The Old Woman’s Daughter

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The old woman’s marriage was in a tailspin. She had left what was left of her family and went with would turn out to be her great love. This left her family shocked, hurt, broken, and feeling hopeless, especially her daughter from her first marriage. That daughter had been left behind with the old woman’s second husband, an alcoholic and their two children. That same daughter felt an obligation to pay him back for the room and board he had provided for her over the ten years of her stay. She stayed assuming the household responsibilities: Cooking, cleaning, laundering, taking care of the children, all while working full time and attending college. She had to stay. It was what she was made of. Payback while the old woman’s husband continued to drink, falling into a great depression. It was a shame, his light at one point had been very bright. He was a brilliant engineer on the fast track, but booze cut him down. It took his family, his career, and eventually his life. He gave up, throwing all those around him away, including the old woman’s daughter from the first marriage.

The old woman’s daughter watched as the old woman and her alcoholic husband used their two children for leverage. When the old woman’s daughter could stand it no longer, she intervened. The alcoholic husband heard her pleas; agreeing with her he acted immediately to save the children. The daughter of the old woman would call and make a date with the old woman.

The daughter from the first marriage met the old woman at a tavern to have a sit-down. The daughter was angry and hurt. Crushed is a better description, as she had already been thrown away by her biological father, the alcoholic husband, and now her mother. They sat for hours talking. They shared secrets that had proven to burden them for years. The alcohol gave each of them false courage to hold nothing back. Secrets of violence perpetrated against both of them years before made them realize that each was carrying such burdens that collapse and flight could only be expected. They were again finding their footing with each other. The mother/daughter bond was being restored.

Among other horrible stories, the old woman spoke of a man from years past that she had cared deeply for. He was sanctuary from the fists of her first husband. He believed he had fathered this daughter. The old woman told of the volatile affair, the stalking, the rose-pink house, the rose-pink car. The daughter in her early twenties sat stunned on the barstool listening. She knew his name as he was her godfather, but never in twenty-plus years had she met him. If he believed he was her father, why didn’t he help with her heavy fisted father or the alcoholic father? Why did he, too, desert his daughter and his responsibilities? How could he, too, throw the old woman’s daughter away? This information has been in the old woman’s daughter’s heart for thirty-plus years.

The first husband is gone. The alcoholic husband is gone. The old woman is gone. The old woman’s great love is gone. The old woman’s daughter has taken care to show proper respect to all and holds them in her heart, regardless of their disposition toward her. The old woman and her daughter had reconciled and found a deep connection that would allow a bond stronger than either had ever expected.

The old woman’s daughter for some unknown reason found herself reading the obituaries this past weekend. It turns out that the wife of the godfather passed away recently. The obit, written by her children, spoke briefly of godfather. The old woman’s daughter read, wondering if he ever thought of her. Did he care what her life had been like? The article stated that he died two years after the old woman.

Never has the old woman’s daughter told her siblings of this story. She has carried it for the thirty-plus years. It would not allow the old woman to be seen in a good light. Now that years have passed and they are all gone, maybe it is time. They may need to know that life is not perfect and we all survive despite our flaws. They may need to know we all carry burdens of guilt, shame, hurt. We are all equal when it comes to failures. No one walks away unscathed.

Maybe that explains the bouquet of roses delivered to the old woman’s house, without a card six years ago. If they were from him and he knew her, he would have known not to send them after her death. They meant nothing then. If they were for the old woman’s daughter, they meant less. She needed help, not flowers.

The old woman’s name was Rose.


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