Family is Not Blood Ch. 03bywieliczka©
On Sunday morning, Cathy texted me. Her mother would take care of Franciszka until about 5 PM when Rita had a date with her girlfriends. I texted back that she could meet me at my apartment whenever she became free. We could stay there or go to a near by neutral coffee shop, where either of us could leave if we needed to go quickly, for what ever reason. After a bit of back and forth, we decided to stay at my apartment. I had coffee, bagels and other things to snack on. It would also be quiet and private for us.
When she showed up and sat down, our tension was high and there was a bit of silence. I broke the ice and said I have the first question. She looked apprehensive but nodded yes. But I smiled. "Why Franciszka? When you told every one it was Sophia?" There was relief in her face.
"Sophia is her middle name, and I've always liked it. Besides, by that time, Dad and I were starting to talk. We started talking a couple of days after the shower and really have not stopped. Little Freddie was actually 2 weeks late when she was born. That extra time helped us both. They were going to take her by c-section, but the next day my bag broke. In fact, dad drove me to the hospital while mom was at work."
"When we started talking, I got real shit from him for weeks, and I deserved it. But he kept coming back when mom was not around. I did believe then that their relationship was over and dead. It really had been over and dead for a while. I have realized that, except for the loss of a steady home, it really has not bothered her much at all."
"I am so sorry about the official death of their marriage, but I believed her when she said her cheating was ok. I knew about her cheating since I was 12, and thought that it was just a normal thing, well, kind of, but not really. I got used to it like it was normal. How can you tell your mother she is wrong?"
"Well anyway, during his visits, before and later after the birth, we talked about a lot of things. He started sharing what it was like on his side, and I saw the damage that was done. I cannot blame him for leaving her high and dry, or you leaving me."
"When he spoke, feelings that he and I had buried started to come out. I don't think that he ever saw me cry so much in my life, or me see him cry so much. I was crying for him, what I had not done, what I had done to you and then for the damage I needed to not do for little Freddie. Then the last crying was for how fucked up I was, what a hole I put my self into. It was the first time I really talked about things."
"He really helped me to see that there was a future out there for me, and now little Freddie too. I needed to step up to the plate."
"That is what I have done these past months. He also said that I needed to reach out and make amends. It was very hard for me to face people, but after a while, Dad and I would go to events with little Freddie. People started to see that I was not the same. Still, I got a lot of well deserved shit. I also learned to agree with what they were saying if it was the truth."
"Your ex-wife has learned that not only is she not right all the time, but now she actually really listens to others. And sometimes, she even follows what the have to say and later thanks them. Some people were shocked when they began to realize it was real. Little bit of a change?"
"So when it came time to name my daughter, I wanted something that was going to touch him. Something that would tell him that he really mattered to me. Even at this early time, right before her birth, I knew he was doing right by me and for me. His mother's name was Franciszka, and I spelled it in the Polish style. I did not want him to know right away. I did not want to appear that I was buying him off. You know what I mean, I have no creditability. So I called her by her middle name, Sofia."
"He was a bit pissed when he found out three months later. That was when I told him that this name was going to be hers forever. That is when I said, Dad, it was for your mother raising such a great son who really is my dad."
"Not since before the shower, did I ever call him Dad. But he and I acknowledged that he really was my father. Mike, all three of us cried and hugged. Well, little Freddie had a hard time hugging, but the rest of us, it felt more like coming home after being away. Being away for both of us. She picked up the nickname little Freddie because she has been spending so much time in his arms. He showed me that family is not about blood."
"He made it a point of not talking about you. We both steered away from it. I thought that he needed to let me work on myself, and his job was not to push me, but to give me the freedom to work things out. I kept exploring things, I did not waste that time. I don't think that he would have let me anyway."
"He let me bring you up when I felt I needed to, and then listened. I also brought up Corey and I really was able to explore it, all of it, with out censure. That was real important. The only thing I want to share right now is that I know now that our generation did not invent non-missionary sex." She chuckled while I play groaned.
"By listening, he allowed me to see what I had done to you. Occasionally, I would ask a direct question and he would answer, but mainly he let me talk."
"As you can guess, Mom started spending less and less time at the apartment. Somehow, she got a bit of money and was taking full advantage of it. I think that she will move out by the end of next month if her latest paramour holds up. I've been expecting it for a couple of months now."
"To be honest, I really was not ready to see you or talk with you so soon. But my one experience in going out to a movie frightened the hell out of me. Rape would have been one thing, murder another, but leaving behind Freddie was much worse. He called you was over my objections, but Dad changed my mind. He brought up little Freddie and did Guilt Trip 101 on me. It worked, and it worked within 2 seconds."
"I do not think that I ever really thanked you for what you did last week. You had two scared people here, all trying to protect the third. You put yourself off to the side and helped us. After leaving me and the divorce, that cheating bitch of a wife, and I do mean self-centered bitch level 9 out of 10, and cheating level 15 out of 10, you stayed and helped. You helped so much."
She paused for a minute while she, and I, caught our breaths. I was watching tears roll down her cheeks. I felt something wet on mine.
