Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Sister Elizabeth

My sister Elizabeth Croson was diagnosed with PPMS (Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) several years ago. Before the disease robbed her of most of the things we take for granted, she enjoyed writing among other things. Here is one of a few stories I'll be posting.

YOU KNEW THIS WHEN YOU MARRIED ME

Four years ago on November 4th I met, who is now my husband Curtis. It was a cold and rainy afternoon, 12:37 to be exact. My fiancée, at the time, and I had driven down to Arkansas to witness the joyous event of my cousin's wedding. I was the maid of honor. I still have yet to understand why it is considered such an "honor ".

The utter chaos and confusion one must endure is anything but an honor, but I willingly refrained from making my cousin's day unhappy and shut my mouth. When we arrived in Arkansas, we met with Eric the future hubby, and some of his friends that had driven down to be apart of the festivities.

Curtis being Eric's best friend and best man was of course there. Barb, the bride to be, had told me a great deal about him and knew that we would "hit it off". It still amazes me how right she was. She truly loved Leroy, the man I was to marry, but knew I would not be happy. She always thought he was much too predictable and knew I loved the unpredictable. She also knew I was a very "sexual person" and Leroy was anything but. She said Curtis had a very large "sexual appetite" and an even larger vocabulary. This I found to be very intriguing. Leroy's vocabulary seem to consist of just a few short phrases, those being; Yes dear, no dear, whatever you want dear. If that isn't enough to drive one over the edge I don't know what would.

When we walked into the two bedroom trailer home, the first person I met was Curtis. He stood in the middle of the living room, guitar in hand, and in an almost inaudible voice said "Hi" The first thing I noticed was his jet black hair, obviously a dye job, and his beautiful green eyes. I also became aware of the inviting sofa directly to my left and made myself at home. Traveling 12 hours through the flat lands of Illinois, and other desolate states is truly exhausting.

Curtis seemed so very uncomfortable, and retreated out doors for a much needed smoke. This was odd I remember thinking to myself, and in private asked Barb if Curtis was feeling all right. She claimed "that's just Curt" and gave me a devilish grin. Who would have guessed that that was one of his qualities I found so endearing and yet so frustrating! You see, Curtis absolutely hates crowds and would prefer a room with just a few close friends. I, on the other hand, am a people person and love to people watch, converse with people and find out why they are the way they are. This was, in fact, my motive with Curtis. In a twisted way, it evens out.

After talking with Barb and Eric, among the other friends that happened by, Leroy and I decided we needed a much deserved sleep. The ride down was long and tedious. The next morning was the big day, and everyone of course was not ready. Keep in mind this was not your "traditional" wedding. This was to be a Wiccan ceremony complete with “The Grand Dragon" or whatever you choose to call him. They were to be married at exactly 12:34 get it 1-2-3-4, crazy hey? This is the same thought process the soon to be newlyweds had and still do. It's actually quite endearing once you get to know them.

So there I was, after all had left to get to the college where Barb was to be married. Leroy was being his more than helpful self, running here and there for last minute arrangements. I was waiting for his return at the trailer, then we would both proceed to the ceremony. Curt waited with me, even though he had his own vehicle.

For the first time since I had arrived in Arkansas he opened up and said more than one word. I felt very comfortable talking with him, and he to me. We had a semi-lengthy discussion about religion and he shared with me he was atheist. At the time, I felt I too was leaning that way. The thought of someone dictating to me about Catholicism or the Christian way was ever so unappealing to me, needless to say down right offensive. As we talked we found that we were a lot alike and had much in common. He was becoming my friend just at the time I needed one.

As the time got closer for the big event Leroy still hadn't shown up. Curt offered to take me, seeing he too was one of the main characters in the event. I accepted and we went to his car to begin the next event, the drive across town. I use the word "event" because that was what it was, an event.

I'm sure if asked about this, he would say it was more of an adventure. You see, this "car "was a dilapidated, old, bright yellow Malibu, which Curt was very fond of, and still is. When he speaks of it, I could swear tears well up in his eyes because of the loss of it. I say, REST IN PEACE.

