Recently, a former client and current friend, rushed through my shop door turned and locked the door and stormed on back to my conference area. At first I thought, "Wow, if she is going to close my business she best be having a fat checkbook with her". But as she came in range of my short sighted vision I realized the look on her face was either terror or panic, so my first thought took a back seat. Before she got all the way to me she demanded this,
"You have got to help me!"
"Okay", I replied, " What's the issue?"
"I am having a melt down, or a breakdown or a personal apocalypse"
"Wow, what is the genesis?"
"My damn daughter!"
Since this woman , like me, has but one daughter whom she adores and cherishes, it was quite the surprise for her to reference this beloved offspring as her "damn daughter".
"Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Do you have booze?"
"There might be some wine back in the fridge, will that do?"
"Bring the bottle", she replied.
I went to fetch, decant, pour.
I returned with a generous glass of wine and a slab of chocolate as things seemed serious indeed.
"Tell me," I invited.
Words spilled out in such a quick fury I wasn't sure I had heard her correctly. But the gist was her daughter was now dating an individual of whom she seriously disapproved. Her husband even more so and they had endured quite a confrontation on the issue; which had apparently ended with her husband demanding, " what the hell kind of woman raises a daughter that would
make such a dreadful choice and bring this kind of despair to her family!" Since this particular Dad is one of those who dotes on, protects and spoils both his wife and child beyond measure, the statement was itself quite a shock. In fact, I think my friend was in as much dismay over her husband's misplaced wrath as with her child's choices. As a couple, they are one of the few who have managed to keep the connection, and the fire, through 3 decades of courtship and marriage. So for him to lash out at her in such a cruel way was a stunning event. She stopped to gulp some wine , then parked a giant wedge of chocolate in her mouth, making me wonder if I remembered how to do the Heimlich and CPR.
Eventually I asked, " What is your objection to this man?"
She wailed, thrashed, cried, pounded the desk and finally slumped face down on it, but she uttered no coherent words. I waited, occasionally giving her a little comforting pat. I was actually wondering on the back channel if I wanted to hear about all this. But truly this woman was the embodiment of despair. She is my friend and I could hardly stand up and invite her to take her misery out the door because I had work to do. So I patted some more and waited for her to get over the worst of it.
Once she began to speak, I wished I had poured wine and fetched chocolate for me too.
She started not by talking about her child, but about her belief system. Be a good person, have standards, ethics, morals, a purpose. Give generously, set a good example, be fiscally prudent,
give back to the community, face challenges head on with grace and humor, nurture your marriage and your family, be an every day christian not a Sundays only pew sitter. Then she talked about her husband, their marriage, the building of a family her expectations to one day be a MIL and a grandmother, to expand the family and the love.
Then she tearfully stated,
" I have never once thought what it would mean to my marriage or our family if our "Willa" came home with her chosen and he would not only be someone I couldn't love but whom I loathed on sight!"
Wow, this is not an individual who loathes on sight. She volunteers monthly to serve at a soup kitchen and unfailingly does so with a kind heart as well as a kind hand. But then, none of those people ever courted her daughter either.
"Tell me", I said.
She gulped some more of her wine and said,
" Do you know I have worked for the past 12 years to help pay for Willa's education and to save money for her wedding? Do you know it costs more than $160, 000 to buy your brilliant, beautiful child an Ivy league education? Do you know I never once thought the return on a lifetime spent on the investment of love , shared experiences, trips, sporting events, mission work, education and lots of damn sacrificing would be a broken heart? A fractured family? An enormous feeling of my entire world smashed?"
"Tell me", I said.
"You know Willa has been home for a while now. We were so thrilled she found a great job in her field in this area. We had hoped, but of course there were no guarantees but, I swear I would rather have her live half way around the globe than this!"
I raised an eyebrow. My only child lives hundreds of miles away and I could certainly tell her some aspects of that reality she definitely would not enjoy. I refrained and again said,
" Tell me"
" Willa met "Beau" at a tailgating party. I just don't know what made her even speak with him, except she said she was really hungry and he was manning the grill and she was hanging out to get the first snitches of food and I guess they got to talking during the wait."
"That doesn't sound terrible"
"No, in fact we have been hearing lots about Beau for the past several months but we had never met him and didn't know anyone who knew him or his folks. We encouraged Willa on several occasions to bring him by for supper or to go with us on the boat but there was always some reason why those invitations were never accepted. Until now."
"She brought him home for you to meet?"
