In the absence of knowns, it’s natural to fill the void with imaginations. I’ve gotten a lot of practice over the years, so my sense of imagination is very well developed. With four daughters, drama is inevitable and with drama comes a lot of unknowns. It’s not always easy to understand the reason for the drama and often challenging to comprehend the accompanying hurt feelings. And when that is the case, I’m left with my imagination.
One week ago at this time I was in the final preparations for a weekend with all four of my daughters, something we had named “Mom’s Weekend.” It was borne from necessity, well, at least I believed that, since all of my daughters have such hectic lives and it’s becoming more and more difficult to get all four of them in the same room at the same time. I wasn’t able to arrange that last Christmas and so in January I told the girls we were going to have one weekend this summer and they could pick whatever dates they wanted. I was surprised when Emily replied immediately that she had only one weekend open for the whole summer and it was the first weekend in August. Emily is attending grad school out of the country and is home only for a few weeks during the summer, so I really shouldn’t have been so surprised that she had only one weekend open. As it turned out, the other three girls could make that weekend work so we all saved the date. And it happened. And I found myself thinking this would be the start of a tradition. What fun we will have over the years!
Only the daughters came, no spouses or boyfriends, and that was their choice. Kate did bring her two children and I was so happy to have them here. We had a wonderful evening Friday and on Saturday we all went to the local beach. It was a gorgeous day and we brought a picnic lunch. All the girls and the grandkids had fun, but partway through the afternoon my instincts told me Kate had something on her mind. I asked her a couple of times if everything was okay and each time she said yes, things are fine. She did make one comment that she would have liked to come without the kids just so that she could have had a “real” break from life. I remember well the hectic pace and chaos being a mom with young children. And Kate’s comment reminded me of the times I had wished there was a way I could go away for a weekend and get a break.
After supper on Saturday, Kate and Emily insisted we needed dessert so they headed out to the store. There was a small disagreement about what they should buy and who was going to contribute money towards the dessert. But off they went. None of us gave any thought at the time about how odd it was that these two needed to go off by themselves, or about how insistent they were that we needed to have a special dessert. I saw it as an opportunity for Kate to be without kids for a half hour and was glad to see her go. When they returned, we divided up the treats and chatted away the rest of the evening.
About nine or so some margaritas were made and some beers opened. Close to midnight I decided I was just too tired to stay awake anymore and said my good-nights, and was met with a loud scolding from Kate. She was not happy that I was going to bed so early. It was uncharacteristic of her to argue with me about whether I was tired or not, but I was just too tired to be all that concerned about her attitude. Besides, she already had had a couple of drinks. I attributed her stubbornness to the alcohol.
My husband woke me up about 1:30, telling me he wanted to go to bed but the girls were still partying on the deck and were being too loud. It didn’t take me long to discover he was right. They were being too loud. He crawled into bed as I crawled out and headed out to the deck. I repeated my husband’s words and told the girls it was late and to go to bed. Kate blew. It’s not like her to behave like that, so I just stood, motionless, speechless, half asleep, trying to figure out what was going on. Why would she blow up? Ah, yes, alcohol. And when I dared to mention they all had had enough to drink, Kate was even more furious. I took a quick assessment of Kate’s very uncharacteristic behavior. She was not slurring her words. She was not having trouble standing. In fact, she seemed very much in control of herself and her words. Except Kate doesn’t talk to me like that. I was called horrible names. I was told I don’t care. She accused me of being disrespectful to her and her sisters. She even declared I had not been there for her when she had needed me. My mind raced in confusion, trying to land on a piece of sanity so that I could get a strong foundation under me. But it wasn’t happening. Everything she said and did made no sense at all. So I decided to retreat to the kitchen and give us both some time to calm down.
I was in the kitchen alone for some time and cleaned up all the mess and washed a sink full of dishes. Just me and my thoughts. I could not make a bit of sense out of the words Kate had thrown at me. I do care. I have been there for her. I always treat her with respect. I hurt. My mind ached. I just wanted the nightmare to end so I could go back to sleep. By this time no one else had moved from the deck and the noise had grown even louder. So I headed back outside to begin cleaning up the mess out there, thinking that would send them all to bed.
In a matter of about one minute, maybe two, Kate was in my face, as if she wanted to take me down. If you knew Kate, you’d be totally blown away that she had done this. And I was. I decided it would be best if I just returned inside the house, but Kate followed me. Once inside she continued to yell and threw a drinking glass, shattering it on the floor. That brought everyone inside. Rose and Brianna had the same look of confusion on their faces as I had on mine. And looking back on it now, I don’t remember Emily ever coming in the house. In my mind’s eye, I cannot place her in the kitchen in that moment. It was chaos and danger. Rose and Brianna helped me clean up the broken glass. Kate disappeared, and I felt somewhat relieved that she had finally gone to bed.
