Little lies saved his big ego
“Ashley wanted to come, for us, but she stayed home with the kids. How did Russ take staying behind?” Daniel ordered us a drink at the airport bar while we waited for our flight to board.
We both acknowledged it was a bullshit excuse. Neither of our spouses got along with our father. They would’ve been with us if we’d wanted them to be. We didn’t want to bring them into the quagmire with us.
“About as well as you’d think. He knows what it’s going to be like. He also knows I need to do it on my own.” I downed the rest of my scotch in one gulp, eyeing my brother. “Jerkface made me promise not to drink too much. Bet he made you promise to make sure I didn’t, too, right?”
Head back, Daniel let out a hearty laugh, nodding. “Yep, sure did. Crossed my heart and hoped to die and everything. Don’t make me go back on that now, Josie-bear, you hear?”
Russ and Daniel worried about me. I recognized that. But I also appreciated surviving the next few days sober would be hell. I’d do it. For Russ and Daniel, I’d do just about anything.
Six hours later, thankfully without a layover, Daniel and I were hugging Edgar at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Luggage in the back, we piled into his Lincoln Navigator and headed over to his place, where he insisted we stay with his family. The ride through western Nevada and into South Lake Tahoe, California took about an hour.
Beautiful scenery rolled by us as we zoomed along the highway, catching up with each other and enjoying the sibling bonding time.
“So, Edgar, how was the old guy’s health?” Daniel tried for a casual tone in his question, but we all knew he still smarted from our father’s rejection over thirty years ago. “I was wondering if he was ill or anything.”
Edgar and I sat watching Daniel. We saw how difficult it was for him to process Dad’s death. None of us were coping, just pretending to be.
Even though Momma visited us in Virginia every year, it’d been well over a decade since I’d seen Dad. It’d been closer to three decades since Daniel saw him. Momma was the only reason Daniel was in the SUV with us. We came for her, and her alone.
“What?” Daniel shot us a disgusted look before staring out the window. “He hated me but, goddammit, I couldn’t hate him if I tried. And I damn well tried!” He tried blinking the tears away before just giving in to them. “He was my father, and I loved him. I just wanted him to love me back.”
My seatbelt zipped back into its spot as I threw my arms around Daniel, passenger seat and all. He grabbed my arms and held on, letting the years of grief and pain out in great, heaving sobs. Edgar and I joined him. We understood how he felt. His words could have come from our mouths just as easily.
Edgar pulled off the freeway and into the parking lot of a local diner. A diner we’d been fixtures at as teens.
“Coffee or drinks? Bar or Diner?” He threw his arms around both of us and held us until we were ready to head into one of them.
“Hell, I promised Russ I wouldn’t let Ms. Hannigan here near the hooch, so we should stick to coffee.” Daniel winked at me. “For now.” His reference to the drunken orphanage mistress from ‘Annie’ made us all laugh. I couldn’t help it if I looked like Carol Burnett did in that movie. My hair did nothing I wanted it to.
At a booth by the window, we laughed, drank coffee and rehashed our childhood and relationships with our father. It was what we all needed. Once we paid the bill, we headed over to Momma’s place to check on how she was doing.
We should’ve gone to Edgar’s. We didn’t even get a hello from most of the people there, including Flora, who shot us all dirty looks before giving us grudging hugs.
“Momma, good to see you.” Daniel pulled her into a hug, squeezing her like she used to do to us.
Momma untangled herself from his arms and pulled me into hers. There’s something about a Momma’s hugs that fuses together the broken parts of you. At least, that’s what it did for me. I have friends who tell me their fathers hug them like that. I take their word for it. My father refrained touched me my entire life. Momma used hugs like a fine wine, as often as possible and in copious amounts.
Then it was Edgar’s turn for a Momma hug so enormous you wouldn’t think he’d been at her place all night. That was Momma. So much love to give.
“Come, come. Sit down and catch me up with everything.” Momma sat at the table with us and a coffee, pastry and shot of bourbon appeared in front of us. We were ready for a visit now. “I’m assuming Ashley, Russ, and the kids stayed home?”
Daniel and I made excuses, but Momma knew the truth. There’d been no love lost between our spouses and their father-in-law. Our children held no warm and fuzzy feelings for the grandfather who ignored them. Not being hypocrites, they all opted to stay home rather than make pretenses.
Hell, Momma was the only reason Daniel and I showed our faces. Edgar, too. We’d said goodbye to our father years before.
