Thursday, April 8, 1982

Drained completely from two days of travel, I slept most of the day. When I got up and crossed the hall to the bathroom, the sounds of Sesame Street coming from downstairs told me it was early afternoon even before the clock did. My parents had bathed the girls and washed their hair, then kept them entertained and quiet so I could rest. As soon as I'd awakened enough to rifle through the suitcase for my clothes, I'd showered and washed my hair. True to her word, Mom had gotten a new toothbrush for me, and I brushed my teeth twice as long as usual, wanting to get the grimy sensation from not having brushed since Tuesday out of my mouth. After I rinsed and spat for the final time, I ran my tongue over my teeth, relieved to have the fuzziness gone. I put on a fresh pair of pants and a brown sweater, then padded downstairs with my damp hair combed back.

The sight of my brother and his girlfriend in the family room surprised me. Rob greeted me with a strong embrace.

"It's about time you got up." He drew back and studied my face. Despite having slept and showered, my eyelids were puffy and swollen from hours of crying. "You look terrible."

"Rob! That's a horrible thing to say." Angie slapped his arm before she hugged me. It had been months since I'd seen her last. Not since Thanksgiving, when she'd insisted on taking family portraits of everyone as an early Christmas gift. "It's good to see you again, Beth."

"You too, Angie."

Rob shook his head and instantly went into big brother mode. "What did he do to make you cry so hard?"

"I don't want to talk about it right now," I said, gesturing at the girls playing in the next room.

"Well, you're better off without him, anyway."

Rob's attitude stung and I corrected him firmly. "I'm not divorcing him, Rob. This isn't even a separation, not in that sense anyway."

"What is it, then?"

I sighed. "I don't know. A wake-up call, I guess."

He snorted and Angie pinched him. "Cut it out, Rob," she hissed.

I stalked past him into the kitchen and poured a glass of water from the pitcher in the refrigerator. Rob followed me, Angie trailing behind him.

"What's he done?" he demanded again.

"Al's having some problems," I evaded.

"That doesn't surprise me. Let me guess…he's drinking."

I didn't answer, but my face gave it away. Rob's eyes widened.

"He is, isn't he? How much?"

A shaky hand raised the glass of water to my lips, but Rob gently pulled it down.

"Answer me, sis. How much?"

"He's drunk more often than not," I said, a sob breaking into my words.

Rob called Al names that would have had my mother sticking a bar of soap in his mouth if she heard him, even at his age. I narrowed my eyes at him and slammed the glass against the counter so hard that water sloshed over my hand.

"That's my husband you're badmouthing! You don't understand what he's going through—there's no way you could understand!" I heaved a deep breath. "I know why he's drinking. You haven't been there when he wakes up screaming in the night. My God, Rob, he relives the camps in his dreams!" I glared at my older brother as I continued to drive my point home. "I see the terror in his eyes when he wakes up! The way he has to remind himself where he is! I'm the one who holds him when he shakes and cries because what happened to him is so terrible even the memories hurt."

Rob opened his mouth, but I wasn't finished with him yet.

"He was a prisoner for eight years, Rob. Tortured…oh God how they tortured him…for eight years! Eight years! Just count your blessings you don't have a clue what that was like!" I broke off and shook my head. My voice was slightly less turbulent when I finished, "Because what I see on Al's face every time he has one of those damned dreams almost kills me! That's why he's drinking."

"If you understand it so much, why did you leave?"

I started crying. "Because it's tearing him apart—it's tearing us apart. He's got to stop. He's got to find a better way of coping. That's why I left. I'm trying to wake him up to that! But I swear to you, Rob, I have been praying since the moment I walked out the door that it won't be long before I can go back to him. I love him! He's my husband. The father of my children. But he's more than that, Rob. He's my life!"

Angie's eyes had misted over as she listened.

Rob nodded somberly, but then asked, "Beth, what if he won't stop? What if he can't? What then? Will you go back to him?"

I didn't want to think about Al not being able to stop. Burying my face in my hands, I wept. Angie threw her arms around me and fussed at Rob, "Stop being cruel. Your sister needs you right now." She rubbed my shoulders and said, "Beth, just think positively. I'm sure you did the right thing, and I'm sure Al will straighten out. If he loves you even a fraction as much as you love him, I know he will."


