The odd thing about that first Christmas that Joe and Marie Poirier were supposed to drive up to Thunder Bay to visit their daughter Connie is that they didn’t actually have to. For some unguessable reason, she and Lawrence showed up at the house because they were going to tell Elly Fricking Patterson some good news (and them later, that was just how things rolled out). Said good news seemed to be that she'd gotten herself engaged to some man named Greg. That was nice and all but it kind of depressed him because it almost looked as if Connie were in one of Marie’s stories on TV instead of living life on her own terms. Worse, the star of her show was not her. The star of the show Connie ended up orbiting was actually the screaming mush-head library mule in the ponytail married to the slobbering perv dentist in the goggles. The next year had her bring said fiance to Milborough to presented to the Holy Family of Suburban White Trash so he might bask in their excremence. Joe didn’t especially like this. Oh, Greg made all the right noises and all but it still sort of disappointed him that the whole point of her leaving home was to find a way to return in triumph over her idiot adversaries so as to be accepted into the glowing warmth of Those Who Worship Elly.
As if that were not bad enough, his gentle grilling of the latest perfect man to see if he was either an idiot or a jerk revealed something disturbing: Connie seemed to be trying to re-write her own history. What Connie had told him about her past is that she’d actually gone on that medical mission in Ecuador instead of hemming and hawing, fallen in love with the Brazilian doctor in the brochure and, after a soap operatic affair, come home with her tail between her legs and with a fatherless child for Annie Pelletier-Nichols to feel superior about. The odd thing about her colorful myth is that it explained a lot. As by way of example, she’d clearly fallen in love with a photo, married the closest analog she could find and was disappointed when Pete’s reality fell far short of her made-up mark. It also explained why she made a point of making Lawrence take her surname after the divorce came through. What it didn’t explain is why it was that her pal Elly was telling her kids the da Silva myth instead of the truth. It was as if Elly had decided “Connie wanted to live that life so let’s pretend she did, okay?”
Funny thing about all of that, though. A few years after he’d learned about her wanting to maybe live in Orwell’s Oceania (and after another, more galling incident), Lawrence phoned Joe up and told him that Connie found out the Dr da Silva was going to lecture at U of T and she’d prevailed upon the boy to set up a meeting just to scratch an old itch. Joe wound up admiring the man’s class when, instead of either laughing in Lawrence’s face or calling the cops on him when he explained the situation, he’d bought the kid a beer and talked about all the other Connies out there who fell in love with a photo that left them with no clue at all that their fantasy love interest always traveled with MRS Doctor da Silva, the dentist. Having remembered that the Patterson children didn't know about Pete Landry and were not likely to with their mother “protecting” her friend from that shame, he and Lawrence agreed to further the myth so as to not out Elly as a liar. He might not like her but it would take more than that to make him call that old biddy out. After all, most of the problems Pony-Tail had came from being stupid and you cannot shout brains into existence.
That being said, indulging Connie’s need to day-dream seemed to be the price the Patterson woman was willing to pay in order to drink coffee with the sister her evil parents were supposed to give her but did not and gossip about Anne and complain about how children were their misfortune. She was also willing to overlook the fact that Connie’s knight in chicken armor was busy running, hiding and tossing her under the bus as regards his own children. Since the worst thing in Greg’s world seemed to be confronting a problem, he seemed to have decided to skedaddle to Milborough to get away from a scary boyfriend who in twenty years time would be selling life insurance and complaining about the nanny state; rather than admit to being terrified of the bland so-called rebel without a clue, he’d made it look as if Connie had browbeaten him into doing it instead of tricking her into taking the fall by giving her a damned Scooby Snack (God, that stupid show about the stupid kids and the stupid dog and the really stupid people in rubber masks they chased after stuck in the brain) named Elly Patterson. The end result is two children who blame the wrong idiot parent for their predicament and said unfortunate dunce arming them by getting defensive and tetchy.
Eventually, the two girls got sick of his being spineless and her not seeing it and left to be with the birth mother who’d fled his dough-headed gutlessness while she still had some marbles left. Things seemed to be sputtering on towards Lawrence having the same sort of bland life that the Sainted White Trash Pattersons had when something came out of left field. For the remaining fifteen years of his life, Joe still shook is head in confusion about that odd call from that dope John. It had seemed that Lawrence had told Connie and her pet idiot that they probably shouldn’t count on his getting married because he was pretty definitely gay and gotten tossed out of his home for it. This confused and angered Joe. From what he’d observed of life, the only reason people acted like homosexuality and ax murdering were the same is because the Church said sex was just for outnumbering. Where was the Church when his first wife died too damned young? Probably banging altar boys, that’s where! When he went down to settle Greg’s hash, he’d found not a defiant bigot but the same spineless twit Greg always was. From what he could piece together, Greg just stood there doing a crackerjack imitation of a goldfish watching Connie have a psychotic break when Lawrence dropped the bomb. He also stood there in mute incomprehension when Lawrence had to flee for his life rather than be pummeled to death by a shrieking weirdo whose flailing limbs made her look like a Hindu god. When she came back to reality, it had been decided to tell her a story straight out of one of those ungodly after school special deals that he’d had to endure when babysitting Lawrence once. Great. More lies in order to comfort her. The end result of all of this is that Lawrence ended up having to being talked into hanging around Milborough to baby-sit his broken mother and her imbecile meal ticket instead of living his life on his own terms. Where had he and Marie gone wrong? Could all of this misery have come from his momentary wistfulness when Little League and hockey started up?
The answer they’d come up with is “probably.” Life was like that some times. Some people do their best according to their own dim lights and fail anyway because they can’t see every possibility. Some people are born to see themselves as being the victim of a conspiracy to ruin them. Some people are born to take everything the wrong way. Some people are bound and determined to waste their lives seeking approval that they don’t want to admit was freely given. Anyways, she eventually did end up with what she wanted. A well-off imbecile cipher husband she could dominate. A son who ‘remembered’ how much she was owed. Drinking coffee with Elly Patterson. Laughing idiotically at Elly’s bad jokes. High-hatting Annie for being a fatter, dumber version of herself. Nailing herself to her cross and never seeing anything good in her life. What a miserable happy ending. A few months before he passed on, Joe looked back on the mess he couldn't help but make with Connie and felt an odd sort of happiness. He might have screwed up but at least he wasn’t going to be around when she was on her death-bed muttering “I regret nothing” owing to having learned even less.
Sadly, Joe was wrong on that score. It was not very long after the Patterson woman stroked out and died with her face covered in her signature heart-clogging casserole that Connie started to waste away and die out of grief. Connie had nothing but regrets and every last one seemed to rotate around the fact that cruel fate, cruel men and cruel children kept her from being able to make her dad say he was proud of her and actually mean it. With her dying breath, she'd bewailed the fact that she was never going to an insane idiot mother of the bride. As the nurses unhooked the heart monitor, Deanna Patterson shook her head ruefully and thought long and hard about how that could have been her if she had not clued in.