Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stuff I never knew...

This post is not all that light-hearted, so if you don't want to read about creepy people, you may want to move on to your next station on the Web.

While my mom was visiting, she told me some stories about our lives in Gloucester, Virginia.  I was a  young child when we moved there.  I never really liked living there.  I have since found out that my mom mostly shared my sentiments.  As I've grown up, I can see why some people love Gloucester because it does have its charms.  It did eventually become more of a home to me, though it's one of those places where there are many people who have lived their whole lives there.  Those who move in, even if they were young kids at the time, are never really accepted as locals.

I guess I probably would have been thought of as more of a local than my parents were.  They grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Frankly, that's more like my real home than Tidewater ever was, even though I was born and mostly raised there.  I am related to many people in Rockbridge County, but my personal origins are on the eastern side of the state.  Even today, I feel a strange gravitational pull to the water.  Maybe it's because I grew up there.  Maybe it's because my mom is also a lover of beaches.

Anyway, Mom told me the story about how she and my dad came to own their business in Gloucester.  Dad had retired from the Air Force and was working in a job that didn't interest him.  We lived in northern Virginia, which was congested even back in the late 1970s.  I liked living there well enough, but I didn't know any better.  Now that I've lived there as an adult, I can see why my parents wanted to move.

Back in 1980, Mom and Dad had friends who lived in Hampton and they told my parents about a home and a business in Gloucester that was for sale.  Originally, these friends had planned to go in business with my parents.  Looking back, I can't imagine how that would have worked out.  These people lived in Hampton, which is not that close to Gloucester, and the husband had some rather serious health issues.  They evidently weren't planning to move to Gloucester because Hampton was their home.  They later decided they didn't want to join my dad in business, mainly because the male half of the couple really needed his health insurance coverage.  I remember he later ended up having heart surgery.  It would have been a disaster if they'd joined my parents in their business venture.

Even though the other couple pulled out of the business deal, my parents decided to buy the house and accompanying business in Gloucester.  They really knew nothing about running the business-- which was custom picture framing and art sales.  My mom later opened a knitting and needlework shop.  Back then, she did know about knitting, needlework, and other needle related arts.  But she had never been a businesswoman.  She had once had a part time job working in a knitting supply store and it's my guess that was where she started figuring out how to run her business.

The guy who sold them their house was a crook.  I remember him very well.  He did everything on the cheap.  I remember that he and his equally tacky wife shared the small bedroom on the first floor of my parents' home, probably because it had a private bathroom.  There was a large mirror on the sliding door of the closet.  It covered the entire door, so you couldn't avoid seeing yourself in it, even if you preferred not to.  The homeowner had positioned another mirror on top of the mirrored closet, angling it downwards, most likely so that he could watch himself fuck his wife.  The bathroom in that room was also done in mirrors and had a shit brown, plastic, padded toilet seat that stuck to your ass and made a flatulent sound when you sat on it.

I remember my mom redid that bathroom almost immediately after we moved in.  The mirror over the bed also quickly disappeared.  I inherited a tiny room upstairs that was accessed via shutters from another small bedroom.  The ceiling was sloped, sort of in a Dutch barn style.  It was not air conditioned and would get unbearably hot in the summer.  I covered the walls with posters and pictures of horses, along with the many ribbons I won at horse shows over my eight years in the show ring.  That tiny room was mine until all my sisters were out of the house; then I moved to the larger room that connected the tiny room.

Mom said the guy who sold them their house in Gloucester was going to live in his camper and teach my dad the business.  Naturally, he quickly reneged on the deal and left my parents high and dry.  He also made off with some of the stuff that was supposedly part of the sale.  It was no big loss.  He and my parents had very different philosophies about how they wanted to do business.  I was sad when he moved his jukebox out of the house, though.  I had fun playing with it.

