“I was just hoping to have a nice family day,” she says, as he moves the minivan onto the ramp to route 24.
“What am I doing wrong?” says the man.
“You’re just really grouchy. You could be nicer to us.”
He rolls his eyes. “I don’t know when you’re going to get this. There is no ‘us’ that involves you and the kids and not me. There’s ‘us’ the couple and ‘us’ the family.”
“Stop doing it. It’s mean.”
“I just want to have a nice day. Can we just stop?”
He shrugs, as he moves on to route 24 and accelerates to freeway speed.
“This isn’t a nice day for me. I hate this party.”
“Sorry! Just turn around and go home and I’ll drop you off and the kids and I will just go!”
“If you really meant that, you would have let me out of it before we were twenty-five minutes on the way. I told you I was exhausted. I told you I could keep a kid or two home to help out. I told you that I have a super long day at church tomorrow. But none of that matters. We gotta do what you want to do. But even that is not enough.”
“What do you mean? I’m sorry I want the kids to see my family and their cousins.”
“Lindsay is freaking four. Lucia is six. Graham isn’t even one. They won’t remember it. You want to show them off, but you don’t want to actually deal with them. You want me to chase them around, talk to no one, change diapers, get everyone’s food, while you talk to everyone and stay an hour longer than the kids have patience for.”
“You don’t even like anyone there! You don’t want to talk to anyone! So what’s wrong with watching the kids?”
“Why can’t I watch them at home? I could set them up in the front room and take a nap or something. But no, we HAVE to do it your way. And on top of all that, it’s not enough to make me go. It’s not enough to make me miserable, make the kids miserable … no, you want me to be HAPPY about it.”
“Why is it so bad to do something nice as a family?”
“Why do you have to control both my actions AND my feelings? Can’t you just take your victory and let me alone? I mean, geez. Just let me be bugged about it. It literally makes no sense at all, but fine, you got me here. And yet you just can’t be happy with that. Take your victory and move on. No need to salt the earth too.”
He glances in the rearview mirror. Lucia has tears streaming down her face.
“For crying out loud, Lucia, what’s wrong with you?”
She sniffles. “Nothing.”
“Nonsense. You’re upset that your parents are yelling at each other and you think that we’re getting divorced and it’s your fault.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Maybe you should just pull over and let me out,” says Lauren.
“Right, cuz that makes tons of sense.”
“I’m gonna call the stake president.”
“And tell him what? That we fight? That you make me do stuff I don’t want to do? And that I’m then a mean jerk?”
“Everything is too much. You probably shouldn’t be bishop if a trip like this is so hard.”
“Fine. Great. Call the stake president. Tell him how terrible I am.”
The car is quiet for several moments. He glances at the rearview mirror. Grant is staring sullenly out the window. Lucia is still crying.
“Lucia, we’re not getting divorced. We’re never ever getting divorced.”
“I think you might.”
“No, we’re not. We love each other very much. Things just aren’t easy all the time. And that’s not your fault. When we fight, it’s not because of anything to do with you.”
“I feel like it is.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s not. You fight with Lindsay and I don’t get afraid that one of you is leaving.”
“That’s not the same.”
“The point is we’re all a family and no one is leaving.”
He takes a deep breath and stares at the road. He bears right at the split and immediately slows for traffic lined up to merge onto I-93. They sit quietly waiting for their turn to merge. After five minutes of waiting, they are easing onto 93 when Lauren shifts and clears her throat.
“I don’t like driving on freeways.”
“It doesn’t make sense because it didn’t even happen on a freeway, but ever since the car accident with the girls, I’ve hated driving on freeways. I think it’s like PTSD or something. I get jittery and really afraid.”
He is quiet for several moments. “Is this stopping you from doing things?”
“No. I know it’s not rational so I get through it. But I prefer you drive on the long trips. It makes me feel better. But I don’t want to be annoying or make it feel like a big obligation. So I feel better when you want to do it for me rather than me asking you and you being all annoyed, especially over something that isn’t really rational.”
He takes a deep breath. “Ok. I get it. One thing I really get is trauma. I still have nightmares about my dad’s death. Trauma isn’t rational. I’m sorry.”
She extends her left hand. He laces the fingers of his right hand into hers.
“I’m sorry for being a turd. You can just tell me when driving is bothering you. I won’t give you hell about it.”
“And I’m sorry. I should probably just let you be on days when you’re that tired.”