I saw her twice the first year after the marriage. Once she was with him, and once I saw her alone. Both times at my house. The second time she invited me to go with them to Jordan over the holidays. I was depressed at the time, as is usual during the holidays, and declined her invitation. I also thought I had no business going on a trip with her and her husband. The almost mother-in-law on the almost honeymoon? No.
When she and I were alone, I asked her about the husband and heard things that worried me. I listened to her words and the tone of her voice as she denied being bothered by his spending days and nights and days and nights at his studio. He was experiencing a burst of creativity and had a deadline. Okay. I will not pry. If she's okay with it, why shouldn't I be? I'm that kind of mother. If you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen. But I will not pry.
The third time I saw them was a little more than a year ago. I was trying to find a way to have my daughters near and to get my teeth fixed. Both the youngest and the middle daughter have expressed interest in owning the front house. It would make it possible for me to live out my life in the little house while not having the burden of the main house to deal with--no more taxes, no more insurance, no more repairs. Plus a bit of income and security. I liked the idea, but in talking with the middle daughter with the husband present she seemed worried about my long term care. He brother was one of her partners. I had no problem with that, but I didn't know the husband that well, and I suspected that he would be a problem. I'm not sure why. It was then I asked him to install a programable thermostat in the main house. He took it, said he'd read the instructions and get back to me. I never heard from him again.
Then I got an invitation to my middle daughter's graduation for getting her Masters Degree two days before the event. It came during a mild case of agoraphobia. I didn't go. But I did send her $50. in cash in a happy graduation card. It was the least I could do, and I knew it wasn't half good enough. I'd have liked to send her roundtrip first class tickets to anywhere she wanted with the partner of her choice. But I couldn't. And in my shame of not being able to do my best, I didn't do enough.
Friday she called me. She sounded good. She was at work. She asked if she could drop by afterwork. I said, "Of course." When I hung up I began to panic. The day before, one of my girlfriends had asked about her. When I told her how long it had been since I'd seen her, we speculated about the possible failure of her marriage. I also worried about her health and then her parent's health. So I went into a cleaning frenzy. I shopped. I tried to throw together a meal I thought she might like. When the youngest daughter came home I told her I was nervous. She said, "Don't be nervous. She knows how you live." I thought that was a little insulting, but recognized it as the truth and said nothing.
Four came and went, then five. The phone rang. It was my friend Z who is a real mother of grown children. I told her about my anxiety, and she said, "We're already on our way." "Who are you coming with?" "Queen Esther and Ms Miller." Two other friends who are real mothers of grown children. I was so relieved. Backup. And backup that was at least a couple of hours away since Queen Esther is always late.
When my middle daughter arrived I was alone. The youngest had removed the lock from the gate, had turned the outside lights on and taken Roscoe in her house. So my middle daughter could walk back here unmolested without having to call for help with the lock. See? I have very sweet children. She arrived carrying dinner. Pita sandwiches of ground lamb and greens and herbs. A huge order of fries. We hugged. She sat on the couch and started moving things off the coffee table so we could get to eating. It was delicious. But I had the feeling we were just getting something out of the way so we could get to the something important.
She has been living with a secret sneaky alcoholic who sleeps all day and stays at his studio all night. He has stolen a large bottle of the oxycontin she takes to manage the pain she lives with. Huge street value, so we speculate as to his reason for the theft. To sell or to take, that is the question. She says she talked to her father about the marriage and he said, "Go and get him and bring him home." I groan. I look her in the eyes and say, "Oh god no." She says, "I feel so guilty," and starts to cry. I take her in my arms and say, "You have nothing to feel guilty about. Your father is speaking from his cultural tradition. It's a knee jerk reaction. What did your mother say?"
This brings on more tears. "My mother had a heart attack. I had to fly home." Again I hug her and wait. "I left him with money to pay the bills before I left, I told him when to pay which bill. He didn't pay any of them. My mother's heart muscle was damaged. She will never be the same. You know she always smoked." Pregnant pause, arched eyebrow. "Yes, I know. She and I are alike in that." "They've moved into the new house. They finally got it built. And my Mom has to live in the garage because she can't live in her house." For a moment I'm confused. Which mom is she talking about and then I realize it's me. Then she tells me that the Palestinian women are so strong. When the women heard about her situation they said to divorce the bastard. And finally her father came around. But when she got back to Salt Lake she discovered that they are two months behind in the rent. He did not pay the bills. The prick she's married to has put her living space in jeopardy. The landlord is irate, but not crazy. She pays the back rent. She tries to get her fucked up husband to sit down and prepare taxes. It makes him anxious. But she does convince him to go to couples therapy. This surprises me.
The therapist tells him he must go to AA. He claims not to have a problem he can't control. He stole her fucking oxycontin. I'm thinking he should be prosecuted. He doesn't need help? So divorce him. Do it quickly. My middle daughter says, "I'm going to file the taxes and then I'm going to file for divorce." I think we're making progress here. She says he still comes and goes. I say, "Change the lock." "But his clothes are there." "Bag them and give him a call to tell him they will be in the entry." "I'm afraid he'll kill himself." "Has he threatened it?" "Not exactly, but he wrote me a poem and there was blood on it." "He's a blackmailing prick. It's a manipulation." He's a con. "He's self medicating, he works for days on end on an artistic endeavor. I'm thinking he might be bipolar." I always go there. If a child lived in the household I'd probably think he was a pedophile. I project male bad behavior to crazy, pathological men.
Then the "mothers" arrive. After the hugs and greetings, I give them the cliff's notes on middle daughter's marriage situation. And we settle in to examining this marriage. We want to give her the best advise possible. It is unanimous--the bastard must go. Then we talk about our own marital mistakes and how long it took us to admit the mistake we made in marrying at all. We call this time of staying, once you know you have no idea who the person you thought you'd married really is, the wasted years. My middle daughter has stayed with this man three years. She's done her best under the circumstances. Time to cut her losses.
Then we mothers entertain ourselves with stories of acid trips past. One story was told during this part of the evening that will turn itself into a short story soon. Someone was shot in Berlin at the Dead Goat. Trust me, it's hilarious.
The youngest and middle daughter made plans to get together, exchanged phone numbers and the middle daughter left around eleven. I think she's going to be fine. The next evening she called the youngest daughter to get together at a bar to meet a couple of male friends of middle daughter's. The daughters unite. There is work yet to do on getting disentangled from the bad husband. But she's now looking forward, not back at the mistake that started it all. I blame it all on the cultural notion that a woman must marry or she isn't complete. It is rooted in Religion and the universal suppression of the female that is at the heart of all religions, and that's political. Everything's political.