As an aside, as she was telling me this story, my mom mentioned the creepy neighbor guy who lived across the street and used to show me pornography.  Apparently, he knew before my parents did that the homeowner was a crook.  Mom doesn't know that our neighbor was inappropriate with me.  I mentioned it in an oblique way once and she gave me a startled deer in the headlights look, so I haven't brought it up again.  I get the sense that ignorance is probably bliss at this point, especially since the creepy neighbor has been dead for years.  Of course, I can't think of him and not remember Burger King's old slogan, "Home of the Whopper."  That was how our neighbor referred to himself.

My dad got training in high end professional picture framing and eventually established a good reputation.  They were in business for about 25 years and became well known and somewhat respected in the community.

Besides being known for his work, my dad was also well known in local music circles.  He was a member of many singing groups.  My mom told me a disturbing story about how one woman in one of the music groups, a woman she called Linda, was much younger than my dad and was supposedly married to a guy with Alzheimer's Disease.  For some reason, Linda took a strange liking to my dad, even when he was suffering from dementia.  Linda was attractive and very talented.  She could sing, play violin, and enjoyed bike riding, which was a sport my dad got involved with in the 1980s.  She may have seemed like a tempting distraction to him.  On the other hand, my father once enjoyed a birthday meal at a Hooter's and was completely oblivious to the women in orange spandex shorts.

My dad and Hooters girls... He's obviously more into the food.

At one point during his last years of life, my dad had to temporarily spend some time in a nursing home to recover from surgery.  While he was there, Linda would visit.  She'd park herself in his room and stay all day.  She'd even get updates from medical staff about his condition.  They were under the impression that Linda was my dad's daughter.  I, of course, knew nothing about this when it was going on.  I wasn't living in the area and my mom never mentioned it to me.  My dad wasn't in the nursing home for long; I think it may have been less than a month.

Mom said one time, she and a friend had gone to see my dad.  He wasn't in his room, so Mom asked where he was.  A nurse said his "daughter" had taken him out to the courtyard.  Mom and her friend looked out the window and there was Linda, sitting with my dad.   She had his face in her hands and was staring intently into his eyes, speaking lovingly to him, her face close to his.  I can't imagine what her motives were, especially since my father was not in his right mind.

I think if it had been me in that situation, I would have barged out there in the courtyard and made a nasty scene.  Linda would have left the nursing home courtyard sporting a new gaping asshole.  But my mom is not like that.  She doesn't like to make a scene and, at that point, might not have felt like she needed to directly confront the weirdo hussy who was so brazenly hitting on her husband.  She never said or did anything directly to address Linda's actions, though she did pass the word along that Linda shouldn't be hanging out with my dad so much.  Soon after that incident, Dad was able to come home.

It later came out that Linda's husband did not have Alzheimer's Disease.

Some time later, my Mom was invited to a get together with some of my dad's old singing buddies.  Mom asked if "Linda" was going to be there.  Because if she was, Mom wanted no part of it.

I was pretty aghast at hearing this story.  I wonder if Linda thought she was going to break up my parents' marriage.  Maybe she thought my dad had money.  Maybe she just has a thing for sick, elderly men.  

I don't know if my life will ever take me to a place where I'll spend decades and become well known in the community.  I will say that the more I hear about life in Gloucester, the more I realize how weird it can be to live in a small town where everybody knows your business...  literally.  There are a  lot of great people in Gloucester and I look back on it with more fondness than one might expect.  On the other hand, maybe my parents should have shopped around a bit longer before they bought that house.


  1. Those are some creepy people. i can't imagine myself handling the "Linda' situation as passively as your mom dad, but we all hve to do what we have to do. in the end , linda went aaway and your mom didn't have to make a scene.

    The neighbor sounds scary.

    My mom grewe up part of the time n a small california town called chowchilla, where everyone new your name.

    Did you ever see a kennedy in person when you lived in northern virginia?

    1. No, I never met any Kennedys. Even if I'd had the opportunity, I doubt my dad would have gone for it. He was a devout Republican.

      My neighbor wasn't scary. He was just a pervert. Fortunately, he didn't harm me as much as he could have.


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