Betty Jean shall for the purpose of this blog and due to my lazy writing habits be called BJ. Trust me, she would never know those initials have a different meaning to the rest of the world. I am convinced she lives in some parallel universe most of the time.
BJ was my uber religious, scared of the world in general mother-in-law, well she isn't dead or anything I'm just not with her son anymore, although she has told me recently she likes me better than him. I am allowed in her house, he isn't. I guess she has forgiven me and my But She's Pretty Child from stuffing all those bottles of wine and boxes condoms in the bottom of her grocery cart where she couldn't see them until she started putting them up on the belt at the cashier. Poor woman had several of them unloaded before she even realized what they were. But She's Pretty child then yells out, very loudly, "Grandma, not again! We thought you had this drinking and carousing thing under control!" I would like to tell you we have outgrown this type of torture but sadly it was only two weeks ago during her eye exam when I calmly ask the eye doctor if it could be all that sperm she gets in her eyes that could be causing the irritation. Her response to everything we do or say is always to repeat "Oh mercy me, mercy, mercy me!" Why she even goes anywhere in public with me, But She's Pretty Child or the Demon Seed is beyond me. But she does and each and every time she begs us not to do something embarrassing to her and of course we tell her we won't. Unfortunately she believes us every time.
Now before you think BJ is a little crazy let me assure you she isn't. She is a highly educated and very respected woman who was the Chief of Surgery at a well known hospital for over 30 years. But she does have some, how to put this nicely.... idiosyncrasies. She is the only person I know who checks her mail and takes the trash out James Bond style. She just knows there is someone out there who will attack her so it is a ritual. She gets the black trench coat style rain coat from the front closet and puts it on, there is a can of pepper spray in one pocket and her doubled up fist with her car keys in the other. She has a key sticking out between each finger, ready to fight if the need arises. She then opens the door, looks both ways and then slowly steps out, locking the door behind her (this is to keep anyone who may be just waiting for a chance to get in her house from having the opportunity to slip in while she is at the mailbox), once the door is locked she turns and fast trots all the way to the mailbox which is clearly within eye shot of the front door. She gets the mail and repeats the whole process in reverse. It is hilarious to watch. Demon Seed has been known to tell her she missed the mailman, he saw him come late just to watch her "Do The James Bond" again. But She's Pretty Child stopped slipping out the back door and pretending to be the "attacker" after getting pepper sprayed. She thinks the world in general is evil and out to get the innocent. This is why Demon Seed and The Devil's Advocate are only allowed to visit sparingly. I fear they would only reinforce her fears considering "Let's Get Grandma" is such a fun game.
Now you need a little background on her to fully appreciate her fall from grace. Up until the "incident" the woman's lips had never touched a single drop of booze or a cigarette. Red lipstick was only for harlots and her only daughter-in-law, that would be me. She, nor anyone in her family ever said a cuss word in their life so you can imagine how proud they all are of me at family reunions, and later of my children, except for Fantasy Barbie who is a whole lot like her grandmother. My other children refused to be pulled toward the light. In the 30 years I have known her I have never seen her in her pajamas and we have shared many a motel rooms while on the road visiting relatives or while spending the night with her when we lived out of state with the military. She alwyas wears a robe if not in her street clothes. She had been married to Mr. BJ for 40 years and they had their own private bathroom in their bedroom. They sleep with the door shut. That robe only came off after the lights went out, if she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom she put the robe on first. I still have not managed to figure out how they had two children unless it was an immaculate conception. They were in church everytime the doors were open and even though she denies it I suspect that there was many times she sat in the parking lot praying (probably for me) when the church was locked. She prayed all throughout the day, about anything and everyone. They watched nothing that did not have a PG rating on television. She wore only dresses or polyester pant suits and shoes with the maximum of a two inch heel, anything higher was reserved for harlots and her only daughter-in-law. There was a bible in every room of the house, even the bathrooms. Now how long do you think it took Demon Seed and The Devil's Advocate to figure out she hid money in those bibles? Your right, not long and they cleaned her out on a regular basis. Her children were never allowed to have company or spend the night with friends because she didn't know "if their families attended church regularly". The two boys were only allowed to participate in church activities or boy scouts. I hate it for her but all she did was create kids that had no sense of what the real world was like and as a result neither one of them turned out all that great, they are both highly educated with damn good jobs but as people they suck. Then her husband died and that is when the Ballad of Betty Jean actually began.
Two days after his death, one day before the funeral she comes to me with an old box tied up with a ribbon and asks me to open it. I did. It was filled with old love letters written to her when she was 16 yrs old by a man that was 24yrs old and in the military. He was, she told me, the brother of a friend of hers in high school. They dated about two times, her family found out and went nuts. Her father ran him off with a shot gun, her mother faked a heart attack to bring on the guilt and that was the end of their dating. But he continued to write her these letters, he would send them to his sister who would then deliver them to BJ at school. She had kept them all those years, took them everywhere she had moved and after marrying Mr. BJ had hidden them in the very back of a small storage shed. She wants me to read the letters, I'm still in shock at the whole story and am not really wanting to but she insisted and I had to keep it quiet from my husband. She wasn't ready to tell them about him yet. That night, I take the box into the nursery and sit between the two cribs and cried while reading those letters. No, it wasn't a Nicholas Spark's Notebook moment, they were tears of laughter, these were the hokiest love letters I had ever read, they sounded like they had been written by an 8yr old. The next day was the funeral so we didn't get a chance to bring up those letters, I escaped early so I would not have to deal with them or her.