Mom set the level of the burner and left the rice cooking. "That'll give us plenty of time to talk," she said, wiping her hands on her apron. She indicated the tomatoes I was chopping for the salad. "Those will keep, honey. Your Dad and I want to talk to you."

I'd been dreading this all afternoon. I set the knife down on the cutting board beside the tomatoes and followed Mom into the dining room. We could hear Dad in the next room as he asked Rob and Angie to take the girls into the backyard to play until supper was ready. A moment later he joined us and he pulled out the head chair for me to sit in; he and Mom took a seat on either side of me.

Immediately Mom reached for my hand and asked, "Beth, what happened?"

Her soft gaze pained me and I found myself unable to meet her eyes. I looked at the tablecloth instead. "Al crossed a line in the sand I didn't even know I'd drawn."

"You're talking in riddles, honey. Now, you told your father the other night that Al's been having nightmares. About Vietnam?"

I nodded. "They haven't been this bad since he was in the hospital. At least, the ones I know he's had. I think he's hiding some of them, and you know he won't talk about it. Anyway, somehow he decided that drinking was the best way to deal with them this time."

"Do you have any idea what's triggering them?"

"I've got an idea about what opened the door…and if I'm right, this is all my fault."

"Don't be ridiculous, Beth," Mom argued, "how could Al's nightmares be your fault?"

"Because," I said, covering my face with my hands, "he hadn't had one for a long time…until we went out to dinner for my birthday and…and…" Both my hands and my voice began shaking at the same time. "And this man came up to our table," I finished quietly. I knew I had to give more details than that. My stomach roiled and I felt a flush creep over my face. "A man from my past."

Mom gasped and started to ask a question but Dad shushed her. They sat in stunned silence, waiting for me to continue.

Verbalizing it to Al had been hard enough. Confessing it to my parents would be like admitting it had really been adultery. Just the thought of telling them gave credence to Al's accusation and made me feel burdened by guilt for having abandoned him.

"Beth, honey, tell us," Dad finally said. "We won't judge you." When I still didn't speak, he decided to pull it out of me with gentle questioning. "Does this man have a name?"

"Dirk." I rubbed my face and finally lowered my hands. "Dirk Simon."

"When did you meet him?"

"In '69. And I hadn't seen him again until that night." Even explaining that didn't ease the guilt.

Mom took my hand again. "Honey, we all thought Al was dead in '69."

I groaned. "But he wasn't. I almost threw everything away because I was weak!"

Dad gripped my shoulders. "Beth, you have to stop this now. I was just as bad as Rob and Janie in telling you it was time to give up and move on. Whatever happened between you and this Dirk—"

"Nothing happened!" I yelled right before I started to cry. Dad had made the same assumptions Al had and, with frustration tinting my words, I reiterated, "Nothing happened. Nothing at all. He changed a flat for me, and I ran into him at lunch a couple days later. He brought me home…and then Jake…"

"Jake? Who's Jake?"

"Oh, God, I'm a horrible person!" I rested my head on the table and sobbed into my folded arms.

Mom got up and embraced me, stroking my hair as she whispered, "It's okay, Beth. You thought Al was dead. We all did."

"It's not okay," I sobbed, shaking my head as I sat up again. "I was enjoying the attention."

"Beth, look at me," Mom said, gripping my chin so I couldn't do anything but. "George Phillips flirts with me every time I go to the meat market. He's a charming man and I enjoy his attention and his compliments, but that doesn't make me unfaithful to your father." She lifted my hand and touched my wedding set. "This hasn't been off your hand since Al put it there. And your heart has never left his. Nor will it."

"He was so hurt," I insisted. "When Dirk walked up to our table…he brought up the war…and he told Al how he knew me." My tears began again. "Al had his first nightmare that night. No…nightmare isn't right. It was a night terror. It was like he was trapped in the memories and couldn't claw his way out. And then if that wasn't bad enough, he had a nightmare after that about me leaving him for another man." Guilt-ridden sobs took any further words from me.

Mom squeezed my hands. "Honey, I'm sure Al understands what things were like for you while he was gone."

"He said he did. But…I'm not so sure anymore." I looked from her to Dad and hung my head again. "Tuesday night, he accused me of sleeping with Dirk and Jake while he was gone."

"Is that why you left?"

