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Chapter Twenty-four: The Poisoned Apple

Mother was quite unhappy that I should shift my loyalties to Larry.  And he was equally determined for his demands to be served through me.  That is to say, my mother wasn’t going to tell him what to do since, at this point, it was obvious that she didn’t have a clue what she was doing.

Mother, of course, let us know that her money was running the show and put me on the spot to force the decision where my loyalties were: with Mother or Larry?

Laura Knight Jadczyk family album

Me, pregnant with my second child in late 1980 at the farm.

The baby was due in only a few months.  Larry went out to help a friend cut down some trees.  I protested that he really didn’t have time to do this, but he shut me up by telling me that I was being very un-Christian not to help this man who had done him a favor on some occasion in the past.

Several hours later, Larry came racing in the driveway and got out of his truck and came staggering in the house.  He was injured.  He clutched the back of the chair and weakly asked me to help him to bed.  His face was ashen.

He had been cutting up a huge old fallen cypress tree.  When he’d cut through most of the trunk, the root portion of the tree, where he’d been standing, had snapped away, throwing him into the air.  He flipped over and came crashing down on the jagged edge of the broken trunk.

He had a series of cuts on his lower back, as if a giant cat had clawed him deeply, but none were deep enough or bleeding badly enough to require stitches.  I bathed the wounds, applied antibiotic ointment, and bandaged them.  He was in pain, but it looked like something he would live through.  By morning, the injury had swelled to the thickness of a football covering the area of a large serving platter.  It did not look good.

After several days of pain and swelling that would not go down no matter how I treated it, we decided that a visit to the doctor was in order.  Larry had ripped all his muscles away from their anchors to the bony structures of the lower back.  A bursa had been formed that was full of fluid, and unless this was drained, he would not heal properly and would never have effective use of these muscles again.  This meant surgery.  It was supposed to be a fairly simple procedure, though it had to be done under general anesthesia.

We scheduled the operation and I anxiously sat in the hospital waiting room for news that I could go in and tend to my husband.  He’d need my attention immediately.  The surgeon had encountered complications.  It seems a sort of spider like tumor was growing on Larry’s spine.  It wasn’t cancerous, just fibrous – nothing to worry about.  The tumor was removed, but Larry was an uncooperative patient.

Mother’s response was understandable.  Somebody had to run the business.  My brother was “elected”.  Mother went up to Jacksonville, where he was stationed, and tempted him with grandiose plans of all the extra money in store.  She’d foot the start-up bill, so he was willing to give it a try.  He came down to get the boat and haul it up there.  (A major undertaking, to say the least.) Naturally, Mother had to be right in the center of things, giving orders, now the expert on all things nautical.  She managed to fall off the boat while stepping onto the dock and broke her shoulder.  She was an even worse patient than Larry.

So, again I was due to have a baby and had two injured people to take care of.  Grandma, thank heaven, though frail, was doing all she could to help me.  I was exhausted 24 hours a day, and my back and leg felt like someone was holding a flamethrower against them constantly.  But I wasn’t allowed to have pain or rest.

Mother demanded meals cooked to mush so that she could eat them (having recently had all her teeth pulled and dentures made.) Larry, on the other hand, would not eat anything that was even a tiny bit overcooked.  No matter what I cooked or how I cooked it, no one was satisfied.  Mother even threw her plate of food at me in a truly unusual display of temper.  She then yanked her dentures out of her mouth and threw them at me too, shattering one of the plates.  She did not handle pain well at all.  It was immaterial to her that I was almost ready to have a baby and was in constant pain.  I was still expected to cater to her demands with no effort on her part to help in any way.  She had to be bathed because she could not manage to get in and out of the shower, unsteady from pain relieving drugs.  And no matter how careful I was to avoid hurting her, she’d snap and snarl and accuse me of deliberately causing her more suffering.  I had to stand there, almost ready to pass out from the pain in my back.  If I tried to get some rest by sitting down on the adjacent toilet, she’d rage that I was torturing her by not standing in the proper position to be able to assist her.  She would not tolerate any pain during her bath.

