The next place I found myself was on earth again in my daughter's back yard as I detected she was becoming very agitated about Thanksgiving. Vivienne had always spazzed over holidays and the year after I left the earth was no exception. From clear out on the patio I heard her talking to her husband in great agitation.
"I hate it because all I have are trashy brothers and because I am the only sister I am expected year after fucking year to cook Thanksgiving dinner!"
"Your mom isn't here this year," said her husband whatever his name was I am already beginning to forget what I named him for this novel. "So maybe you should not even try to do Thanksgiving. You know that Jerome is not going to be able to help. Santos may not be here. Rafe will be going to his girlfriend's. So why are you spazzing about a holiday dinner that you really do not have to cook at all?"
Vivienne began to cry, "I hate my family. They ruin every holiday because they don't care. Jerome is busy in the theater. He doesn't care about me. Even Santos, my own blood brother, is proving to be a big disappointment. He can't even afford a car. Maybe it's not his fault, but why do my brothers have to be such losers. It was bad enough to have a mother who was a loser, now I have two brothers who have followed in her footsteps!"
I winced at hearing myself called a loser. Well, it was true. I had never gotten rich and famous. A playwright who does not get rich and famous just as well not be a playwright at all. There are very few playwrights who succeed on a local level. Vivienne just did not realize that the odds against becoming a rich and famous playwright were very high.
I had not written a best seller novel either. What was the use of writing a novel that never even got published? Thank goodness my sister Deborah had completed her plans to make a presentable copy of "Here Comes the Dawn" and was going to try to get it published on the Internet as an e-book. For a brief moment I imagined millions in America reading my intriguing story about the hereafter, and then a certain characteristic pessimism set in. I would have to talk to Jimmy. Where did all the writers go who had never gotten famous in real life? How could they justify their wasted lives? Poor Vivienne. No wonder she was upset. Cursed with a loser mother and now possibly two loser brothers.
I had lost complete track of Santos, where was he? Hiding out on the earth somewhere I was sure. I would have to look him up when I had time. The last time I talked to him his work on his novel had come to a halt. He sounded discouraged. He said he had had someone read it who told him the story meandered all over the place. He needed to tighten up the action. From imagining himself a success he went to defeated almost at once. I felt sorry for him, but I knew exactly how he felt.
"How is Santos doing?" asked Vivienne's husband cautiously. I will think of her husband's fictional name in a moment, or I might have to go back and read a few early chapters to see if I even gave him a name. Oh and what did I name their dog? At this very moment he was running around the yard barking because he needed to go and they had let him out. I was very wary of my family's dogs since Jilly had taken to seeing me when I visited Jerome. I had petted Vivienne's dog a great deal more over the years. I was very fond of him. What if he started 'seeing' me, too. What if dogs were just able to see me better than they did most spirits?
Her dog ran around quite a while without paying particular notice of me, so I relaxed.
In the meantime Vivienne was still crying, "I hate fucking Thanksgiving." And then she seemed to find her own self funny and started laughing. "Mom is gone, and I am still spazzing over Thanksgiving. I remember her last Thanksgiving on earth. We had an argument over the phone. I actually made my mother miserable on her last Thanksgiving on earth just being my worst self. I think I am crying over her being gone, actually. My first Thanksgiving without her. How could I have been such a mean daughter?"
"I don't think you are really mean," said her husband. "Just moody."
"Whatever," said Vivienne waving her hand. "Nobody is ever going to put up with my moody self like my mother did."
I was glad Vivienne realized how long suffering I had been, but she seemed to feel better, so I thought it safe to leave. But holidays upset Vivienne so badly I was afraid I might have to return several more times just to see that she made it safely through the holiday. Thanksgiving was probably the worst holiday for her because it involved a big dinner, which Vivienne and whats his name usually cooked, oh, my memory is so bad, even in the hereafter, but he has been very good to Vivienne. I did not forget his name on purpose. He has been a wonderful husband in fact. Perhaps even a little too wonderful at times as Vivienne has observed. Making it hard for her to live up to his excellence.
"At least we can have dinner catered," I heard her husband saying. "We can afford it."
"It is still a lot of trouble," said Vivienne. "You do have to take it out of the cartons and serve it. And having a big turkey dinner brought in just does not make sense when there is just three of us, maybe four of us at the most. I am sure Jerome will have plenty of invitations to go elsewhere. He will forget about me now Mother is gone."
"He isn't really as closely related as Santos. I think you should just worry about Santos from now on. Let the older half brothers go. Give up trying to understand Rafe and Jerome and trying to get along with them."
"I should," said Vivienne. "Life would be so much simpler without half brothers. I envy brothers and sisters who all have the same father and mother. Your family is so lucky. You all had the same mother and father. You still have the same mother and father, caring about their adult kids together, in unison. My mother hardly seems to know my dad. She was with him such a short time. He was never more to her than a passing stranger who almost accidentally fathered Santos and me. She made life so complicated for me."
"Maybe she had no choice. Maybe I was just lucky."
"I would like to call my dad for Thanksgiving, too. His health is poor. He will probably soon be gone, too. But I hardly know what to say to him either."
I sat down in the patio and thought about what I had done to my poor children, all of them. Maybe some day Vivienne's father and I would be meeting as spirits in her backyard. I would look at him, almost a stranger again, and wonder what possessed me, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I really enjoyed Santos and Vivienne when they were growing up. Even afterwards when I occasionally saw them. They weren't big on visiting. They were attractive, bright, energetic kids.
But their dad left after Santos had barely been born. He mentioned that he thought about stealing my new car when he left but decided with a new baby I might need it, and maybe I did not have enough money left from my inheritance to buy another one, so he kindly left my car behind and copped a ride on a truck going east, back to his home state. He had gotten mad at me because I refused to help him buy an 18 wheeler with my inheritance. I did not love him enough I told him. I was going to hang on to that money to help take care of these kids just in case he disappeared, as he had already done several times previous to this one. Or I had to ask him to leave, which I usually eventually did. Because of his violence. His suicidal tendencies. His alcoholism. He could be exciting. He could be dynamic, but worst of all he was not committed. I had taken a chance on an uncommitted father because I wanted kids. They would be with me for a long time. A lot longer than their fly by night father.
Kids saved my life. They gave me purpose and meaning. Isn't that why anybody had kids? I had made the right decision. As moody as Vivienne could be, probably some inherited traits there, she was still far more manageable than her father had been. With his genes and mine combined in her DNA, Vivienne had been a beautiful little girl just as she was now a beautiful woman.
No, she was a big improvement on her father. She was more beautiful than I was. Slimmer. She was not as bad as she seemed to be. She was still a work in progress.