Worth Driving For
The Gallagher siblings dutifully gathered at their sister Elaine's house in South County to make the trip to the Howell Cousin wedding. Oliver drove his widowed retired mother to Elaine's from her downsized condo in Greenville. Oliver and his siblings still felt sad that the house of their childhood was sold not long after their Dad died a few years earlier.
Oliver's oldest brother - industrial chemist John Paul - had taken a rare personal day off from work to participate while Oliver's second brother - Houston businessman Clyde - had flown in from Texas with his insurance biller wife Mitchie to be a part of the festivities. Oliver was his own boss so taking a day was no big deal for him. Elaine took a evening off from her job as a restaurant hostess.
Although John Paul complained that 3:00 on a Friday afternoon was a dumb time for a wedding and Oliver was having unfortunate flashbacks to his own wedding, it was great to be together again as a family under pleasant circumstances to help celebrate a new marriage.
Climate transplant Clyde complained about the cold weather but he looked great in his cream-colored suit, pink shirt, and purple tie. John Paul rarely dressed for any occasion - today he was wearing clean jeans, a plaid shirt with a black tie, and a corduroy jacket with work boots. Oliver wore his blue suit with a new blue dress shirt and an artsy tie.
Elaine and Mitchie spent hours preparing for the event – hair styled, make up applied, and wardrobes changed three times! Elaine's final selection was an attractive blue dress with a scarf around her neck while Mitchie went with a low cut purple dress to accent her amble bosom. Their mother, a veteran of such occasions, looked eloquently attractive in a simple green dress with just a hint of makeup on her face. She was in her seventies but she looked much younger in appearance.
Elaine's truck driver husband Stu hated weddings so he stayed home with the two teenagers. The group decided to take two cars in case some wanted to leave the reception earlier than others. Oliver drove his two brothers while Elaine took Mitchie and their mom in her SUV for some girl time.
"Turn on the heat!" Clyde demanded as Oliver drove his car out of Elaine's driveway. "It's freezing!'
"It's October, not January," Oliver laughed.
John Paul sat in the backseat drinking his Dunkin Donuts coffee and reading the morning Dispatch while Clyde, who hadn't been in New England in the autumn for twenty years, marveled at the changing leaves while pointing out every yellow, red, and orange leave he saw during the hour long ride on some of the lesser known state roads meandering to the central part of the state through several small New England towns with classic town commons and hometown cafes along with the Congregational Church and a grocery mart.
The Brothers Three talked about the history of the Quabbin Valley and the four now extinct towns submerged underwater to make the Quabbin Reservoir to supply Boston's drinking water. Clyde waxed poetic about the amazing colors of the trees and the glory of the historic old houses, some more than two hundred years old.
"The only old things in Texas are the Alamo and the dirt," Clyde remarked.
The conversation turned to their childhood and the never-ending debate about whom among the three was the biggest asshole brother.
"Everybody gets a write off for anything that happened before turning eighteen," Oliver reasoned. "But once you turn old enough to vote and die in a war you shouldn't be behaving like a moron."
Clyde and Oliver both insisted that John Paul was the biggest asshole based mostly on being the oldest. JP argued that he was an intellectual asshole – using his high IQ to embarrass, insult and demean his "less smart" siblings. JP also said that #2 Brother Clyde was a bigger asshole because he was a "bully asshole" – the jerk in the neighborhood who picked on wimps, stole school lunch money from defenseless kids, threw eggs at cars, and terrorized his kid brother, Oliver.
Oliver was deemed the "whiner asshole" - known to squeal on his older siblings, cry to get his way, pout to get out of certain responsibilities, and say stupid stuff to (or about) John Paul and Clyde's girlfriends.
"Well, the important thing to remember is that we aren't asshole adults," Oliver concluded.
"My ex-wife would beg to differ," John Paul volunteered.
"Being an asshole husband doesn't necessarily define you as an asshole person," Clyde theorized. "Sometimes the wife can turn you into an asshole through no fault of your own."
Oliver wasn't sure if Clyde was commenting on John Paul's failed marriage or Oliver's!
"What about Elaine?" Oliver wondered. "Was she ever the asshole sister?"
"She was the youngest," John Paul decided. The baby. The only girl. She had to be an asshole sometimes just to survive."
"Plus she knew how to keep Dad on her side," Oliver agreed.
The mention of their late father quieted the conversationalists for a few minutes. It had been two years since his passing and there was still a hole in their lives with his absence. It wasn't something any of them expected to get used to anytime soon.
"So," Clyde said, needing to change the subject. "Twenty-five years ago we were at Cousin Jeff's wedding and now here we are attending the wedding of his kid."
"A lot has happened in twenty-five years," Oliver observed.
"Jeff's wedding was one of the fanciest I've ever been too," John Paul stated.
"Joyce's family is loaded," Clyde reminded them.
"Well, the Howell side had their fair share of money too," Oliver remarked. "They had the summer house on the lake in New Hampshire don't forget."
"Remember that spinning restaurant at the top of the hotel in Boston at Jeff's wedding?" Clyde asked.
"That reception must have run fifty grand," John Paul noted.
"I was only twenty," Oliver recalled. "I couldn't even drink yet."
"Open bar, if I recall correctly," Clyde said. "I got hammered that night."
"Good thing we all got rooms," John Paul grinned.
"I had to share mine with Elaine!" Oliver complained.
"As if you were going to bring some chick back to the room?" Clyde laughed.
"I remember Dad buying mom a nice necklace at the jewelry store just down the street from the hotel," Oliver recalled.
"He probably couldn't afford it but he was always doing stuff like that," John Paul said.
"But then he'd buy the cheap-ass soda and generic cookies," Oliver complained.
"And drive the fifteen year old cars," Clyde laughed.
"Many of which you two would total," Oliver noted.
"That's why he drove old junk cars!" John Paul determined.
The three recited the litany of cars owned from the earliest of their fathers' in John Paul's memory all the way to their current vehicles, Clyde laughing about the used Hearse he bought off some guy who got it from a funeral home.
"Had some great dates in that baby," Clyde smirked.
"Liz never forgave you for the time you backed up that hunk of junk into our driveway to take away the dead cat," John Paul grumbled.
"I love that story!" Oliver grinned.
The car talk ended when The Brothers Three realized they had reached the huge brick Catholic Church in the small New England town, Oliver almost missing the parking lot entrance he was so enthralled with the hearse tale.
"Uh-oh," Clyde said, throwing Oliver a look. "A Catholic wedding."
"I haven't been to one since yours, Ollie," John Paul noted.
"Let's not curse this one the way mine apparently was," Oliver sighed as he parked the car.