After leaving Lansing, Michigan and Big Joe we moved to the home of Jim's best friend since elementary school, Jerry and Jerry's second wife Mary. They live in a beautiful house nearby the GM Proving Grounds. Set on multiple acres, four levels, many bedrooms and bathrooms. We really enjoyed our hours sitting on the deck that wraps around the house sunning, relaxing and reading. But I have to admit I was also uncomfortable with it too, because of what it represents.
It represents to me Veneered Poverty, something I witnessed more than a few times in my old church. It's like slapping a layer of burled oak veneer on top of cruddy knotty old wood. Looks nice, till you get up close and realize what lays beneath.
I've known both of them for thirty years and I know that their big fancy house is deceiving. In my eyes the way that Jerry and Mary have lived their lives just rubs me the wrong way. No, not rubs the wrong way, it horrifies me.
As long as I've known them this couple has spent down to the last dime with no thought of tomorrow. Refinanced their original home many times, ran up the credit cards and each worked two jobs to be able to afford the trappings of a successful life, lavish vacations, redecorating the house every few years, new cars, all of the keeping up with the Jones accouterments of The Good Life.
Three years ago everything came crashing down. They lost the house, they declared bankruptcy and started working more hours. This house they are in is a rental, renting at well, well, WELL below market value because the owners are good friends and could not sell the place when the husband was transferred to another area. The owners paid it off years ago, so whatever rental they can get is gravy, plus they are helping out friends and fellow church members.
I'm glad they have a nice place to stay but I don't envy Mary having to clean a house twice as big as mine with four floors. When Mary and I had lunch together one day she started telling me about how she wants a small condo, that's what she wants to buy, and to stop working two jobs, live within their means very simply, so that she can enjoy the rest of her life. Her mother and four sisters died around the same age, about ten years old than she is now and I could see what Mary is thinking, that she doesn't have much time left and is determined to enjoy it.
The problem is that I see no change in how they spend money and in the two jobs/long hours. Plus, their youngest daughter, 25 years old who acts like a 12 year old spoiled brat, moved in with them. Looks like more the same old that got them in trouble in the first place. Mary, seems to 'get' it, but doesn't seem to be able to make the necessary changes to climb out of the hole.
I cannot imagine because that close to sixty and having to scrabble so hard with no idea how you were going to pay for retirement. Sad situation.
The last night of our trip was Jim's high school unofficial reunion. I was curious as to how this was going to turn out considering the last eight weeks before the reunion Jim and the other reunion committee members were fighting with the lady in charge. She booked the Marriott for the reunion without asking anyone on the committee's opinion and then telling them tough titty if they didn't like it. She set it up as open bar and steaks at a hundred bucks a head. Jim went around behind her back and convinced just about everyone to boycott the dinner. The reunion ended up ala carte at a local sports bar, much less nice, but much more budget friendly.
I had a good time, with one exception. Jim has an old friend named T-Bone. T-Bone is sort of one of those guys that was extremely 'uncool' in high school and the years haven't improved him much. I've always felt sort of sorry for T-Bone, because he wasn't Mr. Personality or much to look at, so many of the women he attracted seemed to be more interested in his wallet than anything else. The last reunion I attended he brought this lady from his work (he works at the Sara Lee pie factory). His date, Delores, wasted no time telling us how she'd left her no count husband for T-Bone, all the while hammering down the booze and smoking. Between the things she said, did, wore and the way she looked I didn't want anything to do with her.
Delores still lives with him, but in his basement. T-Bone didn't bring her to the reunion, he brought his new fiancee, who is my age and on disability for arthritis. Her name is Ethel. Shortly after introducing us to Ethel T-Bone invited us to his wedding in two weeks up in Altoona, Pa. He told us he really didn't want to get married for a third time but Ethel was insisting on it, so he decided she was okay enough for now, at least until something better came along.
He said this IN FRONT OF ETHEL!?!?!... and then went on to say lots of other ugly things in front of Ethel. Ethel spent the evening downing beers like prohibition was looming and trying not to cry. By the end of the evening she was falling down drunk. Sadly enough, so were several others from the Class of 1969,
Both Jim and I were shocked by T-Bones words and behavior and have agreed we're not going to the wedding because neither of us wants to give any appearance of approval. That's without taking into account the couple met online in late April, met face to face Memorial Day weekend and immediately moved in together and got engaged. It just seems like they're rushing it a bit. I'm afraid for Ethel because it's pretty obvious she's decided to ignore every red flag and rush in, while T-Bone is saying things that indicate this union is doomed from the start. Someone is going to get hurt.
It's made me realize that T-Bone isn't the hapless victim I always thought he was. He uses his money (and he has quite a bit of inherited money) to manipulate and control the ladies in his life. Many guys with money use it to control their partners, that's a lesson I learned with the guy I dated before Jim. He was a millionaire owner of a oil field supply company, and he saw nothing wrong with attempting to control every aspect of my life. I dumped him quickly, to my mother's horror, because I wasn't prepared to be criticized by and have to kowcow to any man.
Why do male-female relationships have to be so complex? It makes me happy that these aren't problems Jim and I have, even if our relationship isn't perfect by any long shot. Money can really gum things up.