At some point in everybody’s marriage, there
comes a point that we all fear. I suppose its one the common tie that
binds us all together. It may come early in the marriage, after several
years, or even after decades, but it does come eventually. Husbands and
wives all dread the moment when the deadbeat relative moves in. For some,
it’s the lazy brother, or worthless sister, the remote few see a
slothful stepchild. I my case, it was Charlene’s nephew, Lyle.
In some ways, I almost feel sorry for the guy. His mother, Robin, is not
a shining star of motherhood. She drinks heavily, parties as if she’s
still 16, and demands to be the center of attention regardless of the
cost. Several years earlier, Robin got so upset the night her husband,
Ray, had to work on her birthday she stormed off and slept with Charlene’s
husband. He had a secret crush on her since they were both in high school
and was more than willing to oblige the unhappy Robin. Although to this
day, she claims she slept with some other guy, however; the resulting
child looks very much like John.
Lyle is a work unto himself. It must be hard having a mother only 16
years older than yourself, but that is no excuse for his bizarre behavior.
I suppose the excessive drinking and drugs his mother imbibed at parties
before and during her pregnancy might explain his oddness. Lyle is the
walking embodiment of an inner city youth. Never mind the fact that he’s
never been in any major metropolitan area or has. .. um . .. er . . .the
wrong racial coloring a true “home-boy”. He thinks of himself
as one the “homeys” nonetheless. He’s a firm believer
that school is a waste of time. After all, big time rap stars donna need
Unable to cope with life or his mother, his Uncle Alan took him in and
put him to work in his drug dealing – my mistake, I mean, carpet-cleaning
business. All he had to was drive the van with the supplies in it. Nothing
complex, he just needed his license. How hard could it be for a young
lad of 20 to get his first license? Damn hard when you can’t spell
your last name. I wonder if he could have asked the DMV for a verbal training
manual in Ebonics.
Unable to secure a driving license from the Department of Motor Vehicles,
his uncle put him to work loading the company van with supplies, the real
kind, not the drugs. Lyle did well here. He put his headphones on, cranked
up the rap music, and loaded away, provided nothing was too heavy. This
is where he should have stayed, but in some drunken flash of idiotic inspiration,
Alan thought to put him in the front office.
As a front office employee, Lyle was required to maintain certain standards.
Off came the eyebrow rings,out came the tongue piercing, the large gold
earring studs, the gold chains, the gold finger bars, and the bandana.
Alan instructed Lyle to bathe each and everyday, and he could not have
rap music pounding away in the office. Alan ordered him to treat every
customer with respect regardless of his ethnicity. After re-explaining
that means he had to be nice to everybody regardless of skin color, Lyle
exploded in a fit of rage. He refused to treat others with respect until
they gave it to him for who he was. The final straw for Lyle came when
Alan laid down the law of wearing clean and non-wrinkled clothes everyday,
clothes that LYLE would have to wash and iron.
Charlene felt sorry for the guy when Alan fired him, and begged me to
let him stay with us. Oh, dear reader, did I refuse. I knew better. Lyle
called me a promised me that he would only stay 2 months, no more. He
(and I) noticed the abundance of fast-food and strip mall locations in
need of employees. The plan was for him to get a job, sock away the money,
and move out. Like everybody else out there, I had that moment of weakness.
I capitulated. I let him come and stay, but with one addition, while he
was looking for employment he would enroll in the local community college,
and at any time should he failed his classes or dropped out, he was out
and on his own. My hopes was that should the economy take a down turn,
he would at least be getting smarter, perhaps even learning some job and
social skills. Perhaps, even deep down I knew it would be longer than
With his 7th grade education, all the classes, even the most basic ones
were far beyond him. He also failed to understand that, unlike high school,
college expects you to want to be there. When his instructors announced
they didn’t’ take roll, Lyle stopped going. With no system
like detention, he stopped doing the assigned work. He argued with students,
and threatened them. He was a child suddenly thrust into adulthood.
The job adventure fared equally poor. He got interviews, but arrived unwashed,
in wrinkled “gansta” clothes. Lyle’s reasoning was that
these possible employers should, nay, MUST accept him for who he was.
He wasn’t going to change just for some stupid job. He also got
very upset when one fast food location refused to consider him for President
of Marketing or President of the company. He proclaimed that he knew what
real people wanted to hear, he even offered to write a rap song for the
television commercial he wanted to film. I wonder if he should have told
them he couldn’t read.
The two months came and went, and quickly became three. Lyle spent his
days sitting on the couch eating pop-tarts and drinking beer. When it
hit the 4-month point, I decided to push him in another direction. I talked
about the wonders of the military. I pained such a rosy picture of life
in the Army and Navy I thought my nose would grow. I was so successful
that both he and one his fellow deadbeat, dropouts, flaky friends decided
to enlist. After their initial testing, Lyle was rejected but his friend
was accepted (its amazing what a few extra years of high-school will do
for you, huh). Lyle was enraged, he argued with his friend about abandoning
the “hood” and his friends (Lyle was his only friend). Very
quickly, Lyle was alone.
Unable to palm him off to Uncle Sam, I had to take the last resort. I
got him drunk on peppermint schnapps, and convinced the drunken lout that
he needed to be on his own. I poured him into a cheap hotel blocks from
his mother, paid a months rent and fled. When he sobered up, he still
thought it was a wonderful idea. He sat in his hotel room, watching television,
eating pop-tarts and drinking schnapps (oopsie). When the end of the month
came and he had no rent money, he wasn’t so happy. He was very mad
that nobody would come to his aid and pay the rent. Broke and homeless,
he swallowed his pride and return to Alan for employment and housing.
To this day, three years later, he is still an employee of Alan, but now
lives with his Grandmother, Beverly (see the other tales to understand
that housing arrangement) rent-free. There actually was a concentrated
effort by his Uncle, Mother, and Grandmother to get him to pay rent, but
he refused unless he could paint his room black. I don’t know how
much you know about interior painting, but if he paints those walls black,
nobody will ever be able to repaint. The black undercoat will bleed through.
You’d have to paper or panel over it. I often wonder if this was
his plan all along, of course that would be giving him too much credit
for cunning. Since the stand off is unresolved, he doesn’t contribute
to any of the utilities. One must wonder what he does with his money.
His uncle, as his employer and technically his landlord, could easily
just withhold the rent, but, like everybody else, has given in to Lyle's
He does have is drivers license, however, but he still dresses, walks,
and talks like an employee of “Suge” Knight. Most of his free
time is spent drinking gin and eating pop-tarts (what is it about pop-tarts)
and waiting by the phone for Tupac to call him from beyond the grave with
a record contract for rap tapes he makes but never sends to anyone. There
is a moral here I’m sure, but it eludes me.