Helping Sis Pick A Dress

by Lubrican

Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Chapter Eight

Since our father was a foreign national at the time he died, the Ontario Provincial Police notified the State Department, which then notified two families of the tragedy.

Why two?

It turned out our father was a bigamist, with two wives and two families. He had two phones on him when he died, one for each family, and nobody knew which was the "right" one to notify. So they notified both of them and let us work it out. Suddenly we knew why he had been "too far away" to come home on a number of holidays in the past.

Mom was devastated, of course, by both his death and the knowledge that came with it. A side effect of his criminal behavior was that he had married the other woman first, which meant she had legal claim to being his wife, his life insurance, everything. She saw my mother as being the home-wrecker in the story, even though Mom didn't know about any of it. She probably thought of Cathy and me as bastard children, too, but I never met her.

Cathy's and my reactions were different from Mom's. I think we felt betrayed, too, but on more than one occasion I thought that, under other circumstances, my father might have made a good Taliban. His political beliefs were rabid. He felt like women were inferior creatures and should be controlled by a man. He certainly acted like he owned Mom and Cathy. The fact that he based this on the Bible rather than the Koran didn't make any difference, really. The way he had treated Cathy was a little like an honor killing, without the actual killing part. Sure, I had some good memories, but the Taliban make some good memories, too.

I was furious with him for hurting Mom, though, and that's why I didn't miss him. His other wife claimed the body and buried him. We didn't even go to the funeral. The "system" is pretty heartless in situations like this. To the law, it's all black and white, and the shades of gray that are "the other family" are ignored completely.

The exception was our university family. Granted, they didn't know all the details, but they gave us both time off to go to what they thought of as our "home". Michael drove us there in his car so we wouldn’t have to endure the bus trip.

Mom was torn up, listless, her spirit broken when we got there. All we could do was hold her while she cried. Michelle picked up on the atmosphere and started crying, too, which was the first time Mom actually realized she was there. Mom had never seen her granddaughter, and I think Michelle might have saved Mom's sanity, because she went into Grandma mode and got a grip.

We knew we had to be there for Mom at Christmas, and planned to stay until after the new year.

Oddly, there was nothing to do, concerning his death. As I said, wife number one claimed the body. We weren't invited to the funeral, which was in Oregon anyway, clear across the country. I imagine it's a little like when a soldier dies in a foreign land, going missing in battle and is never found. There's no body for his people to bury and no real closure. Dad's belongings at our house suddenly seemed sparse, consisting of some clothes, his 2004 Mustang, and the tools he used to work on the Mustang. That's what he drove when he was home. He didn't let me use it very often and he never let Cathy take it out. I used it to take all his clothes to the Goodwill store.

Being home was bittersweet for Cathy and me. Mom had loved Dad, and that didn't magically go away just because she found out he had cheated on her ever since they met.  I realize he was really cheating on his real wife, not on Mom, but that's how she saw it. They met at her work, of course. He stopped for lunch one day and flirted and since he wasn't wearing a wedding ring, and was handsome, she flirted back. The rest, as they say, is history. I have to hand it to him, he was good at compartmentalizing his married life.

For Cathy and me, though, the sooner all traces of him were gone, the better. True, he was our biological father, but for those first few years after he died, that was all we saw him as. Later, the good times would surface and mitigate our disgust for him, but once the bandage was ripped off, we saw him for the scar he was. Maybe that sounds heartless, but you reap what you sow, and he was pretty heartless, too. And not just to our family.

Eventually it was time to head back to school. Mom decided that, since we had Michelle and all, we should take her van and that she'd drive the Mustang. That was a real windfall for us. I packed most of the tools, too, since the van was eight years old and would need some maintenance. At least my old man had taught me how to do that kind of thing.

It was different, having a car. I think Cathy and I felt more married, somehow. It was obvious to both of us that, barring some love miracle, neither of us was going to go out and find some normal person to fall in love with. Michelle made it seem like we could be almost married, and that was fine with us, so nothing much changed that next semester. Michelle started pulling herself up on furniture, and then walking. She spoke five or six words. "Mama" was her favorite. When she wanted me to pick her up or play with her or whatever, she reached for me and said "Mama." Michael and Tiffany thought this was hilarious, and they started calling me "Mom" around the house. Incidentally, Michelle called both of them "Bo" for reasons nobody could ever figure out. They were like her aunt and uncle.

Cathy hadn't had a period since giving birth, but all the experts said that was normal, seeing as how she was breastfeeding not only Michelle, but also donating breast milk to the experimental folks. Later on she'd actually suckle babies whose mothers were breastfeeding but who couldn't be at the day care center at all feeding times. Some pumped, of course, but if they wanted to be in the experimental group, they could also opt in for donated milk, too.

She planned on weaning Michelle at one year, but eight months in she started gaining weight. This was picked up because all the women who were either breastfeeding or donating milk to the program got weekly checkups and all their vital data was recorded. So they cared if a woman gained or lost ounces, much less pounds. She kept gaining weight and it was one of the researchers, in fact, who suggested it might not be dietary. Her doctor didn't think the theory would hold water, but he took urine and sent it to the lab.

Once again, Cathy and I were involved in an unplanned pregnancy.  So much for breastfeeding preventing pregnancy.

Mom's response was, "I didn't know you had a boyfriend," and Cathy said, "I don't, Mom," and Mom said, "Bobby was supposed to take care of  you!" and Cathy said, "Don't turn into Dad, Mom," before she thought about it. The ensuing silence upset Cathy and she decided to drive back home and smooth ruffled feathers. I had to work, so I took care of Michelle while Cathy drove the 200 miles by herself.

I never got the whole story. It was a mother/daughter moment. What I do know happened, was that Mom was upset and went on and on about how Cathy was ruining her life and how no decent man would want her and she'd never get married and what kind of man fathered a child and then abandoned it.  Anyway, at some point Cathy couldn't take it anymore and just yelled, "Bobby is Michelle's father. He's the father of this one, too!" Cathy said she cupped her stomach, which wasn't really pooching yet. It's a time-honored gesture, though, and it brought home to Mom that her daughter was with child again, and she was going to be a grandmother two times over.

Naturally, Mom was aghast, especially when Cathy blamed it all on Dad. That was ridiculous, of course, but her story about how after the birth control thing happened Dad had been so controlling and so dictatorial was plausible. Mom knew Cathy had never been allowed to have a boyfriend, and Cathy's anguished, "I needed some-body to love!" got traction in the moment. Mom didn't think about why Cathy might have wanted to be on birth control to begin with. Not then anyway. And if she thought about that later, she never said anything.

A truce was struck when Cathy started crying about losing both her parents. That's all I was ever told. I'm sure there was a lot more said, but in the end, Mom decided that, since Michelle was undamaged by the ravages of incest, maybe the new baby would be okay, too.

And all this is just an example of how society, being the ultimate do-gooder it is, feels like it can and should "do good" for its members. And I get that. To be civilized, we can't have things like murder, rape, theft, and chaos running rampant. So there have to be some rules. At the same time, history is full of examples of humans starting with a good idea, and making a law about it, and then taking things way farther than they need to actually go. The ten commandments are a good example, though of course their origin isn't reported as being human. Still, they're ten pretty good ideas on how to run a mostly calm, good to live in society. But humans didn't think the original author was specific enough, so they added to it until instead of ten rules, we now have ten million.

One of those is that a brother and sister are not allowed to love each other like a husband and wife are.

Cathy and I ignored that, and we ended up happy.

So was our mother.

In fact, we let her name our third child.

The End

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