‘Twas A Wonderful Life

This article originally appeared in The Jambalaya News on February 23, 2012.

Those of you who have read this column a time or two may recall mention of my wife’s sister, Sharon.  Of all the people in my life, she came in second only to her younger sibling as being a source of humorous material for this page.  After fighting cancer for two and a half years with the tenacity of Sigourney Weaver against the Alien, she exited the scene last week and went to her rest in peace.

In her memory, I wanted to devote the space in this week’s column to celebrate her life, for, as my brother-in law said it, “If you were around Sharon and not enjoying yourself, there was something wrong with you.”  She loved life, Elvis, cats, and Glenlivet.  She worked in a distillery for twenty years—in quality control, of all things.  About those days, she used to say, “Monday through Thursday I would spit, but on Friday, I swallowed.”

I don’t think that Sharon liked me too much when my wife first introduced her to me thirty years ago.  I’m not sure why I believe that, but it might have something to do with a comment she made to my then-girlfriend about how celibacy is very much under-rated in today’s society.  I’ll admit; I’ve always been the kind of guy who doesn’t make a good first impression.  You have to give me time to grow on you.  Luckily, Sharon was patient with me, and by about our tenth wedding anniversary, she did begin to warm up to me.

I have a lot to thank Sharon for.  If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would have ever heard my wife’s side of the story regarding our courtship.  I had a rival to contend with for her hand, and I was haunted with the prospect of losing out to him.  So I pulled out all the stops.  I took her to nice restaurants, such as Waffle House and Denny’s.  I took her to see a chick flick.  I even liked the chick flick.  We had long conversations without the subject of beer or baseball coming up.

After my wife finally had me safely roped and tied, Sharon confided to me that the other guy never really had a chance to begin with.  She only kept him in the picture to get me to take her to that chick flick and maybe entice me to develop better table manners.   In fact, Vegas had given him thirty-to-one odds.  It’s a good thing I didn’t know that at the time.  I would have jumped all over that bet.

Sharon would tell that story to every acquaintance of mine that she had ever met.  I heard it a hundred and thirty-seven times.  (I counted.)  I never checked, but I’m sure you can find it posted on the Internet without much trouble.  Just do a Google search under “dupe”.

I’m also thankful for the few months I spent as a guest of Sharon’s when I landed a new job back in Yankee Land.  My wife had to stay behind during the time while my daughter finished the school year.  Sharon had always lived alone, and so in me she found the perfect opportunity to try out every recipe she had ever clipped from Good Housekeeping.  Believe me, those meals were a far cry from the sugar-free this and fat-free that I had become used to in my own home.  In my marriage, there was one person who was concerned about my health, and it wasn’t me.  I reasoned that it was because I did not carry enough life insurance.

The dinners were often followed by long nights playing backgammon, during which Sharon opened to me the contents of her vast wine selection.  I think this was part of her strategy for beating me.  And it may have worked; I just can’t seem to remember.

Sharon often visited us in Louisiana.  The first time was around Christmas.  We threw a big party in her honor and invited all of our friends to meet her.  One of our friends brought a karaoke machine.  “You won’t catch me singing no karaoke,” Sharon said as we set the machine up that afternoon.  But as it turned out, Simon Cowell would not have been able to pry the microphone from her hands that night, and I have the pictures to prove it.

She was also with us on many of our annual pilgrimages to Key West.  There was a street-side table at Rick’s Café (the home of the Perfect Mudslide) that she claimed for her own and guarded with the ferocity of a nesting female alligator.

I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do now without Sharon around.  I suppose her best friend, Carol, is going to have to take over the defense of her table.  My wife will just have to learn how to roll backgammon after with a few glasses of Chardonnay.  And me—I’m stuck with the onerous task of belting out the Elvis songs on the karaoke machine.

Sharon, you’re a tough act to follow.

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