But I was wrong. A few minutes later both Kate and Emily were hustling around the house, gathering up their things as if they were going to leave. By now it was close to three in the morning. I don’t believe Kate or Emily were drunk, but they both had been drinking. It was quickly apparent to us all that Kate and Emily were packing up their cars to leave, and Rose and I begged them to reconsider. “You’ve been drinking. Do not get in your car.” They didn’t respond. Neither Kate nor Emily would look at us or acknowledge that we were even present. And then I realized Brianna was also packing up and preparing to leave. And Rose realized that about the same time I did. She followed Kate and Emily as they carried things out to their cars. I hounded Brianna, asking her exactly what was going on. “I don’t know, Mom. I’m confused,” she told me. I asked her, “Why are you leaving?” Brianna stopped and looked at me. “I don’t know, Mom. I’m being told really bad things and being told I need to get out of this house immediately.” I argued with Brianna. “That doesn’t make any sense. You’re safe here. Why would you leave? You’ve been drinking. Do not get in the car.” My words fell on deaf ears. All.
I watched with horror as both of Kate’s kids were yanked out of their beds and placed in the car. Rose cried, standing in the driveway, trying to persuade the three of them to stay. Kate drove away in her car with her two kids in the back seat and Brianna riding in the front. Emily led the way in her own car. In the end, only Rose and I were left, wondering, filling in the void with our imaginations.
I never did get to sleep that night. My husband slept for about two hours. Rose and I talked as the sun rose, going through each moment of the entire weekend, trying to dissect every action, every word, looking for answers. None were found. About eight or so, I received a text message from Brianna with a few facts. When they had left our house, they had traveled about a half hour to land at Emily’s house. Except along the way they stopped at a gas station because Kate had a flat tire, and Kate’s four-year-old needed to use the bathroom, and Kate threw up. Despite all those things they had made their way to Emily’s house. And now Brianna was sober and wondering how in the world she had been persuaded to come there. She didn’t want to be there. Since Emily had planned to be at our house all weekend she had no food. And both she and Kate were taking turns getting sick in the one bathroom in Emily’s place. Brianna didn’t understand why it wasn’t safe for her at home. And she felt trapped without a car. She asked Kate and Emily to bring her back home but they refused. They told her she could never come back home again, it wasn’t safe.
After a couple of text messages, Emily gave up and called me. It was easier to communicate with spoken words. She was tired, confused, angry. Would I please come and pick her up? I took my time to think it over. Rose and I debated it a hundred different ways. In the end, we both agreed that Brianna had been played. On a good day Brianna struggles with anxiety and Rose and I believed the other two girls had manipulated Brianna. How or why we didn’t know. But we believed Brianna was an innocent participant.
Rose fell asleep as I headed out to get Brianna. And when I did pick her up, Brianna looked horrible. Every emotion she was feeling shown on her face. Her body language was screaming loudly but not a word was coming from her mouth. We rode in silence until we were nearly back home, then Brianna apologized. She didn’t know why she had gone with her two sisters. She couldn’t explain why they had bolted in the middle of the night. And she was coming to terms with the fact that she had blindly followed her two sisters into a path of dangerous actions.
It took me a couple of days to reign in my hurt and anger, but eventually I reached out to Kate via email asking her to help me understand why she had felt the need to leave my house in the middle of the night, taking with her two kids, and driving after she had been drinking. Kate answered back with more hurtful words, more accusations, and told me she would not be coming to my house ever again. I ended the conversation.
Rose and Brianna remain as confused as I am, and neither of them have any desire to reach out to the other two. Rose and Brianna are hurt and angry and feel they were treated with just as much disrespect as I was. My husband and I have talked it through so much that there is no combination we haven’t considered in our imagining. There are no answers. There are only unknowns.
Kate and Emily do not do drugs. They are not big drinkers. What caused a switch to flip in Kate’s mind, to the point that she felt in such danger that she risked her life and that of her kids to leave my home in the middle of the night, to drive her car even though she had had a few drinks? Is there something in Kate’s life that is placing her under a tremendous strain or stress? Is her marriage solid? Will time heal my wounds? Will time temper Kate’s feelings, enough so that she will be able to talk with me? Will I ever see my grandkids again?
As for Emily, if she had pulled this off all by herself I would have chalked it up to her severe hatred of me. I thought I had made progress with her in that regard while she had spent her first term at grad school, out of the country. Our communications had improved and she was finally talking to me without an entitlement attitude. I had come to the decision that she was finally maturing. But all that progress has been erased. Today I am convinced Emily and I will never have a sincere relationship. I don’t know that I will ever be able to trust Emily or the words that come out of her mouth.
And I will never again try to bring all four of my daughters together. If it happens spontaneously, then so be it. If it happens on their terms, so be it. But it won’t happen in my house. And wherever it happens, if I happen to be present, I will have an escape plan in place.
For now, I am trying to come to terms with the overwhelming grief I feel, the sadness and anger and hurt.
I love my daughters. Unfortunately, not all of them love me. It’s a very difficult truth to accept.