Nodding, I fought to get words out around my tears. "He's been drinking more and more since January, and he's been so angry. We fight all the time now and it's started to affect the girls. Theresa's been so nervous; Michele suddenly started having monsters in the closet." I shrugged listlessly. "I couldn't take it anymore. When he said…said…"

Mom stroked my forearm. "What did Al say, sweetie?"

"He was drunk and angry," I prefaced. "He threw back at me how he was penned in a cage and thinking of me while I was 'seeing other men.' And then," I couldn't look at either of them as I repeated Al's words, "he asked me if I'd even spared a thought for him while I was screwing them. So I…I slapped him."

"You…you hit him?" Mom asked, astounded. The idea of me striking Al seemed to supersede everything else.

"Hard. Across the face." I flexed my hand as I looked at it. "I don't know what came over me." I could still see the burning red imprint on Al's cheek in my mind's eye.

"What did he do after that?" Mom prompted when I stayed quiet.

I sighed. "Nothing. He just stared at me in shock with his hand pressed to his face." I told them about packing the suitcases, about Al begging me not to go. I told them everything, pausing often when tears battled me for control. "And when I drove off," I finished, "he was crumpled on our lawn, bawling like a little boy."

"I know that was hard for you to do," Dad quietly said, lightly touching my cheek.

A pain stabbed at my heart and I nodded. Through my weeping, I said, "It's the hardest thing I've ever done. I just…I just didn't know what else to do."

"You did the right thing."

"God, I hope so, Mom. I want my Al back. I miss him."

Mom nodded, and stroked my forearm. "I know, honey. It's tough being away from him."

"Not just that. I feel sometimes like I don't know this man that I've been living with for the past few months. He's consumed by pain and trying to drown it out with booze." I paused, and added, "And getting angrier all the time when it doesn't work." Blinking away fresh tears, I repeated, "I want my Al back."

Dad let me cry for a while, his big hand caressing mine. I was grateful for his quiet strength and presence. When I seemed to finally run out of tears, Dad reached to soothe my cheeks and kissed my forehead.

"Bethy, tell me why you left."

"I just did!"

"Honey, we've skirted around the issue, but you haven't said the words." He smiled gently. "Humor an old man, baby, and tell me your reasoning."

I couldn't return his smile. I looked down at the table and splayed my fingers out as I searched my mind for the words to say. An uneven breath filled my lungs and I sighed as I exhaled.

"I told Al he had to choose what was more important to him…me and our girls, or the booze. So I'm…I'm showing him what it might be like if he doesn't make the right choice."

"And learning it for yourself, too," Dad said, knowingly.

I nodded and scrubbed at my eyes. "I miss him!"

"I know, sweetheart. Tough love is called that for a reason. It's as hard on you as it is on Al," Mom said. She squeezed my hand encouragingly.

A timer went off in the kitchen and Mom stood up. "Dinner's just about ready," she said. "Go splash some cool water on your face, honey. Pete, call the others in, okay?"


After dinner, we went into the family room. My mom enlisted my help in a granny square afghan she was making and the two of us started teaching Angie how to crochet as she expressed an interest in helping as well. Theresa and Grace were watching television with Rob. Every so often the room was filled with sound of the laugh track. The twins were upstairs having a bath under my father's supervision. I could hear him leading them in a round of "Rubber Ducky" to the accompaniment of faint squeaks.

The phone rang and Rob got up to answer it. His face hardened as he listened to the voice on the other end and I wondered if it was an obscene phone call. Until he spoke.

"Listen up. You've put my sister through the wringer and if you think I'm going to let you talk to her when you're like this, you're nuttier than I thought!"

I dropped the crochet hook and my stomach clenched. He was talking to Al. I started to jump up and take the phone, but Mom laid a restraining hand on my arm and gently shook her head.

"It's not a good idea, honey," she whispered.

Rob raised his voice. "I don't care what you think you're entitled to! You haven't seen what she's going through and I'm not going to let you do this to her!"

I gripped the arm of the sofa, half out of my seat, as Rob continued to berate Al. Dad came downstairs, having finished with the twins' bath, and it didn't take him long to figure out what was going on.

"That's enough, Rob," he said, walking over and taking the phone from him. Words couldn't be deciphered, but Al's tinny voice could just be heard as he shouted a tirade in response. Rob shook his head in disgust and stalked outside. Angie gave me a sympathetic pat on my hand and then followed him.

