Some would say–my family members in particular–that I should’ve seen the signs. I should’ve known better. I should’ve picked myself up and ran the opposite direction—back toward civilized sanity, back toward intellectual pursuits, toward a good bottle of wine and jazz music. I should’ve kept my city neighborhood door locked and shut to the knocking. That tall entrepreneur who opened the door and walked into my single life was about to bring me over to the dark side, along the off-the-beaten path and into the backwoods of a wild and crazy red neck adventure I would’ve never entertained in my past life.
Jefferson Lee is a fitting name for him, I now realize. While he was born of an upper middle class family in a Middle America suburb, his heart must’ve skipped a generation or two and come straight from south of the Mason-Dixon line. Mr. Dempsey is not the product of his rearing, but rather a man of his own invention in spite my mother-in-law’s good intentions. She wished he would wear creased trousers and spit-shined loafers, but he was more the worn jeans and athletic shoe type. She hoped he’d play piano, but he learned how to tune an engine instead. She preferred feeding him steak and refined fare that said her family had arrived–far from her southern farmer’s family tree; yet he relished fried catfish, cornbread and other simpler foods that brought him back to those same roots.
Jeff, my darling husband of now 15 years, seemed normal at first. He told me he was a contractor during our first date. I was impressed that he had employees and a good work ethic. He lived on his cell phone, even before most people became attached to theirs, and he even had a secretary. We enjoyed a variety of movies, classic rock and even some jazz music. We shared bottles of wine while watching the sun set. He enjoyed our shared restaurant dinners and conversations. He even read books and liked to discuss what he learned. Of course, he liked the outdoors, but so did I.
I had always said I’d be equally at home in a ritzy hotel or a tent in the woods, so how could I judge someone else who said he enjoyed the country? I had spent many a family vacation in the Northwoods, and I proudly claimed hands-on knowledge of a few freshly caught pan fish. I enjoyed canoeing and boating as much as I enjoyed reading a good book. But perhaps I should’ve checked the differences between my Yankee, somewhat liberal, views and his professed worship of the Reagan years. Maybe I should’ve exited when I saw the velvet painting of a raccoon on the paneled walls of his living room, or the work-out bench that sat in the middle of the path between the front door and the kitchen. And yes, I really should have thought twice about saying yes to the man who drank a beer brand named for a famous brewery city just to be acknowledged as a brew.
But I had fallen in love with his endless energy. I had already lost my heart to his ideas and the way he laughed at himself. I learned to appreciate his McGyver-like ability to solve everyday problems using the resources available to him. And above all, I have been endlessly entertained by his antics and I continue to find amusement in his mixed metaphors and his goofiness. This man, Jefferson Lee Dempsey, is my muse, and I hope you enjoy the stories I share here. Many are true, some are embellished, and some are retold from others who have come into my life only because he holds a charisma that draws them to him like moths to honey….err, a flame.