abyssinia's Blog


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JANUARY 8, 2012 5:22AM


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I have never been to Rio, or even Brazil.  Or even South America.  But my sister wrote a poem called "Flying Down to Rio."  It is about a romantic tryst (something I don't have anymore).  But when I read the poem I don't think about romance.  I think about my father's Brazilian era.

This was shortly after the divorce, when my mother curled up in her room with a bottle of sherry and kept the shades drawn.  I realize this is part of why I hate it when my teenager draws the shades.  It reminds me of my mother.  My antidote to life is to go outside and keep busy in the sunshine.  Never stop and never look back.  Their antidote is to block out the light.

More accurately I should say that on the surface it would appear that my father's Brazilian period led to the divorce.  In reality, if it hadn't been the Brazilian woman, it would have been another.  But rich opportunities for satire and bitterness were provided by my father's choice.  My mother liked to call her the "Chiquita," a term which conjured images of grass skirts and South American dancing, and fancy drinks with umbrellas and pineapples and bananas.

In reality my father's woman, who eventually, if briefly, became his third wife, was old, as he was.  Well, not old.  Now I can say they were not old.  They were in their fiftes, as I am.  But as a teenager, I saw them as old, and regarded my father's continual discoveries of the loves of his life as a bit pathetic.

My father met Inaura at the psychoanalytic convention in Vienna.  The same covention where Erica Jong's Fear of Flying was set.  They began an intermitten tryst, punctuated by passionate longing phone calls.  They dreamed of setting up an international psychoanalytic practice in Cleveland.  The language difficulties, or the (quite) small Portuguese population in Cleveland didn't enter into or deter their plans.

The Chiquita was not the first woman my father took up with.  There were dozens.  Some of them called the house  Some of them didn't.  My father confessed each one to my mother, which led to a few days of tears.  And then life continued.  The PTA.  School lunches.  Television.  Dishes and laundry.  The dog.  What made the Chiquita unique is that she persisted.  She called the house.  She set down ultimatums.  Eventually my father gave in and moved out.  The divorce took several years.  My mother shut all the windows.  A few times my father returned temporarily.  But eventually it was all over.

It was not glamour that constituted the Chiquita's hold over my father.  It was professional ambition.  In reality Inaura was plain, if kind, with red dyed hair.  She brought us strange gifts.  She invited us to her ranch.  We never went, though, and now she is dead.  So is my father.  And his first wife.  But not his second or his fourth or his fifth.

If my father loved anything it was psychoanalysis.  The hold that Inaura had over him was this dream of international renown.  They bought a huge mansion, hard to heat (the mansion is now referred to as Adams' folly) and started remodeling it into two offices.

I met Inaura one summer.  She was travelling through Vermont with Wild Bill and Inaura's two children.  I was doing summer stock.  I was fat then, and puffy.  I kind of resembled John Hinckley. None of them spoke any English.  My father carried a Portuguese phrase book.  Her daughter and son were both blonde and skinny.  Very trendy and cosmopolitan in style.  We all stopped at a home-stye restaurant in Vermont and tried to order.  It took two hours to successfully translate between all of us.  That is all I remember.  At the end of the translation no one was hungry.  That is the only time I remember meeting them.  Shortly afterwards the Chiquita flew down to Rio to close up her psychoanalytic practice, in anticipation of her relocation to the cold mansion.

In February I heard that the marriage was over.  Inaura had been careless and left my father too long unattended.  He had taken up with someone else.  A newly divorced sullen woman who sold pottery.  When Inaura had completed the closing of her practice and flown to Cleveland, she found my father newly in love with someone else.

She tried suing my father for the many thousands of dollars she had lost by closing up her professional practice.  In the end the bank had to throw the case out of court, as my father declared bankruptcy.  Whether this was financial shenanigans on his part, or true, I don't know.  I do know there was no money for us to attend university during this time period.  When I brought up the bankruptcy issue to my father he became enraged, and accused me of trying to ruin his reputation.  So maybe he wan't bankrupt, or maybe he just didn't want to appear to be.  But at any rate there was no money for school.

So Inaura flew back to Rio and we never heard from her again, until she died, and someone told my father, who appeared unemotional at the news. My mother, in the mean time, loved hearing all this gossip, whether from nosy community whisperers, or from our careful iterations of all that had occurred.  She laughed uproariously.  "Your father," she said, "could never stick with anything."

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