Story of the Day: Widower Keeps His Daughter Away from Late Wife's Family
A young, heartbroken widower is left to raise his infant daughter alone after his wife's tragic death, and then her estranged family approaches him with a proposal.
Betty Helfring first caught Jason Coulton's eye on a rainy day. It was five o'clock on a Friday, and it seemed as if everyone in Seattle was huddled under an umbrella, shrinking from the Spring rain, except Betty.
She was standing on a street corner, eyes closed, arms out, her smiling face turned up to welcome the rain. Jason walked up, closed his own umbrella, and tipped his own head back. When she finally looked at him, with raindrops sparkling on her eyelashes, he was already in love.
Jason was an orphan, and so, it seemed, was Betty, so their wedding was tiny -- three friends and the justice of the peace. They moved into a tiny apartment which was all they could afford, and started planning for their future.
Betty was a talented young graphic artist, working at entry-level for an advertising company, and her artistic eye turned their shoe-box apartment into a showplace. Whatever they might lack in money, they more than made up for it in love.
A few months after their wedding, Betty came home looking happy and frightened at the same time. Stammering, she broke the news. She was pregnant... Jason gasped:
"I'm sorry...I know it's too soon..." He swept her up in his arms, tears filling his eyes.
"Our child! The first..." Betty laughed as he swung her around.
"First? What do you mean first!"
"I want many, many babies with you, Mrs. Coulton! At least six!"
But Betty's sweet face was shadowed. "But...Are you sure we can love them all the same?"
Jason frowned. "Even if they were twenty, Betty, we will love and cherish them."
Tears ran down Betty's face. She whispered: "I don't want any child to grow up the way I did, Jason. Not ever!"
Jason comforted his wife and gently tried to get her to open up about her mysterious childhood, but Betty clammed up. The past, she stated, was long gone, and resurrecting it would bring her no peace.
Betty's pregnancy passed in a whirl, and her baby bump seemed to grow from day to day. To Jason, it seemed as if his wife had never been lovelier and happier. Finally, the day arrived when their baby girl was born.
They named her Lacey, after Jason's deceased mother, and she was, in their eyes, the perfect child in the world. Before long, little Lacey was a star on her mom's Instagram page, and that was when the problems began.
Lacey was just three months old when Jason saw Betty throw her phone onto the couch and cover her face with her hands. He was instantly at her side.
"Betty? Love? What's going on?"
His wife was trembling in his arms. "My sister...My sister..."
Jason was astounded. "Sister? I didn't know you had a sister! What's happening? Has she died?"
To Jason's surprise, his gentle Betty uttered a bitter laugh. "Dead? Oh no! Unfortunately, she is very much alive."
She gestured towards the phone, and Jason picked it up. The screen was filled with a message from a woman called Susan, and at first glance, it seemed agreeable and conciliatory.
On a second, more attentive read, Jason realized a veiled apology for mistreatment on her sister and her parents' side. Suddenly, some of Betty's behavior started to make sense.
Betty turned to Jason: "I don't want them in our lives, Jason, or anywhere near Lacey! Not Susan, and not my parents. They are toxic!"
Jason soothed Betty, and Lacey, sensing her mother's distress, started crying. Jason dropped the subject and never raised it again. They had each other, their daughter, and good friends -- it was enough.
But Lacey was only six months old when the rain that Betty loved brought an end to their happiness. Betty was on her way to pick up Lacey at daycare when a car ahead of her skidded in the driving rain.
Betty was gone, and it seemed that Seattle's grey skies mourned for her. A devastated Jason stood by the graveside, numb to everything except his loss. One by one, friends approached, and finally, a woman he had never seen before left a tiny bouquet of violets on Betty's coffin.
The woman shyly introduced herself as Juliana, Betty's best friend from primary school, and gave Jason her phone number, and urged him to contact her if he ever needed anything.
Betty's family were a no-show at the funeral, even though Jason had announced it on social media. Betty's friends and colleagues had come, Jason's too, but sister Susan, who had seen Lacey's baby pictures, had apparently missed the announcement of her sister's death. A week later, Jason was surprised to receive a message from Susan on social media.
Before letting Susan and her parents into his daughter's life, Jason wanted to know the truth about their relationship with his beloved Betty and why she was so determined not to be in touch with them.
A few days later, Jason met Susan online. The two spoke for several hours, and Susan seemed to be a sweet and gentle woman, whose blue eyes were so much like Betty's...
Susan stood revealed as the abusive, ugly bully she truly was, the woman who had made Betty's childhood miserable.
Susan revealed that she was 15 years older than Betty. Betty had been a change-of-life surprise, the baby of the family. Susan smiled sweetly:
"I suppose we did spoil her! We were so protective...And Betty became oversensitive... I'm sure you must have noticed how she overreacted to everything!"
Jason frowned, so Susan hurried on: "What matters now is Lacey! Maybe Betty never told you, but my parents are wealthy, and I, myself, have done quite well..."
"No, I honestly know nothing about your family..." Jason confessed.
"Well...I can't have children, so Lacey will inherit it all. She'll be a well-to-do young lady! And of course, my parents and I will help out, pay for her education. Only the best for our girl!"
Jason was touched by Susan's obvious concern, but something made him hesitate. The woman Susan had described was nothing like his beloved wife. Betty hadn't wanted anything to do with her family, and Susan's answers hadn't satisfied him.
Jason put Susan off with vague excuses and told her he would contact her later in the week about the possibility of her meeting Lacey. When he arrived home, he hunted up Juliana's number and called her.
Before long, he learned the sad story of Betty's life. Susan had always been her parents' favorite, and Betty had been treated as an afterthought. Susan had been a brilliant student, and Betty had struggled.
When her parents berated her for her bad results, Betty had tried to explain that she had trouble concentrating, but they dismissed it all as an excuse for laziness. Betty was slow and lazy and stupid and fat.
Why wasn't she like Susan? And Susan had taken out her spite on Betty too. Instead of supporting her little sister, she teased and bullied Betty, called her "Batty Betty," and made her life a living hell.
Even when Betty's school advisor recommended that she be evaluated for a potential attention disorder, her parents scoffed. Betty didn't want to work; no one in their family had ever had "disorders"...
At 18, Betty took the money she had saved and consulted a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with ADD. With therapy and medication, Betty's life improved. She has been right all along, and instead of love and understanding, her parents had showered her with scorn.
Betty applied for a scholarship at art school, left home, and never looked back. Her parents and her sister had crushed and diminished her instead of helping her overcome her problems, and they didn't deserve her love or respect.
From then on, Betty refused all contact with her parents and her sister or their financial help. She had made her own way and had been creating her own family when the accident cut her life short.
Knowing the truth about how they had treated Betty, Jason stopped taking Susan's video calls or answering her constant text messages. It was then that Susan's true nature was revealed...
The first messages were reasonably pleasant, but as time went on and Jason didn't respond, Susan became progressively more aggressive. Then, she stepped over the line and became vicious and insulting.
Finally, Susan stood revealed as the abusive, ugly bully she truly was, the woman who had made Betty's childhood miserable. Jason was determined that no one from that awful family would ever have anything to do with his sweet daughter.
Lacey would be raised with love and with the memory of her brilliant, talented, lovely mother who had so loved rainbows and dancing in the rain.
Of course, some might feel that Betty's family had a "right" to Lacey, that blood was more important. Should Jason have given Susan and her parents a chance to redeem themselves for how they had treated Betty, or was he right to respect his wife's wishes?
If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a man who barred his mother-in-law from his home after his beloved wife passed away.