Saturday, May 16, 2015
Jodi’s first visit to Cedro Rapida turned out to be a tremendous success. We had dithered back and forth for three months, emailing, talking on the phone and sending honest to goodness, hand written letters delivered via the U.S. postal service; debating, pondering and what-if-ing one another on whether I should introduce her to my two children. We had just met in January when I’d visited Las Vegas and we’d been blessed with a fun filled and heartfelt three days where we had hit it off tremendously well. Our great success and rapport had convinced us to try and keep the tiny flame that we had ignited alive while we decided how best to proceed with a relationship that was nascent and burdened with half a continent’s distance between us. I had suggested that she meet my son and daughter on her drive from Nevada back to her hometown of Indianapolis, but Jodi felt that might send the wrong signal to kids who were likely still grieving from their mother’s unanticipated death less than two years earlier. We argued, we debated, we dithered.
She had announced her intended May drive to me the first part of February and as the weeks and months progressed I realized that her visit could correspond with Memorial Day weekend. She had singled out the two week time period between May 14th and May 26th for travel, which meant her return trip itinerary from Indianapolis to Las Vegas could easily land her in Iowa on 05/22/15, the Friday preceding Memorial Day.
May 22nd was so momentous that my daughter, Shawn, had practically carved it into my arm. She had set up a tuxedo fitting for her brother Max, Max’s best man- Adrien and me, and fearing that I would commit to something mundane that would interfere with what I had begun referring to as, ‘The Renting Of The Tux,’ or ‘TROTT’ for short, she had belabored, beat and bombast me with reminders of ‘this very important event!’
My children and I had taken my wife Eileen’s death two years previous very hard but Shawn seemed harder hit than Max did. Never having been a female I can only take my two sisters’ word that the bond between a mother and daughter is fundamentally different than that between any other relation and concede that I will never know what Shawn went through when Eileen was killed any more than she, I, or any of us, could feel what burdened Max’s heart. Suffice it to say that Max had kept on with his life while Shawn’s talent for nurturing others, which had lain relatively dormant until Eileen’s death, blossomed and matured at a pace that would put bamboo’s legendary growth rate to shame.
Soon after Eileen died Max graduated from Iowa State University and became engaged to Jamie Curtis. Meanwhile, Shawn had left the University of Iowa and her roommate Portia, simultaneously mourned her mother, mothered me, organized her brother’s, mine and her own life, begun taking classes at our local community college and blossomed from a lovely, willowy girl to a strong, independent woman who’s strengths and achievements far outshined those of the typical twenty two year old. I had always been proud of my children but of late I had come to appreciate them more and more while relying on my daughter for both good judgment and sound advice.
With groomsmen spread between three of Iowa’s four corners Shawn was concerned that her brother’s laid back management style might not be up to organizing a wedding from the apartment he and Jamie shared in Des Moines. She feared he might put off until too late the coordination of even this simplest logistical task of tuxedo fitting and rental that had to be coordinated in a way that was simple and convenient for all seven of us who seemed to be scattered in an Iowa wide diaspora of far reaching locales. With groom, father of the bride, father of the groom, best man, two groomsmen and a ring bearer all in need of matching tuxedos Shawn had allowed us to wallow in lethargic, unorganized mire until she had announced, “Max and Jamie are coming to Rapida Cedro on Thursday, May 21st and there is an appointment for you two plus Adrien to get your tuxes fitted the next day. You will be there at 10:00 and then Adam, Chris and all the rest of them can go the Men’s Wearhouse store of their choosing and get fitted. Somebody has to start this rolling and it will be you three; got it?” she had asked, hands folded in front of her, head tilted, mouth thin lipped and eyes popping in extra-large mode.
My first reaction was to respond with a heartfelt, “Yes, smother,” but I managed to self-edit and instead said, “Wonderful. Thank you so much for coordinating this. That will be a great help,” and limit my sarcasm to a condescending pat on her head accompanied by a, “Who’s a good girl? Shawn’s a good girl, that’s who! Yes, she is! Oh, yes, she is!” which earned me a smile and a single finger salute which prompted me to try and bite said extended digit. Shawn shook her head and turned lest I see the massive grin that was now plastered on her face. We were both pleased that I had managed to climb out of the deep depression that had weighted me so heavily following Eileen’s death and was again acting like my normal, playful self.