Ah yes, the event. When Curt opened the passenger side door for me I was immediately hit by the god awful stench coming from inside. My first thought was that maybe on the way down to Arkansas, he had up-chucked in the back somewhere? Or perhaps he had had enough of the born again Christians in the south and tossed one of them in his trunk? I opted for my first thought and decided to ask him.

Come to find out, it was only muriatic acid he had spilled in his trunk. No biggy, right? Another gruesome thought was, can muriatic acid dissolve a body? I immediately dismissed that thought.

“Muriatic acid, hmm” I said, still trying to dismiss the visual. "It’s for painting.” Curtis said “I’m a house painter". Relieved, I nodded as though I knew all about house painting.

We drove the 10 minutes to the college, and I was thankful we made it. It was a first for me to drive in a car where the entire front seat shifted with each turn. I thought that maybe it was Curtis's way of getting a little closer to his dates, without actually asking them.

The ceremony went over without any mishaps, and everyone was so very happy to see these two had found each other. They are the type of couple you see the elderly balking at because they are so right for each other and their happiness is so very genuine. I always thought if they ever left a legacy, its that they loved each other well.

After the ceremony, everyone did the traditional congregating around the bride and groom to give out hugs and "good lucks". Each time I have been to a wedding it always looks to me as though all the women immediately lunge for the bride, after the ceremony, as a sign of protection. Almost as if to say, to all male present, she's ours now! What's that about? Yet, another unsolved mystery.

We all went into the college hall to begin the gift opening and toasting of the bride and groom, which I immediately became anxious about. Even though I love people, being around people, talking with people etc. etc. I'm anything but a "public speaker". The thought of sharing my feelings about an event or whatever, in PUBLIC, terrifies me. Needless to say, I had to stand up and make this "unprepared” speech. I wondered how Curtis would hold up.

Everyone stood before the bride and grooms table and made small talk until, some insolent little #!!&,~ yelled " SPEECH !" I only hoped I had escaped one tradition. NOT! Knees shaking I stood. It wasn't as bad as I thought! I was able to convey, with humor and love, that I was very happy for my best friend and Eric they had found each other and took the "big plunge". I quickly took my seat and an enormous swallow of my champagne.

It was now the best man's turn. Amazingly, he stood at least 3 minutes longer then myself and looked directly at his best friend. It was touching, and I thought he may even shed a tear or two. As he took his seat, I remember him giving me this huge smile that melted me instantly. More times than not, he still smiles at me like that.

After the infamous speeches, we all congregated around the gift table to watch the bride and groom open their gifts. No matter what anyone says, I feel it's a great idea to open all gifts at the reception. Not only does it save you money on the cost of purchasing thank-you cards and mailing, but it gives the giver of the gift greater pleasure to see how much you really appreciate the said gift. I haven't really thought, if you find the gift in bad taste or truly repulsive, how you should react. Bullshit, I guess. Don't think of it as lying, just that you don't want to hurt the givers feelings?

Barb and Eric were truly lucky when it came to gifts. I don't think they received anything in “bad taste” or even semi-repulsive. The gift I purchased for them suited them very well. They were a lovely set of wind chimes and if I’m not mistaken, Barb has hung them up in her living room. It just occurred to me; what if she only hangs them up when she knows I'm coming to visit? No, I know she liked them. (Mental note: call Barb).

After the opening of gifts came the picture taking. I'm proud to say I was in charge of that. My oldest brother is a photographer and has taught me a few things, mainly how not to miss half of what you are taking the picture of. It’s actually pretty easy, once you get the hang of it. It seemed no one minded having their picture taken, except Curtis. The camera really loved him but he didn't love it. Again my mind began to wonder, and a vision of John Walsh came to mind. Again, I dismissed the visual and took the pictures. Trying to be a “professional" I decided to hang a back-drop for better lighting and a better background effect. Most shots were taken of the bride and groom looking lovingly at one another, while others were of friends and relatives.

A few photos’ that seem to stand out most are the ones of Barb's friend, Sybell. The camera loved her, but not because of her "beauty” but because of her odd behavior. She came to this event with her three small children and soon to be husband. The fiancée must have been 20 years her senior, but a great baby-sitter. While she was out dancing and flirting with anyone that paid attention to her, he sat back and watched over the kids. Her kids, not his. Barb and I watched in horror as this young woman danced so hard her skirt made a complete 180 from back to front i.e. the zipper that was meant for the back of the ensemble, was now in front. She finally took a break and decided to sit down, by Curtis. From what Curtis recalls, Sybell went on and on about her "suicide attempts "and even went as far as to show him the ghastly scars on her wrists. She also felt it necessary to let him know about the anti-depressants she had been prescribed, and taking for some time now. I wondered if her future hubby knew or even cared. I guess there's one at every wedding?

