Jay had never gone to one doctors’ appointment with me throughout the entire pregnancy. He had never listened to the baby’s heartbeat or heard the percentile of weight and growth. He never called to see how the check-up had gone.
Was he really that uninterested or was he just that selfish? He had always thought the newspaper would literally go out of business if he wasn’t there, just as he thought the bars would closed down if he wasn’t there…but I was having his first child. Why didn’t it seem to matter to him?
When he finally came home late at night, I gave him the information and he would listen but it was met with the same quiet indifference that was offered when I told him I was pregnant. He had never kissed my stomach or rubbed it or talked to it. He never tried to feel the baby move.
I guess I thought being ignored and disinterest in supporting me were normal. It was certainly normal for him but at least he was there for the important part, which was the birth.
The baby was about to be born and Jay was in the delivery room with me. There was the usual chatter and instructions about when to push. The baby came out and suddenly it was as if Jay had been stuck with a cattle prod.
He jerked back and said “it’s a girl!” I looked at him and I don’t think surprise quite describes the look on his face. I think it was conceivable to him that he would sire a girl.
They cleaned her up and handed her to me. She had a full head of hair and looked almost like she had a tan. She had tiny little stork bites in the corner of her eyes. She opened them and looked right at me. The long ordeal was over and here was this wonderful little creature in my arms.
After only a few minutes, she was taken away to the nursery and I was taken to my room. Jay stayed for a while and then went to work.
I didn’t mind being in the hospital and I was one of those rare patients who even liked the food. The nurses would bring Kasey into the room and let me feed her and then they would take her back. My meals were brought to me and anything I needed was just a call button away. It was Heaven.
It was a two-day stay for having a baby and the hospital understood that life as you knew it was going to change, so they provided a dinner for the mothers and fathers the night before you were sent home.
I went down to the dining room, wearing my hospital gown and bloody pad. The table was set with candles and flowers and the meal was ready to be served but Jay wasn’t there yet. He was always late…for everything, so it was no surprise.
What was a surprise was when he came flying in….dressed in a tuxedo! One of the servers said “sir, you didn’t have to dress.” I giggled when I saw him because that gesture showed a side of him that he rarely exposed……his tongue-in-cheek humor. I temporarily forgot the unforgivably cruel thing he had said to me while I was in labor and I absolutely adored him at that moment.
The next day, we brought Kasey home. There was no “welcome home baby” party or even any visitors. There had been no baby shower or gifts or cards or calls.
A few weeks later, my mama and daddy were going to drive down to see us and the Kasey, which could have possibly signaled the end of time if you knew about my earlier life. I mentioned it to Rita and she apparently saw an opportunity to extend her sabotage…….this time to my family.
Drunk, she called my daddy to let him know what a useless daughter she thought he had. She said “she doesn’t know how to cook. She doesn’t know how to clean. She doesn’t have any idea how to be a good wife and I am worried to death about that little baby being taken care of…but we’d sure love to meet you.”
My daddy listened but her desire to meet was answered with “not at the present time.” They didn’t make the trip. Like me, they were not drinkers and like me, they had absolutely no tolerance for people who abused alcohol.
I didn’t tell Jay what Rita had done. I just told him that my mama and daddy weren’t going to make it. He probably held that against them and with no context, understandably so.
During our forty-one years together, our parents never met.
Jay was moving up at the Greenville News and we decided it was time to buy a house. I would spend all day looking while he was at work and finally found one that we both liked.
Buying a house was a lengthy process back then. There were no computers that instantly yielded every intimate piece of your life and history. After several nail-biting weeks, we were homeowners. It was a really nice brick house, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a formal living room, a formal dining room and a huge “den.” It was on a corner lot with a big yard and it was quite a distance from his mama and daddy.
Before we moved into our new house, I walked around the old rental, remembering what had been there. I took pause for several minutes and stared at the corner in the kitchen where my sewing machine had been. I remembered how many hours I had spent sitting there.
In a relatively short period, I had become quite an accomplished seamstress. The Christmas before we moved into our new house, I made Jay seventeen three-piece suits for work. I jokingly told him that as soon as he could afford to buy a suit, I was never making another one but I enjoyed making them and he enjoyed having them.
After we settled into the new house of course, the consistent visits from his parents were the norm. We started having weekly card games and I enjoyed them. Jay tended to overbid and I tended to underbid but we played well together and it was fun. It would go well as long as something didn’t set Rita off.
If she got something in her head, it would turn into a five-hour attack. One night, she was being particularly brutal with her comments and Jays’ daddy actually asked her why she wanted to say something like that to me. She started laughing that almost hyena like sound and said “I don’t know shug.” Jay never said anything to her.
As they were leaving, Jay’s daddy said something to me about looking pretty. It was a set-up and the words were meaningless because it had to be prompted. Jay didn’t know that I had heard him ask his daddy to say something nice to me.
The games continued, the abuse continued and I became more and more bitter. I dreaded the visits but I knew Jay enjoyed seeing his parents.
Most of the visits were about Rita and I fixing dinner and Jay and his daddy sitting and talking. It was the same conversation over and over., every single time. His daddy would talk about his own childhood and his early years and Jay would listen with focused intensity and acted as if he was hearing the story for the first time. I would look at him and wish that I could capture his attention the way his daddy did.
I had been blessed and cursed with an almost photographic memory when it came to the spoken word. I would hear a conversation, a phrase, a line in a movie or a casual remark and I could quote it verbatim, days, weeks or even decades later. Jay was always impressed with my recall ability but would eventually come to despise it, unless it benefited him in some way.
I had decided to go back to work and I intended to get a job at an insurance company. We had gotten virtually hosed after my accident because neither one of us knew what we should have been able to get as far as a settlement. I made it my mission to learn as much as I possibly could about every aspect of the business and I did.
I was at work one day, talking to Jay and I mentioned that I thought we should go ahead and have another baby. He agreed and little did we know that I was already pregnant again.
I went to the doctor and essentially killed another rabbit to make it official. I already knew it was going to be another girl because of the way my body was acting. I had bled the entire nine months with Kasey and I was on the same path. Even though I had expressed concern, the doctor said it was perfectly normal for some women.
Another baby was on the way and Jay’s reaction was no different from before.