Women’s dilemma lies not in her ability to obtain victories but in her inability to make use of them” Kafka
I am barely ten the Sunday morning my Father walks out our apartment door with a suitcase in each hand. I tiptoe into my parents darkened bedroom. His bed is neatly made while she still sleeps in hers. Standing at the window that overlooks the street below I push up a venetian blind and though the slats watch my Father throw his bags into the trunk of the car and then, without so much as a glance at the house, get in and drive away. I am in silent tears, so not to wake her. I leave her sleeping peacefully in the bedroom, the apartment now quiet as a cemetery. Hurt and anger flood through me, until I bury it by saying over and over, it doesn’t matter, I can handle this. This words finally take hold, quieting the pinpoints of fire that rage through my body. As I gain control I discover the smile with which I will greet my Mother when she awakens.
Despite promising myself I will never put my children through the hurt of divorce, I do. I simply assume they can handle it if I could. Thus, when my passion for Peter grows into something beyond an affair, I see our relationship as a life-raft, transporting me from the frozen sea of a lonely marriage, to the warmth of a new life, overflowing with possibilities. And even that first summer, when I catch Peter in bed with another woman and tell him we were through, once the rage settles, I can’t help wondering what am I doing up here if not to be with him? For without him my bulimia returns. First slowly, and then, day by day, it ramps up.
Peter’s mother stops to visit me one late November afternoon and asks if I have thought about getting back together with Peter. I tell her the kids don’t want to be around him, that we are all frightened of his outbursts. She does not defend her son, but simply says he misses us. When Peter calls a few nights later I agree to meet him for dinner. He is contrite, and after a few conciliatory family suppers, the kids shrug their shoulders when I ask them if they are willing to try again. I take their shrugging as compliance and invite Peter back into our life and for a time, it seems all to good to be true. Peter is in great spirits and the kids relax a bit.
While I had renovated most of the interior of barn, additional work is necessary. Peter, who works seasonally at two jobs, one on the ski mountain, the other building tennis courts, spends his weekends restoring the exterior. A realtors license offers me employment but I find I do not like selling real estate. A friend tells me Waterville Valley Ski Academy is looking for tutors. I apply and am hired. Although the job is seasonal, it pays well, includes a season ski pass, and gives me time to look for other work. With Peter back in my nest, and the new job starting, all was well. It seemed my bulimia had lost its hold on me.
Until Christmastime, almost a year later, when Peter comes home with a wedding band and suggests we get blood tests and tie the knot. I tell him I am not ready to get married, maybe never will be. Why don’t we leave well enough alone? He is furious with me, stuffs the wedding band in my mouth and walks out the door. He comes back and apologizes but soon we are fighting about everything. If I spend time with women friends he calls me a lesbian, and if I’m out with teachers from the Academy, men and women, he calls me a whore. When summer comes and I visit my daughter who is working down the Cape he tracks me down and accuses me of being unfaithful. I tell him our relationship isn’t working and to go home. We’ll talk when I return. And when I do come home, I tell him he is welcome to live in the downstairs bedroom until he finds a place, but we are through. When he catches me alone in the house one afternoon he tries to rape me but is impotent. He storms out of the house. I hear his car screech out of the drive and race down the road. Afraid what will transpire when he returns, knowing the kids will be here, I can only think to call Dot.
Dot is the kind of woman who never offers an opinion that isn’t asked for. I tell her what has transpired. She tells me when the kids get home to pack up their PJ’s, school clothes, and home work, and come on over. She’s says, “I’ll have dinner waiting.”
When we arrive Dot greets us at the door, shows the kids where to put their stuff and hustles us not he kitchen where Pay, her companion, sits waiting for supper to be served. Despite the drama taking place the talk around the dinner table is about the kids, sports and horses, And then comes an insistent knock at the sort. I go to push my chair back but Dot say,”Don’t you bother none, honey, I’ll get it”. It is only when my eyes follow her to the door I see her rifle leaning nearby. Dot grabs the rifle as he cracks open the door whereupon a familiar voice enters the room with the chill of the night air.
I listen as Dot says, “No, you can’t come in, and no they are not coming back tonight. Things have changed and they’re not coming home till you clear out, young fella”.
When Peter raises his voice in protest Dot raises her gun while saying, “Listen here young fella, we don’t want any trouble, do we?”And with that she closes the door and returns to the table, picks up her fork and begins eating, never mentioning what has transpired, till we are doing the dishes.
“The kids have their clothes and I think it best you all stay the night. Tomorrow after the kids are in school and we’re done with chores we’ll call on Sheriff Ash, find out what we can do, and then check the house to see if Peter has cleared out.”
Later, after the kids and Ray are in bed, Dot and I load up the woodbox for the night. When we are done we sit in the parlor, the fire blazing, Dot in her rocker and me on the floor with my head resting in her lap.
Dot, I ask, What does it take to make it in this life?”
Rocking slowly while stroking my hair, she answers, “Courage, honey, it takes courage.”