Jodi’s visit simultaneously took forever to arrive and seemed to be here in the wink of an eye. We had discussed at great length her staying with me at my house, my home having two stories plus a finished basement which held a nice, spacious, spare bedroom and full bathroom, as said arrangement would allow us maximum time together without straining the physical intimacy boundaries we had tacitly agreed not to breach during our long, getting to know one another, Las Vegas weekend. The other plan had her staying at a nearby hotel so as not to ruffle Shawn’s feathers and this plan B was not the one I hoped to accede to.
I had told Jodi how delighted I was with her voicing her concerns for my family’s feelings but felt that perhaps her concerns were a bit above and beyond the call of duty. She had subsequently asked me if I had rocks in my head. “No,” I had responded, “I’m just not used to thinking about so many possible emotional responses from so many people at once. Usually I just think about the person I’m with and me, and sometimes not in that order. Thank you for helping me see the light,” I added with what I hoped was just the right touch of sarcasm.
On Saturday the 16th of May I was sitting at my computer trying to write a chapter in a love story that I’d been working on since mid-January when my phone rang. I looked up from my screen to the northward facing picture window directly in front of where I sat and saw the palest glimmer of illumination to my far right. The slight sliver of light in the east coincided with the clock in the lower right corner of my computer screen displaying a time of 5:09 a.m. Worrying that something was terribly wrong at Max and Jamie’s I grabbed the phone and answered, “Hello?” with concern apparent in my voice.
“John? Hey, sweetie, it’s Jodi. I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“Hey, beautiful! Hell, no! You scared me a little. I was afraid somebody was calling for the cavalry! Everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah, great. I’m in beautiful downtown Ogllala, Nebraska waiting for the hotel to provide me with my complimentary breakfast before I head over your way. Everything good there?”
“Everything’s great here, I’m just sitting on pins and needles waiting for you. Where the hell is Ogllala?” I asked.
“Just east of Colorado. I figure to leave this dusty town a little after six and be at you place around three this afternoon, if that’s okay with you.”
“Well, I’d rather you were already here but I guess it’ll have to do. Anything I can do for you now?” I asked.
“Maybe. I checked a couple hotels in your area and there seems to be plenty of rooms this weekend, though next could be a problem. I decided not to book a room for tonight and play it by ear with your daughter, if that’s okay. If things don’t go well I can always get a room at the Marriott or someplace close to where you live. I just wanted to check that it was okay if I stay at your place if things go well.”
“I would like you to stay here and I think you’re making way too much of this whole thing. I appreciate you worrying about Shawn but it’s not like we’re going to be having wild sex in front of her. There’s a whole first floor separating my over-sexed, not quite sixty year old bones from your vivacious 40 year old form for God’s sake. I’ve waited three and a half months getting to know you better and I really don’t plan on rushing things now, beautiful bod or not, sweetie pie.”
“I know that, John, and believe me, I appreciate it, but for Shawn my presence could really be a slap in the face. Have you told your kids anything about us at all?”
“Both of my children have heard me talk about you ad nauseam and they’ve both seen how much more enthusiastic I’ve been about life since meeting you than I was before. She’s excited to meet my new friend; she’s a young woman, not a little girl.”
“That’s what she thinks now, but give her a chance to see us in action before you make her commit. These things can take time.”
“Yes, oh, wise woman of the desert. How’s the drive been?”
“Beautiful. I haven’t pushed it too hard, driven about eleven or twelve hours a day and rested when I needed. I’ve enjoyed spending time with myself.”
“Cool. I look forward to stealing some of that time,” I replied.
“Oh, hey! Looks like they’re having mercy on me and I can get some breakfast! I’ll text you when I stop for gas and I’ll see you when I get there,” she responded.
