Monday, March 31, 2008

No more free ride

Beanie emailed me to call her this morning. I was up at four, so I called. She said our brother is having a midlife crisis. I had an idea what she meant but I didn't say it right out. "Did he buy a corvette?" Her voice was thick with surprise and tears. "He left Bobbie last weekend." I wasn't surprised. Of course, when Mom and Carol find out that I urged Jimmy to do what would make him happy they will blame me. I'm used to it. They've been blaming me for everything that goes against the grain since I was ten.

Several months ago, my brother emailed asking if I would be willing to ghostwrite a book for someone in his department. I explained what it would take and he said he pass the information and my email address and phone number along. I teased him and asked if the woman in question was his girlfriend. What he said made me curious and I asked if he was all right. That's when it all came spilling out about how miserable he was and that he felt trapped in his marriage. He wasn't happy. His wife wasn't happy. He didn't love her even though he said he had tried. He admitted he never should have married her and that he regretted asking her to marry him when he was driving home the night he asked, but he went through with it. Now, more than 20 years later, as he approaches turning 50, he looks back at how miserable he has been and he decided he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life the same way. His youngest daughter, Alex, is crushed and upset but this will be better for her in the long run because my brother will be happier and by extension be able to show Alex how to be happy. He certainly couldn't do that living the lie he's lived for over twenty years. His two older children will be fine and they will understand. I think they knew this was coming but it doesn't really affect them so much since they are out on their own.

Beanie was in tears. She feels she's been abandoned, first by Dad and now by our brother. There was some comfort in knowing that she wasn't the only one who was miserable in her marriage. She had company. Now that Dad is dead and Jimmy is getting a divorce; she's all alone in her misery. She has a right to feel jealous. Mom has pressured her to stay married for years, threatening to cut her off from the family if she got a divorce, and promising that she would see to it that her husband got custody of their children. Now that Jimmy is getting a divorce, Mom is behind him all the way. She said she would support him no matter what he chose to do. Talk about history repeating itself.

I was the handmaiden of Satan because I divorced my cheating, abusive husband because I had three children. Carol, who got a divorce the year after I did, was a saint because she was supporting her children working two jobs (so was I) and needed all Mom and Dad's help with the kids. Carol's kids were over at our parents' home more than they were at their home because Mom wanted to relieve Carol of some of her burdens, even to the point of taking the kids over the summer and giving Carol a break by taking them for a two-week vacation. My kids didn't go and I had to pay a babysitter to watch them in the evenings when I worked my second job. I had made my bed and I was supposed to lie in it -- alone.

Ever since I left Columbus, Beanie has been the scapegoat for everything and the bad seed, the black sheep, because of her indiscretions. Jimmy had his indiscretions but Mom always backed him up and blamed it on everyone and everything but him. He and Carol were the favored children, and Beanie was part of that until I was gone and unavailable for emotional floggings. She finally began to see that what I'd said about how I was treated wasn't a lie, but the absolute truth. She apologized for ever having doubted me and for believing that I was a liar when she knew better. I didn't lie about anything else, so why would I lie about that -- unless it was because, like Mom always claimed, I couldn't get over the fact that I was adopted and believed no one cared about me. It didn't hurt that Mom reminded me often enough that I was not as good as the others because my mother was a whore, that she was from an inferior family -- the same family, by the way, from which Dad came. That was different. It always is when you're splitting hairs and casting blame and serving up emotional abuse. But Beanie finally understood and it isn't the kind of thing that anyone else in the family would see or even admit to seeing. They had a vested interested in keeping me on the outside.

So here it is at last. The bad influence (that would be me) has destroyed yet another family member's life by whispering lies and holding out the fruit from the tree of self knowledge, only this time it was Adam who took a bite and didn't share with Eve. I guess that makes me worse than the Serpent since I corrupted Adam directly and didn't work through the weaker and more pliant Eve. In a way, that makes me more powerful, too. I wonder if I'll get horns, a pitchfork and a tail, too.

While it is a homespun bit of Peyton Place, I am proud of my brother for being willing to stand up and do the right thing for himself, his children and even for Bobbie. He said he misses his things but he doesn't miss Bobbie. People missing their things (like Beanie having to give up her horses if she gets a divorce) is the reason why they stick it out. It's not really about the children; it's about their stuff.

I guess that means Bobbie will finally have to take her income and start paying some of the bills and part of the mortgage on the house if she wants to keep it because Jimmy's not going to keep footing all her bills, too. It's about time she contributed more than her self-important, selfish, self-centered and egotistical self because the free ride is finally over.

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