Here’s the first chapter of my book, “Farewell to Egypt”. It is a very American story, one that will at some point resonate with most people. It was hard to tell it because it had to be told honestly and though it frees us sometimes, the truth is painful. I hope you enjoy this short excerpt from the book.
” ‘The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.’
J.R.R. TOLKIEN, “The Fellowship of the Ring”
The contractions came with a malevolent force. Nearly a decade and a half had passed since the last time she had given birth and those years had not conspired to make it any easier. No—age had done exactly the opposite.
She bore down hard, grunting unconsciously, feeling the pain of labor run through her body like a massive wave slamming against a foundering trawler. She’d had two daughters early in life. One day their father, her first husband, had died quite unexpectedly. At only thirty-six he’d suffered a massive heart attack. She had been married to the new husband for only ten months. He had dropped her off at the hospital and left.
It was 1961 and not expected, nor even desired, for the father to watch his child be born. But they usually were there, in the waiting room, cigars at the ready. And this was his first child. You would think he would have stayed close at hand, anticipating the life-changing news, “It’s a boy”, or “It’s a girl. Mother and baby are resting fine.”
But that was not the case.
Once married they had moved nearly 1,000 miles from her home. As a result, there were no friends or family present who might have been eager to herald the birth of the new baby. But now it was just her, and the pain and the pending child.
Her baby, a girl, was born at midnight. “A child on the cusp of Pisces and Aries,” noted the superstitious mother. Otherwise, as births go, it was an unremarkable event. Then she rested.
When it was finally time to go home, it stung to learn that her husband refused to come to the hospital to pick them up. In short order she was becoming quite adept at making excuses to cover her embarrassment over his bad behavior. Not a skill to be proud of, but one that was necessary for social survival, for her to feel like she had saved face. Maybe she didn’t know it yet, but she would feel the need to lie for him in this way so often it would become as automatic as breathing. So often his lies would replace reality.
“He’s mad because it’s his first and he wanted a boy,” she explained to anyone who would listen.
Was she also covering to reassure herself that things would be all right? Cognitive dissonance worked to create a narrative she could live with, a narrative she felt would sound reasonable to the hospital staff.
But his refusal had nothing to do with the baby being a girl and that was the second sting.
Would they mind calling a taxi?
And so, on that day Cheri’ Ben-Iesau cabbed it into the crap-shoot of life.”