Whenever I complain about my husband, who has the personality of Mr. Spock, the Vulcan, my sister in law, Nely, pauses and says, ‘Promise me that no matter what happens, we’ll always be friends. And we’ll live together when we are old.’ Of course I promise, it will give me something to look forward to.
I have a few Nely stories but this one is about her fiancée Sam. Sam is the nicest person in the world and the one with the biggest heart, as his collection of formerly homeless animals attests to. Occasionally, I think that it’s strange that a man who hails from the notorious Cosmano crime family could be so nice but he is, even to my senile mother-in-law, who upon seeing him in a red shirt asked, ‘What is the communist doing here?’ But sometimes a person’s greatest quality is also their worst failing.
Sam is a widower with two grown, albeit pampered sons, one of whom lived at home until last year. Sam’s sons have always been indulged and their every wish has been Sam’s command, but that was how Sam’s wife Roxy wanted it. Shortly before Roxy died, she bought their younger son, Nick, then seventeen, a baby alligator.
Today the alligator is six feet long and until recently lived in the house. Nely had been working on Sam to get rid of the alligator, which she could often hear trying to claw its way out of the bathtub or splashing around in the pool while she was barbecuing in the back yard.
One day Sam received a frantic call from Nick, who once convinced that neither Sam nor Nely were in the house confessed that the alligator had escaped from the bath and was hiding under Sam’s bed.
After that incident, Sam lit upon the idea that he would hire a U-Haul to take the alligator to the Florida everglades, but then he remembered that the alligator was best friends with the pet snapping turtle.
‘Why can’t you take the turtle down with her?’ I ask.
‘Because alligators eat snapping turtles, and the other gators would kill her best friend,’ Sam explains.
Recently Nick was arrested for possession of marijuana and the alligator was removed to an animal sanctuary. At first Sam vowed he would do everything in his power to get Nick’s alligator back, but seeing it was impossible, insisted on telling everyone within earshot that the animal welfare people had said the alligator was the best looked after lizard they had ever confiscated.
‘She was my son’s baby. Losing her broke his heart,’ Sam says, with the pathos that only an Italian can muster.
‘What kind of a person loves an alligator?’ my other sister-in -law, Phyllis wants to know.
As an animal lover, I appreciate his dedication though.
But Sam won my heart even before that. I should backtrack, a bit. Nely has a lovely twenty-seven year old daughter, Tatiyana. When Tanya was old enough to start dating seriously, Nely set ten date rule for her. No sex until at least the first ten dates were completed. She set the same rule for herself after her divorce from Tanya’s father. One evening just as they had begun dating, Sam, feeling amorous, said, ‘Nely, Tanya is young and that is a good rule for her, but we’re old and don’t have as much time.’
Nely did hold out however. Afterward Sam declared, ‘My God, Nely, that was fantastic. I haven’t had a woman on top since 1972!’