After several weeks of recovery for both of them, Mother demanded that Larry should go up to Jacksonville and help my brother.  Larry was, of course, feeling that he was on the guilty end of the stick and was suitably subdued from his own ordeal.  Mother had convinced all of us that if Larry hadn’t screwed up and had to have surgery, she would not have had to break her shoulder!  Knowing he couldn’t work elsewhere in his condition, Larry dutifully packed up and drove to Jacksonville to stay with my brother and his wife to salvage what could be saved from the mess.

Of course, I protested that I needed help to manage the house but Mother was determined to see that I was isolated from any help at all.

Almost immediately after Larry left, the baby arrived.  Labor came on so fast in the early hours of the morning I was unable to drive myself to the hospital.  Mother couldn’t drive, of course, so I called an ambulance to take me to the hospital.

I delivered my second daughter with no one nearby but the hospital staff.

This baby was not immediately plopped into an isolette and rushed away, but placed in my arms immediately, even before the cord was cut.  Apparently disoriented by the sudden lack of restriction to her arms and legs, she squirmed to feel the enclosure that had been her home for so many months.  I held her close, and her eyes tried to focus on mine.  My heart just melted with love and pity for this helpless little child brought into the world by such mysterious circumstances.

Again, I had produced an incredibly gorgeous child.  She was fair and perfect in every way with evidence of truly great beauty in every feature.  Of course, I could instantly see her likeness to Richard.  This terrified me.  I was sure my sin would be evident to all.  But these particular features, the shape of her face, her fair skin, and beautiful lips were also similar to my grandmother’s.  I was desperate to forestall any possibility that Larry would notice she was nothing like him or any member of his family.  When he finally arrived at the hospital late that evening, I immediately pointed out the similarities to Grandma.  He agreed that she was perfect and tried to hide his disappointment that she was not a boy.

Even though Larry, as a “good Christian,” loudly proclaimed his joy and satisfaction with a perfect, healthy child, there was an undertone of feeling that somehow I had failed by not producing a son.  I was also a failure because I didn’t bounce back from this delivery as quickly as I had from the first.  There were prolonged and severe pains.  My old back injury had taken a severe beating with all the work I had done throughout the pregnancy.  I was so tired and depleted from months of taking care of everything and everybody that all I wanted to do was sleep.

But I couldn’t.  There was a baby to take care of.  Not only that, but this baby was quite different from the first.  While number one had been content and easy from the first day, this baby was fussy and demanding.  She needed holding and cuddling.  I was happy to hold her and nurse her for extended periods as I had with my first, but this baby did not ever want to be put down.  If I fed her and rocked her and sang to her and she finally went to sleep, the instant I put her in her bassinet, she stiffened like a wooden doll and began to scream in terror.  After a week of this, I took her to the doctor who said that she was “colicky,” but there really was no medical basis for colic.  Some babies were just that way.  “Hypertonic,” he said, “and likely to become hyperactive.”  Best to get her on medication right away.  He prescribed a barbiturate liquid that I was supposed to put in her bottle.

I had rather different ideas about why babies might come into the world with certain “dispositions”.  Even though I had put away my “metaphysical practices,” the idea of reincarnation still seemed a distinct possibility.  If so, the soul connected to this baby had most definitely suffered something truly terrible.

Later, when she was about three years old, she often had nightmares and would wake up crying.  One night, she woke up screaming “Mommy!  Mommy!” in absolute terror and I quickly ran to her and picked her up, speaking to her, trying to soothe her terror.  Her eyes were wide open, but it was clear that she was neither seeing nor hearing me.  She was in some other reality where she was fighting and kicking me as though I were some terrible monster attacking her.  I kept saying over and over: “It’s okay, Mommy’s got you!  It’s okay, Mommy’s here!”

Suddenly, she became perfectly still for an instant, focused on my face and screamed “You’re NOT my Mommy!” and began screaming “Mommy!  Mommy!” and kicking and crying again.