As sad as it was, we all saw it for the truth it was.
“Momma, he wasn’t a nice man. Russ tried with him, many times, but he knew he was never welcome here. He observed the way Daddy treated me, and the kids. He heard the things he said to me, the way he spoke about me.” I patted her hand and shook my head. “Russ is a lot of things, but a hypocrite isn’t one of them. You know that.”
Momma didn’t answer me. Couldn’t answer me. She didn’t acknowledge I’d even spoken, but Flora sure did.
“How dare you speak ill of our father like that?” Flora hissed at me, hoping Momma couldn’t hear her over at the sink where she was rinsing our coffee mugs. “The man is dead. He deserves your respect, if nothing else, you ungrateful little brat. After everything he did for you, you speak of him like that. I’m ashamed to call you my sister.”
I sat back in my chair, legs stretched out in front of me and arms crossed in front of my chest, and laughed at her. My gaze wandered around the room, not one person there met my eye. No one but Daniel and Edgar, my loving brothers who knew better than to step between us girls when we were getting into it.
I stood, my chair screeching back from the table, and stood staring down at my indifferent baby sister. Grief and sadness shadowed her eyes, and I knew she really missed our father. She missed the man who loved her more than anyone else ever did. Cherished her. Protected her. Showered her with affection and whatever her heart desired.
The man who showed none of his other children that he gave a rat’s fucking ass about them.
“Flora, I am so sorry you grieve that fucker, but I’m not going to.” Her eyes widened at my words and I knew she was gearing up for a fight. Just what we needed, a scrap between us girls. “He loved you, Flora. Far more than he ever loved us. He never saw us as anything but mistakes and regrets. You were his world. He would have done anything for you.”
“Look what he did for you, Josie! He gave you the money to buy your house and move across the country.” Without knowing the entire story, she spewed what he told her back at me and I laughed at her.
“You laugh, but we all know the truth. He supported all of you.” Smug and superior, Flora threw what she thought she knew of us in our faces. “Daddy sent Daniel off to the Navy to save him from himself. To keep him out of the gang he got involved with as a teenager. Daddy had to keep him out of jail.”
Daniel almost choked on the scotch he was sipping.
“No, little one. I joined the Navy because I love the ocean and wanted to serve my country. It helped me escape the man who beat me most of my life. He told me good riddance and to never come home if I signed up. So I didn’t.” People started wandering into the kitchen as word of our conversation got around. Daniel and I each took Flora by an elbow and moved it outside. “I got my law degree and have been with the Judge Advocate General’s office for the last twenty years. With no help from dear old Dad, who spurned his son named Daniel years ago.”
“That’s not true. Daddy told me all of it. He confided everything to me.” It was comical how stalwart and confident our baby sister was in her defence of our father, misguided as it was.
“Flora, Daddy lied to you to make himself look better. He wanted to make sure you were his daughter, not our sister. Guess he got his wish.” Daniel took the beer Edgar held out to him and tilted his head at me, asking if I wanted one. I shook my head. Sobriety was my friend for this conversation.
“For the record, Flor, Dad never gave me the money to buy our house or move to Virginia.” I barked out my amusement. “That was the signing bonus and moving fees the company gave Russ for taking the job across the country. Dad had nothing to do with that. Nothing.”
Flora shook her head and told me I was full of it, asking, “why would Dad would lie to me, Josie? He had nothing to gain from it.” Her naivete had me throwing my head back in a belly laugh.
“He had YOU to gain, Flora. Your loyalty to him and disdain for us. And you gave it to him.” I’d had enough then and needed to put some distance between my sister and myself. Back turned towards the growing crowd waiting to see if there would be a scene, I practiced the deep breathing techniques I taught my therapy patients.
My eyes wandered around the backyard I’d spent so much of my childhood in. Feet stepped over roots and large rocks that haven’t moved in decades. My walk down memory lane meandered down to the treehouse in the far corner.
I was hoping the distraction would steer the conversation away from how wonderful our much-less-than-stellar father was to everyone else.
“Remember this, Edgar? You and Krys loved it up there. Don’t know how many… what did you call them?… right!” I snapped my fingers as his cheeks went a brilliant shade of red. “Your ‘stargazing’ nights. That was brilliant. The two of you fooled no one. Couldn’t see the stars if you stuck your head out the window.” Waves of laughter rippled through the backyard as Edgar pulled his wife in for a kiss. Distraction worked. For a while.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in