Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Woes Too Big for Chocolate

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?"
" Yep."
"How did you handle it?"
"Not well."
" 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.


Pam said...

Oh I soooooo feel her pain. Maybe he has some redeeming qualities. Or she is just going through a bad boyfriend stage. I still have visions of Kymmie's bad boyfriend stage. Ack! The hardest part of being a parent is coming to the realization that what YOU want for your kids isn't necessarily what THEY want for themselves. It is so tough to step back. It's a learning experience for everyone. You are a good friend. Wine, chocolate and a good ear was very therapeutic for your friend. And keep the skillet handy.

Buzz Kill said...

Great story. I was wondering where you were going with it until the very end. I thought your friend's daughter was going out with a democrat. Bwhahaha

Times like these that I sure am glad I have boys.

fishy said...

We are talking serious undiluted misery on so many fronts.

I agree, some of the stages of parenting are very tough indeed. Once Mermaid and I had a terrible confrontation about a boy she dated for years. This was a nice enough young man, I have nothing bad to say about him, but I never found him to be a good match for Mermaid. She was in my face expounding at length on all the ways he was a good idea in her life and why couldn't I be more agreeable to her way of thinking? In a nano second I was shouting, "Might I remind you when you were 3 you thought it would be a great idea to ride your tricycle on the interstate? You were very persuasive in your arguments. They were however all generated by emotion with a noticeable absence of intellect being brought to the equation. So this is just another interstate argument Mermaid and equally dangerous."

Eventually she did come to see her love as "just another interstate" and had the strength to exit the relationship with grace and kindness. But I did have a few skillet fantasies before she got there.

OMG!!!!! I certainly have given no thought to the possibility of
"Beau" being politically objectionable too.
And Buzz, parents of boys can have it hard too. It is a gruesome experience for a girls dad to walk your son out the front door with the firm intent of making transparent he just doesn't measure up and is not welcome in their home or near their daughter.

sparringK9 said...

what is so bad about this guy again -i mean beyond the physical? maybe he gives a great back rub.

the best advice is to NOT react much at all. keep very cool. dont give the daughter any reasons to defend her choice. be patient. it'll blow over.

fishy said...

Well it certainly sounded to me like it's a bit late to not react too much. I don't know all the particulars, I think the physical description was not anything I would embrace but then I don't know "Beau" or really anything about him. I hope this family will find a way back to a good balance. But in case not, I resupplied the office chocolattes.

Kymical Reactions said...

Okay. I'm going to (try my best to) come at this from the other perspective.

(And as I continue to write this, it seems to be more perspective for your friend than you.)

Clearly Willa was raised in a house full of love and support and knows there isn't anything her parents wouldn't do for her.

Being raised in a household like that, I have to assume that Willa's family roots are incredibly important to her. And when she looks at her future, with a husband and family all her own, she sees her parents being an involved, crucial part of her life.

She obviously knows that this man is not someone who will fill that role. If she thought so, she would have brought him around a long time ago. She knew her parents would never approve.

I don't really know how my mom handled my situation, but I do know that there was nothing she could say to me that was going to make me change my mind. I pretty much tuned her out. I think we just didn't talk about it. Because, it would end up in an argument and I would leave.

That being said, please tell your friend that this too shall pass. Willa isn't going to marry this man. I don't know how long it will last. Maybe a few months, maybe a few years. Hopefully she's smart enough to protect herself in the sense that she doesn't end up having a lifetime tie to him.

I think most girls go through this. It's like a rite of passage. But there will come a time when she will realizes what she already knows: That her family is the most important thing. That it's important to her that her parents love her significant other, and that her significant other get along and have a relationship with her parents. This will be criteria that has to be met before she can commit her life, before God, to a man.

I'm not sure of Willa's age, but given that she has a Masters, I'd guess she’s just a few years younger than me. She still has plenty of time to find the person God meant for her. I'm sure there is just something about this guy she finds alluring and exciting. It will ware off eventually. She'll get bored of someone who is substantially below her intellectual equivalence.

Looking back though, as much as I know now what a horrible relationship I was in at one time, I’m not sure I would have changed anything. I happen to believe that we learn from the situations and relationships we experience. After it was over, and I came to my senses, something my mom said really resonated in my spirit, and I’ll never forget it. She said I have to look at things this way: “I may not know what I want, but I definitely know what I don’t want.”

