Rhonda sat next to me on a bus trip to French Lick, a resort of sorts in nearby Indiana, not far from Louisville where I live. Triple A sponsored the one-day event.
She was seventy-five, maybe eighty; it’s hard to tell, but I am nearly as old, myself. Rhonda had grey hair cut in a pageboy style, an appropriately-wrinkled face for her age, and her original teeth (my guess), small and yellowed. She was quietly gabby. Most of those whom I spoke to in our group of about thirty were women. Maybe four or five men were along for the tour. Rhonda, as did the others, willingly answered all my queries, but she asked almost nothing as to who I was except to note I was not originally from Kentucky, what with my still noticeable Massachusetts accent. Beyond a few words about where I came from, no other questions at all came my way. No “how did you get to Kentucky?” or “when?” Maybe such inquiries were viewed as intrusive, rude even, for I heard none whatsoever from the several women I spoke to this day.
But Rhonda, as I say, was talkative. I soon learned, for example, that she had been married three times, all spouses gone, dead. She spoke of them readily. The first she married quite young. She was “crazy for him,” she said. He was a nice fellow, but a drunk. Ultimately, he died in his fifties of liver failure.
She said for a few years they lived on a lake in Kentucky, and he was quite fond of fishing and fished a lot when not working. She told him one day, “Take me with you, or I am going to leave you.” He immediately changed his ways and she fished with him thereafter. And then many of the other fishermen began to bring their wives, too; she said this part a bit proudly. But ultimately, alcohol won out. His drinking friends would seek him out and take him away to party. The end was not pretty, she concluded.
She had little to say about the second husband, except that he was a car mechanic, a “good man and a hard worker.” He too died young. She’d had three children, all girls, from her first marriage, and lived her entire life in Kentucky.
She spoke of her third husband favorably, with humor in her voice. They traveled the world together, she said, all across Europe and even Australia, though not the Far East. I noticed that many, if not most of the ladies on the bus this day were frequently on the go, taking many more ambitious journeys than this single day trip. I learned the names of the better tour groups in the Kentucky area, of which there are three.
Rhonda said with a bit of a laugh that her third husband had one big fault: he was a perfectly terrible driver. He’d had numerous wrecks until one day while on his way to a doctor’s appointment (which he never got to) he ran off an embankment, flipped over, and was killed. He was then eighty years of age. I didn’t know how recently this had happened, and I hesitated to ask, but I did inquire which husband was the best. She didn’t hesitate with her reply. “Number Three!” He was much more fun; she didn’t use the word ‘fun’ but the way she spoke of him told me this was true.
Rhonda was very religious. She told of praying for this or that. She didn’t drink or smoke or gamble, either. I asked if she went dancing, and she said she occasionally indulged. There is a casino at French Lick, and that is how the topic of gambling came up. It being just before Thanksgiving and about ten days after the controversial presidential contest, I asked her about the results.
“I just hated everything about Trump in the beginning,” she admitted. “I couldn’t stand him at first. Nothing about him I liked. I prayed hard and a lot on the subject, and I believe he has truly obtained humility with the election result. I really believe that!” she said for emphasis.
I didn’t ask her who she voted for, but my guess is that Trump got her vote. And without asking, I surmised she was anti-abortion too, most likely, and also gay marriage. The two often go together, along with spin-off issues such as gender and bathroom use. She might have told me all of this, had I asked.
I did ask if she would marry again.
“I don’t see it happening, but I might if the opportunity came along.” She said this with a slight smile.
I could tell she liked her current life in the large home she owned in central Kentucky with children and even two adult grandchildren living on the floors above her. She had a basement unit in the house for herself, “but not dark and dingy,” she was quick to tell me. Clearly she had for herself an extensive support system in place which worked out well for her. My suspicion was that she willingly paid for it all, too. But I didn’t ask that, either. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t.