Summary – Section Four, Chapters Sixty Four, Sixty Five, Sixty Six, Sixty Seven and Sixty Eight
Jeannette invited her parents to visit, but her father never did come as he said he would feel out of place. Her mother did and she asked her if she could do anything to help her and Dad. She said they did not need anything, but were very worried about her as they thought she had ‘sold out’ and asked where her values had gone.
This question of values was related to Jeannette’s work. She had been given a weekly column about ‘the movers and shakers’ and was invited to dozens of parties, balls and dinners.
While working in this environment she was convinced that she would not keep her job if people found out the truth about her parents. If she could not avoid talking about them, she lied.
In Chapter Sixty Five, Jeannette explains that living with Eric was ‘calm and predictable’ and she needed this. After four years together they married.
Shortly after the marriage, Mom’s brother, Jim, died and Mom asked Jeannette to do her a favour. She and Jim had inherited a half each of the land in Texas and Mom said that she now wanted to keep the land in the family. She said it cost a million dollars and Jeannette pointed out that her share was as big as his. Mom said ‘more or less’ and Jeannette said it must be worth the same as Uncle Jim’s then, and Mom said she did not know as she had not had it appraised. She just said her father had taught her to never sell land. This was ‘an article of faith’. Whatever Jeannette asked her, she continued to say it was important to keep land in the family. Jeannette told her it was too much money, and her mother said she was disappointed in her.
In Chapter Sixty Six, some background to the other children is given. Lori was working as a freelance artist by now and Brian joined the police force as soon as he turned 20. Maureen had graduated from high school and enrolled in college but ‘never really applied herself’ and ended up living with Mom and Dad. The longer she stayed there, ‘the more lost she became’. She and Dad would get into screaming fights and he called her ‘a sick puppy, the runt of the litter’ and she called him ‘a worthless drunk’.
She barely left the apartment at one point, but Jeannette persuaded her to visit. She tried to talk to Maureen about her future but Maureen said she only wanted to fight the Mormon cults that had kidnapped thousands of people in Utah.
Jeannette told their mother that Maureen needed professional help, but her mother denied it. The doctors said she needed to seek her own help or be placed under an order of court. Six months later Maureen stabbed Mom. This happened after Mom told her to move out, ‘to develop a little self-sufficiency’. Maureen snapped, and Mom insisted she had not meant to kill her. She did need stitches, though, and the police were called.
In court, she was denied bail and in the hallway they argued with each other about whose fault it was that Maureen had done this. Maureen was sent to an upstate hospital. She was released after a year and on her release she immediately bought a one-way bus ticket to California. Jeannette thought they should stop her, but Brian approved and thought she should get away from ‘them’.
Maureen did not want anyone to see her off. Jeannette got up when she was scheduled to leave and thought about her as her bus would have been pulling away and said sorry, ‘sorry for everything’.
Chapter Sixty Seven explains how after this the remaining children barely saw their parents. Brian was married and had a child and Lori was in touch but independent of them.
About a year after Maureen left for California, Jeannette had a call from Dad and he asked her to come over. He told her he was dying and they talked and she apologized for not inviting him to her graduation. He said, ‘to hell with that’ and added that he was proud of her and said whenever he thinks of her he thinks he must have done something right. She said, ‘“course you did”’.
Chapter Sixty Eight describes how her father had a heart attack two weeks later. When she reached the hospital, his eyes were closed and he was hooked up to machines. She felt like scooping him up and charging out with him, ‘to check out Rex Walls-style one last time’. Instead, she took his hand and an hour later they turned the machines off.
In the following months she felt she always wanted to be somewhere other than where she was. She came to realize that being on the move was not enough and had to re-consider everything. A year after her father died she left Eric and took a small apartment on the West Side. Her compulsion to keep moving faded, but used to go for long walks at night: ‘The city lights obscured the stars, but on clear nights, I could see Venus on the horizon, up over the dark water, glowing steadily.’
Analysis – Section Four, Chapters Sixty Four, Sixty Five, Sixty Six, Sixty Seven and Sixty Eight
The revelation that Mom’s land was worth an estimated million dollars is both shocking and yet typical of the person the readers must have come to at least wonder at. Once again, Jeannette relates the story rather than examines it, and the readers are left to puzzle over the unnecessary hardships the children have had to endure. This is made especially relevant as Maureen is still evidently scarred by the experiences she has had to suffer and has managed to cope by moving across the country away from her family.