An older woman finds herself discarded by her daughter and her husband when their child turns eight and they don’t need her anymore.
Kate Gallagher lived for her daughter. She and her husband Gustav had struggled to conceive for years, and when they had finally given up, Kate discovered she was pregnant at the age of 42.
Gus and Kate finally had everything they’d ever dreamed of — each other and their beautiful little girl. When little Donna was born, Kate had given up work. After all, Gus was a successful sculptor, and they owned their own little farm outright. Yes, life was good. Until Gus died.
Kate was devastated. Gus had been only fifty-two and their daughter just seven when he passed away. Kate’s financial situation wasn’t desperate, but she wasn’t exactly well off.
There was a comfortable little nest egg which would suffice to see Donna through college, and Kate got herself a nice job at the local library in the mornings, and in the afternoons she did admin work for the town lawyer.
No matter how much we love others, we need to safeguard our own happiness.
Unfortunately, their little farm with its luxuriant cherry orchard and the herb gardens that Gus had so loved slowly started to run wild. Kate would pay her friend Lila’s boy Jake a few dollars to try and keep things neat but it was a losing battle.
Anyway, Kate’s focus was on Donna, beautiful, brilliant, vibrant Donna who looked more and more like her father every day. When Donna finished high school, she applied to several colleges around the country and eventually took an academic scholarship at Cornel.
Even though Kate never let a tear show, she was heartbroken. She was proud of her daughter and happy that her dreams were coming true, but at the same time, she felt a sharp pain.
When she told Lila, her friend shook her head sadly. “You know, when they cut off an arm and a leg they do it quick — but when you separate from your child it’s a slow process, and you feel each cut and tear as they pull away.”
Lila had seven children and only Jake was left at home with her so Kate reckoned Lila knew what she was talking about. Donna came home, of course, during Spring Break and Christmas and Thanksgiving, but Kate was so lonely…
She kept thinking that as soon as Donna graduated, she’d be coming home with her brand new degree and taking a job as a math teacher at the local school. Then everything would be wonderful!
But on her last year at Cornel, Donna told her mother she’d been offered a post-graduate position with an imminent British mathematician. It would be six months in the UK, Donna explained, but after that, she could practically write her own ticket.
It wasn’t six months, of course. It turned into two years and when Donna came back, she was engaged to the mathematician’s equally brilliant son and Donna had taken a research position doing things Kate didn’t even understand with numbers.
Donna’s fiance, Ronald Beauchamp, seemed very nice, very polite, but when Kate met his parents, she knew she would never fit into this world her daughter seemed so at ease in.
Mrs. Beauchamp wore beautiful clothes, had perfect hair and perfect nails, and she spoke in a very precise, clipped English accent that made everything she said sound important.
Mr. Beauchamp was nice, but he didn’t really seem to know how to talk to anyone except Donna and Ronald, and even then he never said things like ‘pass the butter.’
After the wedding was over and it was finally time for Kate to go home to her little farm, she had to admit to herself rather sadly that she was relieved. She loved her daughter, but Donna had changed, and a few times Kate had imagined disdain in her eyes.
Over the next two years, Kate saw Donna two or three times a year and chatted to her on the phone every week. Then one day, the phone rang and Donna was screaming on the other end: “Mom, you’re going to be a grandma!”
Kate was overjoyed and immediately offered to go to New Hampshire to be with Donna during the last months of her pregnancy. A week before she was due to deliver, Donna made Kate an unusual proposal.
“Mom,” she said. “Ronald and I were thinking…Why don’t you close up the house in Oregon and move in with us?”
“Move in?” asked Kate, surprised. “But honey, you are a young family…Surely you’ll want your privacy!”
“Oh, mom!” cried Donna laughing. “It’s a HUGE house! And I really, really need you! I’ve been hearing all these horror stories about childcarers. Please, mom, I want you to take care of my baby. I don’t trust anyone else.”
Kate thought about it and told Donna she should sell the house in Oregon, but her daughter didn’t agree: “Oh, no! I think you should keep it, so we can go for country getaways! After all, you never know when you might need to escape the crazy city life!”
So Kate called Lila, and made an agreement with Jake — he would grow organic vegetables and herbs on her land, and in exchange, he’d keep the house in a reasonable state of repair.
Kate was relieved. Her little farm would be producing again, and her old home would be cared for. Then her granddaughter Faith was born, and Kate didn’t think about anything else for the next eight years.
While Ronald and Donna concentrated on their careers, Kate raised Faith, took her to school every day, did her homework with her, and cooked for the family. Faith was growing up so quickly!
Then one summer, Mrs. Beauchamp came to visit and disaster struck. Kate was in the kitchen making a salad when she heard Mrs. Beauchamp say, “Really Ronald, you made a huge mistake. That woman has supplanted you and your wife in your daughter’s affections.”
Ronald said in that weak voice he always used with his mother, “Kate’s helped us, or we couldn’t have achieved so much…”
“And I’m sure you are very grateful, Ronald,” said Mrs. Beauchamp coldly. “But Faith is nearly nine. She doesn’t need a nanny anymore. That woman should go!”
Two days later, Donna came home early in the afternoon and sat at the kitchen table with Kate for a ‘chat.’ “Look mom,” she said kindly. “I know how much you’ve sacrificed your own life for us, and it’s time you stopped.”
“Excuse me?” asked Kate, bewildered. “What do you mean?”
“I know you miss your friends back in Oregon, and now that Faith is nearly nine, you can go back to your own life!” said Donna with a bright smile.
“Back to my own life…” said Kate slowly. “So what you are actually saying is you no longer need a free housekeeper, chauffeur, and nanny, so I can pack my bags and go.”
“Mom!” cried Donna flushing. “How could you! You insult me!”
“I don’t see how the truth can insult you, Donna,” said Kate quietly. “You’re a mathematician — 1+1 is 2. I’m stupid, but not that stupid.”
Kate said goodbye to a tearful Faith and boarded the bus home to Oregon. She hadn’t even thought to phone Lila to warn any of her friends she was coming home.
When she arrived, it was seven in the evening, and Kate had a taxi drive her out to her little farm. She walked up the path to the front door and fumbled with the key. She was in!. She fumbled for the switch and the lights came on.
Everything was neat and dusted. Lila must be keeping up the house, Kate thought. Then her heart skipped a beat and she screamed. A man had walked into the door right behind her and he was carrying a shotgun.
“Mrs.Gallagher!” the man said laughing. “I thought you were a thief!”
The fright and the hurt and the emotion were too much, and Kate just sank into her old sofa and sobbed her heart out. Within minutes, her friend Lila was there too, feeding her hot tea and listening to her story.
When she finished, Jake jumped to his feet. “That’s just the ugliest, dirtiest low-down story I’ve ever heard,” he cried. “But you listen here, Mrs. Gallagher, we’re here for you. I know my mother loves you like her own sister, and you’ve been kinder to me than my own aunts. You’re home here with us, do you hear? And if this big old house is too lonely, you move in with us!”
Kate was laughing and crying at the same time. “Oh, Jake,” she said. “Thank you! But maybe you, your mom, and your wife should be the ones moving in here! There’s plenty of room!”
And they did. Kate and Lila spoiled all of Jake’s kids rotten, and when Kate passed away many years later, Donna was shocked and angry to discover that she’d left the farm and a considerable amount of money to Jake and his children.
What can we learn from this story?
No matter how much we love others, we need to safeguard our own happiness. Kate never imagined that her daughter was using her and would abandon her.
Sometimes love and support comes from where you expect it the least. Kate was abandoned by her own daughter for whom she’d sacrificed everything, and rescued by old friends who cherished her.
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