I was totally unnerved.  What did this tiny child mean when she looked at me and screamed “You’re not my Mommy?” I was the only mommy she had, the only one she had ever known – in this life, that is.  I wasn’t perfect, but God only knows, I loved my children with every breath in my body.  The only answer could be that something truly terrible had happened to her in a previous life, and the memory held her in a death grip.

In any event, the idea of drugging my baby was objectionable to me, and fortunately, Larry was willing to walk her and hold her so I could snatch a little sleep now and then.  It was a very little, of course, but any was better than none.  The baby was comforted, and I had some rest.  I was thankful to Larry for that. He was actually a very good parent as long as the children were little and adoring.  When they got older and began to have thoughts of their own or – horror of horrors – disagree with him, it was a different story.

Time passed and my brother became disillusioned with Mother’s enterprise.  Larry had to go back to Jacksonville and haul the boat back down.

Larry and I struggled to make the business work for a long time.  Our son, my third child, was born while we were still trying to swim against the current in an overpriced, under-equipped boat that literally ate money.  Sure, there were times when we made a lot of money in a single three or four day trip, but it never balanced out what we spent in fuel, ice, and repairs over the long term.  Marine parts are prohibitively expensive.  It wasn’t long before we had maxed out all our credit cards in an effort to salvage Mother’s dream.  It clearly was going to kill us before we made a killing in the commercial fishing business.

I tried talking to Mother about selling the boat, cutting our losses.  I was rapidly wearing out going on the boat with Larry and then coming home and having all the housework to catch up because Mother felt that it was her fair contribution to take care of the children.  Doing laundry and keeping the house tidy never was her strong suit.  If I wanted it done, I had to do it myself.

There were other disturbing aspects to the situation that gradually became apparent.  Grandma confided in us that she was worried about Mother.  Mother’s behavior had become so erratic that Grandma was actually becoming frightened of her.  She was certain her bank account was being rapidly emptied.  If she so much as questioned Mother about checks she wrote, Mother became enraged and browbeat her.  She told my grandmother that she’d ruined Mother’s chance for a happy life.  If Grandma didn’t cooperate with her activities, then she could damn well find somebody else to be her slave and lackey.

Grandpa had asked me, just before he died, to “take care of Grandma,” and I had promised.  I was beginning to see what he knew then about Mother.  She needed handling somehow, but was evidently competent enough that no judge would declare her incompetent.  Yet the evidence of her life demonstrated a strange inability to see things as they really were and to learn from her mistakes.

The obvious solution: let Mother find someone else to run her boat.  Larry and I would take Grandma and move to Grandma’s house in Tampa.  There, Larry would be better situated to work, I would be able to find work part-time, and Grandma could help in small ways with the children.

Then we discovered the full extent of Mother’s perfidious destruction.  We couldn’t move to the house in Tampa because Mother had sold it.

Yes indeed.  When she took Grandma to the realtor to sign the agreement to sell the lots, and then later, to sign over the deeds, among the big pile of papers being shuffled around on the table were the papers that sold her house.

Mother had tricked Grandma into signing away her own house.

At least that explained how Mother had so much money to pass around to get other people to do her bidding.  And why she was so desperate to make everything work.  She had “bet the ranch”.

Grandma was devastated.  She could not believe Mother’s deceit and betrayal.  I was equally crushed.  My own mother, knowing the house in Tampa had been intended to go to me, never to be sold as long as Grandma lived, found it in her heart to do such a terrible thing.  It was not the greed and manipulation that hurt, but the total lack of consideration for anyone else in any way, shape, form or fashion.

My mother sat there in front of me and claimed she had sold Grandma’s house because I wanted her to do it; that I had been in support of the plan; that I had been the one to suggest that she do it behind Grandma’s back!  Nothing of what she was saying was even remotely true.  But what was crazy was the conviction and sincerity with which she said it, as though she really and truly believed it!

Every similar crazy-making experience I had ever had with my mother now came back to me in stunning clarity.  I had been screwed by this woman – my own mother – royally, all my life.  And I was just now seeing it for the first time.

