A Missed Opportunity at The One-Eyed Pig

Normally, I don’t spend much time thinking about my own funeral.  But a few years ago, I attended the perfect funeral.  I decided that I want one just like it.  Because people told stories!

And of course, this funeral was held at a bar.  Which made it more of a party.

Not just any bar, though.  It was held in a slightly down-in-the-mouth watering hole, pool hall and barbeque pit.  But its name was what truly made it memorable:

Yelp Image

Yelp Image

Still, it wasn’t perfect.  Because on that very day, I missed a golden opportunity.  A chance to shine.  A chance to tell a story.  A chance to be remembered by a room full of people who would smile at just the thought of the, ummm, guest of honor, and of my story.

Damn.

Truthfully, I don’t know what happened.  It’s been decades since I had stage fright.  If I’d made a fool of myself the only people who would know it were strangers and family members.  My family has seen me fall/fail before; they love me anyway.  They have no choice.

It was Jeff’s funeral, my late sister Judy’s first husband.   Father to my wonderful niece and nephew.

In addition to my niece and nephew and their spouses and kids, of course, Jeff’s wife was there, along with Jeff’s two sons by his second marriage.  I’d gotten to know and like them at various family gatherings throughout the years.  Judy’s second husband was also there, along with his mother and sister.    Family gatherings in my family tend to be complicated.  They often involve more non-blood relations than blood relations.  Which is really pretty neat, if you ask me.

So Jeff’s funeral was well attended.  And since the bar was still open, in addition to family and friends, a few patrons stumbled in, surprised to find themselves at a funeral.  But the beer flowed, and nobody seemed to mind.  Or notice.

At one point, Jeff’s wife suggested that anyone with a story to tell about Jeff should speak up, and tell their Jeff story.

Now, it’s important to note that Jeff and I weren’t close.  Jeff and Judy had divorced nearly 40 years previously, and I had only seen him at big family events.  I was mostly at the funeral to support my niece and nephew, and to spiritually thank Jeff and my lucky stars that the two of them have been in my life.

Still, I did have the perfect Jeff story.

Only I didn’t tell it.

There was a room full of people, waiting to hear good stories.  Some who knew me, some who didn’t.  The perfect captive audience.

Only I choked.

I listened to other people talk about Jeff, how they’d met, how they’d interacted.  What a good guy he had been.  They were all perfectly acceptable stories.  Nice even.  But nothing memorable.

I knew that my story was better.  I would have been the star of the funeral.  Well, one of the stars, anyway.

Of course, that’s why I didn’t tell it.  Right?  I didn’t want to show anybody up.  Right?  I didn’t want to take the spotlight off the guest of honor.  Right?

Today is the anniversary of Jeff’s passing.  It’s time to correct my mistake.  Right my wrong.

Time to tell my Jeff story.

*     *     *

Wednesday afternoon study hall in ninth grade, held in the cafeteria, had assigned seats.  I sat at the table with three popular girls.  I didn’t qualify as a fourth popular girl.  They tolerated my presence.  More or less.

In the middle of the hour, Leah, the most popular and giggliest of the three, got a pass and went to the girls room.  She came back flustered, smiling.  Practically swooning.  She whispered to Karen, who immediately needed to go to the bathroom.

Karen came back just as excited.  Miss Williams, the study hall monitor and nasty old math teacher had to shush her and Leah up.

And then, of course, since there were three of them, Debbie had to take her turn going to the girls room.

Now I’ll admit, I was curious as to what was going on.  What was so exciting in the girls room?

I didn’t rate highly enough with them that they’d include me, tell me what was going on.  I sat there at the table while they exchanged notes, feeling left out.  Unpopular.  Friendless.

Study Hall ended, and the four of us at the table were held back for a moment by Miss Williams to be reprimanded for making so much noise.  But realizing that I hadn’t been included in the mayhem, I was let out ahead of Leah, Karen and Debbie.

I walked down out the door and was surprised to see my new brother-in-law, Jeff, standing in the hall, pushing a broom.  Jeff was young, handsome, and newly married.  In those days, and for the first few years of his marriage to my sister Judy, he took whatever job was available.  So Jeff had started working as a janitor at my junior high that very day.

And just as Leah, Karen and Debbie walked into the hall, Jeff put his arm around me, gave me an affectionate kiss on the cheek and flashed his amazing smile at me.

The three girls stopped and stood with their mouths agape, looking between me and Adonis.

You see, Jeff was drop-dead gorgeous.

This is why the girls were all flustered.  Jeff was a ringer for actor Jan-Michael Vincent.  Bot seriously good looking men.

This is why the girls were all flustered. Jeff was a ringer for actor Jan-Michael Vincent. The resemblance is uncanny, actually. Both seriously good looking men.

“Are these your friends, Lease,” Jeff asked, smiling at me and at them.