Now as for her husband, I’m sure he was speaking out of anger. But that doesn’t mean his words weren’t hurtful and insulting. He owes her a sincere apology. Because, she may forgive him for saying such things, but I bet she won’t forget it. I’ll add your friend and her family to my prayer list.

I hope this can give some sort of ease or relieve some angst for your friend. Hugs.

Jenny said...

I really, really, really hope Willa is using birth control.

This sounds more about the marriage than the daughter's choice in men? Or is it both? I have no idea the toll a child can take on a marriage, but it's really too bad they didn't wait around to talk to the man. Reality is often less scary. Or maybe not.

I love your stories Fishy. I actually stopped about a 1/3 of the way, got my dinner, came back to finish.

All you can do is supply chocolat/wine and your ear. You're a good friend.

fishy said...

I think I would find it very interesting to hear the telling of this circumstance by Willa herself. Clearly she delayed a face to face with Beau and her parents. There is no way for me to know if this delay was Willa's choice or Beau's.

I agree with you, and Boxer, in hoping Willa is being prudent in avoiding lifelong ties to this man should the bloom fall from the stem.

I am sure Willa's parents are praying the day will come soon for Willa's intellect to overide her emotions. I do believe God gave us an onboard checks and balances system spirituality/intelectuality,physicality.

At the moment I think the parents see Willa's balance as off, and I think they perceive this as a threat to their beloved child and, by extension, the family. Acute fear for your child is a tough experience.

As for Bill's harsh commentary. I am sure he will do his best to seek his wife's forgiveness, as she should seek his. Both of them had serious lapses in judgement regarding the way they vocalized their angst. This couple really does have a fine handle on the "cherishing" of one another so I predict they will move beyond this quickly.

Thanks for offering a youthful perspective!

Dinner with Fishy? So funny, and a very nice compliment.

I think the issue is " Threat Level Red".
We have all witnessed family fractures where once close children have disengaged. Where love becomes a tool of leverage or control. When marriage and children are involved then future generations are a source of never ending grief because those kids live in the divide.

You may not have kids, but you are a serious nurturer and protector of your pups. In fact, you parent your pups as they are much loved members of your family. Think how terrifying it would be if you clearly saw one of the pups rushing toward danger and could not intervene.

Maybe I should start keeping a supply of Troll's beet infused vodka in the fridge? For me.

Karl said...

Good morning Fishy,

On the other hand, aren't her parents judging a book by its cover. They have never spoken to the man. He may have a fine intellect, he may be a loving and caring person.

Willa, by all accounts seems to be quite intelligent. Maybe they should give her the benefit of the doubt or at least some rational conversation. If he is wrong for her, she will likely figure it out.

fishy said...

Hi Karl,
You make a valid point, but obviously the cover makes a presentation which disturbs.
I think they did chat with "Beau" a bit before deciding to exit the movie line. Over time I think they may well have the opportunity to learn more about this man and determine if the cover and contents are a match.

On another front,
I recently was at a dinner with a man who proudly announced he had "married up" and went on to tell with pride of the pleasure he continues to enjoy by "sticking it" to his wifes' family. Urked, I ask the man if at any time he had felt an obligation to make an effort to refine and provide on a level consistent with his wife's beginnings.
The expression on his face clearly demonstrated such an obligation had never crossed his
meager soul. I felt great compassion for his wife, and certainly for her parents.

moi said...

I'm with K9 on this. The more fuss Willa's parent make, the more she'll dig in her heels. It's gonna be hard, but they should really la dee da on this one. And, your friend is awfully lucky to have such terrific support – chocolate AND wine? Do you make house calls :o)?

h said...

Is his last name "Boudreau", by any chance?

Like Buzz, I thought this was building to an O'Henry ending and the lad would be a democrat.

Look, she's slumming and she KNOWS she's slumming or she'd have showed him off. If she doesn't get pregnant or catch herpes, things will probably work out.

My wife dated some major-league Boudreaus and one Homosexual before me. Had that not happened, her parents might not have been ENRAPTURED with the idea of her marrying a Troll.

