By Erin Lunde
I didn’t raise her that way. In fact, there were countless times I wish I’d had that freedom—from my own conscience and Lanie’s judgment—to smack that girl across the mouth, or even spank her like everybody else did.
I remember every morning at coffee how Danny would tell us all what he’d remembered from the night before, still slurring his words. He’d tell us all about the lesson he’d taught his kids—sometimes it’d be about tattling on some kid at school, or about punching somebody, or even just generally pissing him off.He’d always brag to us about the fear his kids felt toward him, around him. “That’s the way it’s done in my house,” he’d say, and then slop some coffee down his chin, watching us for reactions. I’d always been appalled. Embarrassed for him. I even kinda pitied him.
So I never did that. I never taught any lessons that way. I never drank too much. I never smoked. I never cheated Lanie. I always kept my temper around my kids.
I yelled sometimes, sure. Who can hold it together all the time? I’d bow at the feet of someone who can. I’d worship at the altar of that son-of-a-bitch, wherever that god of a person may be. I’d raise my voice at the kids, sometimes Lanie, but hardly ever, and then I’d have to take a drive to calm down. Sure, I’d take a pull or two before I’d go, so that I could drive a little easier. We’re out in the country. There’s no real traffic, and I know all the cops.
But I never did what Dan talked about, smug, little prick. We all put up with him because his land is ten miles away and he doesn’t have a coffee stop any nearer. A joyless man who talks too much, even to this day
Back then, when Lanie and I were young parents, we didn’t have the resources our kids have now. We didn’t have the books and the classes and the conferences. I worked the fields, came home, played catch if the girls wanted. I ate when Lanie said it was up. I left in the morning before the girls were even awake. Lanie never told me too much of the daily ordeals with the girls, and I never told her when I broke down on the 40 one too many times that week. But I did the best I could with her, that girl. Our youngest.
Her sister was always excited to play. Meg. She was always talking—even now she talks like she’s held her breath for years and her exhalation is all words. But the little one never really said much.
She was brooding, Lanie always said. Festering. Something black in her head. That darkness was always there, even as a baby. Never liked me much. Never wanted to hold my hand. Never asked for Daddy. Always just Mama.
When she started getting in trouble at school, I asked Lanie what was happening. I remember she’d say she’d take care of it, or that the girl was going through a growth spurt or something, maybe close to puberty. I sure as hell didn’t want to go near that.
So I let Lanie take care of it. I went on as I knew. Spent a lot of time with Meg. Showed her how to drive. Taught her to shoot the rabbits. Meg’s sister watched from her window.
To think I’d be here now makes me sick to my stomach.
I knew that girl was in trouble when she married that little asshole right out of high school. She was pregnant, turned out. She hadn’t had her partying days yet, but she sure had them with a vengeance after that baby was born. Up all night. Drinking, probably drugs. I know depression—been dealing with it for near forty years with Lanie—but that girl isn’t depressed. The problems she had in school—she was always the instigator. Hearing stories Meg tells about their childhood makes me question my memories. That parakeet we got the girls, lying in the sunroom with a broken neck. She blamed the cat. But a cat would’ve taken it away. She shrugged when I asked her questions. Lanie thought the peculiar way they played Barbies was just a phase, but I didn’t think that hanging dolls by their necks from the banister was normal, phase or no.
A couple years ago, Lanie and I put her through rehab. I figured she’d go to school when she got done.
Now she’s in jail.
I wonder if a sociopath is born or bred.
My granddaughter’s arm is broken, and they say she has a black eye. And my daughter, she just shrugs.