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The World of Franyo, Part 50: A Visit from the Empress

Nicole Jeffords 5 months ago

The first week your husband won’t get out of his pajamas or leave the house, you think: Hmmm a little odd. The second week with him unshaven and in the same pajamas, you know something’s definitely off. Except that I didn’t. I was in total denial.

I had been with Werner six years when Jofka was born. I knew about his bad moods, silent sulks and eccentric behavior. I figured this was just more of the same, and so it took awhile before I realized the situation was getting out of control. Really, I had two babies in the house, one a newborn, and the other a man of fifty-three.


“Mother with Two Children” by Egon Schiele

It was pretty overwhelming. Partly he was just plain freaked about becoming a father, and partly it was his natural bent for melodrama. Whatever it was, I had to soothe and placate him while dealing with a newborn and managing our everyday lives. I was in a constant state of crisis but knew to put one foot in front of the other. Luckily we’d found a new house a week or two before Jofka was born and just had to complete the paperwork. Not an ideal house, but workable – two up, two down, meaning tiny with the bathroom downstairs behind the minuscule kitchen. We were buying, not renting, and part of the money would come from the $$$ I’d been awarded as a result of the lawsuit after my car accident years before. But it took a lot of coaxing to get Werner out of his depressing rut and to the bank to sign the deed.



One motivating factor was Franyo’s imminent arrival in London. Jofka was now six weeks old. In fact, we’d only just named her – Jofka (usually spelled with an unpronounceable Z), the Yiddish equivalent of Sophie, after Werner’s maternal grandmother. Although he’d chosen her name (which he was very insistent on), and taken a photo for her US passport (undiapered and peevish, definitely an off moment), Werner would still have nothing to do with the baby. This unhealthy pattern changed dramatically when Franyo arrived, bringing with her, as always, the pomp and ceremony of an empress come to visit her subjects.

She was not a roll-up-her-sleeves, I’ll diaper the baby sort of grandma. In fact, not one of her grandchildren was ever allowed to call her anything but Franyo. But she did slyly push Werner into small interactions with his daughter, handing him the baby in a no-nonsense sort of way if she suddenly had something else to attend to, poking fun at him if he resisted. With Franyo around, Werner finally began to leave the house on a regular basis. A big effort for him, no doubt, victim as he was of his own weird jealousies and obsessions. He wanted her approval at all times (mine didn’t count so much). And so when Franyo visited the house we’d just bought, and announced it was uninhabitable, a slum we couldn’t possibly move into, he agreed with her. This was the cause of tremendous embarrassment to me, but he didn’t care.



**An episode from this memoir is published every Tuesday & Thursday for those following!

**Need to start at the beginning? Find Part 1 here!

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