Happily Ever After?
People say when you marry someone you don?t just marry that one person, but you marry that person?s whole family. Every family has its dysfunction?s. Every family has members that are often times difficult to deal with, but that?s what family is all about; sticking together and loving one another, despite what differences or opposing forces may exist. In Liar?s Club, Mary Carr?s Grandma didn?t share this point of view when it came to Pete, Mary?s father. In fact, she wanted Mary?s mother, Charlie, to divorce Pete before they were even married. ?Grandma subsequently viewed my father as some slick-talking hick who had baffled her only child into settling for a two-bedroom tract house when she deserved a big ranch?(Carr, 13). Grandma?s presence and death were only fuel to the wildfire that scorched the Carr?s family relationship, leading to disaster and divorce.
The first time Charlie threatened to divorce Pete, she pile Mary and Lecia into the car and tore off to Grandma?s house in Lubbock. Upon arriving, no words of comfort or encouragement for the mending of Charlie?s marriage escaped Grandma?s mouth. ?Grandma never did sugar coat her opinion of Daddy. She said something about Mother coming to her senses?(27). Since Grandma wasn?t happy with Charlie?s decision to marry Pete, she felt it was her duty to show Charlie the wrong doings of her actions. It was almost as if Grandma didn’t care whether or not Charlie loved Pete. Not only did Grandma voice her extreme disapproval of Pete, but she proceeded to place Charlie in the spotlight by comparing her to those marriages of which she approved. ?At some point, Grandma announced that Dotty had sure made a good marriage, which judgment wasn?t lost on Mother??(31).
It seemed Grandma wasn?t just on Charlie?s back about her marriage to Pete, but jumped at the chance to criticize Charlie about anything. ?The morning Mother decided to go back to Daddy, she and Grandma had a fight about whether her lipstick was too dark. The old lady called Leechfield a swamp, a suckhole, and the anus of the planet?(33). This caviling only seemed to worsen once Grandma, diagnosed with cancer, moved to Leechfield to live with Charlie and the rest of the family. ?All day she doled out criticisms that set my mother to scurrying around with her face set so tight her mouth was a hyphen?(42). ?Suddenly Grandma was staring at us with laser blue eyes from behind her horn rims, saying Can I make a suggestion? or beginning every sentence with Why don?t you???(44). The worst part of all this was no one seemed to notice or bother to do anything about the damage Grandma was causing on the family and on the strength that held Charlie together.
The worst part wasn?t all the change she brought, but the silence that came with it. Nobody said anything about how we?d lived before. It felt as if the changes themselves had just swept over us like some great wave, flattening whatever we?d once been(46).
The everyday stress of being a housewife with two children was enough for Charlie without having to deal with Grandma?s constant nagging. The pressure Grandma forced on Charlie only escalated Charlie?s arguments with Pete. On her worst days Charlie could be heard saying, ?There?s no hope, there?s no hope?(38). Much to Grandma?s pleasure, Charlie?s warnings of divorce became a reoccurring event. And much to Grandma?s disappointment, Pete never fell prey to these threats. ?Daddy?s response to it was usually a kind of patient eye-rolling. He never spoke of divorce as an option. In his world, only full blown lunatics got divorced. Regular citizens in a bad marriage just hunkered down and stood for it?(35).
Despite the fact that divorce didn?t seem like a pressing issue for Charlie and Pete, Grandma did all she could to stir things up and tear things down within the household. Her negative and condescending attitude slowly ate away at Mother, leaving her nothing but a puppet whose strings Grandma relentlessly tweaked. During this time of turmoil one would think the best remedy would be a strong support system made up of those closet to you, only Charlie didn?t have that. ?Daddy was never around after Grandma came home. It was some unspoken deal everybody had. Since she thought he was low-rent and since she was dying herself, she sort of trumped him into staying away from his own house?(74). This worked perfectly into Grandma?s plan and she continued to grind away at Charlie?s will and energy as her own health deteriorated.
?By mid-fall the cancer had spread to Grandma?s brain?Grandma just bore down on us harder?(69). Stealthy maneuvering around in her wheelchair Grandma would try to creep up on Mary and Lecia in an attempt to catch them doing something disobedient. Her plan was to discover Mary and Lecia being defiant, tattle on them to Charlie, and then proceed to rant and rave about how Charlie was raising the girls all wrong. ?Charlie Marie! Come in here and whip these children. I swear to God??(61). Charlie didn?t really believe in physical punishment for her children, but after getting drilled by Grandma so often, she eventually folded, ??and went through the motions of flailing at our legs with a flyswatter till we ran into our room and slammed the door?(61).
After Grandma died, Charlie seemed completely lost within herself, ?Looking back from the distance, I can also see Mother trapped in some way, stranded in her own silence?(55). Though Grandma sucked all the intensity out of Charlie and sliced away at Charlie?s spirit until Charlie followed Grandma?s every demand, Charlie became incomplete without her. Charlie had spent all her energy on Grandma and now that Grandma was gone, she had no idea what to do with herself. ?It?s no wonder that she collapsed after the funeral, since she was running on fumes from the git-go?(50). There was nothing left of Grandma except the recollections of her harsh words and domineering orders. This left Charlie with awful memories bouncing around in the corners of her mind. Charlie had nothing of Grandma to hold onto except the ghost whispers of extreme negativity and reproach. Charlie could not let go of Grandma and move on with her life. She looked for any part that was left of Grandma to grip onto. Unfortunately for Charlie and the rest of the family the only things Grandma had left behind were dissenting and shaming utterances and it was these things Charlie held close to her heart.
This unhealthy clinging to the past did not allow Charlie to heal, it only buried her more within herself and made the gap between her an her family grow. She pushed away Pete and embraced drinking as her way of coping. ?She had set down the drink when Grandma came home to die, out of necessity, I guess. Then she picked it up night she got back from the funeral??(126). Mother proceeded to live day by day in a blur of alcohol, holding in her anger, her pain, and her sadness, occasionally pausing to vent a drunken rage at her family?s support and love. Charlie severed herself from Mary, Lecia, and most of all Pete. This ultimately led to Charlie and Pete?s divorce. Finalizing her divorce to Pete Charlie, perhaps unknowingly, accomplished what Grandma had wished would happen from day one.
“The Liars Club”-Mary Carr