"Al, this is Pete," Dad said when Al apparently paused for a breath. The volume of Al's voice abruptly dropped and we were unable to hear him anymore. For several minutes Dad listened and his eyes softened. "I know, son. I know. But this isn't the time. Not while you're drunk."

Al must have started arguing, because Dad sighed. "Albert, listen to me. … No, I did listen to you, now it's your turn. You can't talk to her right now, son. … No, that's coming from me. Call back when you're sober." He hung up. There was a finality in the click as the phone settled into the cradle.

I stood now, letting the yarn join the crochet hook on the floor. My chest felt as tight as it did the night we left. "He hasn't stopped yet?"

Dad shook his head, then crossed the room and hugged me tightly. "He was crying, Beth."

"Oh, no," I whispered. He had to be as desperate and depressed as he was wasted to cry in front of another man, even if it was only over the phone.

"He loves you, honey. That's coming through loud and clear."

"But not enough to stop drinking."

"Beth, it's not going to happen overnight."

I sighed and buried my face in his shoulder. "I know, Dad."

Mom stood and joined us, rubbing my back. "I'm sorry, honey. I know you miss Al."

"I should have talked to him."

"Why didn't you?" Bridget's cold voice startled us all.

Breaking away from my parents, I dropped to my knee and reached for her. "Bree, let me explain."

Bridget backed away from me. "No." Tears welled up in her eyes but they didn't drown out the defiant fire burning in them. "I hate you. I hate you! I hate you!" The last one ended in a scream and she turned and ran upstairs, slamming the bedroom door behind her.

I dropped my arms into my lap and choked on a surge of bile as her words hung in the air. Theresa and Grace stared at me, shock and horror on their faces. Dad rested a hand on my shoulder and squeezed bracingly.

"I'll go explain it to her. She doesn't know it was my fault." He squeezed my shoulder again then went upstairs.

"Was that Daddy on the phone?" Theresa slowly asked.

I hadn't gotten up yet, so I was still at her level and I nodded. Moments later I was glad I was kneeling as Theresa suddenly screamed, "Noooo!" and burst into tears. "I wanna talk to Daddy!" she wailed. She ran to me and I opened my arms to embrace her, but she launched herself at me and started pummeling me with her little fists.

"Theresa Marie! Stop that!" gasped Mom, and she bent to intervene, but I raised my hand to wave her off. Giving a tsk of disapproval, Mom picked a stunned Grace up instead and carried her into the next room, whispering soothing words before tears could erupt.

"I wanna talk to Daddy!" Theresa shrieked over and over again, until it became simply, "I want Daddy!"

"I know you do, baby," I said softly as her blows bounced off my chest. I'd probably have more than a few bruises in the morning, but she needed this outburst.

She hit me once more and then collapsed into my lap, utterly consumed by her tears. I picked her up and hugged her close, staggering to my feet. She gripped me tightly and cried into my neck.

"Oh, baby. I know you're hurting right now, and I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry." I cradled her head in my hand and twisted back and forth in a modified rocking motion. "I miss Daddy, too."

"I w-want m-my Daddy," she moaned, her whole body shaking as she wept.

"I know. Shh, shh. I know." I angled my head to kiss her wet cheek; the salt of her tears on my lips nearly broke my heart in two again. "I love you, Resa."

Theresa sobbed, "I love you, too. Mommy…I'm sorry I hit you."

"It's okay, baby girl. I know this is hard on you. You miss your Daddy."

"Uh-huh." She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. "I want Daddy."

Mom's chair was an upholstered rocking recliner, and I sat down and started it into motion. Theresa's weeping gradually subsided to an occasional sniffle and in time she fell asleep. I kept rocking, stroking her back and hair.

Grace toddled into the room, then plopped in front of the TV and started playing with a set of blocks. Mom followed immediately after and sat on the couch where I'd been sitting earlier. She watched me rock my exhausted child, and finally commented, "She wore herself out."

I nodded, continuing my caresses. "I didn't think about how this would affect the girls. I should've tried something else to get through to him."

"No, Beth. You did the right thing."

"Did I?" Shaking my head sadly, I gestured at the ceiling. "Bree is filled with rage right now, Theresa's torn up, and even Grace isn't herself. And Michele…" I stopped. "Where is Michele? I haven't seen her since before her bath."