“‘I’ll see you when you get there,’” I sang into the phone. “Take care! See you around three. G’bye!”
“Bye, bye, sweetie pie! See you soon,” she said with a kiss and disconnected.
Jodi rolled into my driveway just as predicted and I don’t remember ever having been as pleased with someone’s presence as I was at that moment. She’d parked her baby blue Camry in the street and stood on my doorstep with gorgeously sculpted, nicely tanned legs sporting orange painted toenails that poked out from her rope canvas, high heeled wedge sandals. Next to her gorgeous gams sat a small overnight bag. My face lit up into an ear splitting grin when I saw her and I literally picked her trim form up in my arms and held her to me while I slowly and thoroughly kissed her mouth. “That’s lovely,” she whispered in my ear, “but if you don’t put me down and show me the bathroom we’re going to have a puddle on your front stoop,” she whispered, gently biting my ear. “Really, down, now!” she said squirming.
I released her, put her down gently and said, “Left at the hall, third door on the left; go! I’ll get your bag,” and she took off, pausing only long enough to smack my ass as I bent over to lift her bag from the front porch. “Couldn’t resist, could you?” I asked as she made a hasty retreat toward the bathroom.
“Oh! That is much better!” Jodi said, exiting our powder room. “Probably should have stopped when I got off of I80 and turned north but my GPS said thirty minutes and I figured I could hold out that long. Longest half an hour of my life, nearly peed in my car. God it’s good to see you!” she said, walking down the hall to the dining room where I stood waiting, a huge boyish grin plastered on my face. She returned the lung testing kiss I had delivered to her upon her arrival and asked, “How the hell are you!?”
“Right as rain, my little chickadee, right as rain. I’m really making progress on my book. I am convinced that this will be the one I finish rather than allow to languish. My God it’s great to see you!” I said grabbing her hands and pulling her to me. “Do you want to sit or should I show you the house first? How was the drive?” I asked, kissing her cheek before letting her go.
Smiling, she answered, “The drive was unremarkable, which is good as far as driving goes, but the scenery between western Nebraska and here sucks. Worse than Indiana for God’s sake, and that’s saying something. I don’t think we’ll run out of corn anytime soon. Show me the house! Capri Drive seems to be overflowing with nice digs! A lot fancier than my cinder block hut on Arrow! I’ve been sitting for almost ten hours,” she gushed, putting her arm around my bicep and squeezing it to her.
“Well what we lacked in scenery you have more than compensated for with your presence. Tell you what, leave your suitcase here and we’ll start at the top and work our way down, how’s that sound? There’s a furnished, empty bedroom upstairs down the hall from mine right across the hall from Shawn’s but if you want the ultimate balance between propriety and intimacy you can use the spare suite in the basement. Own bedroom, bath and family room that way, but not much of a view. Come on, I’ll show you!”
“Flattery will get you everywhere, my gallant knight. Is Shawn home?” she asked as I led her up the stairs.
“Nope, out playing. You should have a chance to meet her later. I invited her and her boyfriend Taylor out to dinner with us. There’s a great little Italian place over in Francisville called Naples that I like. Not a chain and the staff seems to really stick around so they must be doing something right. You like Italian?”
“I eat most anything just so long as it’s mostly veggies, fruit or nuts. I’m not a paleo freak, I just try to eat more stuff that grows than stuff that’s processed. Positive I can find something yummy at your fave little Italian restaurant. ‘Bottle of red?’”
“Ha!” I snorted. “Just thinking that! ‘Bottle of white!’ I don’t think we’ll see Brenda or Eddie there, we’re too far west for those two! I said we’d eat about seven; even made a reservation for four, something I never do there, but for you, nessun problema!”
“I gotta’ assume that means no problem?” she asked with a quixotic smile.
“Precisamente! And now I think I’m out of Italian except fettuccine and linguini and such. God, it’s great to see you! So, on your right is Shawn’s room and in the front that was Max’s. Now it’s our spare, spare. We have more. I wanted to downsize but Eileen said, ‘Where will we put the grandchildren when they visit?’ No sign of any yet but Max gets married in August, so we’ll see. You decided whether you can make it out for that yet? Please don’t make me get another date, I don’t know who I’d ask!”