A week later my dorrbell rang and I opened the door to a stranger with blonde hair wearing...*gasp*...a pair of shorts and a tank top. A closer look and I realized it was BJ. I was fighting back the laughter when she drops the bomb on me. It was time to talk to her sons because the night before she had contacted her old lover and he was coming to see her. She wants my advise on how and when to tell the boys. I suggested that maybe we should get the thank you cards sent, her husband's headstone picked out and his death certificate picked up first. She ask how long would that take, I had no idea but told her 3 weeks.
She used those 3 weeks wisely. She had her hair dyed a lighter shade of blonde, got her eyebrows waxed, her nails done, had her teeth whitened, bought new clothes and got contact lens. I on the other hand sent out thank you cards, ordered a headstone and picked up the death certificate.
Then he came. This wonderful, most handsome man in the entire world whose praises she had been singing to me daily. He looked just like a combination of Popeye and Howdy Doody and she is hanging all over him like I was going to try to steal him away from her. The first thing out of his mouth is "Can I use your bathroom I have to piss like a Russian racehorse", she giggled like it was the funniest thing she had ever heard when it was only a month before that one of my 2 yr old's got in trouble by her for saying he had to go "pee-pee". The meeting with my husband was very cold. They ask us to go to dinner with them that night. I agreed for both of us because I don't turn down a free meal for any reason.
We meet up at the restaurant, Popeye had made reservations for us in an attempt, I feel, to impress. BJ is still hanging all over him to the point that he is even having trouble walking. First thing he does is order a bottle of wine, which she happily indulged in while my husband and I sat there stunned. I am sure both of our mouths hanging open was not in the least appetizing to those around us trying to eat. As we ate our dinner he entertained us with very raunchy jokes and spicy war stories about the whores in Amsterdam. The whole time she is laughing hysterically at anything he says and still hanging onto one of his arms. I too was laughing hysterically, at her. My poor husband didn't find one thing amusing about the whole thing. I think he was still shell shocked. The other son refuses to talk about his first encounter with Popeye, so I am sure it was equally as good as ours. Since he lived in North Carolina(where she was originally from and where they met, her family is still there) and was there for only four days we were at least not subjected to this daily.
Two months later, three months after her "beloved" husband's death she picks up and moves to North Carolina after a quicky wedding at the courthouse with this man she has seen for exactly four days in the last 40 years.
Then came the big family reunion on her side of the family. Here I must remind you they are all just like the old BJ, very rigid in their religious beliefs. I hate reunions of any type but could hardly wait to get to this one to watch all the preachy people's reaction to this salty old sailor who was the exact opposite of the man she had been married to for so many years and so different from anyone they had ever let come close to them. Then she drops the second bomb on me. She has told them all she has remarried but she conveniently left out the part about who she had remarried. I spent that whole 8 hour drive practically rubbing my hands together in glee at the anticipation of what was surely going to come. My partner in crime, But She's Pretty Child and I sat in the backseat making up all kinds of scenarios of what was going to happen, who was going to have the first heart attack and drop over dead, etc.
We arrive at our motel and went our separate ways to our rooms to get ready for this reunion that was formal and being held in a very upscale restaurant. We meet them in the parking lot, at first not seeing them and then it hit us they were the ones standing waving wildly to get our attention looking for all the world like Annie Oakley and John Wayne. Both all decked out in jeans, cowboy boots and red bandannas tied around their necks, pushed to the side for that extra flair. Can you even begin to imagine my joy at that moment? Just thinking back on that moment and what I knew was to come makes me all warm and fuzzy again.
We get to the venue, the valet parks our cars and I was not disappointed. One by one you could see the shock, anger and shame wash across their faces at not only who she had married but in their choice of attire for this fancy dinner reunion. I'm telling you it was pure bliss for me and But She's Pretty Child! Then he seals the deal by saying, very loudly, cigarette in one side of his mouth, "Well let's get on in there and chow down. I think my stomach is eating my rib cage and that's a goddamn shame to let that happen in a fine place like this!" But She's Pretty Child and I almost knocked each other down trying to hide behind the same tree so we could double over with laughter and not be seen. Dinner was good but even excellent food can be distracted from when all you see around you are red faces and temper tantrums being held in. Then he decides it is appropriate to entertain them with the same jokes and stories he had given us on our first dinner with them and the whole time, again, BJ has not once let go of his arm, it wasn't pretty watching her try to butter a roll with only one arm free while she had the other one entwined through Popeye's. She also again finds him extremely funny and laughs loudly at each joke and story he tells, he beams at her after each one. I'm sure at that point many were fighting the urge to vomit, I know I was. But I didn't let it loose because I was afraid with all the held in laughter at their reactions and the vomit I would choke to death and I didn't want to miss anything. This reunion started at 7:00 pm and was suppose to last until 11:00 pm. Annie Oakley and John Wayne had that room cleared completely out by 8:30 pm! Best reunion I have ever been too. Her family had nothing to do with her after that, a few cut her out of their wills, it was just one giant bruhaha.
Unfortunately Popeye died three years later and now Mother Mary has moved back here and taken up her old role of savior again. In the meantime Demon Seed and The Devil's Advocate have grown into teenagers and as a result their forms of torture and embarrassment tactics are better honed. But She's Pretty Child and I have a whole new repertoire of things to use now having the whole embarrassing marriage as fodder for new material. The holiday's are going to be great this year!