A few months back we shared a sneak peek chapter from our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” Thanks to everyone for the encouraging buzz and interest in reading more! That felt so good we’re doing it again!
Our book is the story of an unremarkable couple pursued by God at every turn. It’s written in two points of view – his and hers – bi-chapterly. By the way, the His and Hers monogram belongs to my husband and me. It’s a true story of God’s perpetual grace in our lives, even through seasons of irreverent, stiff-necked refusal of His power and love.
The last preview, Chapter 14, featured my husband, Sandy’s point of view while meeting my colorful parents. This time it’s my turn to speak out as I experience dinner with his family rainbow of characters.
Here’s some general background to set the stage:
It takes place early in our courtship, after a blind date that should have killed the attraction, that miraculously limps on. We are 40-somethings, recent college graduates, beginning lives meant for 20-somethings. Stacked around us, at the relationship hearth, are piles of dirty laundry.
Sandy is three years sober, has perfect A.A. attendance, clings to a God of his own understanding. Coincidentally, before we met, he went through alcohol treatment with my brother Danny. An interesting side note: Sandy does not believe in coincidences.
I consider God a crutch for the weak, have no need or desire for sobriety for myself… BUT… I see the benefits it offers others… AND… I want Sandy to fix my brother using whatever powers available.
We hope chapter 19 leaves you wanting more as the last one did.
If you did not read our first preview, check it out here: Sneak Peek Chapter 14
Sandy ignores my eyeball darts, shooting across the dinner table. It’s my first dinner with his family. Laurel, the mom, stands over the table, rebounding orders like a devoted bat boy, wanting nothing more than to serve and please her team. Flavius, the dad, Mark, the brother, Robin, the sister and Sandy, demand more gravy, rolls fresh from the oven and another glass of milk. The words please and thank you are foreign to the masters of this slave, and no one but me, seems to hear her pleas for approval. New Author Preview
“Who wants more of this crap?” she asks. New Author Preview
Taking the bait, I ooh and aah like a fool, hoping someone, maybe Sandy, will join my chorus. New Author Preview
“Oh… oh my… these are the best rolls ever… Mmm-mmm… and this gravy! Sandy? Sandy! Don’t you think the rolls are amazing?” New Author Preview
Talking over my solo of compliments, they joke, asking who posed as the roll model, each insisting the other’s buns match the rolls. I feel like I’m held hostage by The Three Stooges, plus one. Laurel ignores my orgasmic sounds of pleasure for potatoes and gravy, playing along with the roll model gag. New Author Preview
Later, she tolerates my help with the dinner dishes, frequently suggesting I join the others lounging in the living room. She pours the last of the bottle of Thunderbird wine into her glass. When the twist cap hissed earlier, all eyes turned her way, then diverted as if long ago the family agreed to look away. I wanted to say yes, when she offered me a glass, but I’ve realized I’d rather have none than a little. This is not the time nor place to let loose. Besides, getting sloshed with boyfriend’s mom is a dangerous game. I’ve walked that tightrope a time or two in the past.
Robin goes home, leaving the original Three Stooges in the living room, talking over a rerun of Bonanza on the television. I’m sitting at the kitchen table with Laurel. Her lovely, tall and elegant frame is mismatched with an, “I’m less than demeanor”. Waving away my rerun of oohs and aahs of the feast, she spills a story with the opening line, “I’m a bad person, you don’t know the things I’ve done.” I counter with, “No you’re not a bad person.”
Appointing me as judge and jury, she shares the details of her past like a vehement lawyer’s burden to prove her lack of worth to me. The story rivals “Gone with
the Wind.” It’s a real page turner, but I’d prefer to view it on the big screen, or better yet, read the book in private. Face to face with Scarlett in catharsis mode is beyond my comfort zone. In less than an hour I learn that Sandy’s oldest brother Jim, who was killed in a car accident, was not the son of Flavius. He was the product of a one-night stand, occurring while Flavius was away at sea, in the Navy. All through the story she emphasizes what a good man Flavius is to have married her anyway.
I perform acrobatic feats in body language and facial expressions, hoping Sandy will come save me. Alas, the men are busy poking fun at each other, comparing stomach bloats, oblivious to the melodrama unraveling in the kitchen.
“I told you… I’ve done terrible things.”
“No, no… it’s okay. Don’t say that.”.
My impersonation of Charles Manson in the morning, before coffee, finally grabs Sandy’s attention. He gathers our coats, as I sing a solo chorus of thank you, dinner was amazing, truly wonderful, thanks again.
