The first time I ever laid eyes on John Daly, was just before Christmas in 1989. He was standing at the alter, waiting for my mother to march down the aisle and marry him.
I was sitting on a front row seat, next to my two brothers. It was the first time the three of us sat together like that since our father's funeral, and the second time our mother got married since his death. The deep level of sadness we were feeling, and the slow, droning organ music were the same on both occasions. The flowers at the funeral were much more festive.
Looking up on the stage, trying to figure out who my next step-father was going to be, I saw John standing there, alone. Hoping that my eyes were playing tricks on me, I shut my eyes tight for a few seconds, and said to myself, "Please, dear God, let him be the best man!" I stared at him, thinking that maybe if I stared long enough, I could find something to like about him, but it didn't happen.
I leaned over and asked the person sitting next to me, "Is that him?" and somebody nodded their head, 'yes.' I said, "We've got a problem here." I don't even remember who I said it to, but it doesn't matter. No one ever disagreed with me on this one.
The organ music changed to the sickening one-note chord that signaled us to stand up and face the back of the church, to behold the blushing bride.
Wearing a long, beige, lace dress, and holding a bouquet of flowers, she stepped in time to, "Here Comes The Bride." The smile on her face was scary. It wasn't a smile that reflected happiness. It was more a 'performance' smile. As she came closer and closer to the alter, the personae she adopted during her last husband, morphed into her concept of what she thought her next husband wanted her to be. She was trying on that person, as she marched down the aisle, on her way to her new life, as Mrs. John Daly.
After the wedding, I politely introduced myself to my new step-father, and my two revolting step-sisters.
Months later, my mother gave me much more information than I'd ever ask for, by telling me what happened on their wedding night. She said that they did not have sex at all. He stayed in the bathroom half the night, throwing up, because he was so nervous. I thought that it should've been the other way around. She should've been the one throwing up at the thought of having sex with him. In any case, it was an omen.
From the moment he said, "I do," John managed to ruin every family gathering that I ever attended. Christmas, birthdays, funerals, you name it. He put his own unique spin on making us understand that our family, as we knew it, was officially dead. He ran the show, and it was guaranteed that we would only be miserable. When it came time to leave, we left angry.
My brothers named him, "The Commander," because he made it his business to control every move we made. It always took me at least two weeks to recover emotionally, from all the 'divide and conquer' tactics that he put us through, and got away with.
Geraldine's three kids wanted to keep a semblance of what once was our family, but it was too much for us to ask. She completely ignored the fact that we were so profoundly unhappy. After a while, I decided that it was time to start protecting myself from this abuse. The last event I allowed myself to suffer through, was Christmas 1996.
Sometimes, Geraldine called me discreetly, from the guest room of their home. I always recognized her voice, but I never knew who I was going to be talking to. The conversations were never anything to do with who we really were, or what was really going on. That wasn't allowed. It was always the superficially pleasant, one-sided mother-daughter chat. She had this need to keep things wrapped up in a nice, neat little package, in order to live with herself. Every word that came out of her mouth was a form of manipulation. In between her false concerns, we'd go over how she'd re-invented herself, and how the rest of us were expected to play along. She always ended the call with an insinuation that we had a close relationship, and she was a devoted mother. It felt like anything but love.
Shortly after the call ended, and we hung up, the phone would ring, again. When I picked up the phone and said, 'hello,' the person on the other end would listen for a few seconds, for the second 'hello,' and then hung up on me. It didn't take long to notice the pattern. It wasn't a stalker. It was the heavy hand of John Daly hitting the 'redial' button to find out who she was on the phone with.
He probably didn't recognize my voice at first, because I'd be crying my eyes out by then. I cried every time I talked to those people. The truth of why I cried was too much of a burden for them to be bothered with. To stop being a burden, I stopped talking to those people. When I stopped talking to those people, I stopped crying.