She accused me of lying, of making this whole thing up.  I was the one who needed help.  After all, I was the one who had tried to kill myself, wasn’t I?  I was the one who had a child out of wedlock, didn’t I?  I was the one who had found it necessary to see a psychiatrist, wasn’t I?  More than that, at this very moment, I was the one who was shouting at her and she had not even raised her voice!  What more proof was necessary that I was the crazy one and she was the innocent party who had been subjected to my horrible, selfish, self-centered and greedy manipulations!

It was at this point that the full impact of my mother’s “illness” hit me.  I can remember struggling for control, trying to explain to her the situation from a reasonable point of view.  Half way through it, I knew that one of us was crazy, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t me.

My mother was never neurotic, psychotic, nor emotionally disturbed in any apparent way.  She never displayed a violent temper, nor was she ever materially destructive such as having “fits” or breaking things.  In social situations, she was always outgoing, charming, and verbally proficient.  Most of all, she has always been calm and collected, even when angry.  Even when everybody else was upset, she has always been able to convey the impression that she has everything under control.  But I was observing her closely now, and was seeing with complete horror that this apparently “sane” behavior was really a deep manifestation of a personality that was callous, manipulative, massively selfish, and routinely untruthful.

Mother was never a “pathological liar” who lies compulsively – getting caught because they tell lies that are unnecessary.  I was seeing now that she just lied convincingly and consistently to get what she wanted.  It was devastating to realize that, above all, she was a consummate actress.  She had spent years pretending to feel, or rather making me think that she was feeling, whatever emotion was necessary in order to get what she wanted.  At this moment, I understood with stunning clarity that it was just an act.

Mother wasn’t a criminal in the ordinary sense of the word; most of my mother’s “crimes” had to do with having no true regard for her family or children. She could set up events clearly designed to avoid monotony in her life.  She went through relationships like some people wear out flip-flops.  She constantly “stirred the pot” or added gunpowder to the fire, but she could talk herself out of trouble in nothing flat.

When Mother carried on a conversation, it seemed, on the surface, like it was a two-way discussion even if there were weird and undefined overtones that were hard to pin down.  Now, I was understanding that her constant interruptions of others, the zigging and zagging into unrelated tangents and irrelevant subjects, was an example of her mental landscape; she actually believed she was communicating coherently, that she understood what others were thinking and saying.  She never did.  Not only that, she literally didn’t seem to hear all the words said to her because she could only hear words that referenced her!  What I was realizing, in horror, was that it wasn’t just habits of speech or just her way of talking, it was literally a cognitive deficiency.

Mother was a master of logically inconsistent statements and phrases, non-sequiturs, and half-formed sentences that somehow convey the impression of great depth and meaning.  And she always got away with it because she can be so charming.  But at this moment in time, I was not going to be charmed or manipulated.  There were facts, dreadful facts, that needed to be explained and understood.

Just as your life passes before your eyes in moments of extremis, my interactions with my mother over all my life ran like a horror movie through my brain.

In the years since this event, I have come to realize that true loyalty, warmth, and compassion were foreign, incomprehensible concepts to Mother.  The deep affection felt by most people for spouses and children was too complex for her.  I even think she believed such deep emotions are a vague and unimportant concept.  She seemed to have no need to give or receive love.  She really had no desire to maintain familial contact unless it was useful to her.

Something inside Mother had died back when she was little and her Mama was murdered and she was effectively abandoned by her own parents in their struggles to come to terms with that event.  Whatever was real and essential in Mother had either died then and there, or gone to sleep and never grew past that point.  Effectively, my Mother was locked inside a shell; the surface is there, the exterior curves and lines and colors, but whatever was inside couldn’t get out.  In hours of conversations I had with her, to discover the wounds and heal her, I found to my great sadness that when she says she understands an event, and perhaps even expresses regret, she never really did.

Of all the crushing blows of my life, this was the worst.