“If you have any notion that I might be willing to live a life of hell like your mother, get over it,” I say before the car door shuts.
“What the… what’s wrong with you?”
“You treat your mother like dirt!”
He shakes his head, like I’m out of my mind. I make a mental note: Do not marry this jerk.
The answering machine beeps as we walk through the door. It’s Danny, saying he’ll be swinging by tomorrow morning. I’m disappointed Haley and Jay are at their dads. They adore Uncle Danny. His teasing leaves them begging him to stop, while asking for more. I suspect he wants to talk alone. Last week he was in jail again. He needs help. I have to do something.
I don’t know the, “how tos,” of brothers and sisters, I just know our rule book. There have been times when I wanted the little sucker gone for good. Like when he hid under my bed with a stuffed glove attached to a broom handle, or when he’d pop out from behind the shower curtain just when I turn on the light, or the time he knocked on my bedroom window at 6 A.M., with his pimply, yellow-toothed friends, pointing and giggling at my pink foam rollers. Still, he was, is and will always be, MY pain in the butt, and, when I’m not planning his demise, I love the idiot.
When I was thirteen, and Danny, nine, a silent, bond took place. Mom and Dad wanted to go to Esmerelda’s, a bar in the skid row section of Tacoma. They’d spent the day, doing what they called, “things for us,” and wanted some “adult time.” In the spirit of parental multi-tasking they handed us a handful of change, along with a couple of Archie and Casper comic books. Upon cautioning we should not to talk to strangers, they left us in the pool hall next door. Mom checked in every 30 minutes. It was fun. That is, until around 1 AM, when the semi-normal looking people left us alone with the remaining sour smelling men, whose chins dripped of snuff, after swigs from paper bags. Tired, we huddled on the floor, reading our comics. We kept our backs to the wall so no one could sneak up from behind, and our eyes downward. I felt a creepy stare coming from a guy with a spider tattoo on his hand. Danny felt it too, wiggling and pressing close to me. As the guy’s pointed toe boots shuffled toward us, my goofy little brother puffs up, placing an arm around my shoulder.
“She’s with me,” he said in a squeaky voice.
I looked up, expecting the guy to laugh. Surely even a dedicated ax murderer would think he’s too cute for slaughter. When my eyes met the man’s, it felt like when you have one of those naked in public nightmares. What did he see in place of the pair of redheaded, freckled faced, scared, dopey, ivory skinned kids? Danny’s skinny arm quivered atop my shoulder, his legs bent, preparing to stand and… what? Fight? That’s when I swore a silent oath to protect him all my days, and to quit calling him names. As we stood up together, a voice boomed from the adjoining door to Esmeraldas… it was Dad.
With that, the pervert scattered like a cockroach in the light. My folks apologized for being late, explaining their helpless situation.
“Everyone kept buying us drinks. They wouldn’t let us leave.”
I’ve kept the vow, best I can. Except for the name calling. When he was sixteen, smoking weed and failing school, he moved from Auburn to live with my husband Jerry and me in Yakima. Together we shopped for the best high school, with me, barely 21, asking the school authorities questions like a mother of six. It’s always been Danny and me. Right now, he needs some help. He was willing to stand up at and fight for me, and I’m willing to do the same for him.
When he shows in the morning, he’s noticeably hung over. He refuses a Bear Claw, grabbing for a coffee cup like an old man reaching for his cane. I listen to the ongoing saga of court dates, car accidents, stalking collection agencies and girlfriends who exaggerate about his temper. I want to mention A.A., but he might as well be wearing a sign reading – I will bite the head off anyone who mentions my drinking.
“I need to ask you something, you can’t tell anyone,” he says.
He tears up. We light smokes. Sobs take over as he chokes, swallowing words.
“I’m having problems… sex… you know…”
‘Like what?” I ask, buying time.
“I can’t… I don’t… you know… C’mon you know!”
He’s crying. I’d do anything to help. Desperate, I resort to my one true talent, telling lies. Say what you want, lying is a skill, when used responsibly. It’s saved me many times, from a variety of threats, like jail, rape and getting fired.
“Sandy had the same problems. That is, before, he quit drinking. He told me all about it. He couldn’t function. Now he has no problem at all.”
“Really?” Danny asked, swiping the back of his hand on his cheek.
“Yes, really,” I LIED. “You know he goes to A.A. meetings every day. You should talk with him.”
“A. A. is bunk. I’m doing this other deal. It’s not just the alcohol. The guy I’m seeing takes a holistic approach. No carcinogens, sugar or white flour. I’ve already paid $1200.”