Carol's unfortunate soap opera has never abated. The marriage, failing on its own, was terminated by the parents of both parties after her husband Matthew suffered severe brain damage in a motorcycle accident. Somehow Carol got a high school equivalency degree and got herself thru Savannah College of Art and Design, graduating with honors. She started a business in Atlanta that was marginally succesful. Superficially successful, but with a hoard of problems just under the surface preventing any real success.
I remember as a kid the constant carping about how we didn't have enough money to do anything. Especially anything I wanted to do. There was always enough money to get things Carol asked for. There was enough money to buy a cabin cruiser. My father was delighted to be able to bring business associates out fishing for a day. I often went along, and I usually rode outside on the bow most of the way where I could be alone.
We also owned a series of increasingly fancy cars, culminating in a Cadillac.
Of course there was money. I just never had a clue how much. Craig never told me. Or told any of us. It was just assumed that there was enough for whatever we truly needed, but that there was wasn't enough for anything unless he wanted it. But there always seemed to be enough for Carol to get things she asked for. Sometimes my mom got a wish or two granted if she kicked and screamed hard enough.
There were inevitable sqabbles every summer. My mother's mom lived on an island in Portland ME. It was a glorious place to visit. My father despised it. He did everything he could not to come. Wonderful for us-we got to spend a week or two in a great place with him elsewhere. The island proved my father's biggest financial failure. The navy had an oil depot on the island, which was auctioned to the public in the mid 60s. There was a lovely waterfront cottage on a huge parcel. It would have been perfect for us. My father insisted on calculating what he was willing to pay down to the penny. Naturally his bid was a few dollars short of the eventual winning bid. The winning bidder was able to sell most of the land a few years later for about 20 times what he had paid. On the other hand, my dad was very willing to spend as much for an undeveloped house lot on his preferred Cape Cod. This particular development was a failure-15 or 20 years after his purchase most lots in the area hadn't been built on. When he eventually sold, he got his purchase price and not a lot more. I never found much to like about the place on Cape Cod, which I don't suppose anyone will find very surprising.
In 1977 I visited my parents on Fripp Island, SC. They were contemplating building a house and retiring here. I don't have a lot of nice things to say about this community. It is physically beautiful. The island is a barrier island, which of course should be left wild since it is completely geologically unstable. Half of neighboring Hunting Island washed away in a hurricane a few years after they moved to Fripp. The original development was housing either along the ocean beach or along a golf course. I never have seen any attraction to the notion of looking out one's window at golfers, but then I've never seen any attraction to golf. The beach housing is now under seige. Everyone's front yard consists of huge rocks wired into a massive breakwater. Most of the beach has washed away. Every storm is a threat. I wondered why anyone would comtemplate living in such an exposed place. Of course my parents bought property on the inland side of the island, which is less exposed. But not safe. There were numerous developments on other islands, more inland and much less exposed to the fury of the weather. We drove around and looked at these. I found them all more attractive than the Fripp Island community. On these drives we passed the completely segregated gullah community-poor and black. I never knew my dad was a racist, but his comments about the locals left no doubt at all. We had lived in Needham in the liliest of lily white communities. I never saw blacks until a few were bused into our high school. Those kids lived a kind of absurd life-all the hassles with transportation must have more than compensated for whatever benefits there may have been in coming to our school. I had so little contact that I never encountered the prejudice that comes from infrequent contact. In any event, my father would never have lived in a situation where he would have had to deal with this community. He was content to be part of a crowd of retired white folks from various cold places who all lived in a community connected to the real South Carolina by a single bridge with a security guard at one end.
It was beautiful to walk around the parts of Fripp Island that weren't yet developed. Of course the rest of the island has now been bulldozed into submission. There isn't really much very attractive about the place now.
Eventually I got married. After Carol's wedding I wasn't having any part of some huge staged crappy ceremony. Diane and I got married at City Hall with just her mom and stepfather there. A few months later Diane's mom Brenda decided we were going to have a wedding party whether we wanted to or not. I would have preferred to have a party about a mile up some fairly steep mountain-walk or don't come. Don't look for anything fancy because nobody would be willing to carry irrelevant fancy nonsense too far up a mountain. Instead we wound up having a party at an environmental center in the Meadowlands. Guests could walk around the swamp and gaze at the dump next door. I found this suitably thematic.
This event led to complete family insanity. Of course Diane invited most of my family, never imagining what would follow. At this point Sandra hadn't talked to my parents since about the time of Carol's wedding. Occasionally I would get rather pathetic calls from my mom asking me if I could deliver a message to her since she wasn't even willing for my parents to know where she lived. I'm not sure precisely what Craig did to cause such a schizm, but I know Sandra's anger was directed much more at him than at Barbara. When Diane asked Sandra if she was coming to the wedding, her response was that she wouldn't if my parents did. Craig solved the dilemna for us. He said he wasn't coming to the wedding because we would be serving rice. He meant that he wasn't coming because we had no intention of staging some crappy event for his benefit. Diane offered to cook him a steak. I assume that the offer was made thru Barbara-I can't image Diane actually talking directly to him. In the end Sandra came and met Barbara for the first time in years. Craig stayed home. I can't remember if Carol came-I think not but I don't remember.
Shortly afterwards Diane and I left for 18 months in Indonesia, where Robert was born. Now Craig and Barbara have their first grandchild. Brenda, Diane's mom, came to Indonesia twice to be with him. Craig and Barbara stayed home. We tried to swing by South Carolina on our way home. We added stops in Hawaii and Seattle for practically free, but adding a stop in South Carolina would have made the tickets prohibitively expensive. However, when we got home we got a pair of free tickets to anywhere in the lower 48, so we went to South Carolina. Craig was so excited to see his grandson he mostly sat in the den and watched TV, as if we weren't there. Of note, he insisted on calling Robert Spike. I have no doubt at all he was furious at me for not naming Robert Craig III, although he never said as much.
I'm not sure whose idea it was to have us spend the last few days of our week in SC in a cabin at the state park on the next island. Stranded in an fairly interesting place with no car. My mom and Carol visited us frequently. My dad stayed home. It was sufficiently weird that Diane and I decided not to visit South Carolina again for a long time.
Craig was sick. He was having great some difficulty walking. He was living in an ideal place to walk about-there were beautiful walks thru the salt marshes, along the beaches. He needed to walk an hour or so a day. Instead he got no exercise at all. He continued to smoke and eat candy. In short he was a massive health risk doing nothing to help himself.
The following summer Craig and Barbara had to travel to Boston to settle the affairs of a recently deceased relative. Diane and I were working with a theater company based in Salem, NY , about an hours drive north of Albany. Barbara somehow convinced Craig to visit us for an hour or two. That was our last contact for the next seven years. In the interim, Carol moved herself and her business selling calenders to a storefront a few miles down the road from my parents. The financial arrangements were and remain a bit screwy. Essentially Carol was leasing the property from my parents. It was not uncommon for her not to be able to pay the rent. As usual Craig was finding a way to prop Carol up financially, while complaining bitterly about it. I found out all about it from my mom, his mouthpiece.