Grandpa loved gambling more than Grandma, so just before he completely frittered away the family fortune, she threw him out. He always wanted to be an actor so he moved to LA and starred in a number of porn movies. Of course, I didn’t know him but I do know that Grandma had a “friend” long before Grandpa frittered, and it could be that Grandpa’s frittering drove Grandma to it or vice versa. Dad and Mom met in a bar, had us real fast and before Mom could spit out her first love child, Dad was loving every woman at work, every woman everywhere he went. He blames our love misfortunes on his loving so much. Way down the line, Mom fell in love with a co-worker and told Dad right when they were in bed making love that she was in love with somebody else, but no, she hadn’t done it with him, not yet but pretty damn close, and Dad says he went all soft and couldn’t love properly since then. A while later after he’d moved into a weird hippie kind of attic apartment with absolutely no furniture except a mattress on the floor and an ashtray, he met one of the great loves of his life. It wasn’t six months later that he told her he had loved another lady or two while he was loving her. He actually got down on his knees and confessed, and she stroked his head and never trusted him again. This went on for years. Meanwhile my oldest sister who was in utero when Daddy was doing all his first loving fell in love with heroin. Now that was an expensive love. Her bf who she lived with helped her pay for it by sending her out to love lots of guys who needed quick loving. Then he od. When Mom and Daddy found out, they were devastated, since Mom was living with the man she fell in love with while she was living with Daddy and this man was an alcoholic in AA and 20 years younger. And wow did he make a fuss about sister’s love habits. Soon Mom and Daddy packed sister off to a treatment center several hours away where she met a lot of very loving girls who had similar loves. But she didn’t love any of them. She did love a boy who there, only she was strongly advised not to because it might not be real love but just their both trying to recover from the same love. When she got out, she got a job at a talent agency, because she too wanted to be an actor like Grandpa, and met a guy who was the son of a famous actor who had an ongoing role in a top TV series. And wow, he loved her and she loved him and they went to a lot of parties in very hip after hours bars and met a lot of lovely people. She was so happy with this love. But one day she passed out at dinner and confessed to Daddy and Mom that she was loving heroin again. And so they had this big family meeting where Mom’s guy, being so well versed in loving alcohol, said he thought that sister’s guy must be helping her love heroin.
Meanwhile, Daddy kept on loving one of the loves of his life, telling the friend who’d introduced them, well, how many great loves does a man get, he can count them on one hand or less. And the man who introduced them agreed as he’d only been able to count two on one hand and even that, he thought to himself was stretching it.
Do you count deep crushes, he asked Daddy. Daddy didn’t think so. Sister wound up in another center, this time in Arizona, so far from home and her beloved boyfriend. As if southern Arizona wasn’t close to another country where in one day a person could get some love there. And you will never guess what happened to a cousin whose wedding Daddy’s love and us sisters dressed to the nines for because cousin was wearing a $10,000 strapless Vera Wang. Cousin began to love not eating. Not like any of us loved eating. I mean, we loved food but we didn’t love what it did. Anyway, we all loved being together, except Mom wasn’t invited. Mom’s guy said that after so many years of love and marriage if she didn’t qualify for a black-tie event thrown by Daddy’s family, well, then they’d just rent some videos, smoke some weed, and figgettaboutit. Daddy’s love loved him and we never did understand what was going on there but sister wasn’t in love with her, not that that would sway Daddy from loving her and other ladies. She finally got sick, so sick she couldn’t say anything about Daddy’s others and that’s when he said, Let’s get married, except he said it with half a heart and she heard it like he said it. So they broke up. And he was extra loving with us and she was extra loving with her loves but we could all see right through it. In a few months, a girl from work moved right in to Daddy’s apartment, not the hippie digs, but another, decent place he’d moved into some time, I can’t remember when. The girl knew full well that Daddy was still in love with another woman and that they talked a lot on the phone. How are you, he would say to his real love? And she would say, devastated. And you? He would say, same, except I have a girl here whose clothes are in the same closet where you hung yours. Oh, his real love would say. Why did you let her? Daddy was always quick on the draw and said, well, she makes me coffee in the morning. His real love said, but I did that too. And Daddy would say, yes, I know. There’d be a long pause and finally he’d say, she knows I’m in love with you. Meanwhile my family kept up its love life, no matter what. Mom and her AA love bought a house together. But a short time later, he told her he didn’t love her. Mom fell into hell what with having to pay the mortgage on her own. We couldn’t help her, no, we were in debt ourselves even though Grandma, you remember her from early on in my story, had made sure we grandbabies got our college educations paid for. We loved hard and that cost. Don’t you know that?
Mom didn’t and she got a real surprise. One day her former love broke into their house while she was at work. He took everything that anybody would love and give money for, except the dog. He took the pearls grandma had loved and left for one of us, he took Mom’s wedding rings, he took the stereo, how dumb can you get. Then he disappeared. Mom didn’t love that she had to sell the house and move. Then she lost her job and Daddy felt so bad that he announced to Mom that the mother of his daughters shouldn’t have to worry about where she lived and even though the settlement he gave her during the divorce let her buy the house and support her love, he wound up sending her checks every month so she could live in an apartment.
Have I mentioned my other sister? She only loved one guy before she loved her husband and they got pregnant before they got married which is no big deal and they were so in love. Everybody loved her more than anyone else in my family because she is so smart and loving and almost has a PhD and is pregnant again and her husband moved out for a while since she convinced him to join a day treatment program, and they both had other lovers, she started first, but says the baby’s his and she’s so lovesick from her and her other lover deciding that it would never work and suffering and all right in front of her husband, her child, and her enormous stomach in which her next baby is living until she sees fit to come out and everyone already loves her especially my Dad who loves girls better than boys which can be ascertained from my previous descriptions. He’d die just die if a man he plays sports with would ever, and even though he’s old he’s still very handsome and lots of men hit on him and the rest kind of make fun of him like the friend who introduced him to one of his great loves way back, cause he’s been through a couple subsequent loves with younger women, most notably one near my age who came from a very religious family but loved to wear high heels and pancake make up and lace bustiers and she drove him crazy especially when he promised to love only her but wound up going to a whore house in Costa Rica from which she caught a disease he didn’t know he’d contracted and she never trusted him again and as part of loving him she tormented him by breaking up with him every few weeks sort of punishing him for all the love crimes he’d committed with all the other great loves of his life.
Mom, she lives alone now, she’s never loved again.
Gloria Frym’s most recent books are Mind Over Matter (BlazeVOX, 2011) and Any Time Now (Little Red Leaves, 2010). She is also the author of two critically acclaimed collections of short stories–Distance No Object (City Lights Books), and How I Learned (Coffee House Press)–as well as many volumes of poetry. A previous collection, Homeless at Home, won an American Book Award. She teaches writing & literature at California College of the Arts.