Uncle Jerry is a ladies’ man. Has been all his life. Under all circumstances, apparently. After being released from a short stay in the hospital, he told me about the “dish” he had for a nurse. He described her with swooping hour-glass-shaped hand motions and waggling eyebrows. She asked him if he wanted to take a shower. He claims he knew all along she meant just him – alone, but his eyes sparkle as he tells the story. She scrubbed his back for him. Too much information for me. After all, this man is like a father to me. He was my father’s older cousin and friend. Even with the ten-year age difference, they ran together. Sometimes a little wild. That was a long time ago. I have heard him called a ladies’ man (and a dancing machine) since I was small. I have never had a reason to doubt it. I knew he’d been in the Navy. I’d seen the tattoo. And I’ve danced with him. So, after the shower story, I decided to look up the real meaning of a ladies’ man. Here’s what the dictionary says-
Ladies Man. noun
1) : A Man on the make, skirt chaser. womanizer
2) : A Man who spends much time with women, or is in the constant company of them.
Back in the day, I think the first one fit best.
While Jerry was in the Navy, he would come visit his aunt-my grandmother. He blew into town and they would load up the “kids”, my Dad included, and head for the tap room for drinking, dancing, and visiting. As my Dad and his three sisters grew up, they left grandma at home. And the wild times began. The good times rolled. They always kept an eye on Dad’s younger sisters. And, Jerry stayed one step ahead of real trouble. Even if it meant jumping out the bar window. But, he never stayed in town long. Over time, they tried to get him to settle down – maybe he was lonely, adrift. Dad’s sisters set him up with girls. He had lots of dates, but never a steady. Just a rollin’-stone, girl-in-every-port kinda guy.
That is, until my father introduced him to a shy, pretty, young thing from Minnesota. My mother’s twin sister, Joan. Even that wasn’t easy. While Mom and Dad were dating, they took trips to the Jersey seashore. Jerry hung out there too. Mom and Dad brought Joan along, trying to matchmake. But the rollin’ stone was ever-elusive. Always out on his boat. At least that was the story he told. Finally, Mom and Dad set a wedding date. Of course, Joan was the maid of honor. And, in the ultimate set-up, Jerry was the best man. I never heard if she caught the bouquet, but she did catch the ladies’ man.
Less than a year later, he became my Uncle. Yup, cousins married twin sisters.
She was different than the dancing tap room girls and the many port girls-different than any other girl he knew. She became his anchor. No, I didn’t say ball and chain, I said anchor. Here’s what the dictionary says about that-
An*chor noun \’an-ker\
: a point of support, a source of stability.
Soon, my mother and father had a girl – me.
The next year, Uncle Jerry and Aunt Joan had a girl. The following year, Mom and Dad had my sister. Finally, the fourth year, Jerry and Joan had…you guessed it, a girl. If this was ever an issue, if anyone had hoped for a boy, I never heard. I think this was when “ladies man” started to take on the second definition – A man who spends much of his time in the company of woman.
The families lived close together. They had fun. They vacationed together on fishing trips to Minnesota. They talked about moving back there. Near a lake. Plans got underway to build houses.
Then, my father got sick. Jerry and Joan moved to Minnesota, but my Dad died before our family could make the move.
Mom and I and my sister did eventually move.
I arrived to Minnesota at ten years old, probably pretty scared and sad. We stayed in Jerry and Joan’s house with them while our house was being built next door. My sister shared a room with the youngest cousin. I had to share a room with my other cousin and my mom. The day we arrived, Uncle Jerry carried my suitcase to that room, set it down, and told me-
“I can’t be your Dad, I know I can’t take his place, but I promised him I would take care of you girls.”
I was skeptical at first. He seemed a little strict. We had a bedtime, then a curfew. No riding in cars with boys. He was always after us to turn out the lights when we left a room. We could barely eat hard candy.
And, he said things. Not always nice things. Blunt things. I’m sure they were meant to be honest observations. In fact, maybe that’s where I get it from. Sometimes these observations stung, but at least you knew you could always get an opinion from him. Maybe not the one you hoped for, but a straight up man-opinion. And, Man-sense should have been welcome in a house full of woman and hurt feelings and don’t tell so-and-so I told yous.
Soon, we moved into the new house next door, but he didn’t stop watching over us.
He was on his own with six “ladies” – in the constant company of woman, definitely the second definition of ladies’ man.
There was a lot of female drama with six of us. Slamming doors, thrown firewood, arguments that ended in tears. And that was just the grown women-the twins. As the four of us became teenagers, there were more slammed doors, some of them probably in his face. And, there were boys. Out-after-curfew, riding-in-cars, peeping-in-upstairs-windows boyfriends. Some of them probably gave us hard candy too. Some broke our hearts.
I don’t think any of these boys qualified as “ladies men” by either definition. They probably tried, but Jerry had his eye on them. After all, it takes one to know one and he knew what these boys were about.
He chased off the bad boys and soothed the broken hearts. Of course, he still gave his opinion. And lots of his time. He buried pets, settled arguments, helped with homework, taxied us to school, and gave all kinds of encouragement.
He called us collectively “the girls” and always talked about us with a smile, a laugh, a certain look in his eye. I think he was proud of us.
The girls grew up and grew older, but he didn’t stop taking care of us. He’s been through high school graduations, college degrees, great jobs and jobs that didn’t work out, moving away, moving back, 4 marriages, 2 divorces, 4 grandkids, one grand nephew, and a lot more pets. There’s been some illness and some sadness, but we’ve hung together – Jerry and his ladies.
I wonder if he ever looks back at the wild days, wishing he was still the other kind of ladies’ man. Maybe not. After all, he has six ladies that love him, and I think his heart belongs to us too. He may not have a girl in every port, but he’s been our port in every storm.
Port (noun) \’port\
: a place to ride secure from storms.
In honor of The Ladies Man – Jerry Malone – 10/18/28 – 6/5/12