My mind was literally staggering at the realization of what my mother really was.  And the only thing I could think in response to this understanding of her true nature was that I obviously hadn’t made it clear how much I loved her and how much I wanted to help her and support her, especially now, when she was clearly cornered.

My heart was broken at the realization that it was utterly impossible that I would ever, ever, in this life, receive real love from my mother.

I looked at her and took a deep breath and told her as calmly and clearly as possible: “No, Mother.  I’m not the one who’s crazy here.  And you aren’t going to play that game with me anymore.  All those years I believed in you, believed everything you said.  Now, I can’t believe anything you say ever again.  YOU are the one who needs help.  I love you and I will help you if you’ll let me.  But you have to realize that you DO need help.  For all our sakes, I hope you decide to get it.” And I turned and walked away.

Now, normal people can behave irrationally under emotional stress.  They can be confused, deny things they know, get a little paranoid, or whatever.  Normal people also come to their senses within an hour or two or a day or two.  When you are dealing with normal people, your expressions of love and concern for their welfare will be taken to heart..

Not so with Mother.  With Mother, you either saw things entirely her way, or you were banished from her.  Mother could not see that she had a problem.  With Mother, it was always somebody else who had the problem.  This was an immutable law. She didn’t want to change.  She wanted the world to change to suit her.

I realized that it was possible to have a relationship with Mother only by giving her whatever she wanted or needed whenever she asked and to not expect any reciprocation at all.  I understood that I could never expect her to show the slightest interest in me or my life unless it was predicated on serving her ends.  I could never expect her to be able to do anything that I needed or wanted.  I could never expect her to apologize or make amends or show any consideration for my feelings at all unless she was giving it lip service in order to get something she wanted.

Mother was able to manipulate new people into serving her all the time because she was so good at maintaining a conventional persona in superficial associations.  She would flatter and smile and laugh and bat her eyes if she thought you had something she could use or if she needed you for some reason.   I suddenly saw that one of the reasons she was never able to keep a job had nothing to do with anyone ever actually acting against her; it was because she always cut corners and cheated wherever she thought she could get away with it.  More than that, she alienated people with her arrogance, lies, malice, and constant complaining.  Throughout my entire life I observed the fact that everyone that mother had close contact with seemed to go away mad.

At this point, as I confronted Mother with the evidence of her criminal activity in defrauding Grandma of her house, Mother was faced with a situation that could have been disastrous to her carefully constructed persona. Her response was a power move of such devious cunning that the entire family was nearly destroyed.

Grandma felt that we ought to do something.  I agreed to take her to an attorney to see if anything could be done, but the advice was rather bleak.  Sure, we could sue Mother, but it wouldn’t get Grandma’s house back, and if Mother didn’t have any money left, there really wasn’t any point.  In retrospect, of course, we should have taken some action to compel mother to sign over the Farm.

But neither of us ever expected that her self-destructive behavior would lead her to risk the Farm.  After all, it was her home.  Surely she had learned something from these experiences?

We would both, very soon, regret the assumptions that mother had any ability to reason and learn from her mistakes.  I didn’t fully comprehend the most important implication of my mother’s cognitive impairment: her terrible errors in judgment.  She could not understand that when she abused or exploited other people, that they would very likely retaliate.  She couldn’t see another person’s point of view no matter how much she claimed she did!  It was as though the entire world “out there” was blocked from her view by a huge, encircling mirror.

I felt I had as much right to live at the Farm as Mother did.  And Grandma certainly had the right to a home there since Mother sold Grandma’s house.  It had been, in effect, as much my house as Grandma’s and whatever Mother had bought with the money was ethically mine as well.  Unfortunately, it would have taken the force of law to establish this.  We felt that the best thing to do would be to find a place of our own and move out, let mother figure her way out of her business problems with the boat, and step in to help with the taxes on the place.

