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My groggy daughter asked me if I’d called or texted her two adult brothers to let them know she’d had the baby.  While I had texted with the oldest of the two boys throughout her labor, I’d been hesitant to contact the second one simply because of his girlfriend.

My daughter asked me to please go ahead and let him know he was an uncle.  But, she also wanted me to discreetly and tactfully let him know that she wanted him to come alone to visit. Without his girlfriend and daughter.

He seemed happy and excited over the news. Yet, he sounded off. Perhaps tired.  My paranoid mind immediately assumed he was upset with me for not calling sooner.  When my daughter spoke to him, she, too, noted the strange quietness and asked if he was tired.

He blew it off as just being exhausted, and we all let it go to enjoy the beautiful new little life in front of us.

It wasn’t long though, and he was calling me back.

He wanted to know if I could pick him up and bring him to the hospital to see his sister and niece.  It was very late, but, of course, I would.  He’d been on the river all day so wasn’t home, and I knew that.  I inquired as to where I could find him.  His answer scared me.

He was under an overpass north of town.

Praying hard, I drove quickly through the black of night.  Frightened, I locked my doors as I turned around and pulled to the side of the road.  I didn’t see him anywhere.  The interstate traffic rumbled the concrete over my head, and I searched the bushes, from the safety of my car, for any sign of my son.

I began to panic.

Why was he under an overpass?  What was he doing there?  Was he participating in a drug deal in that seedy place?  Where was he now?  Had someone killed him within the last twenty minutes since I’d spoken to him?

I called his phone.  No answer.  I started the car and drove back up the road a bit.  Nothing.  I drove back to my place along the concrete barrier beneath the freeway and called him again.  Nothing.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity.  About ten minutes.

And, then, he called me.  Hallelujah!  He was alive!  He instructed me to turn around and drive up the hill.  He said I’d see him walking on the left side of the road.

He’d recently suffered a horrible sprain.  I couldn’t imagine why he’d be walking on that ankle at that time of night in that part of town.

He talked me toward him.  He said he could see me, but I still couldn’t find him.  Finally, I could see a tall, shadowy figure hobbling and hopping through the gravel.  He was barefoot.   And, without his crutches.

After we visited the new baby and he got to hold her, we drove through town looking for anything with food to be open at 2 a.m.  The sidewalks had rolled up hours earlier though, so we finally just stopped at a 24 hour drugstore for snacks.  He went for his wallet, but it was gone.  He dug in his pocket for his house keys.  They, too, were gone.

He asked if he could just sleep on my couch for the night, but he refused to eat the food I’d purchased.  He always tells me, “You fly, I buy,” but he couldn’t buy this night.

Early the next morning, as we rounded the curve of his friends’ driveway, I noticed an article of clothing in the road.  It belonged to my son.  A little further, and there lay his underwear.  He laughed and said that he must have dropped that stuff the night before.  I suspected his girlfriend had thrown it out.  

I waited in the car while he went to retrieve his belongings.  He came out just moments later with his head hanging low.

He’d found his wallet, but it was empty.  And, his shoes and house keys were gone, too.  She’d taken it all when she kicked him out of their friends’ house, and she refused to give it back.

I drove him to the house where he’s staying, and he was able to break in.  I reluctantly left him there, broke and hurting and alone.

She came back later with his keys, his shoes, and their daughter, but his money never did materialize.

She and I were already not speaking.  I’d had enough of her a few weeks earlier and told her so.   My son received paperwork that stated she is collecting welfare and has turned him in as the absent parent.  The state is going after him for child support and reimbursement of state funds.  This, in spite of the fact that she’s living with him, and he is providing for her and their daughter.  This, in spite of the fact that my son has repeatedly asked her not to apply for state aid.   She expects me to side with her and condemn my son for his wanting a say in his own life.

A few days before my oldest son was to arrive for a visit though, she sent me an apology.  I accepted, but I refused to apologize to her.  I probably should.  I wasn’t nice.  But, I think she deserved what I said.  And, I’m not sorry I said it.

So, we were all on speaking terms when S and K came to town, and we all went out there for a visit.

Our entire area has been on fire with resultant hazardous air quality from the heavy, dark smoke blanketing the valley.  Seventy-two fires started in one night from dry lightening.  And, my second son–the one with the awful girlfriend–is a firefighter.  He got home at 8:30 that night, only to pack for the possibility of 100 days of fire camp and be back at headquarters by 5 a.m.  We blitzed out there around 9 so the oldest two boys could see each other briefly.  The time would be short and precious, and we all realized that.  A needed to be packing and sleeping, but he wanted to see his brother and his brother wanted to see him.

They laughed and goofed off.  They talked seriously about the fires and the danger of fighting them.  They talked quietly together, and we tried to give the brothers this sweet time.

S had brought his girlfriend home to meet the family, and she and I sat at the other end of the porch taking turns holding A’s daughter.  A’s girlfriend talked loudly and asked inappropriate questions in an awkward attempt to control the conversation.   At one point she asked K if she’s going to have a baby any time soon.  K and S are not married and are both still in grad school, in two different states.  K has three more years before she completes her PhD and is only able to budget $80 a month for food.  That goes over the head of someone who didn’t complete high school, doesn’t work, and thinks that she has accomplished something by reproducing and, thereby, qualifying for welfare.

I took pictures of my sons as they were engrossed in conversation, enjoying the looks on their faces of mutual respect and relief at being together for the first time in eight months.  However, T stood over my right shoulder yelling at A.  “A, look over here!  A, smile!  A, turn around!  A, your mother is trying to take pictures!”  I didn’t want posed portraits.  I wanted to capture those natural looks.  But, she wouldn’t leave anyone alone.  She wouldn’t put her sleepy child to bed for fear she might miss something or someone might relate to someone else without her telling them how.

I gave up on the pictures.  I sat down with my granddaughter, and I rocked her to sleep while T stood in the middle of us and regaled us with tales of being fired from one job after another and how ridiculous those people were for coming down on her.  In between, she’d interject something totally off subject into S and A’s conversation.  She can’t seem to track, yet she was steering two conversations at once.  Impressive.  [Did you see my eye roll?]

K yawned.  I quietly told K that we should probably get going since we were all tired and A needed to be back at fire camp in a few hours.  She agreed.  But, neither of us said anything, as we didn’t want to interrupt the brothers who were so engrossed in catching up.

T, however, took it upon herself to yell across the porch, “A, they want to go!  Everyone needs to get to bed!”  He nicely nodded and stood up to begin the goodbyes.

I wanted to complain to K.  But, someday these two girls will be sisters-in-law, and I don’t want to be the kind of matriarch who chooses favorites and stirs up trouble between the sons’ wives.  So, I kept my mouth shut.  However, S and K both told me later that they found T horribly annoying.

Annoying, she is.  But, I think it goes deeper than that.  I think she’s narcissistic and controlling.  You don’t have to have testosterone to be an abuser, and I fear she fits the definition.

My son stays with her.  He says it’s for the sake of his daughter.  But, just as I fear T’s learned behavior is that of an abuser, I fear he stays with her because his learned behavior is that of a victim.