“You are pushy and persistent aren’t you, Mr. Powell? My answer’s the same. Love to, let’s see how this visit and Memorial Day go, okay? Patience is a virtue, in case you haven’t heard,” she said with a wink.
“No need to remind me on that one, desert flower, I’m still waiting for my dessert, you little dolce treat. Ha! There’s another one!” I said, opening the bedroom door to the front room. “This furniture suite matches Shawn’s except her room is a tad bigger and she has an extra dresser with a makeup mirror attached. I’ll let her show you her room, if that’s okay. I don’t like to go in there without her explicit okay, for my sake if not for hers. Some things I don’t need to know about, hey?”
“Wise. I missed a lot of that when my ex got custody of our son. Cadence was barely eight when we split and he’s usually on good behavior when we visit, whether in Indy or Vegas. I’m really more like his aunt than his mom now; my fault, nobody else’s! He turned 14 this year and I don’t mind that David gets all the teenage angst, he got most of the golden years so it seems only fair. Last thing I need is to walk in on him cruising some porn sight. Not that I don’t think he does, I just don’t need to see it. I just try to make him realize that respect is a two way street and a friend’s a friend whether boy or girl. Eighth grade is such a hard time of life, don’t you think?” she asked.
“I know it was for me. Lots of hormones and no outlets for ‘em; thank God! Just what we need is babies making babies. This is the bathroom that we, er, I, wish she’d use but she likes my Master Suite bath better, especially the spa tub; which I guess I can’t blame her for. She uses the toilet and sink in this one but hits mine for more serious cleansing rituals. It’s fine. I’ve learned to keep my door shut if I want privacy.
“Anyway, this is my office where I hope I’m writing a blockbuster best seller but could be just pursuing a blockhead’s pipe dream and the last room on the right is our empty spare, spare, spare bedroom,” I explained, opening the door on the well-lit, hundred and sixty square foot cube of air. “It was decked out as one hell of a huge walk in closet for Eileen’s clothes but we donated most of them last Christmas and Shawn kept maybe ten percent, the ones she actually wears or the ones she couldn’t bear to part with.”
“That, church, Salvation Army and a couple local community theatres. Spread the love, you know? I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I see some actress in one of her gowns up on stage one day, don’t know if that’ll make me smile or cry; maybe both, huh?” I asked, turning my head away to hide my moment of pain. Even though the two year anniversary of my wife’s passing had come and gone the month before I still become weepy and nostalgic at times thinking of her, though at a far less frequent interval and with less pathos now that Jodi had come into my life.
“Let’s just hope it’s not an actor,” Jodi responded with raised eyebrows.
“Right you are! Though that would be funny, not melancholic.”
“Is that what they’re prescribing for colic these days? Melon?” she whispered with a tender kiss to my lips.
“No, I think you’re my prescription for that, hot stuff. Glad you’re here! Ready to see the sanctum sanctorum?”
“Waiting with bated breath,” was her quick reply.
“Well, since that’s the Master Bedroom I guess that means you’re waiting with master-”
“Stop!” she yelled. “Don’t do it, or I swear I’m going to the Marriott!”
“Yes, dear. Here she is. I even vacuumed for you. That’s ‘cause I like you,” I said, kissing her cheek.
“Ditto. Just take it easy with the puns, especially the easy sleazy ones, okay?”
“Anything for you, my desert fount.” And opening the double doors said, “Ta-da! Here it is!”
I do have a lovely Master Suite. Big room, big windows, large, luxurious bath and best of all, a spacious deck that faces northward towards the back of the house and only has access from my bedroom. It would have been ideal for nude sunbathing except for the fact that it seldom had direct sunlight. The lack of sunlight was ameliorated by the privacy screen that the southern, eastern and western walls gave. It wasn’t ideal for nude sunbathing, but it was a perfect alcove for other al fresco activities that were usually performed sans clothing.