Larry found a job with a construction company and, until we had enough money to make the move, we were all in an uneasy situation.  Even though she had become very quiet and secretive in her behavior, we could see that Mother was not going to easily give up her grandiose ideas of being the owner of a fleet of fishing boats.  Never mind that we had done nothing but pour time and money into the project and it had not paid back even one tenth of the amount invested.  I used every opportunity I could to remind her.  Somehow, I thought all my exhortations that she should sell the boat, invest the money in something safe like bonds or CD’s (assuming she could get anything!), was getting through to her.  I had the idea that, perhaps, her excursions “out and about” might, hopefully, be a result of these ideas; that she was seeing about selling the boat and behaving reasonably.

I was wrong.  She was looking for a new slave to do her bidding.

Of course, slaves are expensive.  This meant that Mother needed more money.  How to get it?  Well, her new potential slave, a man she met god-knows-where or how, suggested the obvious: she was the legal owner of a fairly large and valuable tract of land; why not mortgage it?

And that is what she set about doing.  Unfortunately, she discovered that, at her age, and with no significant credit history, you can’t just borrow a large amount of money.  The bank wanted a co-signer who was younger and employed to guarantee repayment of the note.

There was only one solution: my brother.  She turned the charm on him without my knowledge and he hadn’t been there to witness what she had been doing for years now, so he was just as vulnerable as I had been for years.

He showed up one day, ready to go out with Mother to “take care of business”.  Of course I was not allowed to know what this business was.  After it was done, Tom informed me he had cosigned on a note with Mother.  The Farm was now heavily mortgaged and Mother had the money she needed to buy a new slave.  Tom also went home with money in his pocket: Mother basically bribed him.

How could my brother do this?

Didn’t he see what she had done with all the property so far?  What in the world was wrong with him that he couldn’t see what mother was doing?

Angrily, my brother echoed all Mother had said: I was a liar.

I was doing the manipulating, because I wanted to have everything myself.

I didn’t care about the family.  I was the one behind the sale of Grandma’s house.

Larry and I were the ones who had spent all the money.

I was utterly helpless in the face of Mother’s manipulations.  Grandma tried to talk to Tom, to explain to him that Mother was not in her right mind; but he wouldn’t listen.  He couldn’t listen.  He had the money in his pocket and just like in the fairy story used as an example of Narcissism, he had committed himself to take Snow White into the forest and cut out her heart.

The situation could only get worse.  And it did.

With all the money from the mortgage in her pocket, Mother packed her things and moved to stay with a newly acquired friend.  This was a woman from the church Larry and I attended.  Mother went to church with us several times and became chummy with this woman.  At the time, I was glad to see her with a new friend.  At this point, I could see that she had an agenda and it wasn’t long before we discovered what it was.

Not long afterward, I was helping Grandma with her bath and she pointed out a lump on her chest in the area of the mastectomy scar.  It didn’t look good.  We made an appointment with the doctor and the news was as bad as it could get.  It was too late for surgery.  Without immediate radiation and chemotherapy, Grandma had maybe six months to live.  Grandma wanted no more surgery or chemo.  She said to me: “I just want to go now.  I’ve suffered enough.” I understood, though I could hardly bear to contemplate a future without her.

A few days later I learned I was pregnant with my fourth child.  On the same day, a registered letter from an attorney arrived addressed to Larry and me.  It was a notice that we were being sued by mother to vacate the house.  Mother had made good use of her borrowed money.

Unfortunately, the order of eviction did not give Grandma time to die in peace.  Grandma refused to stay there if we left, and it was impossible to move her in her condition.  Larry and I decided that we really needed the advice and possible help and intervention of the pastor of our church on this matter.

Mother had already thought of that.  The pastor had been having regular dinners with Mother and her friend.  He had become another mirror declaiming loudly that Mother was the fairest of them all.  It was clear that he thought Larry and I had defrauded and abused and slandered Mother, and eviction was a small price to pay.  Mother had even managed to convince him that Grandma was crazy too, or that she was hypnotized by me and would say anything I wanted her to say.  When she tried to explain to him exactly what Mother was capable of doing, her words fell on deaf ears.  He pontificated to my dying grandmother that she ought to submit herself to the care of her most uxorious daughter who clearly had her best interests at heart and was utterly devoted to her!

