Continued from Trouble in Paradise

Yry launched her story by describing how distraught she was as her 30th birthday approached. Since graduating from high school she’d enjoyed some fine adventures, but she longed for a family—something so many of her friends had. Instead, she was an unmarried, rootless woman, living off the largesse of her parents. She spoke of her father’s disappointment in her lack of direction and disinterest in his business.

“Yeah . . . Fatheh was always off on a buying trip. That’s where our unusual bobbles came from: the Hindu prayer wheel, the Japanese tapestries, the silver figurines. He knew seven languages, you know. . . all self-taught.”

And I can’t even get my mouth around German, I thought, as I swigged another swallow of wine.

“He was a driven man. And he expected everyone around him to be just as driven. Yeah, I’d have enjoyed the travel, but not the dickering and wheeling and dealing. And besides, I knew he’d no intention of sending me out to do the buying. He wanted me in the office to type lettehs and answer the phone and keep the books. Plghhh.”

“A bit sexist, was he?” The waiter had removed my salad plate, and chin propped on hands, elbows on the table, I watched her eat. Mom was so involved in her memories and her salad that she didn’t even comment on this infraction.

“Well, to be fair,” she continued, “that’s the way things were. It was a man’s world. No one expected a woman to travel alone to India or China—though I’d have dearly loved to go to China. I even studied Chinese for a while. Actually, I’m enrolled in a Chinese course at the university this fall. You never know, I may get there yet.” She grinned around her last mouthful of salad.

Then she mentioned the straw that broke her father’s back.

“Heinrich?” This was the first I’d heard about him. The waiter returned with steaming, elegantly dressed plates: a slab of prime rib swimming in bloody juice for mom and garlic-bathed scampi for me.

“Heinrich . . . oh, I fell for him.” By now she could chuckle about her youthful passion. “He was the superintendent of the stables, the head riding instructah. He was Austrian, in his 40’s, never married, handsome . . . mmmmm.” It was unclear if she was appreciating her first bite of meat or her memory of Heinrich. “He had smooth, tan featuhes, black hair and a neatly trimmed black goatee,” she added. “Much to my fatheh’s dismay, I moved into Heinrich’s flat. I was young, hungry for love. He was older, stronger . . . mysterious . . .” She sampled the grilled Brussels Sprouts artfully stacked beside the beef.

“You didn’t get married? Wow. That must have been pretty rad in those days!”

“My poor fatheh. I put him through some hell in those days,” she agreed somewhat wistfully. “But I was so in love with Heinrich. He had this dark corner in his soul that pulled me in. I was sure something terrible had happened to him during the war and I thought with enough love and patience, I could heal that wound.” She paused, her eyes focused on the window as she savored her meal.

“You’ve never talked about any of this. What happened?” I prodded.

“Well, some things aren’t meant for little ears, you know!” Her eyes danced with a hint of suppressed mirth. “Actually, fatheh was right in this case. Heinrich was ratheh a fraud. He had a dark spot of melancholy all right, but I don’t think it had much to do with the war. I think . . . I think it just masked a selfish, dictatorial natuhe. I thought he really believed in me as a human—as an equal. But all he wanted was someone to . . . wash his clothes, cook his meals, and warm his sheets. It didn’t take me too long to wise up.”