Goodbye, Hugh

That stinging feeling, like a fresh sunburn, is unmistakable. That familiar weight fills your chest, your breath leaves your body, and your frame, once tall and strong, is now wilted and broken. Disappointment. Disapproval is hard to swallow, but more so when you’ve tried, tried, tried your best and yet, it still rears its ugly head. You know the kind I mean. The type where you stroll in, proud as a peacock, pleased with your astounding accomplishments, ready for the world’s congratulations; yet, to your dismay your efforts are squashed like a mosquito on a hot summers day, annoying and insignificant. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all known that one person who’s too hard to please, a boss, a parent, or a spouse. It doesn’t really matter who they are, only that they are all the same. There are a few things the population as a whole, regardless of race, country, culture or religion can agree on, but I promise you disappointment is one of those things. Recently, I was vividly reminded of this while helping a friend. Her pain was all too real as I watched events unfold which I could not control. I felt that hurt, pain, and disappointment as if it were my own. Realistically, it felt so real because I’d been there, in her shoes. Maybe a pair of shoes, a different time, or a different place, but I’d been there.

My good friend, Sarah, is a hard working, resilient, young mother. She’s not perfect, not unlike any human, but lord knows she tries her best daily. She struggles with intermittent work placement, adapts to her son’s unforeseen disability, and she’s plagued with an ongoing illness. On good days, Sarah has limited ability of her body, severe pain throughout her extremities, auditory and visual problems, forgetfulness, lethargy, and severe digestion issues. But, what is truly remarkable about Sarah is her ability to bounce back from her husband’s never-ending levels of perfection. The type that is frustrated with you if you’ve left the house with lint on your clothes, if you sneeze in the freshly cleaned car, and god help you, should you bring an animal around him. I think you understand what I mean. So, it’s a Friday and I happen to have a day off which I decide to spend helping out my good friend, Sarah. As I walk into her front entrance she’s hunched over her counter with a calculator, pen, paper, and a scarf tied tightly around her waist. “You doing ok today?” I inquire spying the brightly colored red coif coiling her frail waist. “Yes, thank you”. She just smiles, but I can see her wince with pain as she rises to stand. She’s scrolling through flyers, calculating grocery bill totals. They’re tight on money lately, but Hugh is exceptionally particular with his food… not unlike the rest of his life. So I snuggle in beside her and get to searching. An hour later we’re on the road. She has seven stores on her list to be able to afford the specific items Hugh demands, plus she’s due to help him buy a table set at Lowe’s, join him at Yoga, pick up their son and her cat. We all know it isn’t his and he certainly could care less whether the poor thing lives or dies. By the fourth store I can see Sarah fading. She hasn’t stopped to eat or rest yet. “Want to grab a little bit to eat?” I say, pointing to the hotdog stand at Costco. “No, thank you. I need to keep all of this for groceries.” I stand, staring blankly for a moment, studying her face to see if she’s kidding. She isn’t. “Are you kidding me? They’re a dollar fifty! He won’t even let you have a hot dog?” The words leave my mouth like verbal diarrhea. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to. Before the poor thing could answer I turn swiftly on my heels and head straight to the hotdog lineup. Eff that… I understand being monetarily responsible, but geez! You send the poor, ill, woman out for a day of errands and don’t let her eat? Somewhere… someone has to step in! Fast forward a few hours and we’ve gathered all her groceries and even managed to squeeze in a few extra little goodies, Hugh’s Favorites… If you missed the sarcasm there, this is me making sure you didn’t. Ahem, Back to Friday. While picking up Sebastian, aka “Sebby”, the little guy demanded to have Daddy put him in the car. Hugh flings open the door and almost drops Sebby as he lets out a child-like sigh of disappointment. “You got the s&%t maple syrup? I hate this one!” He buckles Sebby in and slams the door. Stomping off like a three year old, mid-tantrum, oblivious to the on-looking company. Sarah doesn’t even get the chance to defend herself. They were two for $12! They’re still organic and made in Canada… She was so proud when she found those. I feel crushed for her. Hopping in his own car he flies off and leaves her to handle the baby, the cat (hissing and freaking out at the thought of a car ride), and all the groceries. My heart pangs. Crushed, exhausted, and nauseous she climbs into the car and drives home, silent as a mouse, for the long ride. She arrives home and Hugh is already out of the car. Its absolutely teaming cats and dogs outside, but he waits inside nonetheless. First, she scoops the actual cat up, covers her carefully, and runs inside. He watches, no movement towards the door. Soaked to the bone and freezing, she heads back outside to collect little Sebby from the car. He waits patiently, excited to see his mother when she returns. She scoops him up, covers him lovingly, and runs inside. By this point, Hugh is nowhere to be seen. “Go find Daddy,” Sarah urges as she heads back outside for the car stuffed full of groceries. Truthfully, she doesn’t want to leave Sebby alone for fear that Hugh has made himself unavailable entirely, but she can’t let the meat spoil either. Keeping one eye on the door and one on her task, she picks up as many groceries as possible and runs for shelter. Six loads later she makes it to the door, hands filled to the brim, marks turning purple where the plastic digs into her skin, and she taps the door with her foot. No movement. Eff. She taps again, no movement. She pushes slightly harder and the door flies open with purpose. Yikes. As she enters Hugh flies down the hall, enraged with anger. “Careful with the effing door, Sarah! What do you think it is, a soccer ball?” By this point she’s starving, overworked, exhausted, freezing, and soaking wet. She’s beyond taking sass at this point. “Why did you close the door on me? And, what? You can’t come out and help me? I’m soaking wet!” All good points, but he could care less. “Oh poor you, yeah, that’s it Sarah… how do you like it? Now it’s your turn for once.” He’s spewing hate by this point, not even making sense. Sarah tries to defend herself. She’s gotten the groceries and tended to all errands on her own for months now (also, let’s not forget the decades before she met her husband). Not to mention the grocery bills had been cut in half since she took over, but he acts like she’s a small child taking on responsibility for the first time. The disdain continues as he opens the grocery bags, carefully inspecting each item like quality control. She almost did ok, but she happened to buy rib eye instead of striploin steak (because it was 50% off) and yielded a few more thrashes. Eventually he retires to the television room, leaving Sarah to unpack the groceries, put away the dishes, and get Sebby down for night night solo. He’s too tired. He had a long day. Watching her move, rickety, filled with pain, and tears dropping from her eyes, she never slows. I could cry for her in this moment. My heart bleeds for her. I want to take him and shake sense into his dense skull, but I know my efforts would go unheeded. Eventually, I feel my presence becoming less helpful and more of an embarrassment, so I pack up and head home.

She tried so hard. I know its only groceries, but if you were chastised by an old schoolmarm every time you bought the wrong label, incorrect size, or undesirable type, you’d see groceries as more of a mountain than a molehill. I replayed the day’s events in my head. Sarah was so pleased with herself. That feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment being the only thing that held her glue together. I shook my head and tried to lift the weight of her day off my shoulders, but then a haunting thought chilled my spine. She isn’t perfect, humans aren’t perfect, so not only will today’s efforts be futile, but that of the future as well. How exhausting… She’s doomed to a life of constant disapproval. Hugh’s twisted face, filled with disappointment, judging her. It was at this moment that the Dixie Chick’s song, Goodbye Earl, crept into my head. How hard could it be? I flip open the computer and head to Google. How to get away with…


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