Sally sat on the top step of her beach house. She was the only one staying for the weekend, and she needed the quiet. James and John, her two brothers, were on a long camping trip in the northern part of the state, with all the kids and wives. Sally had been invited, but she desperately needed time on her own. John had promised to stop drinking, but she saw the SUV packed with beer as well as the camping gear and knew he was lying again. She did not want to face his self-deceit, which she had tried to talk with him about since 1999.
She was tired of lies. All her life, her family insisted on pride and lies to cover up the lies. Successes were always bigger than life and failures overlooked as unmentionables. Lies about being Catholic formed the worst nest of vipers for Sally’s soul. At least James did not lie about his atheism. But, John pretended for years he was “Christian”, never darkening the door of a church since 2003. Sally did not want to hear lies.
Her family, one of the most prominent Democratic families in the state, had campaigned vigorously for anti-life candidates. James had gone so far as to openly criticize Sally for her pro-life stand. “You can’t vote for one thing.” He yelled. She yelled back, “Yes you can.”
Duke and Massie, their parents, told them all to stop arguing and that all politicians were the same. Sally was ashamed that her parents had fallen into a cynicism which she only saw among her youngest brother’s generations. Matt was not cynical, but many of his fellow Millennials were.
But, Matt was dating a Mormon, and no one seemed to care anymore, about real religion, except Sally. She had met Abbey, a great gal, but full of the great Mormon “religion”. Matt told Sally last Spring, “I can convert her, Sal. Don’t worry. You’ll see.” But so far, Abbey had not shown any interest in Catholicism.
Yes, she was moral and the two “items” were keeping chaste, no small thing. Duke actually told Sally to “stop talking about Catholicism” and Sally left the dinner early.
Now, as she sat on the top step of her beach house, she had to think about her family. No one, absolutely no one, admitted John was an alcoholic. Everyone pretended he did not have a problem, which Sally knew for over twenty years he did. Sally got up and moved down to her pier. She sat at the end of it and stared at the sunlight in the water. She had forgotten her sunglasses.
No one seemed to want the truth about anything, but they all stayed very, very busy-working for the symphony, working for the Knight of Columbus, working on the new house James and Amy just bought, working on new degrees, working on making new investments.
Sally was tired of workaholics and liars. But, what could she do? At thirty-six, no one listened to her, no one cared that she was getting “more religious” daily, except for Matt.
Matt knew, but chose to say nothing. He saw the lies, the pursuit for status, and had decided to go his own way. The reason he was dating Abbey was that they had met at a piano camp, both pursuing music, both ready to be poor for art. But, neither Matt nor Abbey were poor.
Abbey had told Matt and Matt had told Sally, that Abbey called the family the Toxics. Abbey’s family was upbeat, happy, even peaceful.
Sally could not understand the gross unhappiness of her own. Matt dealt with it by moving to
were he worked as a computer tech guy. He wanted to be a professional piano
player, like Abbey, who did concert tours, but Matt was not quite the top
drawer grade. Houston
Of course, Duke and Massie lied about Matt’s talent. It was the fault of the orchestra hiring committees, or the fault of the piano, or the fault of the sound systems.
Massie complained almost constantly and had her entire life. She lived a life of comparing herself and her children to everyone else in the world. Sally knew the mantras. “Why did you do this? So and so did this. Why did you take these courses. So and so recommend other ones. Why did you not marry T…. or J….? Why did you not go into business like Jack or John? Why?”
Sally and Matt tried to be positive, refusing to fall into “victim” mentality. Abbey was Matt’s positive angel. Sally knew this and supported his choice, for now.
“It must be something like wanting to control everything and other people,” Abbey had shared with Matt one day over coffee. “I do not want control.” Sally stirred her green tea. “Nope, me neither. I never wanted power. And, I have learned there are just some things I must accept. Not immoral things, of course.” Abbey agreed. She and Sally went once a week on Wednesday mornings and prayed outside the abortion clinic. Sally said the rosary and Abbey read out of her prayer book. Sally loved Abbey for this.
“Petty grievances and mutual unforgiveness keep my family together, I think,” said Sally. She was unhappy talking about this with Abbey, but Matt was getting serious about this woman and Sally felt a bond with her.
“I wish, just once, we could have a conversation without slicing someone, or criticizing or dissing…just once”. Matt ate his sandwich in silence. He was tired. So much of his energy had been sapped by John and James. The two men had married complainers as well. More complainers were being made in those homes, as the kids were growing up without real religion, without the domestic church.
Sally sighed, “I think we all need to move away.”
“I have already, but you haven’t.” Matt said the obvious.
This conversation happened last week. Matt asked, “Did St. Augustine really say that sin was energy in the wrong direction? I mean, negativity takes energy away from me.”
Sally put her feet into the lake water. She remembered Abbey’s answer. “Well, in the Confessions, he did say that he carried his unhappiness around with him.”
Matt almost dropped his salmon and dill on rye. “You have read Augustine?”
Abbey stared at him with her blue eyes. “Of course, my first degree is in theology. I told you that.”
“But, Augustine, I mean, he is Catholic.”
Abbey laughed. “Well, I claim him as well.”
Sally wondered at Abbey claiming Augustine. No wonder Matt loved Abbey. She was full of surprises, and completely free. She knew, for some reason, how to love. Sally could see that.
Well, that was last week and today was the annual family reunion at the lake north of the one where Sally sat. She would not be going this year. She had to do something new, something to break away and clear her mind. She felt so sad. But, she was not going to engage in destructive behavior anymore.
No, she and Matt decided that and they decided to do it in very different ways. Kronstadt had told Sally what to do, but she was not prepared to share her decision yet.
To be continued…