“This is Leah, Karen and Debbie,” I responded, not explaining that I wasn’t cool enough to be considered their friend.

“Nice to meet you,” Jeff said, smiling briefly at the girls, and then flashing me another big grin before giving me another peck on the cheek. 

“Lease, you’d better get to class before we both get in trouble.”

The four of us walked on down the hall.  But instead of walking ahead of me as they would normally do, the three girls included me in their conversation.  They wanted to know all about the gorgeous guy who had just kissed me — twice — right there in the hall.

But I just let them wonder.  The four of us walked into Miss Williams’ math class, and I sat down with my friends.  My real friends, who liked me even before they met Jeff.

Sadly, Jeff didn’t last too long as a janitor at my Junior High.  All the girls spent way too much time in the hall, staring at Jeff.  Jeff was always polite and gentlemanly, worked hard, and always had a peck on the cheek for me, especially when the popular girls were looking.

On this anniversary, I raise my glass to my handsome brother-in-law.

Rest in Peace, Jeff.

And thanks for that one time in school when I was considered cool.

93 Comments

Filed under Adult Traumas, Family, Humor, Wild Beasts

93 responses to “A Missed Opportunity at The One-Eyed Pig

  1. Paul

    Don’t be sad, Elyse, someday you too will be the star of a funeral – whether you want to be or not to be (hmmm, to be or not to be, sounds familiar). Ha! Glory by association – you do know that’s why I’m here, eh? Mayhap some of your blog glory will rub off on me by association. Ha! Funny post, thanks for sharing.I haven’t given my funeral much thought, but ya know, the One-Eyed Pig sounds good! Bring on the BBQ and beer!

  2. It’s alright for some! I had no handsome janitor to kiss me on the cheek back in my school days…
    And I agree on the funeral thing: I definitely want a funeral full of nostalgia and stories instead of sombre tradition when I shuffle off this mortal coil.

    • It was definitely the way to go!

      But I didn’t have all the luck back then. There were too many girls milling around the halls looking for the cute janitor to keep him. Which was probably a good career event for Jeff, too!

  3. Great post. And great Jeff story. Its a shame you didn’t get to share it at his funeral, but better late than never! And what a lovely way to commemorate the anniversary of his funeral.

  4. Yes, you’re right – that WAS a great Jeff story, and one well worth sharing. The next time you find yourself surrounded by family and friends at the One-Eyed Pig, or any equivalent, I hope you’ll remember your Jeff story, and today, and seize the moment. Either way, one thing a good story needs is an audience to appreciate it, so today you’ve finally managed to give your Jeff story a place to be heard, and in doing so, have honored Jeff’s memory in the process. I have a feeling it would make him smile. A big smile.

  5. Oh, such a story! As one of those awkwardly-wishing-for-something-more girls (or at least to be genuinely *liked* by the popular girls), this memory made me smile.

    (And Jan-Michael Vincent? I still swoon with remembering him!)

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!

    • If I’m remembering right, this happened right about when Jan-Michael Vincent starred in Tribes — a movie where he played a Marine. They had to cut off his hair, and American girls everywhere cried! So when there was a real live one in the hall? Wow!

      Yes, those “popular” girls were never very nice. There was one who was incredibly nice, though. I remember having a thought as I spoke to her at a reunion that it was odd that a “popular” girl had always been so nice!

      Glad you liked the story.

  6. You were a Veronica in a threesome of Heathers. Veronicas are always better. I love this, Elyse. I love the story itself, but I love that you told it on the anniversary of Jeff’s death, and made him live on just a little bit longer.

  7. You certainly have a memory for writing, writing from memory. You remembered this date and all the details. What a nice tribute and heart warming story. I hope your niece and nephew read this.

    • The secret of having a good memory for the details, Georgette, is to make them up! Or the ones you don’t remember. I actually remember most of this for real though. But I never hesitate to make up minor details!

      Glad you liked the story. And my niece and nephew are on alert!

  8. oh man was that a great story!! i admit to a tear or two welling in his honor. i totally get not sharing on that day and choking. that would have been me, sitting there thinking about sharing it, almost sharing, so nervous to share and then ultimately missing the opportunity. i’m so glad you shared. what a wonderful tribute. sniff sniff.

    • Normally, I am NOT shy. I take audiences wherever I can get them. I don’t know if I hadn’t formulated this story well enough or what. It wasn’t in my normal repertory of stories I tell to unsuspecting strangers (because my family has heard them all … often…too often).

      Glad you liked it, Mama!

  9. Thank you for telling your Jeff story. We have a place back in Michigan called The Bloated Goat.

  10. That IS a great story, and whether you told it that night or not, it’s still yours. What a wonderful way to honor his memory. And Jan Michael Vincent’s… ;) (Though I don’t know if Jan Michael Vincent is still alive or not.)

