I've been holding out on you. I didn't tell you about one of the main characters. Knowing about Nancy might change your impression of Sly and Doris. Might put you on their side. Make you forgive them of everything. Because after what they've been through, they are allowed to be complete jerks for the rest of their life, right? They are allowed to wallow in grief and bitterness and anger and to drag everyone down with them.
Nancy is Primo's younger sister.
She died of a heroin overdose about three years before I met him.
She was mentally ill, or so they say. Borderline personality disorder? Who knows? Whatever she had, it couldn't be fixed. When she was committed, she would emerge angrier than when she had gone in, which is not surprising, because Nancy was no idiot and being condescended to by county social workers just ticked her off.
Based on Primo's description of her, I don't think she would have been my favorite: tattooed, pierced, purple haired. Hooked for booze and drugs.
But my sister in law Stephanie liked her. Said they would hang out, laugh, do their nails. Nancy was funny, artistic, smart as a whip. Said that it was Sly who set Nancy off and having spent time with Sly, I can sure sympathize. Stephanie says that when Sly was around, Nancy wouldn't come out of her room.
I'm not quite sure what the mental illness did because it doesn't seem that Nancy wasn't in control of her actions. She knew that if she was going to flip off a cop, she should wait until she was inside of a bus pulling away from a stoplight when the cop could do nothing.
She either couldn't or wouldn't hold a job. Got disability and housing assistance. Got pregnant more than once. Doris took her to get her abortions. Doris will never have any grandchildren of her own. I wonder if she regrets those abortions now.*
Primo maintains Nancy's death wasn't a suicide - that there were several heroin deaths that night from a bad batch.
Sly and Doris are broken. They think they failed Nancy. I can't begin to understand. I have no children. I don't know. I do know that other people have had tragedies in their lives. My great-aunt Madge and her two little girls watched as her husband crashed his small plane in front of them. Madge remarried, had more children, was not a bitter, angry woman. Stephanie's great aunt buried three of her children, but did not stew in despair.
Now you know. Now you know Sly and Doris' excuse for their anger. For their demands on Primo. They are owed. They were robbed. I am sorry for their loss. I am also sorry that they choose to be bitter and angry for the rest of their life.
* Primo thinks I am making a political statement about abortion here. I am not. I am genuinely curious about what Doris thinks. Primo is absolutely positive that Doris has no regrets about what happened - that raising the children of two drug addicts was not how she wanted to spend her later years and that is what would have happened because Nancy would not have given up her chilren for adoption but she also would not have been a responsible mother.