Bobby McGee

January 10, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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In the middle of December, during one of Detroit’s hospital stays, my Aunt Gloria passed away.
I’m not sure how much I want to go into this.  It’s more than just a backdrop to a story.  Aunt Gloria is one of my dad’s sisters, and married to Uncle Joe, the coolest of uncles.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Gloria had got sick, and she had a kidney transplant.  Her brother Junior gave her a kidney.  Junior is the youngest of the group.  He passed away in 2005, due to a stroke or a heart attack.  They think it might have been related to medication he was on, but I don’t know the whole story.
Aunt Gloria had been fine for quite a while, but sometime in 2004 she had a stroke, a big one.  Uncle Joe had–just recently, I think–retired from his construction job.  And now he was on to another difficult job:  taking care of his invalid wife.
Aunt Gloria had been a vibrant, active, cheerful and alive woman until this, smart and sarcastic and warm and funny.  And now?  Now she was a shadow of what she had been.
One whole side of her body did not cooperate well, including her brain.  She hallucinated and had bizarre thoughts and speech.  Sometimes I swear she was just fine, and acting crazy to fuck with people.  I know I would.  Hell, I intend to.
Something like this completely changes your life–hers and his.  Joe never complained, that I saw.  He was strong and…maybe detached.  Maybe that helped him deal with getting her up, getting her dressed, getting her to the bathroom, getting her cleaned and fed, and keeping her cigarettes and coffee on her right side, where she could see them.
Maybe you don’t want your friends to see you like this, if it happens to you.  But if you have a friend who has known you for over forty years, I don’t think it matters.  Maybe a visit from your closest and dearest and bestest friend in the whole fucking world might be all the difference between just existing and having a bit hope left in your life.
So when I found out–and it was just hints and allusions that I had to piece together–that her friend Diane essentially abandoned my aunt, I was kinda fucking mad.  For Diane’s purposes, Gloria ceased to exist.  Ain’t that some shit?
I got out to see Aunt Gloria when I could, and it wasn’t much.  When we lived down the street from them, we saw them fairly often.  My daughter would go up to see her and spend time with her both before and after the stroke.  My daughter is sweetheart, with a heart of gold.  She really cares about people.  I’m sure she didn’t get it from me.
Diane had some kids, and one of them was roughly my age, named Bobby.  Bobby was friends with my cousins that were about my age, before I moved here.  So much so that even though I was family, since I was new in town, I was the outsider, not him.  His mom and Gloria were tight–she was like an aunt, and Bobby was like a cousin.
Years go by, and of course this happens.  And then Aunt Gloria died.  I managed to get both Mitchell and Miranda there to pay there respects.  It was a rare thing, my family seeing my son, akin to a Bigfoot sighting and drawing the same gawking looks.
I was walking around, seeing family, and reintroducing my kids to them.  Whaddaya know, Diane was there.  And her son, Bobby.
Despite the years, he looked the same.  Almost as tall as me, with a skinny build.  The years had added little to his frame.  Same dirty blond hair with a bowl cut.
I had nothing against him, so I engaged him in conversation.  Everything he said just bothered me.  Some of it made me outright cringe.  Some of it made me want to punch the mother-fucker in the face.
“Bobby.  What’s up, man?”  We shook hands.
“Not much.  Living and working.”
“Cool.  Married?  Kids?  What’s the story?”  I kids were right behind me.
“Divorced.  Happily divorced.”
He didn’t ask about me or mine.  This was going no where, then a thought occurred to me.  “Hey, I know someone, this girl I work with you might know from back in the day–”  I told him her name.  It’s this girl Kim–yet another Kim in my life–that I’ve become friends with, and at that time was giving a ride to work until she could get a car.
“Oh, *her*?”  He waved his hand dismissively.  “What a bitch.  She’s a whore.”  Again, my kids were right behind me.
“Dude, she’s a friend of mine.”
I don’t remember the exact words or order that he said them.  Essentially, his ex-wife is my friend Kim’s sister…so he knows her more than I thought.  However, being divorced from her family I’m sure hasn’t tarnished his opinion.  Not only that, but his “best friend” is Kim’s ex-husband.
He had heard, too about her different problems–from the prism of her ex-husband, she is obviously all to blame.  And he had heard that her fiance John had killed himself in August.
Bobby said, “If I was going to end up marrying her, I’d shoot myself in the face, too.”

Seriously?  Can you believe a mother-fucker would say something this callous?  What if I knew him?  What if, through her, I was acquainted with him?  We were planning to get together…until that happened.
I was so mad, but I had to maintain a semblance of decorum.  This is my aunt’s goddamn funeral, and here was this fucker, who–honestly, I was hardly more than a passing acquaintance with–was saying the worst kind of horrible shit about someone who is a friend of mine.  What the fuck is his problem?
“Dude–look, she’s a friend of mine.  I like her.”
He didn’t back off.  “Well, you shouldn’t be.  Everything she says is a fucking lie.  She’s a whore.”
I honestly don’t know how I got out of that conversation.  I think I just walked away.
Let’s dissect this a little, shall we?  First of all, in a divorce situation, there are always two sides.  I don’t know either one, actually.  But what do YOU say to someone who happens to bring up in conversation someone that you don’t like?
Unless the person bringing it up is a close friend, I’m going to just casually dust over it with a “Yeah, I don’t really know them,” and change the subject.  What I’m not going to do, because I HAVE FUCKING MANNERS, is trash talk someone right to the face of a friend of theirs.  In addition to having manners, I’m also not stupid.  What if the other person decides to take a swing at me because of it?
Because I almost did.  If we weren’t at a funeral, for fuck’s sake, I would have.
Seriously, what does he expect?  I’m friends with her and I work with her–hell, I give her a ride to work–and this is the first time I’ve seen his ridiculous ass in over 15 years.  On his word I should shun all contact with her? And then what?  Become his BFF?
Not bloody likely.

And my friend Kim does have a checkered past–she’s been around.  She’s talked about it to me, and perhaps that’s something she shouldn’t do is be so open about her past with EVERYONE–but she is honest about it.  And she is trying to change.  She had changed, for her fiance, until his death put her life into the shitter.  I felt that she needed a friend, and I even told her that:  “You could use a friend that isn’t trying to get into your pants.”
I was just a friend to her–am just a friend–someone she can vent to, cry on once in a while, and joke and share emails.  And I try to guide her in the right direction, help her make better decisions.  I’ve seen her work through some problems and slowly try to get her life in order.  Just think of me as a freelance social worker.
Later at the funeral, after my kids and I had made the rounds and ended up in the basement where the food was, we began the process of saying our goodbyes and heading out.  Bobby was still there, standing with some other people that I said goodbye to.
I tried to avoid him, but ended up halfheartedly shaking hands with him as he gave me a parting shot.  Something about, “Next time bring some pizza for the rest of us; you seem to have had enough.”
Oh, so a jab at me about my career as well as a fat joke.  You’re a fucking prize, asshole.
And I can’t help but wonder–what kind of mother raises an asshole like that?  Oh, the same kind of mother that abandons her life-long best friend in her time of need.  That’s what kind of mother raises an asshole like that.

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