Seriously, Elvis has never been a big part of our lives. It’s a little weird that he has come up so many times lately. So, I am going to use Elvis as a segue for a new group of blogs to share.
For years my brother and I have shared stories about our life with our mom. We love her dearly. But she gave us a lot to talk about too. I started writing them down and am now going to share them with you. I hope they are fun to read and a bit surprising. I write them down so that we can share them with our children, and I can learn what I can about my mother and myself. Enjoy! And please tell me what you think. I am not a grammar expert but relearning as I go.
Tom and I like to make fun of the fact that mom had A LOT of boyfriends after our parents’ divorce. Given my recent dating experience, it doesn't seem like that many now. I think I get it. But boy, did she date some doozies! Every one of them, but one, is a crazy story. Like, there was this one guy - Denny. Oh, Denny.
I think we met him first at his restaurant that he had just opened. Mom was nervous about introducing us to this "great new guy'. But he had a newly opened restaurant, and she liked him. That is all we knew. Mike and I drove up while I was pregnant with Jordan. Summer of 1997.
We took our seats with mom in a clean but sparse restaurant. And then we saw Denny. Oh. My. Goodness.
Denny was tall, fit enough for a 50ish guy, jet black hair that was dyed, and porkchop sideburns. Yeah, my mother was dating Elvis.
(He did settle in Michigan!! ;) https://wrkr.com/elvis-alive-kalamazoo/)
From this point forward, every time Denny's name came up, Mike would do his best Elvis impersonation, "uhh huh" with a curled lip. We would make so much fun of mom and Elvis. Never to her face, of course. Well maybe.
He was alright. Mom seemed happy, and I was sure that he wouldn't be around long enough to make too big an impression. So, "Okay, mom - have fun dating Elvis."
So, Denny was still around when Christmas arrived. Jordan was 5 weeks old when we had my mom over for a holiday dinner, Denny begrudgingly included. When they arrived, his adult daughter was with them. Mom came in the door, apologizing about the additional guest while trying to act like she was invited so that Denny wouldn't know. Mom was a people pleaser extraordinaire. Yes, it takes one to know one.
So - here was his daughter. Stringy dark hair, tight jeans, tank top, jacket, and tattoos everywhere. She looked like she was dragged out and did not want to be here. She had a nasty aura and reeked of cigarette smoke. It became a big deal that they both had to go outside to smoke, complaining the entire time. I am sure I made a nice dinner. Jordan was wearing the standard early nineties stiff red velvet holiday dress. Man, I regret that dress choice—sorry, Babe.
And then the phone rang. Aunt Nancy, mom's sister, was being taken to the local ICU. She had taken a turn for the worse in her cancer treatment, and it was not looking good. Well - this family knows how to handle situations like this. We overdo it, and we are there - whether we are exhausted, can't afford it, or are going to screw up our lives. We show up.
I apologized to Mike and told him that I needed to take my mom to the hospital. I'd be in touch—picture payphones. Yeah, I left him with a 5-week-old, Denny "Elvis" and his mean daughter.
We arrived at the hospital, and the situation was grave. Mom and I had a lot of time to wait and worry. She decided this was a good time to tell me about "Elvis." You see, he was just out of prison for stealing a car. What?!?! Oh, my lord - this was a first. I left my husband and newborn with a felon that I didn't know. But wait - that is not all. He brought his daughter with him because she was a prostitute in Detroit and having trouble with her boss. Her boss. That would be a pimp, mom. All I wanted to do was get home, save my child, and find some way to kick them out of my house. "But Mary - he's a good guy. He hasn't done anything else. He served his time."
The half-hour drive home with my mom gave me time to ponder what I wanted to say to her and how this time, yes, finally, I would let her have it. I pulled into the driveway and walked as fast as I could to Jordan's room. There I found my girl, in her stiff, scratchy dress, rolled up in a fleece blanket like she was a "pig in a blanket" appetizer. The blanket rolled up so thick that her head and legs hung over the ends, and she couldn't rest her head. I unrolled her quick and laid her down. She was fine. She slept right through it. Who the hell did that to her?
Mike was on my heels. Under his breath, he squeaked, "I didn't know what to do! She took over and said that she would take care of her. I didn't know what to do."
"You let a prostitute stranger take care of our baby girl??!!"
“Oh yeah - I’ll tell you later.”
I got them all out of my house. Never once letting my mom know exactly how I felt. Because you know, her sister was dying. That would be mean. My feelings balled up and shoved into the mom corner. It’s fine. It’s all fine.
A few months later, we headed to Illinois to participate in my friend’s wedding. I asked my mom to come with us to take care of Jordan. She wondered if Denny could go with her. She had moved in with him. I made sure she understood that we would need her to care for Jordan while we were at the rehearsal and then the next night for the wedding. “Of course - I can’t wait!” “We can entertain ourselves in the room.”
I should have known this wouldn’t work well. It NEVER worked out well. But come on - this time it would, right?!
The wedding rehearsal went well, and Mike and I had some fun with friends for the first time since Jordan was born. We hadn’t left her with anyone at this point. As soon as we got back to the room, we called mom’s room. No answer. We called again. No answer. I went to my mom’s room. No answer. I should have known—several hours of this. I was crazed. I was pacing around the hotel room. Mike was fuming.
About 1:00 a.m., there was a knock at the door. There is mom, with Jordan and Denny. She hands me Jordan and says, “oh - we had so much fun - she was great - we went to a bar to listen to some live music - it was so fun.” I could not even comprehend. I wanted to scream at her. Who the hell thinks that taking a 3-month-old to a bar with loud music and cigarette smoke until 1:00 a.m. is okay? All I could do is take Jordan’s carrier and shut the door.
Fast forward a few months, and I get a call from mom. She is upset. I remember pacing the deck on a gorgeous spring day while she tells me that Elvis kicked her out. And the reasons are the most salacious part of the entire story. But I’ll keep it private to protect those still with us.
I wish I could go back and do all of this again with my wiser self. There is a lesson here about setting boundaries, saying what needs to be said and being vulnerable with the people you love. I learned it too late to make a better relationship with my mother. But I am learning, so I try every day.
What is holding you back from saying what needs to be said? I am here to help you figure it out. Even if you have an Elvis. Just reach out.