I had just finished my lunch hour at work on Monday when my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, Rose. She sounded upset and asked if I was still on my lunch break. I told her I had a couple of minutes left and asked her what was going on. She proceeded to tell me about her awful morning. Unknown to me, Rose and Al, her husband of eight months, had been arguing all weekend. They had called a truce when they sat at our table to celebrate Easter, so I had no idea the argument had gone on. It was all centered around a party they had gone to on Friday night with some friends. Rose ran into an old (male) friend at the party and sat and talked to him and got caught up on what was happening in his life. Al didn’t like that Rose was talking to this guy so much and got jealous. When he confronted Rose about it, she just blew it off. That infuriated Al more, and the argument grew. So on Monday morning as Al was getting ready to go to work (Rose had the day off), they argued some more. When he left, he threw $200 on the kitchen table and told her to go to the courthouse and file for divorce. Rose was shocked! She had cried most of the morning and debated what she should do. By noon she had resolved to wait for Al to get home and they could talk, but then Al sent her a text message on his lunch break asking if she had gone to the courthouse yet. Rose was devastated. “What should I do, Mom?” she cried to me.
In that moment, my heart ached for Rose. She said she knew the first year of marriage can be really tough, but she felt Al had taken his jealousy too far this time and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to keep working so hard at making this young marriage work. I struggled to find the correct words to say, being careful to not say something I would later regret. We ended up talking for close to an hour, making the decision that Rose should pack a bag and spend the night at our house and that she should give Al a couple of days to think things through before anyone made any rash decisions or took action on filing for divorce. I went back to my desk and tried to focus on my work but it was pointless. All I could think about was the tears my daughter had cried, the pain she was feeling in her heart, how she felt a failure because she couldn’t make her marriage last one year. Unable to concentrate, I checked in with Rose a couple of hours later. She said Al had called and she told him she was packing a bag and would be at our house for the night. Al had asked her to wait for him to come home so they could talk first. She agreed. A bunch of red flags went up for me and I did my best to counsel her about personal safety in a “domestic.” I told her I would keep her in my thoughts and prayers, and asked her to check in with me later.
My phone never rang. I was worried, but I didn’t know what to do. I could call, but I thought that might escalate the situation with Al. I thought about driving the twenty minutes to their town to check on them, but they live in a third floor apartment. What would I be able to see? I sure wasn’t going to knock on their door and say I happened to be in the neighborhood, what’s up? Besides, my daughter is a married woman and she is twenty-five years old! She’s arguing with her husband. Does that give me a right to barge into their lives? Oh, there was a disgustingly loud symphony of voices going back and forth in my head.
As fate would have it, my daughter Kate called me to check in. “Have you talked with Rose today?” I asked her. “Funny you should ask that,” Kate said. “Dad asked me the same thing.” Whoa! In my mind, there was no way in the world Rose would have said anything to her dad about Al’s behavior. Given the violent past we had all lived with when I was married to him, there was no way Rose would tell her dad about Al’s jealousy. I pressed Kate some more as to what her dad was asking about and she didn’t have a clue. I debated about thirty seconds and confessed to Kate that Rose was having a very bad day. I didn’t give a lot of details, but enough that Kate was willing to call Rose and check in. A few minutes later, Kate called me back. “Everything’s fine with Rose and Al. They’re having a quiet night, watching a movie.”
Take a deep breath, let it out slowly. I told myself that the rest of the night until I fell asleep. How powerless I felt. We bring our children into the world, we do our best at teaching them all they need to know, and then we let go. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have had any children.
The next morning, I hurried through my routine and called Rose on my way to work. I knew she should be on her way to work as well. She answered right away. Thank God! And then she gave me the worst news possible. The whole thing had been a very cruel and hurtful prank. Al had thought it would be a funny April Fool’s joke. Rose was devastated, again. “How do I erase those feelings, Mom?” she asked. “I was ready to walk away from our marriage. I had had enough of his jealousy and the arguments. How do I put those feelings away?”
Ask anyone who knows me and you will discover that I am the Queen of Giving Second Chances. Someone once told me I am the most optimistic person he knew and I laughed out loud. Some days I am so devoid of hope and full of depression that I cannot stand myself. But this friend said that he will always want me as a friend because I forgive everyone, that I always give people the benefit of the doubt, always allow a second chance or third or fourth….
While some may think this is a fine character trait to have, I believe it is a defect. It makes me vulnerable. And it makes me anxious every year when the first day of April rolls around because I am a gullible person and easily fall for pranks. I hate the day so much in fact, that when my children were growing up and learning about April Fool’s Day, I told them I didn’t care for the day and that there would be consequences for anything mean spirited or hurtful. I must have made my point very clear. They were wise to keep such nonsense out of the house. If they played pranks on friends, I never knew about it. I realize now, my children never had any April Fool’s pranks played on them. Until now.
I’ve been trying my whole life to change my character defect without success. At this point, I’m ready to just give up and accept that vulnerability and gullibility are a part of me. And if someone wants to take advantage of that, then I don’t need to keep that person in my life. Does that sound reasonable?