Thank God for caller ID. At least Liza could let the phone ring when she knew it was a bill collector and not a friend or family member who might need her in an emergency. It would soon be irrelevant, for she didn’t even have the money to pay her overdue phone bill.
There had always been money problems since the divorce and she had persevered through 2 years of college for Lacey. Now, Lacey had dropped out and was wallowing in apathy and indecision. “This is real life time girlfriend” Liza had said to Lacey when she delivered the news about college. “I know Mom…and I’m ready for a real job and some responsibility.” Lacey had been accepted at the last minute to the nursing program at the local community college, much to everyone’s surprise. She was ecstatic about this turn of luck and eager to work toward a goal. Somewhere during the deadly first eight weeks, Lacey had lost that eager spirit. By October, she was out of the program and unemployed as well. What bothered Liza the most was that Lacey didn’t seem to care that so much had been sacrificed for her.
Liza sat in tears alone remembering the latest blowup. She had gone off on Lacey when she found her under the covers at 5pm with “the cramps”. “Are you EVER gonna get off your ass and do something” Liza screamed. She had had it up to here with Lacey’s procrastination and irresponsibility. “Mom..WHAT??” Lacey glared at her mother, knowing with all of her heart that she was a loser and a disappointment to everyone, herself included. Liza’s tears began to flow hot and angry. “You don’t understand Lacey, how things are”. “Yes I do” she screamed. “But there’s nothing I can do.” Liza counted to 10 and pulled back her anger.
“Lacey, we are going under financially. You need to get a job, and it doesn’t matter what it is. Meanwhile, you can help with the chores around the house and quit worrying about being with Lumpy every day!” The thought of centering her life around a man was so foreign to Liza by now that she couldn’t relate to her daughter at all. But then Lacey was only 20 and thought that marriage was a fairy tale.
Liza dug her hands angrily into the soapy water and got back to the dishwashing at hand. Within a few minutes, she heard keys jangle and Lacey was gone into the fog…..running from her mother’s angry tirade. Her headlights disappeared down the lane toward Lumpy’s house and no hassles. Liza’s frustrations and sense of helplessnes were dissolving into tears and sobs now. She dialed Lacey’s cell number and got voice mail each time. That left her to stew in her own turmoil.
Mike was on his way to see her for the first time in weeks, and she was a mess of swollen face and tension. Liza called him and sobbed “ You might not want to come over here. I’m not in a very good mood!” “What’s wrong?” he asked with concern. “I’m so tired of everything and everybody and tired of struggling and …and….” She couldn’t talk for the sobbing. “Relax” Mike said. “I’ll be there shortly”
Mike’s presence in her life was mostly a blessing, in spite of the complications. He listened intently to every pity party she ever threw and was a constant friend, if only by telephone usually. Faith heard the car door slam and growled a low “Woof”. Mike’s smiling face appeared in glass and she went ballistic in friendly recognition. Liza waved him in and he was greeted with a full body tongue bath by the friendly dog. “Hey there you woofie” Mike purred to Faith. He had a chocolate lab of his own, but his was a male and not as loving and friendly as Faith. He adored this pup!
The two of them settled on the couch with Faith nosing in between them. “What’s wrong now? “ he asked with concern. Liza’s tears had dried, but her face was puffy from crying. “ Oh, it’s just a girl thing” she replied. She knew from experience that when the raging hormones of mother and daughter crossed, it would all be forgotten the next day. Mike smiled in appreciation. “Give her a few days….it will be fine”. They often talked about their kids. His was an almost sixteen year old son who alternately adored and despised his Dad according to the issue at hand. Hunting, fishing and four-wheeling were all acceptable topics. Anything more remotely personal was off limits. Particularly sex.
Mike’s first “girlfriend” had laughingly referred to him as 1/3 Boy Scout, 1/3 All American Boy and 1/3 Choir Boy. He had been a faithful husband and father for close to 25 years when the marriage started unraveling. He and Liza often talked about the possibilities for a future and they looked grim. Mike was self employed and would have no support from friends or family if he left his “perfect” wife. He was afraid of losing his son’s company during his teenage years. He was even more afraid of losing Liza’s friendship, though.