As for me and Larry, we should thank God for such a wonderful woman as my mother, so patient and understanding and willing to forgive if we would all just submit ourselves to her glorious plans for our futures!

I was practically foaming at the mouth in fury.

There was only one thing left to do: we called my Uncle, hoping that he would be able to have some influence on Mother to at least persuade her to back off until Grandma was buried.  He had been estranged from us for some years now.  Uncle, like the rest of us, lived under the illusion that Mother was normal if only a bit quirky.  Worse yet, we discovered that she had blamed all the cruelties she had directed against him on my grandparents!  She had led him to believe that she was only acting the way they dictated she should act!

When he arrived with my aunt, they had shocking news for us.  Their youngest daughter had died.  And my grandmother’s youngest child, my mother’s youngest sister, was killed in an accident out West.  Her name was Laura, too.  I think she was the only one in the family who saw, a long time ago, what Mother really was.  When she couldn’t get anyone to believe her, she moved away and cut off all contact with the family except my grandfather’s brother.

Grandma blinked her eyes rapidly as she received this information.  She put her hand on her breast, over the cancer, as if to hold her heart still.  She breathed a deep sigh and said: “Well, that does it.” I knew what she meant.  She could take no more.

My uncle went to see my mother.  Then he came to tell us that Mother had agreed to drop the eviction suit if we would promise to move as soon as Grandma was buried.

The next weeks were impossible.  I had three little children, two of them still in diapers, and a fourth on the way.  My beloved grandmother was dying.  All of us were being evicted from the home we loved by the person into whose charge it was given to ensure that none of these things ever happened.

I was in constant pain from a kidney infection as well as the onset of gestational diabetes.

Night after night I sat up with Grandma, holding her upright against my shoulder so she could sleep.  The cancer had moved into her lungs.  She couldn’t breathe unless she was leaning forward.  As I held her, I wept.  She patted my arm gently.  “I don’t know what’s going to happen to you when I’m gone.  I’ve loved you all your life, and I tried to protect you from your mother, but she has won, and it breaks my heart to see things end this way.” And I wept even more.

Grandma was not afraid to die; she welcomed it.  She had truly suffered enough.

After two months, Grandma could no longer even walk.  I couldn’t lift her and it became apparent that she had to go to the hospital.

At this point, we discovered that Mother lied to my uncle.  Not a surprise.  Because Mother had said that she did not plan to prosecute the eviction case, we did not present any defense.  Mother obtained a judgment by default.  The order of eviction was delivered by the sheriff.

We had 30 days to vacate or be put forcibly on the street.

It became increasingly difficult to cope with taking care of the children, my pregnancy, and the daily visits to the hospital.  I should have followed up on this legal matter, but I hadn’t in the maelstrom of events around me.  I realized by failing to present a defense, I lost my chance to have these issues brought up in court.  I wrote a letter to the judge to explain the situation, asking that eviction be deferred at least until my grandmother was buried.

But I never needed to mail it.  Grandma died five days before her birthday, fifteen days before the expiration of the eviction notice.

Mother was called on (as eldest child of the deceased, and next of kin) to make funeral arrangements.  She feigned poverty and ignorance and called my grandfather’s brother to help since he knew the funeral director and was in charge of the family burial plot.  She asked him to cosign a note for the funeral expenses.  He did.  Many years later I learned that she told him I was the one who had Grandma’s money and would pay the bill.  She never paid a cent.

Larry owned a parcel of land that we discussed selling to have money to make the down payment on a house.  This was where his “Wilderness Fantasy” took over, however.  He thought he could build a house for us and we could keep the land and end up with something far more valuable.

I was still certain that, with love and support, my husband could do anything he put his mind to.  I agreed to his plan.  In a week, he nailed up a little 12 by 24 foot “house”.  We moved into it with our three children, a baby on the way, and my piano.

The Queen had sent the poisoned apple, and I had bitten.

Continue to Chapter 25: The Boat Ride To Damascus