Christmas of 2009 was Dolores Maxwell's last. It would be wonderful to report that Dolores spent the holiday season enveloped by her children, her grandchildren, great-grandchild, nieces, nephews, friends and relations.
It would be sweet to imagine the scents of Christmas puddings and brandy butter filling the spaces between laughter and stories and being absorbed into the spirit of joy.
And it would warm us to say the fruits of Dolores' life and love surrounded her, and the happiness and fulfillment Dolores felt were expressed in her impish sparkling eyes and unique smile that each and every one would treasure as a most special and unforgettable gift; a gift that in future Christmases would displace the sadness of her absence with the memory of her presence.
Continuing the narrative begun in the Simple Plan trilogy and the Silence of Friends series, we visit the events of Christmas 2009 and its ripples into January 2010. This page is the introduction of what we have named A Christmas Story.
Alex was coming to Ireland from overseas with his family, and at long last had been able to reach his mother by phone, on or around December 15. It was arranged he would see her on December 27th.
He was aware of some of the recent events concerning Dolores and Ethan and had in the past been stymied in his attempts to see his mother. He had last seen her in January of 2008, at Cecil's funeral. Alex was by no means confident that he would be able to see his mother on this trip, as he expressed earlier in the month: “I'm not sure how I'm going to describe to anyone how I went the whole way to Ireland and didn't see my mother! This is awful...”
Alex would be without a car, so he and Dolores arranged for a family friend, Duane Matthews, to pick her up at Ethan's house in Bray and bring her to lunch with Alex and his family, where they would catch up and exchange presents, etc. Saoirse and Alex chose the Royal Marine hotel in Dun Laoghaire, just a short distance north of Bray for the rendezvous. Dolores and Cecil were married at The Royal Marine, and it was hoped this connection would give a positive boost to Dolores.
After Alex and his family spent some time with Dolores alone, it was planned for other family members to come there to meet with Dolores and seek to find ways to make sure they could stay in touch with her. Dolores was kept unaware of this, as a precaution. It was thought Ethan might not allow the visit to happen if he knew other family members were gathering to help Dolores. Saoirse hoped the realization that her family was there for her and pulling for her would give Dolores the strength and confidence to admit what was going on and accept help.
Saoirse told family members about the plan, and encouraged them to come. She did not say anything to either Sophie or Ronan, already concerned about their relationships with Ethan. Nathaniel confirms he'll be there. Sean is unsure of his availability that day but in an email confirms his willingness:
“I have no problem meeting up - you can make your point to her but if she don't want to see us there is not a lot you can do! I for my part told her I wasn't coming down when he is there and I don't intend sneaking down when he's off in Spain or somewhere!
Ronan is off to Switzerland on Tuesday til March or April and so she will turn to the slug even more!
I reckon after this will be when she is helped fall down the stairs! And yes I can say this in an email cos then it can be referred to in the future! I did tell Dollars she just might get that helping hand when there's just the two of them!”
[Editor's note: Sean and some of his family did indeed come to the Royal Marine that Sunday. He was wrong about Ronan leaving for Switzerland on that date. We note the common knowledge among so many of the Maxwell children that Ethan was abusing their mother. From the very start of this whole narrative, we note the absolute lack of surprise that the Maxwell children evinced when Saoirse spoke of Ethan's abuse.]
Alex was able to reach Dolores again by phone on Christmas Eve, and firmed the arrangements. Duane Matthews would pick up Dolores at Ethan's house on Sunday the 27th about 1:30pm and bring her to the Royal Marine. Simple enough. Dolores would see her son Alex and his family for the first time in almost two years. What's more he was able to phone and speak to her directly, and Ethan hadn't tried to muck things up. Maybe Ethan was releasing some of his control over Dolores since the visit by the Elder Abuse caseworker.
A few minutes after Alex spoke to his mom, a very loud and angry Ethan called Alex.
Under no circumstances was Duane Matthews or anyone else to come to Ethan's house or he would call the Gardai.
Fine. Alex negotiated with Ethan, seeking terms that would enable him to see his mother. It was agreed that Ethan would transport Dolores to the Ramada Inn in Bray for 1:30pm where Duane Matthews would meet her. This was convenient for Ethan as the Ramada was less than a five minute drive from his house. Although Ethan had his hissy fit and took control over his brother's attempt to see Dolores, at least she would be allowed to see Alex, as long as Ethan's directives were followed. Nonetheless, Alex asked Saoirse to talk to her contact at the Bray Gardai. The Gardai advised her they would be willing to assist during the pickup, to call them for assistance at the time.
So it was finally arranged. Yes, logistics were set up and controlled by Ethan. Access to Dolores by her other children must come through him, with his permission and control, disregarding Dolores' desires. No one was to even wait for her on the street near his house, let alone knock on his door. He would allow Dolores to see others under his conditions and under his control as he saw fit. Okay, point taken, but at least he had agreed that Dolores could see Alex after nearly two years.
Besides, the HSE Elder Abuse was involved now, and interested in this meeting. As Geoffrey Blair had written, “Pending on what happens over Christmas, I can try to meet her again, maybe you and the rest of the family can convince her to meet me.”
Duane Matthews' family lived near the Maxwell family in south Dublin, and Duane's parents live there still. He and Alex are best friends. Ethan didn't know where Duane lived, but of course he knew where his parents lived. On Christmas Eve, under cover of darkness, Ethan delivered a letter to the Matthews' house, addressed to Alex. They discovered it Christmas morning. It was not a Christmas card.
We look at Ethan's note in the second part of A Christmas Story.
We call it Ethan's Christmas Message.