"I'll find her." Mom got up and I heard her calling Michele as she searched the house. Minutes later, I heard her cry out, "Oh, Michele! Come here, sweetheart." She came back carrying my daughter, whose tear-stained face was as pale and shocked as she'd been when we'd left home. "She was hiding in the coat closet," explained Mom. Michele sucked her index finger and burst into fresh tears as soon as she saw me.

"Sheli! Come to Mommy, baby." I shifted Theresa to my left and reached up to take Michele with my right arm. Mom lowered Michele into my lap. It was hard to give Michele the attention she needed while still supporting Theresa. Mom lifted Theresa into her arms and sat down on the couch with my baby's sleeping form cradled her lap. I focused on Michele and caressed her cheeks. "I'm so sorry you have to go through all this, sweetie. You've been the little peacemaker, haven't you? But where's the peace for you?"

Michele hesitantly reached out with her right hand, her left index finger still in her mouth, and rubbed my earlobe. Her tears splashed onto her nightgown, leaving wet marks on Pooh Bear's head. She didn't say a word, just gazed mournfully at me.

"What are you feeling, honey? Tell Mommy."

I didn't get an answer. Michele sucked her finger and nestled her head into my chest, her small fingers seeking solace in the flesh of my earlobe. I exchanged a concerned glance with Mom.

"Are you sad?" As soon as I asked the question, I knew Michele had to be thinking, Duh, Mommy. Would I be crying if I weren't? "Are you angry with me?" I pressed.

Michele looked up at me and shook her head.

"Are you angry with Daddy?" Another shake of the head. "Baby, are you angry with someone else?" When I got another negative response, I sighed wearily and gently pulled her finger out of her mouth. "Michele, honey, I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong. Talk to me, precious."

"No more yelling," she said in a tiny voice.

"Oh, honey, I'm not going to yell at you."

Mom broke in quietly, "Beth, I don't think that's what she means."

"Ohhhhh," I realized. "Are you talking about Uncle Rob, Sheli?"

She slowly nodded, and added, "And Bridget and Resa. I don't like fighting."

"Resa wasn't fighting with me, honey. She misses Daddy and she had a lot of sad, mad feelings that she needed to get out."

"Uncle Rob was fighting with Daddy on the phone."

I pursed my lips and nodded. "Well, yes. Yes, he was. Uncle Rob's very angry with Daddy because…" I stopped, and when Mom nodded encouragingly at me, I continued, "Because Daddy's problems got so bad that I decided we had to leave. And Uncle Rob doesn't like seeing Mommy sad."

"I don't want you to be sad either," Michele told me. She pressed her head against my chest again. "Is Daddy still sad?"

"Yes, he is. And I wish I could make it better for him, but I can't. He has to do that on his own."

She nodded and suddenly asked, "Is Daddy a drunk?"

My eyes widened and I stopped rocking for a moment. I knew I hadn't said anything like that in front of the girls. I'd been very careful to avoid mentioning Al's drinking in their presence as much as I could. Perhaps she'd overheard conversations about Al being drunk, but I knew I hadn't called him a drunk in front of her.

"Where did you hear that?" I carefully questioned.

"Uncle Rob—after he stopped shouting at Daddy he went to the front door. I heard him tell Angie that Daddy was nothing but a drunk and a loser and he didn't know why you ever married him."

Mom gasped in outrage. I closed my eyes and counted to ten.

"Michele, honey, I want you to listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you. A long time ago Daddy fought in a war and…some very terrible things happened to him. The government gave him some medals because of it. I want you to understand something—your Daddy is a hero." I looked into her eyes to search for comprehension and I saw a brief flare of pride. "Do you think a hero should be called a loser?"

"No."

"Neither do I." I sighed.

"Mommy, did Daddy lose the war? Is that why Uncle Rob called him a loser?"

Her innocent question caused a wave of pain to surge in my heart. "No, Sheli. Uncle Rob was calling Daddy names because he was angry with him."

"Why'd he call him a loser then?" she persisted.

"A loser is someone who has never done anything important in their life. And that's not true of Daddy at all. Daddy's gotten medals, and he's flown in space. He's taught people how to fly planes for the Navy." I gently touched her nose, "And he has you and your sisters to be a Daddy to."

I got a faint smile for that one and I followed up by kissing her nose.

