Depression or Deception
“HOW ABOUT I make us a pitcher of Sangria?” Lucia suggested to her guest, Betsy, escorting her to the back garden, lush with bougainvillea. Bees buzzed and birds chirped in the golden light of afternoon.
“Perhaps tea?” Betsy responded.
A few moments later, Lucia returned with tea and pastries. Lucia told Betsy, “Your mother was one of my best friends when you and your sister were very young. How is Poppy doing these days? Are you still close?”
“We talk at least once each week, sometimes more. Poppy hit a milestone birthday this year. She’s forty. I passed that two years ago,” said Shelly.
“Well, let me tell you, your mother — she was one of the most beautiful women of her day,” said Lucia. “Tall and slender, beautiful dark hair with gorgeous green eyes. Sometimes even I envied her. She always seemed to get what she wanted — jewelry, fur coats, and I shouldn’t say this, though you probably are aware, she came into her own and was never happier when she divorced your father.”
“Don’t feel bad about saying that, Lucia,” Betsy commiserated. “Poppy and I felt better too. No more yelling between them. No more yelling at us for no reason. I mean, what kind of man carries on with two other married women when he has a wife and kids at home?”
“That’s probably why the judge ruled for your mother: generous alimony for five years while she was finishing her college degree and child support and full custody of you two. She didn’t have to work. I remember she would say to herself, “I am myself and my circumstances,” exactly as she had learned when we studied the philosophy of Jose Ortega y Gasset,” Lucia’s expression turned sad. “But at the same time that your mother put in practice that philosophy, she also told herself,
I am going to live my life just the way the modern hedonists do it. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure with a minimum amount of pain.
“I know,” Betsy said with regret.
“At that time, your mother told me your father advised her to return to the university and finish your degree. He reminded her the alimony only lasted five years, and then he would press to sell the house and divide the earnings on the property. Also within the same time, you and your sister should be at college or finishing your high school diplomas, so your mother needed to be self-sufficient or she wouldn’t have my money. What a jerk.” Lucia shook her head. “When your mother returned to college it seemed going back to school was a good and safe choice.”
“Then it all went south,” sighed Betsy. “Mother took the hedonistic lifestyle to heart. I know you remember the gin and tonics. Then she practically lived at the track betting on the horse races. When she wasn’t there, she brought the jockeys home with her. Sometimes more than one at a time. Poppy and I ran wild too. Remember?”
“What I remember,” Lucia said firmly, “was the day I picked you two up at school, and you stayed with me a month and a half. It was like you girls hadn’t had a solid meal for weeks.”
“We hadn’t. Mother got so depressed and started buying cheesy romance novels and read all day. And the house….”
“I remember your poor home falling apart. I remember when I would go to check on your mother, the faucets would be leaking, the curtains falling off the rods, the dishes piled in the sink, and the grass about a foot high. And your mother would say, ’Lucia, dear friend, don’t ask me any questions, just tell me about you.’
“Unfortunately, that meant that she did not want anyone to tell her what to do, not even me, one of her best friends. And before she knew, the famous five years had gone by, and the house got sold. Because the house was in such terrible shape, neither your mom nor your dad made any money from the sale. Shortly after, the two of you went on your own way, and your mom went to live with her last jockey who was drinking as much as your poor mother.”
A pall fell over the room. The two ladies stirred and sipped their tea. Betsy stared out the front window; Lucia lightly cleared her throat. She moved a throw pillow from one side of the sofa to the other.
Poor Alice, Lucia thought, in less than five years she lost her beauty, her personality, and her social position. All she did every day was drown herself in alcohol. Lucia remembered Alice getting so lost in her alcoholic depression that her elderly mother came from the other side of the country to rescue her from her miserable existence. What happened to Alice? Lucia wondered. What did the hedonistic life full of pleasure do for her?
Betsy sipped the last of her tea and set the cup in front of her. “I really think my mother lost the awareness of the thin line between pain and pleasure,” she said, sighing. “She drowned herself in alcohol.”
“Do you mind if I speak candidly? Philosophically but candidly? I suppose that’s my crutch,” Lucia said.
Betsy nodded earnestly. Lucia recognized the longing, the yearning in her face.
Lucia continued, “Some people think alcohol washes off the problems when, in reality, it only irrigates them. Your mother forgot that in order to establish one’s happiness, it is necessary to select, very carefully, the right pleasures with the right moral choice, putting always in practice self-control and temperance.” Lucia went to a bookcase and picked out a book. She placed it in Betsy’s hands. “This book,” she said, Plato’s Republic, your mother and I shared when you were young. We read it out loud back and forth to each other to help our understanding. Do you know the quotation ‘When the best part of me surprises, the worst I am the captain of my soul’?”
“I think I have heard something like it,” Betsy noted, studying the leather binding carefully, admiringly.
“Would you like to have the book as a memento of something we shared?” Lucia asked.
“I couldn’t,” Betsy protested. “I couldn’t take your copy.”
“It’s one of many. Trust me. Take it with my blessings,”
“Thank you,” Betsy said softly. She dabbed at a tear.
“So, down to business,” Lucia stated. “You came here because you want me to talk to your mother, do you not?” Sometimes, Lucia used bluntness as a tool to move conversations forward. “Depression hits when one has been deceived or lied to. And in your mother’s case, she created her own deception. What we need to learn is that for the average healthy person, depression and deception are perfectly linked as a self-created condition. That is exactly what happened to your mom. So, what’s the best way to get in touch with her?”
“She called me yesterday from the Spring Leaf Shelter. That’s why I called you. I haven’t been able to bring myself to go down there. I haven’t even told Poppy.” More tears flowed down Betsy’s face.
Lucia took Betsy’s hand. “You know what you have to do, don’t you? Do you have room in your house? What does your husband say about this?”
“I think it would be okay. I mean, I haven’t told Steve either, but he converted our garden shed to a guest house a couple of years ago, and it mostly sits empty.”
“That’s good,” Lucia stated emphatically. “You go get it ready, and then you and me will go down and get your mother. Betsy, I lament tremendously not having been able to give her my help. She has been one of my best friends. Maybe now she will allow me to give her my help.”
“Thank you, Lucia!” Betsy hugged her hard.