First off, I'd like to thank all those Jeanketeers out there who've written to express their condolences for the passing of my dear kitty, Arthur. That includes the woman who sent me information about the grieving-cat-owner website, goodbyekitty.com. I wish I could say it comforted me, but scrolling past those dozens of kitty obituaries just bummed me out even more. But it's nice to know there are so many people out there who care.
That said, many of the same people who were sooooo considerate in my hour of need weren't exactly thrilled with hubby Rick's handling of Arthur's passing. Regular readers of this column will recall that during a Christmas dinner party at my house, I discovered that Arthur had choked to death on my Pinchers The Lobster Teenie Beanie Baby. Rick and his buddy Craig offered to bury him outside, but instead, they just tossed poor Arthur in a Dumpster behind the Olde Country Buffet because the ground was too hard to dig a grave!
"Hubby Rick is a great big mean ogre!" one of several outraged readers wrote. "As a man, I must say that if I were your husband, Jean, I never would have done something like that to you, especially at such a vulnerable time," wrote another. (Hey, maybe you can be my husband! It's not too late! Hubba hubba! Just kidding!!!)
Even my friend Patti won't speak to Rick. When she picked me up to go shopping the other day, she refused to go into our apartment. (She said she'd bite her tongue clean through if she had to face "that jerk"!)
But what everyone doesn't realize is that Rick also has a softer, sweeter side. And, although I was very upset with him after he told me what he'd done with poor Arthur's body, he more than made up for it. The day after Arthur's death, when I finally came out of my bedroom after crying my eyes out for hours, I discovered that Rick had cleaned up the entire apartment! And the place had been a complete mess, too, because I'd left all the dirty dishes and leftover food from the dinner party on the table.
I just about had a heart attack! Rick never, ever—and I mean never—cleans anything! He thinks it's woman's work. (And a man's mess!) Now, granted, he put the dishes away wrong, threw out some perfectly good leftover Rock Cornish Game Hens, melted a couple of plastic things in the dishwasher, and damaged the enamel on my best pot by scouring it too roughly with a steel-wool pad. But on the refrigerator, he left a note: "I cleaned all the crap up. It was starting to stink like hell. Rick."
Now, would a "great big mean ogre" do a nice thing like that? Of course not! In fact, of all the sweet, helpless little pussycats I've known in my life, hubby Rick has to top the list. It's what's kept us together for so long. The truth is, he can't live without me!
I learned this very early on in our marriage. Rick and I got married after my dad caught us making whoopee in the backseat of Rick's Plymouth Duster in the Jewel parking lot one night. (Shotgun wedding? Our parents were so furious, it was more like a machine-gun wedding!)
Anyway, we didn't have much money when we first got married (I was working at the shoe-rental booth at a bowling alley, and Rick was still in his "party" days), so we had to move in with Rick's grandmother in her mobile home on the outskirts of town. And, believe me, it was no picnic! Grandmother Teasdale was frail and senile, and her skin had turned bright yellow from decades of chain-smoking. And she always called me "Elsie," for some reason.
One day, I decided I'd had enough. It had taken me nearly two hours to get Grandmother Teasdale into her bra, underwear, girdle and pantsuit, and sometime in the middle of this, hubby Rick came home from his usual all-night bender. Taking one look at the scene, he rolled his eyes and said, "I'll be at the quarry with some buds." That did it.
"Oh, no you don't, Rick Teasdale!" I shouted. "She's your grandmother! Why do I always have to be the one to look after her?" Then he muttered something about how only a pervert would dress his own grandmother, ran out the front door, and peeled out in his Duster, leaving a black tire streak about 10 feet long.
I was livid. I crammed Grandmother Teasdale into my Gremlin and drove to my in-laws' house. I told Rick's mom I was leaving him, and that I was tired of caring for Grandmother Teasdale, who should have been in a nursing home. "There's one person I haven't been caring for lately," I said. "And it's me!"
So I moved back home, intending to file divorce papers. That same week, Grandmother Teasdale was put in a home, and Rick's parents sold her mobile home. Which meant, of course, that hubby Rick was homeless, jobless and without any means of support!
About a month later, I was in my parents' kitchen and heard a tapping at the door. It was hubby Rick, wearing the tuxedo T-shirt he'd worn at our wedding and carrying a bouquet of carnations and a tape recorder!
Now, Rick will turn bright red when he finds out I've revealed this in my column, but he got down on his knee, told me he was sorry, and swore up and down that he'd turn over a new leaf if I just took him back. He said he was living out of his car because his father was no longer giving him money, and he was tired of living like a bum.
Well, I was still pretty skeptical. "How do I know you're really going to reform yourself?" I asked. "How do I know I won't still be the only one supporting us?"
Then, Rick did something that made me realize how mean-spirited and petty I was being. For you see, as I asked him these things, Rick turned on the tape recorder, which began playing "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell. That was the song we slow-danced to at our wedding! It was the most romantic thing Rick had ever done for me, and it made me feel like a queen! Soon, the divorce papers were in the trash, and we were hugging and kissing. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Isn't that the sweetest story you've ever heard? And just in time for Valentine's Day, to boot! I may be a softie and a sappy old romantic, but after hearing that, only a heartless stick-in-the-mud would think hubby Rick is a big fat jerk without a shred of sensitivity!
I know I made the right decision. Soon after we got back together, Rick stopped his irresponsible partying. (He likes to say it was because he was burning out, but I know better!) And now, more than 20 years later, he has a steady, decent-paying job at the tire center, and together we have two cars and a very nice one-bedroom apartment with central AC, mini-blinds and a deck. And, of course, each other. We would never have had all of these things if we'd been quitters!
Yep, all in all, life's been pretty good for Mr. and Mrs. Richard Teasdale!