"Now, as for Uncle Rob calling Daddy a drunk. Uncle Rob shouldn't have said that, either. He made a mistake and I'm sorry you had to hear that."

"What's a drunk?" she insisted.

"A drunk is somebody who only cares about alcohol…do you know what alcohol is, honey?"

"Grown-up drink, right?"

I nodded. "Some grown-ups think alcohol can make them forget bad things or make them feel better when they're sad."

"Why do they think that, Mommy?"

"Sheli, do you remember when you scraped your knee?"

She scrunched her brow, but nodded.

"Do you remember how scared and hurt and sad you felt?"

"Uh-huh."

"And do you remember how I picked you up and hugged you and kissed you to make you feel better? Then after we put a Band-Aid on your knee and I asked you what you wanted, you said a glass of apple juice."

"I like apple juice."

I smiled and kissed her forehead. "Honey, you know how I just told you that terrible things happened to Daddy in the war? His hurt was as big as if he'd scraped a million knees all at once. It was so big that sometimes Daddy remembers his hurt and it makes him very sad and scared. So sad and scared that no matter how much I hug and kiss him, he doesn't feel any better. And instead of having a glass of juice, Daddy is trying to feel better by drinking alcohol."

"Did it work?"

"No, honey, it didn't. Because alcohol only makes things worse. In Daddy's case, it made him even more sad than he already was—and it didn't stop him from remembering the hurt." I crooked a finger under her chin and looked seriously at her. "That's why we left, honey. Because my asking Daddy to stop drinking wasn't enough."

"So he's being punished because he's a drunk?"

"Your father is not a drunk, Michele. Daddy's not to the point where all he cares about is alcohol. He still loves us, and that's why I hope this punishment will work." Addressing the last of Rob's comments, I said, "Baby, I love your Daddy. I always have, and I always will. That's why I married him, and that's why we had you girls." I kissed her and added, "Do you understand?"

Michele nodded. "Why doesn't Bree understand?"

"Bree's angry. She loves Daddy and she's mad at me for making her leave him. And it's okay that she feels that way."

"I don't want to sleep with her tonight," Michele declared. "She said she hates you and I don't."

"She didn't mean it, Michele," Mom broke in. "She's just upset."

Michele leaned forward in my lap to meet her grandmother's eyes. "But, Nana, she tells me if I love Daddy I'll be mad at Mommy, too." She looked at me. "And I'm not mad at you, Mommy!"

I framed her face with my hands. "Oh, Sheli. Honey, Bridget's wrong. You don't have to choose between me and Daddy."

Michele started crying, "I love you, Mommy. And I love Daddy and I miss him!"

I hugged her close. "I know you do, baby. I love you, too. And so does Daddy."

"Can I sleep with you tonight?"

"All right."

Mom gave me a look that wasn't quite disapproving, but implied that she didn't think it was a good thing to start. Maybe she was right, but comforting my kids was more important to me than anything right now.

Dad came downstairs, a weary look on his face.

"That one's got a lot of anger," he said. "I finally got her to understand that you weren't keeping her from her Daddy tonight, Beth, but I just couldn't break through that wall she's got up. She cried herself to sleep."

"Thanks for trying, Dad." I smiled wryly, "She's so much like Al. She inherited his Calavicci stubbornness."

He grinned encouragingly at me then bent to swoop Grace in the air. She squealed and giggled as Dad asked, "Well, Gracie-pooh, what do you say we go wash all that outdoors off of ya?" He flipped her onto his shoulders and carted her playfully upstairs.

Mom gestured at Theresa in her lap. "What about this one?"

I shook my head. "Let her skip it. She's worn out and I think I'm just gonna put her to bed."

Michele yawned, the steady motion of the rocker lulling her into drowsiness. She snuggled her head into my chest and stuck her index finger into her mouth, sucking contentedly.

"Did Rob leave?" I quietly asked when Michele's brown eyes slid closed.

Mom shook her head. "He and Angie are on the front porch."

"I don't appreciate what he said about Al."

"I know, honey. He thinks he's looking out for you by taking his anger out on Al. I guess Bridget's a lot like him, too."

I snorted. "I guess you're right." I leaned my head back against the cushion of the chair. "Oh, Mom, I wish there had been another way."

"I know, Beth." Mom eased Theresa out of her lap onto the sofa cushions and stood, "I'm going to go have a talk with your brother."