Preface: To share this true story well requires a level of detail and explanation along the way that will result in a lengthy tale. I’m just going to start and, if it feels appropriate, it may be told in parts, much like the earlier trio of posts recalling how my husband and I exchanged vows and honeymooned. Oh, also, my husband did give me permission to tell this story – as long as I don’t use real names. 😁
Family came from Colorado, California, and Washington to honor my sister-in-law, hereon referred to as SIL, who had died the year before from ALS. This was to be the final scattering of her ashes at a family cabin in Montana, which was her dad’s favorite place in the world before he, too, passed from ALS seven years before SIL.
She’d left very specific directions about four locations where she wanted her ashes to be placed and who should be involved. Her daughter and SIL’s live-in boyfriend spread some at two favorite spots, and SIL’s boyfriend, hereon referred to as Drew, had private time at a destination special to them as a couple.
So, we all travel to the cabin in Montana to collectively scatter the remaining ashes, brought by Drew. In a very loving gesture, he had also had pendants made containing a bit of SIL’s ashes for my husband, our niece, my mother-in-law, their stepmom and himself. My mother-in-law had been invited to join us but declined. It was a fairly sizable group for one cabin, even though it’s a very large, beautiful home, more than a cabin. Well in advance, my husband and I made reservations at a nearby motel, knowing that would ease the stress of figuring out places for everyone to sleep and coordinating showers, etc.
When my husband and I arrived in the popular resort town, we checked into our room and headed to the cabin. I was so excited to see our niece, the only child of SIL. We were meeting her husband for the first time and a gender-reveal was planned for Saturday, adding a joyous celebration to the more somber spreading of ashes. As we pulled up, my niece was to the right of house, down on the lawn. Drew was on the left side, up a few steps on the deck. I left my husband to talk to Drew and I made a beeline for our niece!
A few words about Drew here, there’s just no graceful way to discuss this, but it is central to the events that follow. The first time I met Drew was at the reception after my father-in-law’s funeral. He hadn’t made it to the service because he was shopping for clothes; he said he didn’t have appropriate attire. We were using the community event room in a really nice housing development. A wall of windows overlooked the swimming pool. I commented that the bright blue water looked inviting.
Drew asked, “You would swim in that?”
“Yeah,” I answered, but I didn’t really understand the question.
“You would? With brown turds in it?”
I thought I wasn’t hearing correctly. Drew is hard of hearing, deaf without his hearing aids, and when he talks, it’s not always clear. This was my first time meeting him, so I questioned, “What did you say?”
With a big grin, he repeated, “Turds, the brown turds in the water. No way I’d get in there.”
There was a Black family playing together in the pool. I was stunned. I cannot recall ever hearing someone say such a disgustingly racist comment, in person, smiling as though he’s proud.
“Yes, yes I would go swimming right now if I had my suit,” and I stood up and walked away. Despite an appreciation of him taking care of SIL later when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and ALS, sticking it out all the way to the end, I did not like or respect him from the first.
Of course, we ended up spending a lot of time with him, staying in his house regularly, as we spent time with SIL. I avoided getting into conversations with him. He was passive-aggressive and stirred things up for no reason whatsoever. He would pretend he couldn’t understand what a person was saying, getting them to repeat it a few times, and then laugh, waving it away, letting you know he knew what you said from the start. He would make planning anything way more difficult than it needed to be. He would tell you one thing but then make you unsure if he was joking or not, dragging out confusion. He treated my niece badly, and she was living there to help care for her mom.
My husband tolerated Drew better than I did. He so appreciated that SIL was in a safe place, centrally located for the numerous medical appointments and tests, being cared for by Drew, our niece, and his stepmom, Carol, round the clock eventually. My husband listened to Drew vent about everyone else involved in the genuinely stressful experience. I listened to and advocated for my niece. Carol soldiered on without complaint, just as she had while nursing her husband through ALS and then immediately moving across country to be with her youngest daughter as she lost her battle with recurrent, aggressive breast cancer. Carol stayed there to take care of her grandchildren for at least a year, but I think longer. Now she was a part of SIL’s care team and always smiling.
Carol’s sister and husband bought the cabin in Montana years ago. We’d all gathered there for his last visit, but SIL hadn’t been able to make that one. We had met up again later because SIL wanted to see her dad’s favorite spot. Then, just before it became clear SIL wouldn’t be able to travel before long, Drew brought her to stay with us for a few days at our home, a story wholly unto itself. Next they drove to the cabin for a couple days. Now, here we were again, but missing my father-in-law and SIL.
After initial greetings, we gathered in the living area. I nodded hello to Drew and started putting away the food we’d brought for Saturday. Later, Carol arrived with another niece, Kris, with her toddler son and her nephew. When discussions began about sleeping arrangements, the hosts, Doug and Catherine, said they’d like Drew to stay in the guest room he had shared with SIL when they’d last come together.
Drew said, “I got a hotel room.” The general response was ‘what????’ For the next hour or two, it was impossible to get a straight answer. The others were explaining how he was so welcome and that everyone expected him to stay. Drew talked about finding out my husband and I were staying in a room so he decided he should, too. Not surprisingly, the nearby little resort town had no rooms available for a July weekend without a reservation. He arrived in town three hours earlier than we were expected, so he drove around until he found a motel with a vacancy. In a town 70 miles away. Everybody else tried to talk him into cancelling the room, but he’d left his things there.
At close to midnight, my husband and I drove two miles to our motel and Drew began the hour plus stretch to his.
This feels like a good time for a break. I’ll write and post the conclusion tomorrow.