Today, as I’m writing this, it’s the 33rd. anniversary of the death of my husband Van. I usually get some calls from his Marine buddies to find out how I’m doing. This year nobody called. There’s a reason. They’ve all gone to join their buddy in a much better place.
Thinking back, I remember a couple of Van’s friends who didn’t turn out to be very nice people as the years went by. However my Van, a retired Marine, was someone who always tried to find some good in everyone. However, I’m not so kind as Van was in this subject. Unfortunately I was right a couple of times. This is the story of one of those ex-Marines.
This Marine did his three years, got a good civilian job, married and had a couple of young ones. The first time I met — I”ll call them Jim and Mary — and their children, they surprised us by stopping at our home in Fresno on their way to theirs in San Diego. They had been on vacation somewhere north. The first thing they asked to do was use our washing machine and everybody take showers.
On top of that, an all-night visit was to be included! It took a while to get the laundry done, and what was a surprise was how they got at their laundry. Mary simply opened three suitcases, dumped everything on the laundry room floor. She didn’t sort whites, colors etc., she just filled the washing machine with whatever she could pick up, added detergent and turned it on. So it went for three loads.
In the meantime we visited in the living room, the guys telling stories about the time the two of them shared a room in Barstow, Calif. Van said he got tired of cleaning up after Jim– the resulting military room inspection not always favorable since Jim, Van said, was sloppy. Jim didn’t argue the fact. Finally, Van drew a line down the middle of the room. Each then took care of their share. It worked.
The laundry finally done, their two girls went in first to take a shower. A little later I needed to use our bathroom and walked into a puddle of at least an inch of water. They had left the shower curtain outside of the tub and there was water everywhere. Then they had simply dropped the towels into that mess. I didn’t know what to say, so I simply sopped up everything.
I took about a dozen soaking wet towels to the washing machine, and cleaned everything. Their parents were a little bit more careful, they didn’t leave the shower curtain out of the tub, but they did drop their towels on the floor instead of hanging them up. Mealtime wasn’t much better. Nobody offered to cook or clean up and by the time they left the next day we were out of food.
The house was a mess. I was furious. Bless Van. He helped me clean, and then treated me to dinner at my favorite restaurant. I had two cocktails. Considering the day before, I should have had a dozen. Then, about a year later, Van had to go to Camp Pendleton and informed Jim and Mary that we’d be in town. They invited us to stay with them — we declined — but did accept a dinner invitation.
For dinner, Mary had taken two pineapples, cut them in half, scooped out the fruit, added apples and pears and made a delicious fruit cocktail. She then proceeded to cook us a really delicious steak dinner. I was surprised and grateful she at least had that quality.
We then went into the living room and sat to visit. Just over Jim’s right shoulder, stuck in the folds of the sofa, was an orange.
In everyone’s plain sight, that orange stared at everyone. Nobody said a thing about it. We had an hour or so conversation, had an after dinner cocktail, and then Van and I went on our merry way. It was a year later that I became a widow. I was visiting other friends in that area and was looking for a job. I called Jim, who was now the superintendent for an entire county of schools.
I asked Jim if he knew a job for which I was qualified. His answer — “You’re on your own now girl, sorry I can’t help you.” Then he hung up. So much for Jim being Van’s friend after all.
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org