Esther dreaded each day. Growing up spoiled and sure she deserved everything her parents couldn’t give her, she devoted her life to fulfilling this destiny. She attended medical school to find a nice doctor with a future to marry. Fortunately she was bright enough to get her pre-med degree, but the punishment of medical studies was an unpleasant future, so instead she went into a physician’s assistant program.
It was as a PA that she met and married husband number one, a gynecologist. Esther was not one to suffer from jealousy. She instead enjoyed the privileges of a doctor’s wife, joining the local country club and having affairs with anyone who passed her fancy from the tennis pro to the owner. She found several friends at the club with like tastes, thereby assuaging any guilt that might well up.
After a while she found herself at the peak of the play. She saw life styles that made hers pall. So she started looking for a career which would give her ample personal income beyond her husband’s, which was only sufficient to maintain their life style. She settled on managing hedge funds for her friends; at this she was very successful, with her penchant for research and her global eye for trends. She used her extra income to arrange trips all over the world for herself, her husband, and their two children.
Sadly, John McMahan was too devoted to his patients to take part in indulging his wife’s wanderlust. They ended up divorced. John maintained support of his children’s life style and guaranteed them college educations. But Esther eschewed alimony, banking on her new career to support her and the mortgage on the house. And so it did.
Still young, Esther enjoyed her new freedom, and as the children grew she engaged in dating with a frenzy. This resulted in husband number two, a lawyer who represented her in a couple of suits from dissatisfied investors. George Krause’s analytical mind made him an excellent financial lawyer, but a rather dull husband. After ten years, Esther divorced him; by this time she owned four properties and had a sizeable nest egg put away. Yet she continued to work, never being quite satisfied with what she had.
Number three, Bill Hannah, was a CPA, with the controllable hours and investments to allow him to court and win Esther easily. He came from old money and could expose her to all manners of fine dining, limousine transport, high-end brands for furniture and clothing, and wise investments in art and relics. However, after two years of dabbling, Esther discovered that Bill had no interest in travel, since he got sick even on huge ocean liners and was petrified of airplanes, so Esther took her new education and moved on.
The last husband was perfect. He not only had made a “killing” on Wall Street, but Abe had a great zest for living. He indulged himself and Esther not only in traveling to every corner of the world, but in sporting that was not overly demanding on middle aged bodies, such as hunting, rafting, golf, and skiing. Because they had each built individual estates and both had children and grandchildren to protect, a thorough pre-nuptial agreement was written which basically determined that in the event of divorce each would leave with what s/he had possessed when entering the marriage. Acquisitions after the wedding would belong to the one owning the title; this resulted in minor discussions any time a car, sofa or home was purchased; but since each was pretty comfortable to begin with, new possessions were pretty equitably split. She maintained her maiden name, Belden, for work, but life with Abe did not leave much time for this, so she “retired”.
Life was blissful for a while. They travelled, they indulged in sports, they showered children and grandchildren with all the amenities they felt jilted of in their own childhoods, reveling in the roles of generous donors. The sharing of wealth only went down the blood lines. In all other relationships they were considered rather miserly, not even giving to charities or helping out friends with temporary losses.
Four years into this utopian life, Abe had an accident. He hit a rock when he fell while kayaking the white waters of San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina. The injury severed his spinal cord at the base of his neck. The prognosis was dire – he lost control of arms, legs and torso, but could still think and speak. Abe was now condemned to being an observer of and commenter on life. Fortunately they could afford to have 24-hour in-home help and the best medical care. Abe retired from Wall Street with a generous package, but all this care didn’t balance the loss of a vigorous life style. He began to slip into a well of self-pity and anger. As much as he loved Esther, he knew her nature, and immediately spoke to his lawyer to ensure that he was still of sound mind and in control of his affairs. He also hired a personal assistant to run errands and recon on what was going on outside of his view. He spent the majority of his time out of bed strapped into a motorized wheelchair he could control by blowing into a tube when the assistant was not available to push him. He insisted on continuing as much of his life as he could; he built ramps in his homes and purchased a van with wheelchair access. He still went out to dinner on rare occasions and attended some concerts and sports events.
For Esther, this was a condemnation of all her dreams. She could still live in her elevated style, but she now had to take over a lot of the management responsibilities of all their properties, tasks that Abe used to do. But she had to clear every decision with him. He even listened in on her phone calls to be sure she acted as he wanted. All current income was in Abe’s name alone, and he had a contract with his assistant to function as power of attorney to cosign documents with Abe’s “X” made with pen in mouth. With six homes around the globe, Esther had to learn laws and finances of different countries. Yet traveling to any of them had its own logistics that made that well-nigh impossible. Every day began with a discussion of the tasks of the day and decisions on what to do and what not to do. Life centered around their Pennsylvania home; travel was a rare event only cleared for specific purposes. Esther had become a prisoner of that house along with her husband, and this was wearing her zest of life down to a trickle as well. She started drinking heavily and constantly, starting at noon and ending when she passed out at midnight in her empty bed. After the day’s business was done, around seven in the evening, Abe would retire to watch television or read news and books on his computer monitor; Esther would read or talk on the phone with one friend or another to escape her new living style. Children and grandchildren on both sides apparently felt that this was a problem only for Abe and Esther, and was well in hand, so demands and requests did not abate, as they insisted on what they saw as their entitlements. Mainly out of pride and habit, Abe and Esther kept their conflicts between themselves and presented a united and positive front to all friends, family and public.
On particularly trying days, Esther needed somewhere to vent and complain. Those were the days when she would call an old high school friend, Beth. Beth’s fortunes had always palled in comparison to Esther’s, but now Esther’s approach to the relationship was more to wail than lord it over Beth. On the pretense of calling to see how her old friend was doing, Esther would ask how things were going. If Beth stated good news, Esther would question and pick until it looked pretty bleak to Beth. If Beth shared bad news, Esther would feign sympathy, then complain about how she had it even worse. Although she never offered Beth compassion when Beth’s life took a downturn, Esther wanted abject sympathy now; she played the role of princess-in-reverse.
Esther Belden McMahan Krause Hannah Feldman’s life had come to a dead standstill.