Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 8


     As nearly as Sharon could make out, her mother’s family had always been embarrassed by Bob. He had done badly in school, gotten a girl pregnant, and then wandered off. He later made a fair amount of money in Cincinnati with a convenience store, a so-called ‘pony keg.’ Feeling that he had proven himself, he wanted to re-establish connections with his much more sophisticated family. His parents were not thrilled, but there were some visits. After the parents’ passing, there were visits to his sister’s family. Sharon hadn’t liked Bob then, and she now realized that she and Tim were his only living relatives. He could easily become a barnacle.

      The badness of Uncle Bob was offset by Tim’s news that Doris, one of Sharon’s favorite adults, had been made her guardian. A meeting was soon arranged.

     Waiting for Doris at a café off Dunster Street, Sharon knew her well enough to expect her to be late. In the event, she rushed up, only three minutes late, and said, “I don’t blame you for hiding out. There’s indescribable chaos in our neighborhood.”

“I’m missing some school, but I called the principal and explained. She was nice, and said I could make up the work. In fact, I’m going to Harvard classes with Meredith and the others.”

“You’re a good manager, Sharon. I’m sure you don’t need a guardian. Anyhow, can I be of any help?”

Sharon nodded and replied. “I want to know what my parents were like.”

“Wow! Do you realize that no one could really tell you that?”

“Sure. I accept your disclaimer. But you know more than I do.”

“Okay, I’ll do what I can. I guess I was Susan’s best friend. When she was drawing up her will some time back, she asked me to be your guardian in case of her death. I just got confirmation from her lawyer. He seemed to expect me to jump into the Slough of Despond and pull you out.”

“Well, I’m not in the Slough. But I was afraid I’d get saddled with awful Uncle Bob. So I was really pleased when Tim told me about you.”

“I guess I’ll take if chronologically. I met Susan when you were about two. We shopped at the same supermarket, and I helped keep you away from the candy bars at the check-out counter. Later, we would lunch and go to movies together. Sometimes Ron came with us, but it was a little uncomfortable when he did.”

“Did he seem to care for her a lot?”

“It seemed so. Susan was really quite pretty, and much more vibrant than later on. I suppose she went through a period of depression, and I remember thinking that being married to Ron would depress anyone. But he was certainly proud of her in the early going. He may have ended up hating her for what he himself was doing to her.”

“I never perceived her as terribly out-going or glamorous.”

“You were too young to remember when she was. Although she was partly recovering in recent years.”

“Did my parents have affairs with other people?”

“I had a feeling you were going to ask that. I don’t think I would have volunteered it, but yes. Your father had a string of affairs that Susan knew about. But he didn’t know that she knew. ”

“Could he have suspected that she knew, but gone on pretending that she didn’t to avoid a scene?”

“A possibility. But I don’t think that Ron feared scenes. He might just have raised his voice and told her to get over it.”

“He was good at raising his voice and giving orders.”

“He had his softer seductionist modes. Although they may really have been predatory. He pretty much propositioned me once.”

“His wife’s best friend!”

“It happens all the time, honey. I was divorced and not seeing anyone at the time. A man like Ron would have figured he was doing me a favor. I put him off without making a big thing about it, and didn’t tell Susan.”

“Poor Mother!”

“She wasn’t as passive as you might have thought. She started an affair of her own. It might have been nothing more than tit-for-tat at first, but it became much deeper. I’m pretty sure Ron didn’t know about that.”

“Were you the only one who did know?”

“I think I was.”

“Do you know the man?”

“Yes. But, before we get to that, it’s worth noting that both your parents were deeply immersed in secret lives. That must have taken a lot of their attention. Away from you and Tim.”

“What Tim and I most noticed was just the lack of feeling in the house. Sometimes hostile, but mostly indifferent.”

“Susan really did care about you. But the form that took is another long story.”

“Too long for now, I guess.”

“Let’s take things in stages. There’s the funeral coming up in a few days. Are you satisfied with the arrangements?”

“I was satisfied with the ones I made. Uncle Asshole Bob has screwed everything up and turned it into a circus. He even wants to give a speech.”

“Shit! I’ve met him a couple of times. I’ll have a go at talking him out of it.”