It was now time for the "wedding party "dance. Immediately I rescued Curtis and brought him out to the dance floor. I don't even recall what song had been played, but it didn't seem to matter at the time. Both of us fell into place, although it was obvious Curtis was very nervous. He stands 6 foot even, size 12 wide shoes and looks to be very intimidating. He towers over my 5'5" frame and looks as though a good wind could bring him tumbling down. Gingerly, he put his right arm around my waist while leaving his left arm in limbo. This could be interesting. It seemed awkward for him to face me and I watched as he looked out towards the crowd of spectators and the floor. It seemed the song was over in seconds, and both of us walked off the floor embarrassed.

Recently, I learned the reason for the “half dance". As I said in the beginning, Curtis was, and still is, a very sexual person. Due to his sexual nature he had, somewhat of an unwanted happening. I like to use the term "premature erection "for lack of a better term. Call it what you will, it happened. After hearing this I found myself in a state of uncontrollable laughter. And I thought we had it rough as women. I began to see my gender in a completely different light.

After the initial embarrassment had subsided I went outside for what I felt was a much deserved smoke. As I violently ripped open my pack I realized I was completely out. AHHH! This was not funny and almost too cruel. I frantically began to scan the outdoors for other smokers, so I could mooch just one, and there he stood. Taking deep gratifying puffs he offered me one of his. Thank God it was non-menthol. Curtis and I talked a bit more, all the while enjoying our smokes. I noticed he was on his last cigarette and offered to drive him to the store, seeing that I needed cigarettes as well. It is now a long standing joke between Barb and I. Each time there is an attractive member of the opposite sex around, Barb will turn to me grinning and say “Elizabeth you need any cigarettes?" At first it was kind of annoying, but now I see it as Barb's sick and twisted humor. As we drove, I found out more about this unique individual. He was born and raised in Sac City Iowa. He was adopted when he was just a few months old by an awesome family that still reside in Iowa. When he turned 19 he went into the Navy and spent 2 years. He was, and still is, a very gifted bass player as well as guitar. At the time, he had been writing a book but has since focused more on writing music.

Before either of us knew it we were back in the college parking lot. We watched as friends and family members ran to their cars to avoid the cold and rain. It seemed the reception was over, and the guilt of spending time with Curtis was weighing heavy on my mind. We went back into the hall to find out what was next on the agenda. All had decided to go swimming at the Holiday Inn where Barb and Eric would be staying the night. Leroy and I drove back to our hotel to grab our suits.

As Leroy and I stuffed things into our bag to bring to the hotel, the timing seemed almost too perfect, and then the questions started.

“You and Curtis seem to be hitting it off pretty well"

"Mmmhmm"

“Kind of an odd character, though"

"Mmmhmm"

“Heard from Eric's friend, he has a genius I.Q."

"Mmmhmm"

Noncommittal all the way is, I feel, the best way to go. Why set yourself up? I knew Leroy and he knew me. The stranger the person the more intriguing I find them. That conversation came to a definite halt when I felt it necessary to change the topic . And it was necessary. When we reached the hotel everyone was milling around the pool and enjoying the day. I immediately spotted Barb and went to soak in the hot tub with her. Leroy loves to swim and did so with the rest of Eric's friends and family. While Barb and I chatted in the hot tub, Curtis came over to visit with us. Fully clothed. No swim suit, no shorts, just a heavy flannel and jeans. He sat on the far edge of the hot tub, never making eye contact with me. I noticed Barb looking at me and then to Curtis as if to say,

“She’s right there! Talk to her!" My cousin can be so obvious at times. As they chatted, I noticed Leroy was sitting in one of the pool chairs looking very annoyed. I went over to find out what the problem was. From what I could find out, our cat Zoe had urinated on a couple of our towels and Leroy was pissed. We didn't notice the pungent odor until they became wet. We both decided to leave and wash a load of clothes at Barb and Eric's. The smell was radiating rapidly and the embarrassment mounting.