“Oh, my goodness! You poor baby!” was Jodi’s sarcastic comment upon viewing my room. “How do you survive under these conditions? This room can’t be any bigger than half my house! Sheesh!”
“It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it. Want to see my deck?”
She raised her eyebrows sharply and then smiled, saying, “Oh. Deck. Wasn’t sure there for a moment. Yes, please, let’s look at your deck,” she said, enunciating and emphasizing the final word.
The shade made the alcove escape a toasty but not hot sanctuary and we sat in the canvass love seat looking north to the field that adjoined my backyard, appreciating the physical presence of one another. She lay her head on my shoulder and I put my arm around her and we sat in amiable, easy silence. After ten minutes or so she took my ear lobe in her mouth, nibbled it gently and whispered, “I think I’m falling asleep. Show me the rest of this little efficiency, would you?”
“You can sleep if you’d like. I’ll even leave you alone,” I answered eyebrows raised.
“No. Not yet. Show me my room, will you? Is it as nice as this?”
“None of the other rooms are as nice as this, but other than the bathroom being more Spartan -shower, no tub- the basement is bigger than my room. You just have to walk through a family room to get to the bath. It’s all yours for while you’re here though, so you can go naked from your bed to the bath in the middle of the night without fear of anyone bothering you,” I said, nudging her with my elbow.
“You keep dreaming, big boy. Keep dreaming. Show me,” she added, standing up and taking my hand.
The basement isn’t fancy, merely finished in functional rather than resplendent form. The bottom bedroom has an egress window that affords a lovely view of my neighbor’s home to the east and lies just to the right of the stairwell. In addition to creating a calm and semi-private spot for guests I also use the official spare religiously when the tornado warning sirens scream, along with when I lay my sweet head down for the night during a tornado watch. No sense going to sleep on the second floor of my house in Iowa and waking up in Kansas, not when I could sleep comfortably and in relative safety in the serviceable if barren space.
Going down a small hallway the large family room is furnished with over-stuffed sectional furniture which faces west toward a big screen and away from a treadmill. In the far north west corner of the room is another egress window and while the scenery is more pleasant to the west the slope outside that portion of my property brings the ground nearly to the top of the well, making the beauty of the view moot. In the south west corner is a quaint little alcove which holds a functioning, though seldom used, wood-stove -one never knows when the power might go out in a Midwestern winter storm- and there is a lovely, if smallish, tiled bath with shower adjacent to the spot where the wood-stove sits. The final, north east corner of the globe is occupied by a semi-finished work shop in which I occasionally putter. The basement would make a nice two bedroom apartment if it held a kitchen, something for which my wife lobbied but that I nixed: Sometimes enough is enough.
Having deposited her suitcase in the basement’s spare bedroom I walked Jodi through the rooms, pausing where appropriate to show her light switches and just swishing my hand toward the workshop. Unlike the rest of the house it was a rather disorganized mess. “Holy guacamole!” exclaimed Jodi once we’d circled back to her bedroom door. “If you add a kitchen and garage down here I think this is the size of my bungalow!”
“Maybe,” I shrugged. “No kitchen, but the utility room next to the stairs might fit a car, at least a small one. Kind of excessive for one person. I’m thinking of relocating, any suggestions?” I asked, raising and lowering my eyebrows a la Groucho Marx.
“Well, Las Vegas is nice, but I wouldn’t rush into anything, know what I mean?”
“I do, and I won’t. The closet’s empty and so’s the dresser except for the bottom drawer. Clean sheets on the bed and new towels in the bath. Nothing but the best for you, my Paiute princess.”
“Did you say Paiute or peyote? Mescaline is tricky stuff,” she said, elbowing me.
“Wouldn’t know. I’m a boy scout. Except fire water. I drink fire water. Want some? Or wine? Beer?”
“Wine would be nice,” she said.
From the top of the stairs came the call of, “Daddy? Daddy! We’re home!”
“Ah! Steel yourself. Shawn’s here, and probably Taylor.”