Are you naked?

The Nebraska wind seemed to be blowing a million miles an hour and the July day brought temperatures that felt as hot as the surface of the sun.

I was sweating bullets as I clumsily used my crutches to get inside my house after a long day of work.

With my newly broken foot and screwed up ankle, I was pretty much a hot mess. My arm pits hurt from the crutches, my leg was itching inside my boot, my hair looked like a tumbleweed and I’m pretty sure I was having both external and internal hot flashes.

As I finally reached my dining room table, my purse fell and all the contents spilled out. When I say “contents” I actually mean a hoarder’s dream when it comes to pens, lighters, vitamins, notebooks, earrings and a whole bunch of other stuff no one really needs.

I had pain in my foot, a fever blister on my lip and a shortening term of sanity.

In other words, I was having a really bad day.

Oh, the pity party started as I got down on the floor in an attempt to retrieve my spilled belongings, while navigating with the crutches. Tears of frustration rolled down my face and I did a really good job of feeling sorry for myself.

Then, I heard the words.

“Are you naked?” Ron asked from the front door.

My pseudo-son had arrived in typical fashion as he stopped by during his whirlwind tour of keeping up lawns. He knew I transitioned from my newspaper job to my food job about the same time every day – and would stop by the house to say hello, tell me about his problems, critique what I wore to work, irritate me to no end and make me laugh really hard.

And every time he did, he entered the front door with the words, “Are you naked?”

On that particular day, the three stupid words were exactly what I needed.

“What the hell is going on in here?” Ron asked, as he found me in quite a puddle of pathetic. “Are you crying? Did you fall? Why is your stuff all over the floor? Mama, you are a disaster fo’ sho’!”

As I sat crying on the floor, all I saw was the big “Shelby” tattoo on his arm reach across me in a sweet, sweaty embrace. That kid of mine smelled like menthol cigarette smoke, lawn mower gas and grass.

I could hear his white pickup running in front of the house the entire time I blubbered about my sorry state of affairs. The sound of the motor was accompanied by the “boom boom” of the bass from his stereo.

The usually-very-verbal Ron actually didn’t say a word.

I eventually stopped talking/complaining and he ended the hug to shovel my crap back into my purse. And as he did so, he laughed and reminded me, “You know, I really only asked if you were naked.”

He pulled me up from the floor, sat me on my bar stool in front of the sink (which was placed there so I could do dishes) and told me to wait.

“I’ll be back in a flash, Mama. I’d tell you to wait right there, but you really don’t have any choice seeing how I’m leaving your crutches by the table,” he said.

With his exhaust pipes blasting and rap music blaring and grass blowing off his mower on the trailer, I watched Ron take off on some unknown mission.

For the next few minutes, I just sat on that bar stool and looked out my kitchen window. I took a few deep breaths and realized my life really wasn’t that bad. Sure, I was a hot mess and I wasn’t too fond of my new physical state – but compared to many other possible circumstances, it could have been a lot worse.

I relaxed, I exited the pity party and waited for Ron to return.

Soon, he did.

“Are you naked?” he asked, laughing, as he entered the front door.

He was doing a weird little dance and singing a Ron-modified Kelly Clarkson song to entertain me.

It worked, of course.

“Here, this should make your day better,” Ron said as he handed me some grocery bags.

“Got a little Busch Light, a couple of Jack’s pizzas and one of those damn stupid Cosmo magazines,” he proclaimed. “So quit your damn bawling, grow up and get your game on. Get drunk, eat something for a change, and read about how to plump your lips or make a guy happy or whatever crap is in that thing this month. And for Ron’s sake, yo’, stop crying. I can’t stand that. It’s time for you to get back to being a baller. Word?”

“Yes sir,” I responded. “Word.”

“I mean really, I don’t have time for this shit,” Ron said, chuckling, pointing his sunburned arm at me. “I have a lot to mow and I’ve drank 15 Monsters already today so I’m pretty on edge the way it is. I’ll be back tomorrow, same time, to ask if you’re naked and deal with your break-down if you are having one.”

And he did, and continued to, past the broken foot and all other triumphs and tribulations.

For years, Ron was part of our family, our business and our lives. He wasn’t my biological son, but from the time he was 16 until he was 39, he and I had a special bond. I listened about all his problems, he made me laugh when I had mine. I gave him advice he never listened to, he told me stories I didn’t want to hear. He fixed my garden tiller, I made him chicken spaghetti. He taught me questionable rap lyrics, I schooled him on the difference between pop and rock in the 80s. He promised he’d take care of me when I get old, I jokingly swore he’d never fully grow up.

And nearly every day, he’d pop his head in the front door, right about 4 p.m., and yell, “Are you naked?”

Exactly two years ago, Ron passed over to the other side.

It’s been 24 months since he graced this earth with his Ron Dawg talk, his “jeans shorts swag,” and the Chevy emblems everywhere he could place them.

For the first year, I felt a twinge of sadness nearly every day.

But now, I’ve found peace in knowing that he’s at peace and “over there,” as he often called heaven.

My eyes are moist with appreciative and sentimental tears as I write this because I’m so grateful God put that unusual, complicated, hilarious, fabulous, mischievous, caring, bull-headed, creative, stubborn, hot-headed, sweet boy and gentle man in my life and the lives of others.

Oh, how I wish I could just hear his voice, one more time, yelling from the front door, “Are you naked?”

But you know, at least I have that memory which will always make me smile.

Word, Ron. Word.


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