“That would be nice. But, don’t worry. We can take clip-on radios with earphones and plug in when he’s talking.”

“Great idea! But, still, I’ll tell him that there aren’t to be any speeches. Then, if he goes ahead, we’ll be justified in plugging in.”

It was later in the day that Doris reached Sharon by phone, “That awful Bob in unbelievable! When I went to check on your house, I found that he’d gotten in through an unlocked back door. He’d also summoned caterers. He was going to have a reception in your house without your permission. I demanded to know who was going to pay, and he said it would be part of the funeral expenses!”

“Shit! He might possibly get the lawyers, or the bank, or someone, to pay.”

“That’s what I thought. So I got the head caterer alone, and told him that, since the reception was unauthorized, it was very unlikely that he’d get paid at all. Amazingly quickly, he gathered his people into their little white trucks, and they were gone. Bob went running out into the street after them, and, when he realized that I’d sent them away, he turned ugly. So I turned ugly faster and harder.”

“Are you okay?”

“Oh sure. I don’t think he was about to hit me. But I told him to stop interfering, and to keep away from your house. I also said that, if he tried to speak at the funeral, we’d all walk out. He went away muttering that some people just didn’t understand.”

“Doris, you’re a great guardian! You’re guarding me against things I need to be guarded against.”

“Thanks, kid. Have you talked with Tim yesterday or today?”

“Just now. He’s in even deeper hiding, mostly from newspaper reporters.”

“Yeah, it happens that I know a woman who works on the paper. One thing is that Tim’s punts and passes in the Yale game made a huge impression. The pro teams are interested in him. So the local sports writers all have to have their interview and story. The related thing is that he’s become what they call a human interest story because of your parents. The upshot is that they want to swarm over him, and, to a lesser extent, you.”

“I haven’t felt the heat yet.”

“One advantage is that they haven’t so far found a decent picture of you and don’t know what you look like. That’s given me an idea. But, for Tim, the funeral would just be a publicity trap. The photographers are the most obnoxious. They’re mostly squirrelly little guys who’ll shove huge cameras three inches from your face. I’d advise Tim not to go.”

“Really? A lot of people will take that ill, but I don’t suppose either of us cares.”

“Well, funerals are bullshit, anyway. It isn’t as if they brought people back to life.”

“I suppose I needn’t go either, but I’d feel a little odd.”

“I think we can handle your being there without disaster.”

“Okay, Doris. Just tell me what to do.”

“I would suggest out-flanking the usual hypocrisy. In an ordinary funeral, half the audience has mixed feelings about the dead person, but pretend that he or she was a saint. In this case, the feelings will be mixed big-time, and we should act in such a way as to suggest that we’re going to keep our feelings to ourselves while hoping that others will control themselves.”

“Apart from not standing up and giving silly eulogies, how do we do that?”

“It’s traditional to wear black. But we don’t have to wear garments that look like coal sacks. How about sexy black cocktail dresses and heels?”

“That would usefully infuriate Uncle Bob.”

“If possible, bring young friends, similarly dressed. Since it’s become a funeral we don’t approve of, we should turn it into an entirely different sort of event.”

     The whole group met at a cafeteria in Harvard Square that evening. The weather was ugly with a cold hard rain, and they took over a table near the front window. As wind and water buffeted it, Sharon liked the feeling of being only inches away from the awfulness while being protected from it. An empty chair was used as the depositary for the dripping coats and hats.

     As the discussion began, Howie and Jimmy agreed that Tim shouldn’t go to the funeral. Some stratagems were also invented for keeping reporters at a distance. Tim pointed out, “The university is so security conscious that they won’t tell anyone how to find a student, or what courses he’s taking.”

Meredith replied, “Then that’s fairly okay. But can we shield Sharon if she goes to the funeral?”

Sharon replied, “The funeral director, Hortense, says that she can manage that. Doris also has a plan to keep people from coming up and weeping on my shoulder. She asks only that I wear a sexy black dress, and bring girl friends similarly attired.”

Audrey was delighted. “Meredith and I’ll get outfitted at the thrift and resale stores tomorrow.”

Sharon mentioned that she already patronized a resale store, but, on further questioning, Audrey decided that it was too much like a boutique.

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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