You know that compelling instinct we all have to share something horrifying or repulsive? It's the first cousin to the urgency some of us crave for someone else to confirm that the milk really has gone bad (here, smell!) or that there are, in fact, clumps of green, fuzzy mold on top of the raspberry jam. We need others to bear witness, to corroborate the event in order dilute the horror, the loathing of the experience and lighten the load weighing heavily on the portion of the brain reserved for things no person should ever have to contemplate.
Clifford. Clifford. Clifford.
There. It's been said despite the pact Mrs. G. made with her mother years back that they would, in familial oneness, block out and not speak of the four years he was part of their lives. Sorry Mom, but Mrs. G, for better or worse, is a writer and some stories are just too good to conceal. It would be sad for the story of Clifford to die along with the two of us.
Clifford was Mrs. G's mom's second husband and, therefore, Mrs. G's first stepfather, and he was a perfect case study of a man who avoided adulthood by refusing to budge from adolescence. When Mrs. G's mother met him, he was 38 and still lived with his parents. Scratch that, he didn't still live with his parents. He had always lived with his parents. His mama still cooked his meals and did his laundry and lovingly called him Cliffie as she handed him his plate of eggs and bacon each morning.
Mrs. G's mom met Clifford at a bar called Trader Vics in Memphis. They barely dated a month before they decided to get married. Mrs. G's mom insisted that she loved him and, really, could do a lot worse. He had a job. She refused to listen to anybody during the intervention organized by Mrs. G's grandfather. The whole family sat around Mrs. G's grandparents' den and said things like "For the love of God. he is a loser and Jesus H. Christ. have you lost your mind?" and "Sweet Mother Mary, we don't want him in our family," and, finally the most shocking statement of all as Mrs. G's grandfather was a serious tightwad, "I will write you a check for $450 dollars right this second if you don't marry this goober." All in all, it was an exciting intervention despite the fact that no one in the room had any psychological training beyond embracing the family motto of Get the hell over it.
But Mrs. G's mother married Clifford all the same. In her defense, she has since told Mrs. G. that she married Clifford to get out of her parents' house. She and Mrs. G. lived with them the year following her mom's divorce from Mrs. G's father. Mrs. G's mother couldn't take the restrictions placed on her by her well meaning parents: they monitored her comings and goings, they listened to all her phone conversations as the one phone in the house was in the den and only had a six inch cord and they dispensed well intentioned advice from sun up to sun down.
So Mrs. G, her mother and Clifford moved into a small apartment in Frasier and began the section of Mrs. G's life she has labeled the fourth ring of hell. Living with Clifford was like living with an insecure sibling. He related to Mrs. G's mom as his mom. He competed with Mrs. G. for attention and emotional gold stars. No one in the house paid much attention to him or offered him an ounce of respect. Even the cat ignored him.
Clifford wore velour jumpsuits with built in belts, he bathed in Brut cologne, he shellacked his hair with Aqua Net, he wore beaded moccasins in public and he had possibly the worst job on the planet. He worked for an insurance company. He drove around Memphis, meeting with clients in their homes to help process their paperwork and collect their urine. The backseat of his car was littered with little yellow plastic vials, each containing some sort of urine test magic tablet. When Clifford hit a speed bump, the pills rattled around like pee pee castanets. It was awesome to ride around with Clifford, his jumpsuit and complete strangers' urine. Just awesome. When Clifford wasn't in the room, Mrs. G. referred to him as a piss peddler.
Well, you might be thinking to yourself as Mrs. G's mom repeated over and over, so he was a loser, he was a bust, but he could be worse and, in truth, he could have been. He was never overtly mean to Mrs. G. and he certainly never hurt her. He was basically harmless, annoying but harmless.
But Mrs. G. is about to tell you something that is going to rubber stamp that Clifford was a loser of the most alarming, unsettling kind. She only told Mr. G. about it this morning over coffee, because she didn't want him to be blindsided when he read her blog. She had to cover her eyes with her hands as she confessed, unable to bear the possibility that that the stockpile of concerns floating around his head might audibly CLICK and reveal that his wife really is as mad as a March hare...in April no less.
Mom, Mrs. G. begs you, stop reading now and click over to your Diabetic Republican Grandmother's Forum. Seriously, go now.
Clifford had a curious hobby that he had apparently been pursuing for a disturbing length of time: he collected lint in his belly button. And when he had a beer or two, he would unbelt and unzip his jumpsuit and show it to, no lie, anyone who was in the room. It was a small ball of lint the size of a green pee pea and after he pulled it out for others to admire, he gently tucked it back in. Where this lint came from, no one knows, because as the Lord is her Saviour, who would want or need this information? Some questions are just not meant to be asked.
Or, have mercy, answered.
No one shed any tears when Mrs. G's mom divorced Clifford four long years later. He moved back in with his parents and Mrs. G. married another man within a year. But that is a story for another time. Mrs. G. survived revolving parents, and, truthfully, none of them were that bad. They make for interesting dinner conversation, though the lint ball is just between you and Mrs. G. Pinky swear.