Thursday, September 13, 2012

Four marriages: two dead husbands, one widow, one new/old husband, still living

I saw an obituary today with a familiar name. Michael Cee (not his real name) had died. I looked down at the list of survivors to see if Mr. Cee was related to a man I knew years ago, Roger Cee. Sure enough, Michael Cee is Roger Cee’s father. Listed in parentheses next to Roger Cee's name was his wife's name, Donna.

I got to know Donna after she hired me in August, 1972, for an artist job at a campground franchising company. Donna was my boss, a recent college grad, more recently married to Roger Cee. She was my age, very thin, with red hair and glasses. She had a caustic sense of humor, sometimes directed at her office mates, including me. I thought her sarcasm was a defense mechanism. She needed it. The company we worked for was basically a scam set up by its psychopathic CEO to separate people from their money for campground franchises. The franchises were real, but there were a lot of shenanigans that went into the process, and the boss was more interested in money than getting people started in business. Donna told me all this my first week on the job.

Donna and Roger got along just fine. He was young like her, but already making great money working for his dad in an oil distributing business. After I’d been working for Donna for a couple of months we got a new general manager, whose name was Don. I was in the room when Don and Donna were introduced and I could feel the electricity in the air. I believe if ever I saw love at first sight, that was it. Don and Donna started an affair which tore our office up. It was terrible for morale. Roger was in and out of the building pleading with Donna, Don was hiding out from Roger, Don's wife was in despair, calling him and crying over the phone. It was an ugly mess. On Thanksgiving weekend, 1972, Don and Donna walked out, leaving a note. They took off for Chicago.

A couple of years later I got a call from them, trying to catch up on what had happened subsequently to their departure. I didn't tell them how their affair had been the start of my own downfall, and I lasted just a few months more at the company. A few years after that I heard from Donna when she and Don, who had moved to Portland, Oregon, from Chicago, moved back to Salt Lake City. She wanted to renew acquaintances but I was lukewarm in my response and she didn't call again. In late 2000, after the presidential election I wrote a scathing letter to the local newspaper about the hijacking of the presidency by the Republicans. She wrote me a note telling me she liked my letter. We began a short e-mail correspondence. By then Donna told me that Don, for whom she had left Roger, had died in 1997 of cancer. She had been a widow for a year or so when she met Richard G. She described Richard G. as a “six foot four beanpole who is so skinny his pants are always falling off.” Donna told me she had been publishing a local horticulture newsletter, but Richard, who had taken an early retirement, demanded she quit. So they were together all the time, “joined at the hip,” as she further explained it.

(Donna also gave me a phrase I used over and over, when she described retirement as “every day is Saturday.”)

What started out as a friendly series of e-mails turned fast into a series of Donna's sarcastic comments about me. What I had thought was Donna's response to our working conditions in 1972 was now plain to me to be a manifestation of a vicious personality type. We didn't meet in person. I had no interest, nor did Donna. Our e-mails lasted for about six months and then I shut it off. I realized at the time that I just didn't like Donna, not even enough to trade notes over e-mail. (And before you get any ideas, there was nothing sexy going on. I wasn't interested in any kind of internet hanky-panky, even if she hadn't described her husband as hovering over her shoulder when she read my notes or wrote to me.)

In about 2004 or 2005 I saw an obituary for that husband of Donna’s. He had died of cancer. When I saw his obit I yelled from the living room to my wife, in the kitchen, “Sally! Donna Cee just killed another husband!”

At some point during our e-mail correspondence Donna told me she had dated her ex-husband, Roger, briefly before meeting her six-four skinny hubby, Richard. Remembering how traumatic all of that 1972 drama was for Roger I wondered what had happened with him. Had he remarried after Donna ran off with Don? Had he been divorced again? Had he stayed single, just holding a torch for Donna? I never asked, and she never told me.

So today I saw the obituary for Roger Cee's dad, and realized Roger and Donna are remarried. Unless she slipped in a husband between Richard’s death and remarriage to Roger, that’s a box score of four marriages, two dead husbands, and one husband rerun.

Even though it was a long time ago I wonder how it was working out? Has Donna mellowed, or is she still a sarcastic person with a tongue that cuts like a scalpel? I'll be watching the obituaries to see if Roger Cee dies. If so, perhaps Donna is not just a widow, but a black widow. Stay tuned. I don't think this story is near its end just yet.

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