Posted on 28 June 2008

Penelope and I

My friend Penelope was in town last week for a court case. She was angry at the way things went. She thought she had a good case but said that once in the courtroom, it felt as if the decision had been made before the trial. She was angry at herself too for being flustered when told that the afternoon – her time – would be cut to less than two hours. (She was only told this when she returned from lunch.) She’d flown all the way from the Yukon to be treated so unfairly…

Penn and I met at York University, first year theatre arts – nearly 40 years ago – and we’ve been getting together once or twice a year ever since. Why do some friendships last and others fade away? Although asking this, I remember that Rob and I got together several months ago with a friend from Ryerson – must have been over 35 years since we’d seen Allan. He took the photographs at our wedding. I felt awkward at first – wasn’t sure the man in the lobby was him (less hair) but within minutes, it was as if no time had passed.

Penny’s visit was a gift. (She hates to have that “y” on her name now – I think of it as an endearment.) I took several days off from my work and simply played. We went for a long walk on the beach and after, happened upon a wine tasting that we both enjoyed (first time I tried $80 a bottle wine), shared an amazing fish dinner at an outdoor cafe, and the next day, we went to see King Lear on the beach – an updated version (set in the near future) with music and chorus. I forgot at times that it was a tragedy… and I had forgotten just how tragic the ending is.

The next day I dropped Penn at the airport and I went back to work for a day.

Tuesday was the finale (hopefully) to Maggie’s relationship with the slimy man who locked her out of her own house. She has only been allowed in once with his lawyer present – to itemize all her and their material possessions. But the dreadful man to whom she is still married would not allow her in to collect all. He said that it would be too traumatic for him and named me as her representative. I think he wanted to hide things. (When I asked him towards the end to walk through and see if the movers had packed everything that belonged to her, he refused.)

Maggie and I showed up at the house together. He came down the walk looking angry but she quickly said that she had to give the movers instructions. When the three arrived, they were wonderful – first of all, they took the wicker couch from the porch (that was hers) and sat it on the grassy boulevard beyond the sidewalk – public property – for her to use and there she sat and read. He – the horrible he of her past – went and sat with her several times, brought her diet cokes, and wanted to know yet another time why the relationship had failed – though he instigated the break – he must be extremely thick.

When things were to be split in two or rather, shared – like the baking dishes – he chose and gave me the leftovers. When I complained that he chose the best stuff, he called me petty – didn’t recognize the projection. He’s a mean-spirited, unkind, self-indulgent, power-hungry, sneaky asshole and I had to bite my tongue more than once to keep myself from lambasting him.

The worst moment was when I was stuck in the attic with him, dividing Christmas decorations. He asked why no one in the family had called him to get his side of the story. I said not a word. He asked what my mother and father thought of him. I said they were angry. And then he proceeded to tell me how unethical my sister is – basically because she would not put his name on the property she had owned before the marriage, and later signed it over to her son. I said not a word but I thought plenty… I wanted the stuff out before I let loose. But I never let loose. In the end, I was exhausted, wished him a nice life and left.

For the next few days, I played through some of our interactions in my head and came up with all kinds of smart things that I could have said but didn’t. Why is it always after the fact that the right things come to mind? Though I doubt that any words would have got through his thick head. He blames Maggie for everything. He sees himself as the victim. In reality, he’s a small-minded, mean, vindictive little man who isn’t willing to take any responsibility for the breakup.

Before I left, I could have hurt him. I could have said that his first wife is “ecstatically divorced.” His second common-in-law partner thinks he is a thief. And my sister thinks he’s pathetic. But I didn’t. I couldn’t hurt anyone in this way – but he would have deserved it… I am just thankful that my beautiful, generous, ethical, fun-loving, vivacious sister is finally free of him.

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