“What Was I thinking?
Having just celebrated Valentine’s Day with my wonderful hubby of twenty years I can only think how lucky I am, but that’s not to say that I haven’t kissed more than a few frogs along the way. One amphibian in particular comes to mind. Delmer. Discount Delmer. I met him years ago in the free buffet line at happy hour in Savannah. I would soon discover Delmer had a black belt in buffet, something he pointed out repeatedly during the evening.
“Love these tacos,” he announced. “Especially when they’re free,” he laughed, helping his plate with eight more.
He was an accountant which is why he was fascinated with saving his money– all of his money. During our official “courtship phase” he romanced me every weekend with expensive champagne getaways which at the time didn’t involve a twist-off cap. He was a shrewd one keeping his cost-cutting in the closet. By the time I finally woke up and smelled the coffee I had traded in my fancy room service and four-star hotel for a picnic table and a smelly tent. As much as I tried to convert him to his original self, I concluded once a man like Delmer goes “$5.00 a night for a tent and electrical hook-up”—he’s never going back.
We dined in the nicest “fast” food restaurants in town. And sometimes we ate out, as in out of his mama’s refrigerator.
“What’s this?” I asked, sniffing the unrecognizable contents.
“If it’s not fuzzy put it on your plate,” she’d laugh as I stood hoping my tetanus shot would protect me from ptomaines poisoning.
“The more money we save, the more I’ll spend on you later,” he’d preach.
I wasn’t so sure, but several weeks later that promise came to fruition—at least in Delmer’s mind. When he made his “big” announcement I was caught completely off guard—a romantic weekend that he assured didn’t require a sleeping bag or can opener. I was in shock naturally.
That night we went to the lake for a sort of pre-celebratory cook-out.
“These burgers will be so tasty,” he gushed as if he was cooking ground filet mignon. “Wasn’t it sweet of Mama to thaw this meat for us?”
Twenty frozen venison patties. From six years ago. Hmm. Evelyn’s garbage man was not only a big game hunter, but generous as well. Of course, regardless of the taste Delmer would have declared them “food critic fabulous” just because they were free.
Proclaiming himself the great outdoorsman, he squirted the lighter fluid and lit the match, but when the flames shot up ten-feet taking his eyebrows off in the process I knew something was amiss. Good thing for him, he’d also managed to singe the hairs in his nose. Unlike me, he couldn’t smell the high-octane, infused burgers. Yes, he’d thought of everything, including the price of gasoline versus lighter fluid.
“Aren’t they delicious?” he bragged helping himself to another one while I spat mine into the fire, gagging.
What he was going to do with the remaining burgers was beyond me, but as I excitedly hopped into the car the next morning for our big weekend, he could hardly wait to show me the surprise that waited in the cooler. You guessed it. Seventeen hard “Bambi Burgers” that he served up iced cold for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I starved for the first two days, but finally gave in and ate one of those gourmet gasoline burgers. Consequently I spent the rest of the trip with my head in a bucket.
Two weeks later Christmas rolled around and against my better judgment I took him home to meet the folks. Don’t ask me why. Maybe I was praying for a Christmas miracle. Or maybe it was because my sister was coming with her new boyfriend and I didn’t want to be without a date at Christmas. Either way it was a b-i-g mistake beginning with Mama’s gift from Delmer. What does one say exactly, after opening a box of sanitary napkins from a man you’ve just met? Mama who is never at a loss for words suddenly– was.
“My Maw-Maw didn’t get to use these before she died. Incontinence you know. No use throwing them away. They’re good quality,” he purred as smooth as a used car salesman.”Besides, I’m sure sooner or later you’ll need them,” he said, as if he’d presented her with a box of imported chocolates.
Mama was only in her forties at the time and was fit to be tied at such an insinuation. But when it came time to open my gift I didn’t do much better. Not at all.
Delmer had outdone himself at the flea market when my presents caught his eye—beginning with the ten-foot stocking that he painstakingly filled with things from the “double discount” table. Because of his great finds, he was able to justify buying twice as much stuff. I looked over at my sister who looked a bit jealous, but that would soon pass.
A Christmas cornucopia of crap overflowing from the top, it rivaled the Grinch’s sled and was filled with such goodies that nearly thirty years later I can still remember them in their entirety– a previously opened bottle of suntan oil, several sample bottles of deodorant, three packs of mismatched tube socks with irregulars stamped across them, a dented can of beef stew, various mini bottles of mouthwash, a carton of opened panty shields, and a flimsy pair of red sleazy pajamas. As each surprise was revealed, I became more disgusted. The final straw was Delmer’s most prized purchase–the mint-green, hand-crocheted poodle toilet paper cover with squiggly eyes. It was the only thing I didn’t throw away immediately, placing it on my head during the photo shoot–must have been the shock.
After the holiday excitement or should I say let-down of gift opening, we sat down for our traditional, formal Christmas brunch. What a fiasco that was! We came to Mama’s elegant table wearing our fancy Christmas duds, all except Delmer. He arrived in an old pair of plaid Bermuda shorts—hand-me-downs from his eighty year old granddaddy and a pair of equally scruffy bedroom slippers. He completely dispensed with the notion of wearing a shirt claiming that he wanted to be “comfortable.”
“I have to wear a shirt and tie to work all the time and today I’m officially on vacation,” he proclaimed.
I dared not look at Daddy whose gaze was burning a hole through me. Afterwards everybody helped clear the table while Delmer made his way to the sofa, pouring through the newspaper for the After Christmas Super Sales. My last glimpse of him was of his snoozing, stretched-out body buried underneath a mountain of mutilated papers, coupon clippers at his side. As for Daddy, he made damn sure I’d not forget him anytime soon as he zoomed in with his camera for Delmer’s final close-up.