Summary – Section Four, Chapters Fifty Nine, Sixty, Sixty One, Sixty Two and Sixty Three
In January, it was freezing and ice chunks the size of cars floated down the Hudson River. The shelters filled quickly, but Jeannette’s parents hated them anyway and preferred to sleep in churches. When these were full, Dad went to a shelter and Mom and their dog went to Lori’s. At these times, Mom’s façade would crack and she would cry.
For a while, Jeannette considered leaving college to help them, but Lori convinced her that this would do no good and it would break their father’s heart. He was immensely proud that he had a daughter studying at an Ivy League college. Brian also pointed out that their parents had options, such as working or moving back to West Virginia or Phoenix. Their mother also had jewelry including the diamond Brian had found, and the property in Phoenix and land in Texas.
Chapter Sixty explains that Mom and Dad survived the winter, but every time Jeannette saw them they looked ‘a little worse for the wear’. In the spring, she was told he had tuberculosis. She visited him in hospital and he told her he had been reading more about chaos theory and particularly ‘a study of the transition between order and turbulence’. This had led him to think there was a possibility that God existed.
In Chapter Sixty One, Jeannette records how he stayed in hospital for six weeks and not only beat tuberculosis, but had also been sober longer than any time since his ‘detox’ in Phoenix. He knew he would start drinking again if he went back on the streets and so found a job as a maintenance man in an upstate resort. He tried to persuade Mom to join him there, but she refused and said it was ‘the sticks’.
He called Jeannette from time to time and said how he enjoyed his work and was staying sober. In November, though, she received a call from Brian and he told her that Mom had persuaded Dad to quit his job and return to New York. She asked Brian if he thought he would start drinking again; Brian said he had already.
The children all had their own lives now as Jeannette was in college, Lori was an illustrator and Brian was serving in the auxiliary force until he was old enough to take the police entrance examination. In addition, Maureen still lived with Lori and attended high school.
That Christmas Jeannette bought her father warm clothes and when he opened the present he said she must be ashamed of him and walked out. Their mother said they had to see it from his point of view as all this money had been spent on him when their presents were from the streets. Jeannette presumed her mother did not want hers either, but she said she loved getting presents.
Chapter Sixty Two recounts how in August Dad asked to talk to Jeannette about her course selection for that year. She told him she was thinking of dropping out as she still owed $1,000 for her tuition fees and he asked why she had not told him sooner. He called a week later and met her Lori’s home. Here, he gave her $950 in cash and a mink coat which he said could raise at least $50. He won the money at poker and both parents insisted she take it.
In Chapter Sixty Three, Jeannette tells of when her mother called a month later to tell her excitedly that they had found a place to live. They were squatting and she said how they were like the pioneers ‘“who helped tame the Wild West”’.
Jeannette went to see them and noted how rundown and similar it was to their house in Welch. Her parents were clearly proud, though, and had made friends in the neighborhood: ‘After all those years of roaming, they’d found home.’
She graduated that spring and Mom said it would be a lot of boring speeches and did not come. She wanted to invite Dad but dare not risk him turning up drunk. She told him this and he accepted it: ‘“I don’t have to see my Mountain Goat grabbing a sheepskin to know she’s got a college degree.”’
This chapter ends with the news that Jeannette had been dating a man called Eric for several years and he lived alone in an apartment on Park Avenue. When he heard she was looking for a roommate he suggested she moved in with him.
Analysis – Section Four, Chapters Fifty Nine, Sixty, Sixty One, Sixty Two and Sixty Three
Jeannette’s move to Park Avenue brings the work to a full circle and is this was her address at the beginning of the narrative when she was embarrassed by her mother rummaging in skips. By coming full circle, she has explained how this mother and daughter have come to live such vastly different lives even if she has not fully investigated why her parents often did not take into account the varied needs of their children.