There was a lengthy pause. "No, she most assuredly did not. We decided to go see the new movie out about Amelia and when we got to the theaters there was quite a queue. As it turns out a ways up in the line were Willa and Beau so once Bill spotted her he went on up to greet her and then of course came the big shock"
The tears poured from her face. The anguish on display was huge.
" Oh God, he is just so awful! He has no education, no social graces, and I think he
is what they call 'Appalachian'. He wears horrible clothes, his face is unshaven , his fingernails are filthy , his hair is too long, he chews a toothpick and he has tatoos." That last word disappeared into a plaintive , extended wail. I felt a little queasy. Okay, more than a little.
" It can't be that terrible. You make him sound like that man Sandra Bulock married"
More wailing, and trust me, she actually did bang her head on the desk.
I dispensed a few more pats, poured more wine, rummaged for additional chocolate. This made no sense to me, Willa is an amazing young woman. She is attractive, athletic, academic. As in she has a masters in geophysics from that expensive Ivy league school, has hiked a mountain range, looks lovely in her deb photos and landed an awesome job doing research on geothermal energy. She is not a geekizoid, she is charming and funny.
" There must be something good about him, as Willa likes him."
More wine and chocolate were consumed while she shook her head.
" I hate that man Sandra Bullock married."
" I don't think you know that man so how can you hate him?"
" Shut up. You have no idea how crushed I am so don't annoy me with nicey nice sayings."
The QUEEN of nicey nice was telling me to shut up. In my own office. With the door locked. On the other hand, I could indeed see the extent of the crushing. I paused before speaking again then asked, " Did y'all sit together in the movie?"
"No!" she wailed, "Bill decided the crowd was too big so we left. On the way home we were just silent in the car, both of us consumed with our own thoughts and then I actually spoke a thought out loud and things got sooooooooo much worse." There was a new round of waterworks and nasal clearing before I asked,
" What thought did you actually speak?"
" What we were both thinking! What I said was,
'OMG, do you suppose Willa is out there making like rabbits with that man'?"
Talk about a spectacular lapse of judgement! I guess that lapse was itself a testimony to her
inability to comprehend this new swirling reality. I decided my minimal supply of wine, chocolate and kleenex was soon going to be insufficient to the needs.
"Um, did Bill actually respond to that query?"
"Oh Fishy, you will just not believe his response. He turned the wheel of the car so suddenly I thought my head was going to smash the door window. Then he threw the car in park and jumped out of the car. Fishy My Bill tossed his stomach in the ditch on the side of the road!"
Now I was shocked. I could not come close to a vision of that elegant, graceful man in his perfect monogramed shirts standing in a ditch on the side of the road tossing his cookies.
Poor Dad, poor Mom, they were reeling. I searched my soul for some comforting thought and came up empty. The thoughts I was having were not on the comfort side of the scale. So I sucked in air and said,
" Well, your Willa is a fine person. Maybe this is all about that rabbit behavior you mentioned and is temporary. You know my Daddy told all us girls we couldn't marry every boy we kissed and to choose wisely was essential. Maybe this is just a frog Willa is kissing on her way to a prince you and Bill will accept and love".
" Willa is in love. She's never been in love before. She certainly has never dated anyone Bill and I found shocking. She's done more of that go with a crowd dating format . I just cannot understand this and Fishy, when Willa got home you would not believe the words that flew through our home. I feel bludgeoned. I feel like everything I know, everything I believe, every thing I have strived for is null and void."
There is not enough chocolate, wine , wisdom or pats in the world to soothe such angst.
So I held my tongue , patted some more and prayed for my friend.
She looked up with such misery as she asked,
" Did your Mermaid ever date anyone you and Blowfish loathed?"
"How did you handle it?"
" What did you do?"
"Prayed, screamed, thrashed, suffered, fought, cried gallons."
" Is that all? Did it help? Did you and Blowfish blame each other? How did you survive?"
I did not want to answer than last question.
I did not want to lie.
I did not want to tell the truth.
So I settled on a half truth and told my friend I tried to practice a type of positive imaging meditation where I concentrated hard on seeing Mermaid come to see her reality rather than hold onto the mirage of the person she loved. I envisioned Mermaid learning and growing from the experience so she could move forward with positive energy and direction. And I prayed for our family.
What I did not tell me friend was what I envisioned most was smashing to mush the cranium of that undeserving man with my biggest cast iron skillet.
She will get there soon enough on her own.