me to get my hands on Aunt Cathy’s phone number last Christmas.
Aunt Cathy was a clean-freak who carried a dust mop like a domenatrix handles a whip. Her house was spotless and not just because Cathy and Daryl didn’t have kids. She was like a bee when she cleaned and that’s what she did all the time, just to keep being a good house wife. Daryl should take her back and get her out of that Seven-Eleven. I saw the house last summer. It’s a dump. Marlboro cartons have replaced the once perfectly dusted house decorated in the most expensive of Home Interior merchandise.
I always had to take my shoes off when entering their carpeted house to play Scrabble at ‘the good table’. Dark blue carpet like mid-night sky stretched from sliding glass doors into the living room and throughout what some home owners deem a ‘double-wide’. Shag covered the floors in plush strips along paneled hallways adorned with sconces that Aunt Cathy purchased at Home Interior parties– Tupperware like events where housewives hosted in-house gatherings and shopped with their closest friends from sofas and recliners as a sales woman discussed products like announcers on QVC.
Aunt Cathy had a hanging fountain in her livingroom that she sometimes turned on when I begged her to. Unlike Christmas lights that are big and bright; tiny lights on the sculpture trickled like real water droplets down plastic strings, falling into a stone base shaped like a birdbath. A naked stone nymph stood under the waterfall of lights as our minds tried to assemble high-points by putting together numbered letters into real words. He held a bunch of grapes, seeming to enjoy fulfilling the role of the missing children from that beautiful, spotless home.
“C R A S S,” I spelled as a child visiting my Aunt Cathy and her dust mop.
Aunt Cathy looked it up from a cupboard she had been dusting, seemingly angry that I had crossed her start up word BLAST and taken the A and used it on my turn.
She had to look it up in the dictionary. She asked me what the definition was. I told her it did not matter in Scabble. She told me it did, quickly removing the square letters from the board as if they were little pieces of dust that had fallen from my dirty shoes onto her good carpet.
Poor Daryl. Every time he came into the house with sawdust all over him, she told him to go out onto the porch and strip down into his underwear before coming back inside for supper. I wouldn’t laugh. I pretended to be busy thinking up my next word in Scrabble.
With no kids of her own, and living just steps away in a white and yellow house, it seemed natural for me to adopt Cathy as a second mother. Like a needy infant willing to feed upon any mammary gland that would pay attention to me, I sucked-up to the convenience of a woman with painted eyebrows and hair so stiff that it never seemed to fall from a black, hive-like tease. Mom was busy with five kids. Cathy didn’t seem to mind when I dropped in from next door, just to talk and spell with her while Uncle Daryl was up the mountain cutting down trees with a chain saw. I was a little chatterbox. Unlike busy Mom, Cathy would always listen and play Scrabble with me.
“Do you want some iced tea?” Aunt Cathy asked as I sat- up the board, shaking little pieces of lettered wood in a felt-like bag.
“Yes, please. May I use one of your good glasses– the ones that Bootsie bought for you last Christmas?”
Bootsie was Cathy’s sister from Baltimore who sometimes visited Three Springs. When she did, Aunt Cathy got out her cards and we played poker for money. Bootsie was just as fun as Aunt Cathy, and seemed to bring out a mischievous side to my second Mom.
“If you promise not to forget to use a coaster on my good table.”
“I’ll be careful not to mess up your house or spill anything. Just don’t kick me out if I beat you. Are you sure you don’t want to play poker?” I asked.
“We only do that when Bootsie is here,” Cathy ordered like a good mom, trying to make something of me.
Uncle Daryl and Aunt Cathy helped to take care of me and all my brothers. Aunt Cathy helped me with my homework sometimes, when Mom was too tired or when she was pregnant again. Daryl and Cathy bought us school clothes in the Fall and treated us as their own siblings on Christmas morning.
I called her last Christmas morning despite the divorce. I never call Uncle Daryl on Christmas. His hearing is bad from chainsaws.
I woke up thinking of her and unlike the rest of the family, I didn’t care that she slept with the guy who owned a restaurant across the street from Cathy’s gold and white house in Three Springs.
“It has been such a long time,” she said. “You made my day, Charlie. I thank you for calling me. I think about you all the time,” She explained as if busy and distracted, trying to do something while talking on the phone. I thought I heard her flick the switch on her good lamp in the background, but doubted she won that treasure in her divorce from Daryl.
“It’s so nice to hear your voice. You were always so good to me, especially on Christmas,” I reminded her, not sure what to say after all these years. I certainly didn’t have kids to tell her about, or a wife, or a divorce.
“Do you know this is the first Christmas morning I have been off from work in ten years? I’ve been at my job for ten years now, Charlie. I work at a gas station.”
“I’m glad I caught you home,” I said.
“Do you know what they call me at work?”
“The Silver Fox. I finally let my hair go- white Charlie, after all those years of coloring it black like I did. Now they call me the Silver Fox at work,” She laughed. “Isn’t that funny?”
“Oh, I’m a silver fox now too, Aunt Cathy.”
I started to dust around the house as she went on to tell me about how happy she was in her new life, despite the mistakes she had made. A tree fell over on her trailer, she told me, but Uncle Daryl bought her another one. We agreed that he is such a good man.
I shared the same thoughts about life and moving on with new Scrabble players as life passes us by. I stayed inside my closet while talking to her last Christmas, not really wanting to come out, not sure what she would think or say. There was far too much clutter in my past to talk about and I did not care to hear about Cathy’s divorce from Uncle Daryl.
“Oh I remember when I cut your hair when you was a kid,” Cathy laughed. “Do you remember how I cut your hair up until you was ten?”
“Oh yes. You had the best conditioners and you always washed my head over your kitchen sink before cutting it with scissors, too look just like the Osmond kids.”
“You always had such a tick head of hair. I bet you are a silver fox too.”