When we reached the "love nest" it was around 6pm and very uninviting. We quickly made our way inside and found, through a plethora of simple gestures, no electricity. Had Barb forgotten to pay her electric bill? No, I knew Barb. She has always been very responsible, almost anal, about paying her bills on time. We chalked it up to the storm looming overhead, and decided to head back to our hotel. We were both still catching up on sleep and didn't want to be tired for the drive home.

The next morning we drove over to the newlyweds and were surprised to see them home. We thought they would hide themselves away in their hotel room until at least check out time. They said they just missed being home and came back early. Go figure? I know if it were me, I would have hid out for at least a year!

Friends and family of the bride and groom had gone, except Curtis, Leroy and I. It was not often I got the chance to hang out with my cousin and even less that Curtis saw Eric. We all took advantage of the opportunity, and decided to go out to lunch at the local Pizza Hut. Barb, Eric and I are vegetarians and this seems to confuse people in the south. I think they feel I couldn’t possibly want a meal without something dead to top it off. They couldn’t be more wrong. The three of us opted for a simple cheese pizza and the salad bar, while Leroy and Curtis devoured yet another innocent life.

After lunch, Barb and I wanted to spend a little "girl time" together and decided to take a drive around the beautiful state of Arkansas. She showed me some of the most spectacular views I had ever seen. I now understood why she moved here. Along the drive she asked me what I knew she would ask, what had I thought of Curtis? We giggled like school girls as I told her what I thought about this mysteriously intriguing individual. Not only did I find Curtis attractive but passionate, defiant and definitely not for sale. I knew the moment I saw him, we would always be.

We drove around for another hour or so, and then drove back to the trailer. It was obvious the "men folk" had been there and left, due to all the emptied Dairy Queen wrappers and cups left on the kitchen counter. Why is it so difficult for the opposite sex to understand what a garbage can is for? That's yet another story in itself.

Barb is an incredible artist and she seems to make, whomever she is drawing, very comfortable. She brings out that part in yourself you want everyone to notice in a drawing or painting. For me, it was my eyes. She had me pose in a very elegant and tasteful floor length silk nightie I had bought from Victoria Secrets. She had me pose on her bed, surrounded by pillows. She sat across the room staring at me, with only an artist’s eye. As she created, we chatted again about Curtis, and again what my feelings were.

I confessed that in fact, I was not as happy as I should be with Leroy. I knew I loved him and he me, but I knew there was more to it. I knew loving someone is far from the end all be all. I also knew there had to be some sense of wholeness, of completeness that was lacking with Leroy and I. We chatted a while longer and suddenly heard the front door open. Barb and I both looked at one another and nervously laughed when we heard Curts voice. Eric called out to Barb and found us in the bedroom, looking like two house cats that had urinated in yet another houseplant. Giving Eric a quick peck, Barb continued drawing and grinning at me. Eric told me that he had dropped Leroy off at our hotel to watch some sporting event on TV, and to call when I had the chance.

Another wave of guilt washed over me, but quickly subsided when Curtis came to the back bedroom where Barb and I were. Finding a spot on the floor, he plopped down. He sat, looking at me, as Barb continued to draw and make polite chit-chat. When she finished, Curtis was ushered out of the bedroom so I could get dressed. I remember rushing to get dressed and then catching a glimpse of myself in the bedroom mirror. “What are you doing?" I questioned myself, out loud. I do that often. Talk to myself, hoping for a different perspective. Immediately I felt defensive towards my own self. I think if anyone had been secretly watching me they would have thought I was mad. I decided to finish dressing, away from the mirror.

Making my way out to the living room, I gave Barb a hug and headed for the front door. Curtis was standing there and asked if he could talk to me. "Sure, why not." I said more defiantly then necessary. We went outside to smoke. He started out the lengthy conversation by asking me more about me. Where had I grown up, how many siblings did I have, what did I do for a living etc., etc.

I felt as though I was being interviewed, but I didn’t mind. Maybe I'd learn something I didn’t already know. As we talked, the temperature was dropping quickly and we both wanted to continue talking.

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