Emily’s husband was a cad.
That’s the nicest way to put it. When the man had immigrated to Argentina in the late 1940s, he had brought not only Emily, his wife of 21 years, with him, but he also brought his mistress as well as several servants and other hangers on. Now, you might be saying to yourself that any self-respecting person wouldn’t put up with this type of behavior, that any spouse would demand that the husband or wife get rid of the third person in the relationship or face divorce.
But Emily wasn’t like that. First of all, she loved her charming and dashing husband, and she knew that, like the other dalliances, this one, too, wouldn’t last. In fact, she had made a pact with herself, knowing that he was a brilliant–flawed, certainly–and generous man. She told herself that as long as he came back to her, that she would be there, waiting. And so, she was, for most of her life.
The move to Argentina proved to be yet the latest in a series of get rich schemes that Emily’s husband pursued in his professional life. He had made money–lots of it–over the years, but, sadly, he lost it all or gave it away. His theory was that there was no trick to making money, so it didn’t matter how he spent it. He had expensive tastes in clothes, food, furniture, and, as Emily could testify, women.
The Argentina experiment failed, miserably. The man was no farmer, and the people he’s hired to help him turned out to be equally inept at raising nutrias for their fur. By 1958, the small enterprise was bankrupt, and Emily’s husband left Argentina with a promise that he would go back to Europe and make money and then send for her.
So, Emily waited.
And her husband never returned. She never received a good explanation why. Well, she knew that he had died in Germany of liver failure in 1974 at age 66. To fill her time, Emily began adopting cats in the neighborhood, becoming, by the time she passed away in her 90s, the proverbial crazy cat lady. People who asked her about her husband were told the truth by Emily; he was a drunk, a womanizer, a spendthrift, and a man she would’ve taken back in a moment if he had ever walked back through her doorway. Others spoke of Emily’s husband in kinder, almost sacred tones, and she would often wave a dismissive hand at them.
But until the day she died, Emily insisted that Oskar Schindler was the love of her life.