Biff America: Happy or delusional … does it matter?
Vail CO, Colorado
I don’t have the heart to tell Tara that her life isn’t that great.
She is a single mother of three, has no health insurance and lives in a home she can barely afford. Tara cleans rich people’s houses to make ends meet.
By all rights, Tara should not be so content.
She used to clean my father’s house when he was still alive. To be clear, my Dad was far from wealthy. I think it was more a mission of mercy on Tara’s part. She lived down the street so it was convenient.
Shortly after my mother passed away, Tara began showing up, about once a week, to clean my old man’s house.
She did this for almost six months before my brothers, sisters and I realized that she had told my father that we had pre-paid her for a year; that was not the case. After that my five siblings and I would take turns sending Tara a monthly check.
She would usually go to my Dad’s house after her work day was done and she would often bring her kids along. My father called them “Demon-seeds” and would remark that they were only slightly better behaved than their mother. He would give each of them a dollar, warning them not to tell their Mum.
After the house was cleaned, Tara would sit down with my Dad and play a game or cribbage or just talk.
Since my siblings lived nearby and I did not, I got in the habit of calling her every couple of months to see how my father was doing; after he died I continued to call for some reason, though less regularly.
Usually I’ll start the conversation with, “So how are you doing Tara?”
Invariably Tara will explode with enthusiasm, “Damn it Jeffrey, things could not be better. I’m the luckiest gal in town. My three boys are doing great in school, I love my house, (Tara lives in a tiny condo) my business is doing great, and I’ve been dating this guy, Donny, who treats my like a queen.”
If I were speaking in the language of my blue collar background, I’d say, Tara is one tough broad. I pity the guy who doesn’t treat her like a queen. But that being said, I’ve heard of more than a few men in her life over the years. Some lasted longer than others, but none have lasted very long.
Whenever I’m back east I’ll stop to see her and her kids. Her apartment is cramped, crowded and immaculate. We’ll sit in her kitchen, drinking instant coffee. If it is late in the day, Tara often will say, “Damn this coffee needs some help.”
She’ll then go to the top shelf in her pantry, take out a bottle of Four Roses, and pour a little in each cup.
She will then offer a toast that from anyone else would seem a little silly.
“Here’s to you. Here’s to me. And, if we disagree … F— you, and here’s to me,” she says, laughing so hard her eyes water.
Whenever I spend time with Tara, whether in the flesh or over the phone, I find myself marveling at her ability to overlook what would be obvious to many ” Tara has had a hard life.
She is in her 40s, sports more than a few tattoos, some of them homemade. Her three children are from two different men. She is not overweight but she could be called large boned. Her hair color ranges from green to blonde. She speaks in a gravelly voice with confidence, but with imperfect grammar. She swears like a soldier.
Her father was killed in Vietnam and she was raised by her mother’s sister who lived in Maine. She moved down to Boston with one of her men friends, then moved out to the suburbs when that relationship failed. She met my parents in church and she told me that when my mother was alive, she was “very kind to my kids.”
I took that to mean she would occasionally slip Tara some cash for her children.
I’ll mostly call Tara on my cell phone on weekends, often when I’m returning to the mountains after working out of town. That way the call is free and I have some time to talk. Often I’ll call her when I’m feeling sorry for myself and I need perspective.
“So how are you doing Tara?” I’ll ask. That is all she needs to tell me about every small joy, victory and blessing that has come her way since we last spoke. If I did not know the truth of Tara’s situation, I’d say she was bragging. But what I know is that Tara is one of those people who appreciates the little things and puts hardships in perspective.
Is Tara happy or delusional?
Whatever works …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.