(NOTE: While this story is 100% truth, I share it not to try and teach some great life lesson. Rather, I thought I’d write something funny for a change. My family still laughs every time we bring up “Uncle Brian.”)
Thirty years ago I spent a few months working with a gentlemen who was a little slow, mentally speaking. This isn’t a slur, it’s a fact. Both he and his parents would tell you the same.
We’ll call him “Grover.”
Grover was always really friendly, and you’d think he would forget about me, but the man’s memory is a steel trap. I would run into him here and there around town, through the years, and he’d always say, “ROB! How ya doin’, man?!”
I recall hiding from him once in a pizza café. I was going to say something to him, but noticed the owners, a nice couple in their late 60s or so, had asked him to leave. I loved their pizza, so I decided to stay hidden until he left. I overheard the female owner say to her husband, “I asked him to pay and get out! He was the one who asked us to make that pepperoni and pineapple pizza, which is DISGUSTING by the way…but anyway. You made it for him and then he came up to me just now and said it was a ‘tad’ overdone and asked if you could make another one. He said, ‘This time can you pull it out of the oven a minute or two sooner, so it doesn’t burn, like the first one?’ HA, well no sirree bob. He can take his business somewhere else.”
Yup, that’s Grover.
I hadn’t seen him in a few years, but last year we both ended up at the same church function, both as invited visitors. I saw Grover before he spotted me. A friend of mine didn’t know the history I shared with him, and said, “Watch out for him, Rob. He’s a great guy but if he makes friends with you on Facebook or if you give him your phone number, he’ll send you like a hundred messages a day. I’ve known three different people who had to block him, and one guy changed apartments and never told anyone, so he couldn’t be found.”
So I got my plate of food, and watched Grover as he made his. I was staring at my feet while he was looking for a chair, not wanting to make eye contact. For some reason, though, he decided to sit down RIGHT BESIDE ME.
He looked at me and didn’t say anything at first.
“Ok,” I thought. “I’m safe. Since he last saw me, I’ve gotten older. Balder, gray beard. He doesn’t recognize me.”
Suddenly he looked at me and said, “Hello, I’m Grover, what’s your name?”
I slowly looked up at him, not knowing what to say.
For reasons still unknown, my brain decided to take a smoke break. I heard myself respond, “Hi, I’m Brian.”
“What are you DOING?” the sane part of my psyche seemed to scream.
“Shut up!” the other half responded. “He’s trying to save us from having to block the poor guy from our phone later! He’s doing us a FAVOR!”
“Hi, Brian!” Grover smiled. “Boy, you sure look like a guy I used to work with.”
I froze. Thankfully, Grover was quickly distracted and the evening carried on.
Later, my 18 year old son, Trey, was sitting next to Grover, talking. Made me a little worried, but I tried to ignore it.
“Wait, your last name is WEDDLE?” he abruptly asked my son in a loud voice. “Do you know ROB Weddle?”
“Sure,” Trey replied. “That’s my dad!”
“Really?!” Grover laughed. “That’s awesome!”
“What are you gonna do now, GENIUS?” the sane psyche-fragment asked.
“Think, think, think,” I almost muttered.
I walked up behind them and said, “Hey Trey! Yeah, he must be talking about Uncle Rob.”
Trey looked at me like I’d finally misplaced what was left of my mind.
“Oh, HELLO, Brian!” Grover said, smiling. “So this is your nephew?”
Trey’s face was BLANK.
“Uh….YUP, that’s Trey. He’s my brother’s kid.”
Trey’s eyes grew wide and he whispered, “WTF, bro?”
“I KNEW you looked familiar!” Grover laughed. “So, Rob is your BROTHER, eh? Wow, that’s crazy! Can you give me his phone number, I’d like to call him?”
“Dear Jesus help me,” I implored, as Heaven, understandably, ignored my pleas. “I’ve come too far to turn back now.”
Trey continued to look at me as if I was crazy as an outhouse rat.
“Well,” I began, slowly. “Rob just got a new phone and I don’t know the number.”
“You don’t know your brother’s phone number?” he asked.
“Uh….no, we don’t keep in contact much.” I could’ve stopped there, but NO, I kept talking, even while the sane psyche-fragment was bellowing, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”
“Yeah, uh, he’s kind of a loner. Keeps to himself. We don’t really talk.”
My wife, Laura, came up at that time and said, “Hey babe!”
I froze once again, for just a second, and said, “Hey baby! I was just telling Grover here about my brother, Rob.”
She’s known me long enough now to understand I’m completely incomprehensible at times, and just sat there, silent, trying not to laugh.
“So,” Grover continued, “where is Rob working?”
For reasons unfamiliar to me I continued the ruse, even though the sane psyche-fragment kept shrieking, “TELL HIM THE TRUTH! TURN BACK NOW!”
“He’s a Sound Technician at a theater in Branson,” I heard myself answer, referring to the well-known, little, country town about 30 miles away. Sometimes called “Little Nashville,” it has several theaters with entertainment of all types.
“Oh WOW!” Grover beamed. “That’s AWESOME! Which theater? I go to Branson all the time.”
“Well, of COURSE you do,” I thought.
“I think I’m running a fever,” I told myself.
“I don’t know, man,” I replied, “he moves around a lot. He’s kind of a drifter when it comes to jobs.”
“SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” the sane psyche-fragment kept bawling.
By this time, Trey thought I’d lost all capacity for clear thought, and walked away. My wife was whispering to my daughter, relaying each lie as it toppled out of my mouth.
They both had tears in their eyes from trying to stifle the laughter.
At one point my daughter had mouthed the words, “What the FREAK are you doing?!”
“Well, if you see Rob,” Grover said, “tell him I said ‘Hi.’”
“Ok,” I said, standing up to leave. “Will do.”
Grover skedaddled to the bathroom, and as I walked toward the door, needing some air, Laura chuckled and yelled over her shoulder, “Hey, Brian! Whose wife am I supposed to be, yours or Rob’s?”
We had driven separate vehicles, and I told my family, “I have an enormous headache, I’m going home.”
They all kept giggling, speechless.
On my way out, Grover followed me and said, “Are you leaving, Mr. Weddle?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I’m not feeling too well.” Which was TOTALLY the truth, by the way.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, looking sad. “Well, hope you get to feeling better!”
NOTE TO SELF: next time, tell the truth, no matter how painful it is.
If I ever see Grover again, which, knowing my luck, will be very soon, I’ve already determined to come clean. I’m gonna tell him it was a little game my family and I play sometimes. Switching names and whatnot. Pretending to be someone else. Ya know, JUST FOR FUN.
Then I’ll let the chips fall where they may.