"Does that answer your question?"
I waited a few second then said "I had a question?" with a straight face, for about 2 seconds, then tried unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh, then came out with one of the biggest belly laughs that I have had in years. Cathy followed right behind me. We laughed and more tears came, but these were tears of relief. There was a weight taken off our shoulders. Things were not solved, but we were talking. Actually she had talked, and it was real. I knew that it was going to be my turn.
"So, I see that you still have a way to monopolize the conversation don't you?" Then we both went on laughing for another round until our sides ached. I felt that such a load was taken off my being. I finally had some sense of why for many things. I was also able to see that she grew.
"Well, it is your turn to ask a question Cathy. What is it?" It was now my turn to be concerned. There were many things that I did not want to talk about. I was hoping that I did not have to say that a question that was off limits. But this time she smiled.
"I actually have two questions. It is not a two-parter, but if you could give me this, you can go for two if there is a next turn." Her face grew worried when she said the last thing. After clearing her throat, she asked "1, How is it that money that you have signing control over keeps getting into what used to be our checking account and that my student loans were paid off. And now 2, really, why did you stay and help us so much this week."
"Cathy, it is not a two-parter, it is all about the same thing, just different sides. I am going to tell you about what I did to prepare for your shower, actually, a reveal, the public humiliation to end our marriage. I am not going to talk about this with malice in my heart, but am going to be honest and open."
"Those months before and during your pregnancy, I could not be honest, could not be who I am. I hated doing that and have vowed to never do it again. That tore my being apart slightly less than you tore my being apart. Some of these things that I will say, I have already asked and received permission to share with you if you were ever to ask and I was ever to see you. Other parts, I am going on my own. Hang on."
I took a deep breath while looking into her sorrowful eyes, and began. "I had nothing to do with providing any money into your checking account or to you in any way. None of it is mine. It was nothing that I suggested, asked people for, nothing. It was from people, directly or indirectly, people who care about little Freddie here and feel that they can help. I have only been the conduit. I was trustworthy."
"The person responsible for getting your student loans paid off was your Uncle Larry. Don't worry, it was not his money. Larry strongly 'suggested' it to Paul as a way to make amends for his behavior of not supporting you, not being responsible for you all these years. There were some other suggestions to him to help him be financially responsible for his other transgressions."
"I guess you just figured out that your mother was probably a recipient of his newly found generosity. I did not know about that, but it makes sense. By the way, you have another half brother that is 10 years old. That is all I know about it. I do not want to say more on this, or who else Paul was generous to. Don't worry, Paul is not really hurting from all his new found generosity. The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. Payback is a bitch."
"The money being direct deposited into the checking account came from a trust. Mary was still married to Corey when he was hit by that hit and run driver. Their term life policies were still in good standing. There was another insurance policy from his work that tracked Mary down and paid her."
"I had contacted Maria though Shelly and Marek, to try to approach Mary before the shower. I did not want her to be blindsided, to be collateral damage at your shower. Maria provided emotional support that Mary needed to finally leave Corey. I was responsible for organizing and scheduling the moving crew that moved her out of their apartment into Maria's place on the day of the shower. Shelly and Marek were able to provide information to help her prepare for the before and after the divorce, legally and emotionally. Mary and I did not have time to meet before the shower, but had made plans to meet sometimes afterward. After Corey died, Mary called Shelly and Marek and the four of us had dinner together."
"Maria is a woman that I would never mess with. When we first met, Maria interviewed me. Rather I should say that she grilled, prodded, poked, dissected and there was no intellectual or emotional part of me left untouched about why I was doing what I was going to do. She needed to find out who I was and why I was doing this. Why give a warning to the wife of the man that was f.. errr...' Cathy broke in and said, "Just say it Mike, it was true." I paused. "OK. Fucking his own wife. When she was finished with me at what felt like hours later, she looked at Marek and Shelly and said that they were right. He is what you said he was."
"You see, I did not want collateral damage. Mary really did not do anything wrong. I never got to meet with her privately until after Corey died. She was not the same person I remember from before. By then she finally had her own voice, her own being, her own sense of entitlement to life. Corey was very damaging to many people. I think that her belittlement was one of the worst things he did. He sucked out her soul and played with it for his own entertainment." Cathy was shaking her head in sorrow, but I smiled at her and continued.
"At this dinner, Mary tells me that she did not expect a dime from Corey. She was going to be happy if she did not walk away with crushing debts and lawyer fees. He had squandered every penny he had and even stole from you before the birth of little Freddie here. She said that this work insurance payout, as well as their term life policy, was unexpected money, free and clear."
"But she felt some way responsible for her husband's errors. He was gone and she was sitting pretty. She had more than she ever thought she would have. His child, on the other hand, was going to go without child support. The child support payments stopped with his death, and she knew that you were really hurting financially. She looked at me and asked if it would be ok if she gave you some money?"
"I told her something about her being the most wonderful and caring cheated upon spouse I had ever known. To be honest, I felt ashamed in her presence. Then she asked that I be the trustee because I knew you well and because I had gone out of my way to warn her about Corey and you, she trusted me. She wanted the money for the child, and she wanted you to have more when you needed more and less when you needed less. The $80K is supposed to last 20 years."
