Monday, May 13
I told Kat I was going to Ireland and she said she wanted to have me over for Irish oatmeal and hear all about my plans. We ran into each other at a meeting this morning and I invited her over to do just that. We sat down to steel-cut oatmeal, maple syrup, honey, butter, walnuts, blueberries, yogurt, and a pot of strong tea. I told Kat I'd blown up at Blake about the broken table and was still feeling horrible about it.
“What do you think Blake’s intention was bringing the table in all by himself?” Kat condescended.
“I know he was trying to be helpful,” I snapped. “Therefore, I’m still feeling shitty about it.”
“You need to tell him how great he is, how wonderful he is, how much you love him.”
Kat, a divorced single mother, has told me horrific stories about how she’s raged at her two children over the years. Her high-school-aged daughter no longer lives with her. She moved in with her friend’s parents.
I told Kat about Tom lying to JB, saying I'd punched him three times, my sending him to his Dad’s house for two weeks, then Tom feigning leg paralysis.
“Oh, that’s typical,” Kat said. “You’re going to get more behavior like that, trust me. You’re not done.”
“I’m worried. I don’t know if Tom wants to spend time with his dad or not.” I read Kat the text I'd written JB. The one he responded to saying I was calling him every name in the book.
Kat leaned across the dining room table and got in my face. “You don’t reduce yourself to those kinds of texts,” she hissed. “No. You don’t text things like that. He is a piece of dog poop. You don’t get down on his level. He’s dead. He is dead to you! You act as if he’s dead. And I don’t care what you’re court ordered to do. You protect that boy from him. JB is dead and Tom doesn’t go there anymore. You sign Tom up for camps, lots of activities, so he has no time to go over to JB’s. That’s what you do.”
I changed the subject. “My friend, Nicole, sent me this text at two-thirty a.m. I’m not sure how to respond."
“It is no wonder I have such vivid hideous nightmares, they are based upon reality!” Nicole texted. “I hate everything. I have been trying to just let it go but I can’t. I HATE EVERYTHING! HELP! NICOLE (I STILL LOVE U)”
“Then she texted me this.”
“Brenda, could, would, you help me rectify some things in Cali to set Wanda straight? Please.”
“There’s always a hook,” I told Kat. “Nicole always wants me to tell someone a story she’s concocted. Wanda is Nichole’s biological mother. She found Wanda when we were teenagers. She began bouncing back and forth between her two mothers when things weren’t going her way. Nicole had her first baby at seventeen and the father, who could have been arrested for statutory rape, got custody. Wanda got custody of Nicole’s second child by another man. I don't know where her other kids are. Then she sent me this.
“Brenda, I am considering suicide,” Nicole texted. “Is that the right way? I need help! Help me or not!”
“Then she left a voicemail completely wasted asking me to call her back.” Just then my phone rang. “Damn, it’s Nichole,” I told Kat, not answering. “She’s threatened suicide countless times. Countless times. I used to jump in the car and run to her, but I haven’t in years. This is going to sound terrible, but maybe Nicole would be better off dead.”
“You need to get rid of her,” Kat said, karate chopping the table. “You need to chop her out of your life.”
“As messed up as she is I love her. If a train were about to hit me, she’d jump in front of it and push me out of the way. There aren’t many people I can say that about. Chopping her out of my life wouldn’t help her. I’m her only friend. I won’t talk to her when she’s messed up on drugs or booze and she knows that because I’ve told her. I love her.”
Kat stared at me. Then she switched the subject to JB.
“I suspected JB was cheating on you all along,” she said.
“Well, you’re the only one. Everyone else was shocked.”
“That episode at the beach,” Kat said. “Him being so passive aggressive. I figured he was getting it somewhere else to get back at you.”
Kat was referring to a nine-year-old incident when JB, the boys, and I were at our beach house in Michigan. The cottage had been Theres’s and JB’s brother and two sisters owed it, too. There was always something that needed fixing and this time it was a leaky roof. Before walking to the beach one morning, I’d asked JB to visit the couple who managed the property for us.
“Find out when the roof is getting fixed and if we need to write them a check,” I’d said. “Don’t ignore it and wait for your brother or sisters to do it. Take care of things for once.”
JB’s pattern: don’t lift a finger unless asked then grouse about it. The boys and I walked to the beach. Twenty minutes later, JB showed up. He slammed his butt into a beach chair, snatched a magazine, and didn’t get up for the next five hours. It was ninety-eight degrees and the sun was blazing. He didn’t jump in the lake. He didn’t play with the boys. He didn’t even urinate. He sat pouting and occasionally emitting loud irritated breaths.
“Fuck you,” I thought. I’d watched JB pull his baby act for years and stopped asking, “What’s wrong?” a long time ago.
Blake and I jumped in the water.
“What’s wrong with Dad?” Blake asked.
