By Ruth Z. Deming
There were boyfriends and there were boyfriends and then there was You! We met at a dance in a Germantown, PA church. A plaque out front read, “Built with brownstones, in 1895.”
Was it ever crowded! Like a football game at the Temple University stadium. “Go Owls go!” You were a devout fan of your Owls since you taught “Abnormal Psychology” and “Intro to Psychology”at TU.
Your hair was curly and fell to your shoulders. Were you handsome? I never noticed. But you were sure smart!
A contrarian, you were always getting into trouble. Making suggestions – like “have an iron railing in the football stadium, so the elderly won’t fall and break their brittle bones” – never believing that eventually you and I would both grow old.
You, Rusty, have turned an ancient 80, while I always follow five years behind. Am not so good at doing the math anymore, but that makes me 75. If a day.
I tend to panic if I don’t receive one of your tasteless emails, where you write about how hard – I mean, difficult – it is to get an erection. You had no problem, Rusty, when the two of us were together.
Your home back then in fancy Melrose Park was like a Hugh Hefner Playboy mansion. The women you would bring there?
Your house was enormous. Brown-paneled walls. A stainless steel industrial refrigerator in the kitchen. Once your wife and two children lived there, before she left you.
“Incompatible,” read the divorce decree. You certainly did not object. You did miss your Danielle and Jimmy and often flew them back home. Their love for you never faltered.
Nor did mine.
Right away, you said, “Gotta tell you, Babe, I am not monogamous.”
Let’s see, there was Nurse Cathy, Joanne, blonde Rhonda, and many I have forgotten.
We would lie together in your bedroom for hours, trying to make a new Guinness Book of World Records for the most orgasms ever. You, my darling, would scream when you came.
One day you sent me an email.
It was a shocker.
“Caitlin, I am leaving you in my will. Do you wanna know how much?”
“Absolutely not,” I wrote back.
Still, it remained in the back of my mind.
What an unusual man he is. Friends with our whole family, when he lived in nearby Melrose Park.
He’d sit at my late father’s place in the red-backed Shaker chair and Mom would cook Rusty special dishes: Matzoh Ball Soup with tender carrots and celery, Gefilte Kraut or stuffed cabbage with rice, and, for dessert, her famous chocolate brownies with Toll House chocolate chips inside.
Yes, you were one of us back then.
Now, from your new home where you teach at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, a friend writes you are on your deathbed.
Rusty, you and I used to play tennis at Wall Park, remember? You had a mean serve that whizzed by in a blur. We would practice my serve and my racing up to the net to get there first, which I often did.
Afterward, we would eat at Red Lion Diner on Easton Road, where you would pilfer the saccharine and little creamers and put them in your pocket.
No way am I ready for you to die, to perish, to be annihilated from this earth.
Your family was odd. Your father, Sherman Aaronson, ran for president. Your mother was mortified. Especially since he lost four times.
That brain of yours will be stilled forever. With trembling hands, I hold a cup of black coffee with honey from a beekeeper neighbor of mine.
Not only are you dead, but you leave a codicil in your will.
Your Uncle Tommy will come and live with me. Years ago, we met. He looks a lot like you, Rusty.
Uncle Tommy is a man-child. He is as wide as a chair. Has poor hygiene, including underarm body odor.
He sticks to wearing one outfit and one outfit only.
Dresses like a farmer, and back then, back in the farm country, he wore ill-fitting jeans with red elastic suspenders, and a straw hat.
Like a character from Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
Uncle Tommy will be delivered via Uber to my front door. His bedroom is ready.
And I will make a man of him, I promise.