Cathy's eyes had been tearing up all along, and then she but out into tears. She wondered out loud "How can she do this, after all the bad things I have done to her marriage? How could she do this?" I got up and got her a glass of water, then waited. She looked at me and repeated, "Why?"
"Cathy, you were not the first plaything of Corey, and from his mysterious death, not his last. She knows about being left behind, and to be honest, it is really about the child. Remember, much of the reconnecting is happening because of little Freddie, and how you are taking care of her. Your priorities have changed, and people see that."
I waited a minute. I started to say something when she asked if I could set up a meeting with Mary for her. She did not want to break into Mary's life so if she did not want to meet, she would understand if it was no. I said that I would look into it for her.
"Now for the next part of your question, why did I stay and help you and Fred out. Well, I came because Fred asked me to, at least initially. Our marriage was over, but I have realized that the other relationships can remain. Family is not just blood, it is these relationships, these bonds."
"When we found out about your mother's cheating, Uncle Stan and I first went to Larry. We did not want to open a box of worms that he may have known that Fred wanted to keep closed. Instead, Larry gave us permission to webcam their bedroom. When all four of us met, Fred was just resigned, he always somehow knew it was probably true, just did not want to prove it."
"Fred and I were in the same boat, the same stinking boat. He gave the go ahead to include your mother and him in the shower. We both knew that it needed to be over, and have it be very publicly over." I paused and took a deep breath, then looked at her eyes. "I never expected you to change."
"I didn't ask people about you, but I'm very good at overhearing others. I'll be honest. You also never changed the passwords to the checking account, so I always had a view on how you were doing financially. Believe it or not, I was not doing this to spy on you. I needed to make sure that little Freddie here was not in great want."
"It is amazing how someone could be out of the loop and still understand just about everything that is going on in it. On the other hand, I did not know anything about your social life, and I wanted to keep it that way."
"Something strange started happening. I was realizing that I had a high level of respect for what you were doing now. I saw your challenges and I saw your actions. Yes, I had been overhearing about you actually being kind and thoughtful, not just putting it on for show. I was realizing that little Freddie really had a great mother. I did not know what your mother or father were doing, but I perhaps started to see someone I may have seen, or wanted to see, years ago."
"It really floored me when, instead of telling me what happened with that jerk who assaulted you, it was more important to tell me that you had fucked up, and took ownership of it. That kind of freaked me out, and I broke the focus back to the problem of that asshole. At the time, dealing with a possible homicide was safer than getting into over two years of painful memories and unresolved issues. Besides, I felt that I did not want to go to another funeral, and that really focused my mind immediately."
"I also had never seen little Frankie before. She is young and helpless and there is no way I was ever going to allow anything to happen to her, her mother or grandfather. Family is not about blood." It was my turn to sob quietly.
Cathy touched my shoulder, and I jumped. We had not touched each other in any way for over a year. She jumped back, realizing that a barrier had been crossed. Neither of us knew if it was a good or a bad crossing. I needed to continue talking quickly.
"Another thing that I am going to admit to, I surfed the hard drive of that laptop. Yes, I was snooping, but there is still an element of trust that continues to whack me upside my head from time to time. Sometimes it is a nerf bat, other times, a 4 by 4. I reviewed all your nanny-cam files. Because you never turned it off. When ever you were home in Freddie's room, the kitchen or the living room, you were on it."
"I was a voyeur. I got to see everyone that was in that house and that they did in those three rooms for the past four months. It was not pretty." And I gave unpleasant look on my face. She had been intent, now was very worried.
"Baby spit up everywhere." I then busted out laughing. With a look of bemused shock, she hit me in the shoulder. "I am sorry for the snooping, but I really could not help myself. I have spent so many months angry and hurt and just feeling like a piece of shit."
"And here, in front of me, was an unedited view of your world. What I did was untrustworthy, but I had to know. I am sorry I have broken your confidence, to have taken advantage of a person who was in need that I helped. I feel like I helped a person into an ambulance that had a broken leg, then flinched their wallet. I do not want to be dishonest in my life."
She looked at me long and slowly, thinking of what to say. "I also have to confess. It was a split second decision, but I wanted you to have and see that laptop. I knew where the files were and could have taken them off in a matter of minutes, but I did not. We have not spoken for a year. And I have changed. The core of me is still the same, but I think that I finally matured. What else did you see on that machine?"
"Now it was time to me be honest about my feelings. "I saw some video files dated from when we were married, so I took a look. I realized that they were from the hidden webcam in our bedroom. Every one of them were of you and me, none of you and Corey."
"That is when I remembered that when I made the CD's for the shower, by mistake I included all the files, including us. I have gotten a couple of good natured cat calls from some of the wives about it. Yes, I was very embarrassed about it."
"When I was reviewing each one this week, most of them I saw for the first time. I saw how I used to make love to you. I remember during that time that I was an actor. I had to keep up appearances and do things the same way I had before. Like I said before, I will not be dishonest again. It destroys my being, it's just not worth it."