“I don’t know. Look at him pouting. Don’t ever let that be you. If you have a problem, say so.”
Blake studied his father while bobbing in the waves. He nodded his head.
The four of us walked back to the cottage for dinner and as we stacked our beach chairs on the front porch, I turned to JB, whose skin was lobster red with white stripes running across his belly where skin folds hadn’t allowed the sun.
“Hope you had a great day,” I laughed.
JB slammed his beach chair into a wall and shouted, “Do you know why I’m angry? Do you?” It was one of maybe four times JB ever raised his voice to me.
“You never said,” I answered sarcastically.
“You ordered me, ordered me, to go to Thelma and Eugene’s!” he howled. “I would never speak to you like you speak to me!”
“You never lift a finger unless you’re asked! You don’t do things that need to be done! You wait for someone else to do the work!”
“You have no respect for me,” JB bellowed. “I would never treat you the way you treat me.”
“Because I don’t act like you.”
I looked at Kat. “That was nine years ago. JB said he started cheating five years ago.”
Kat searched my face not knowing what to say then recovered. “The last time we spoke at Marytown I knew,” she said. “But I suspected for years before that.”
Kat was referring to the time we spoke after JB and I had met with an attorney to draft a will. The lawyer had asked each of us who we wanted to appoint as medical power of attorney and I’d felt like vomiting and couldn’t speak because I couldn’t name JB.
“I think JB wanted out of the marriage as much as you did,” Kat said.
I laughed. “Not according to all the texts and emails he’s been sending me.”
“You need to delete those. Get rid of them. Do it now.”
“I’m not deleting them. I’m writing a book.”
Kat got wide-eyed and gasped. “You should not write that book. What about your children? They will read that. You totally emasculated JB in your last book. I felt sorry for him. How do you think your kids felt about your first book?”
“They’re proud of my book. They flew to New York and saw me on the Today Show. They know that book is helping people. Tom and his friend sold books at one of my book release parties. Blake has been recommending my book to friends who have drinking problems.”
Kat looked deflated then puffed up again. “But this book will be different. This one will be about their father.”
“And it will help people. What happened in my marriage takes people down. But I see it as a huge growth opportunity and I’m going to pass that on.”
“You can’t even set boundaries with Nicole and Audrey,” Kat spat. “You need to cut both of them out of your life. Get rid of them. And you won’t. I don’t think anybody needs your help. This will devastate your children. You should ask them what they think before it’s published.”
“Count on it. I believe we choose how we come into this world and how we go out and my children chose me and their father. We’re who they signed up for. And this is what I do.”
Kat clamped her mouth shut. Briefly. “I don’t like Kent,” she said, changing the subject. “He keeps drinking. He doesn’t talk about what’s going on with him. He quotes books and makes himself sound like he’s got all the answers.”
“I’ve heard Kent own up to plenty. He’s hurting and worried.”
“He should be worried. And him being your former sponsor? Men aren’t supposed to sponsor women and vice versa. He should never have done that. Now he doesn’t even have a sponsor. He sees a priest. And that priest doesn’t know about addiction.”
“Who are you to judge? How do you know what the priest does and doesn’t know? Kent was a great sponsor. He helped me a lot.”
“Well, how do you think him sponsoring you made his wife feel? She’s a lovely person and he’s cheating on her.”
“He’s cheating on her?”
Kat clamped her mouth shut and didn’t speak for a moment. Then she said, “Well, how do you think that made her feel, him sponsoring you?”
“Kent always spoke highly of her. I always thought their marriage was solid. I have to work to do now.” I got up, walked to the door, opened it, and showed Kat out.
Kat’s right. I don’t have good boundaries. I sat there and let her attack me before I got rid of her. I went for a three-mile run hoping to clear her icky residue. When I got back, I took a piece of Kat’s advice and texted Blake.
“You’re thoughtful, kind, supportive, strong, caring, loving, wise, and you have a huge heart. I love you. XO”
“Thought I was in trouble for a minute there,” Blake texted. “Love you, too, Mom! XOXO”
“How are you?” Golf Guy texted in the evening.
“Hey, good. How was baseball and golf?”
“No baseball today, just lessons. Day was good. How is the writing?”
“Coming along. You good for Thursday?”
“I coach baseball till 7:30 on Thursday so could probably meet you somewhere after that.”
“Works for me.”
Nichole had left two voicemails while Kat was trying to chop me into little pieces. I listened to them.
“Hi Brenda, it’s Nichole.” (Thirty seconds of gibberish I couldn’t understand.) “Oh God, I’m going to commit suicide.”
“Hi Brenda,” she left twenty minutes later. “It’s Nichole (pause). Geez, I feel like committing suicide (pause). But I’m too much of a coward (pause). Give me a call if you can. I love you. Gooood-baaaah.”