I was a BIG step UP!

Unknown said...

This whole blog made me laugh out loud! i know that seems cruel, and i do have great compassion for your friend and her daughter, and yes beau, but the visions you create make me laugh! in fact i wasn't entirely sure until the end that you weren't telling a mermaid story behind a carefully crafted veil!

my perspective is as follows:
certain people affect us in different ways. i've certainly had my attractions to totally unsuitable men, INCLUDING appalacian. the chances of this Willa keeping Mr Appalacian for all eternity are small. i'm kind of surprised that she hasn't "cleaned him up". even if she's not bringing him home to the rents, you would think she would infuence his presentation in general. perhaps Willa knows that he won't be around forever, and didn't want to burden the parents with the realities of her forays. any way you look at it, Willa is a grown woman, and capable of making her own decisions. i feel quite certain that her parents won't have to worry about this particular decision sticking, and if Willa always followed the "group" dating, I can definately see the appeal of dating someone that represents the complete opposite.

Willa will hang onto Beau for as long as she finds reason to do so, and when she's done she'll be gone, and there will be no more Beau in her life and her parents will go back to breathing. i know there are concerns about permanent damage being done by "slumming", and some damage is visable and others arn't, but often the lessons learned are stronger than the damage.

i found myself wishing that you had had someone to pour you wine and feed you chocholate when i was in my appalacian stage.... or any stage. hell there's never been a male you've approved of... not that there's been any really worth choosing from and my Mr Appalacia was the best of the bunch! Ouch! i'm so sending you wine and chocholate!

Lots of love to a patient Mama Fishy!

fishy said...

I definitely make house calls! On the parents position .... I actually did sort of hear this week there has been a negotiated peace on the don't ask don't tell format. It probably has occured to them by now they have no clue who Willa dated in her Ivy days.

I think some of those Beaudreau's out there are serious nice girl from nice family sharks. There purpose is never about anything good. As for your in-laws being elated with a Troll ... weren't they the wise parents?

Whatever made you think this was about you? If you have a Beau type in your life I certainly don't know about it and ...is that why you are bringing me wine and chocolate? I'll get the skillet ready.

As for "your" appalachian ... well that was a geography category not a cultural category and while I did think his wardrobe made him look like a laundry hamper, he was pursuing an education ( doesn't he have 2 degrees now?)he had at least a flirting acquaintance with manners, he was usually clean, groomed reasonably ... (wasn't he the one with the beautiful fingernails?), never displayed a toothpick in my presence and if he has tattoos they were not on display. He did however have a disturbing fondness for wearing crap on his head.

And IF you are interested in pursuing a man your mother likes,
well go look up that guy who was a groomsman in the last wedding in which you were a bridesmaid. The one I told you to bring home and keep forever? He'll do nicely indeed.

Glad you find your MamaFishy entertaining. Bring really good chocolate.

Unknown said...

Too short and can't handle another bluegrass girl... remember?

fishy said...

Okay, so look for a taller version.

Aunty Belle said...

aw fer cryin' out loud, Fishy, let the gal have a little Appalacia onc't in awile, why doan'cha? Whas' the harm, huh?

Yeesh--doan ya know all that mama needs to do is invite Appalachian home fer some home cooked possum. Then to coo to her Ive-edoocated li'l Dolly how DElightful it will be to have her own daughter some day --a daughter that follows in Appalacian's pattern cause, I mean, really now, clean fingernails is jes' SO uptight. An' tatoos? Well, havin' her own 3 year old wif a leerin' coon tattooed on her fanny will be such a source of levity--we all needs a laugh, right?

I suspect she is a Trollette. She is jes' softenin' Mama an' Daddy up the real deal who by comparison will look Le Comte du Monde.

fishy said...

Aunty Belle,
I think the family has offered multiple invites for some possum but Beau has declined. As for Willa; my secret wish is she will invite him to be her escort during this Christmas season and take a hard look at choices and realities.
Especially if there is a Christmas gathering for work.

What was that quote you sent me months back.... I think it was either Eudora Welty or Flannery O'Connor ..... about folks who don't know they's place wander thru all sorts of trouble trying to find it?

I think Willa is wandering thru trouble. So far I haven't heard of Willa coming home tattooed.