  11. It’s a great story but I was so stuck at the collection of people who came to the funeral. Exes and spouses of exes. Wow! You have one helluva family!

    • It is a helluva family, Kate. I can remember sitting at my nephew’s wedding with my late sister’s second husband and his girlfriend, and Jeff’s second wife, and laughing over the family tree we could make!

      Glad you liked the story!

  12. Missed opportunities are tough. I hope that in sharing it here, you feel lighter somehow. A beautiful way to honour a loved one:)

    • It was probably just that I hadn’t really planned to speak, and the story just kind of occurred to me as the others were talking. C’est la vie.

  13. Thanks for sharing the story here, Elyse. And I know Jeff is smiling somewhere at knowing how he helped to raise your self-esteem that day.

  14. Eva

    That was lovely, my friend — a wonderful story and tribute. I’m giving you the go ahead to speak at my funeral.

  15. Great story on many levels. Very nice…thanks.

  16. Luanne

    What a great story. It made me teary-eyed, considering Jeff is gone and you weren’t able to tell the story at the funeral. But the beauty of a blog post is now you’ve shared the story with the world :).

  17. LOVED your Jeff story. Had some “friends” like that in school, too. I fully felt your “coulda, woulda, shoulda” feelings. What a great looker your brother-in-law was!

    • It’s amazing how clearly we remember those folks who didn’t have the time of day for us back then, is’t it?!?

      Jeff was quite handsome. His kids are too!

  18. Anybody who says “I don’t have any regrets” isn’t in touch with their past. I never believe them. Nice that you had an opportunity to fix this one.

  19. Sound like a great guy – nice, and looking out for his new sister in law.
    And a very cool funeral too!

    I’d like something like that. a friend of mine bartends at the Pig and Whistle, so if he outlives me…

    • He was!

      And you’re right about the Pig & Whistle. Just the place. I think I’m going to have to choose my next home based on the names of bars where my funeral can be held … no time soon for either of us, though!

  20. Dan

    I had asked my BIL to sing at my wife’s future funeral years ago, then the sucker went off and died on me last year. I got up at what was the “best” funeral I have ever been to ( he had six cancer-infested months to plan it) and told them all how he had cheated me and how I was now forced to sing at his funeral just to show him up.

    I had never sung solo before an audience before, let alone acapella. I had been practicing for about a month with a CD in the car as I drove here and there so I had it down. I had told the minister a month before about the story and that I was going to give it a try if I felt like I wouldn’t choke. I waited until his last request for anyone who wanted to speak and gave it my best shot. I told the story and sang the song. I’m so glad I did. I actually enjoyed it and would like to do it at other funerals now. I may find someone from church to accompany me on guitar next time.

    The song was Someday by Blue Highway. It was actually a eulogy self-written by Aunt Olive Stockton of the wife of founding member of the group, Tim Stafford. He set it to music. The full story is here: http://bluegrasstoday.com/how-it-come-to-be-wrote-some-day/. I would leave a link to it on Youtube but it would likely load the entire video and not just the link and use up some of your WP storage.

    • That’s a wonderful story. They are hard days, but when they lean more towards a celebration, well then. I am sure your song touched hearts.

  21. That was very cool of Jeff to do.

  22. I’m sorry you missed your opportunity to tell the perfect Jeff story. I had such a crush on Jan Michael Vincent! So I bet I would have crushed on Jeff too!

  23. That is a great story, Elyse, and Jeff sounded like a great guy. I’m glad you finally told your story. For the record, I love Airwolf.

  24. Jeff was way to cool, he likely realized he was elevating your status so kissed you twice. What a gentleman. What a story.

    You should have told the story! But, you told it now so you are vindicated.

    • I think you’re probably right, Val. Jeff knew he was helping me out.

      And yeah, I should have told it. But I wasn’t close to Jeff later in life, and had pretty much forgotten this story when the opportunity arose. OH well.

  25. Jan Michael Vincent? I haven’t heard that name in a while, but I recognized the hair. Wings – right?

    Now back to your story…

    Your ex-in-laws participate in their ex-family functions? Wow. Your family must be very nice.

    • It is pretty amazing — and life has not always been harmonious. Judy and Jeff married very young. And they lived in the same town. There was a lot of contact!

  26. That’s a great story! He will be pleased you shared it with us.

  27. That’s an awesome story. I’m glad you told it. And what a great junior high experience in front of the cool girls. Like a movie script.

  28. You totally should have told that story. On the other hand, it may be enough to know you kicked popular girls’ asses. High-five from another nerdy unpopular.

    • I wish I had! Oh well.

      It really was great seeing their mouths hanging open! I’m sure, I’ve always wondered if the popular girls knew what assholes they really were!

  29. He sound like a good guy. Especially since he remained part of the family.

  30. You’re like a fine wine … your coolness needed to age to its current cool perfection. :-)

Play nice, please.

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