People have asked how Vince can write so well, considering he dropped out of school at 16. First, I read and talked to him from Day One. Second, I got a full scholarship to send him to a Montessori preschool. Then, even though I am such a city person that I break into hives when I pass outside the city limits, I moved to a suburb in order to send him to the highest-ranked public school system in Minnesota.
Vince was 10 when I finally finished my college degree. That enabled me to get a new job that paid $20,000 a year—$20,000!—that seemed like a fortune. I also loved the job, which was at a private university. Vince and I lived in a safe and clean—if vanilla—subsidized housing project. I had pulled myself up by the bootstraps, and the future looked like it would only get better.
Here is where I “mom up” to the episode that really blew us off course and (I think) screwed Vince up.
As I type the words, “And then I met a man…” I feel my palms start sweating and my stomach tighten.
Let’s just call the man Kermit, because he was about as short, slippery, and spineless as a frog.
Kermit was originally from California and was finishing his neurosurgery residency in Minnesota. He adored Vince, the poor fatherless boy with the big brown eyes and quick wit, and Vince adored him. Kermit adored me, too, the spunky single mother with blonde hair and great legs who read novels by the pile. He only read medical journals.
Looking back, I guess I fell in love with him because I felt sorry for him. He had been abused by his mother. He told me about it in great detail. I tried to empathize by telling him about my alcoholic father who had beaten my mother in front of me and then committed suicide. He said that wasn’t the same thing at all—since my dad had died so long ago I shouldn’t blame my problems on him. Besides, Kermit would say as he slugged down his fifth rum and coke, you can’t hold an alcoholic accountable for what they do when they’re drunk; they can’t help it. Now, his mother was really abusive, and she didn’t even drink! The Witch was still alive. Becoming a brain surgeon had been his plan to escape from her and never have to ask her or his dad, who was a saint, for anything ever again.
There were a few episodes of foreshadowing, like when he got jealous and hurled a can of Coke against my kitchen wall, and left me to wipe up the mess. Or when a cop pulled him over for erratic driving, and he flashed his hospital ID and told the cop, “You wouldn’t want to throw me in jail, would you officer? I might be the one you need to operate on you if you get shot.” He laughed about it when he told me later.
But then he moved back to California to join a practice there, and begged me to marry him and join him. I said yes.
He was living in a penthouse apartment overlooking the Pacific, but he hired a realtor who started sending me full-color glossy profiles of million-dollar houses. “Just get rid of all your furniture and move out there asap!” he’s say. “You can go shopping wherever you want and buy all new furniture!” He had bought a red Maserati, but he would buy me an SUV—a Mercedes, of course—not a Ford! Vince would go to a private boarding school, and wait—what? When I expressed hesitation, Kermit accused me of not wanting the best for my child.
Alarm bells were going off in my head but I ignored them. My friends and family were beside themselves that I had not only met a man, but a rich one—a doctor! And so I quit my new job, gave notice on the subsidized townhouse, and gave away most of my belongings. We were moving to California! What could possibly go wrong?