Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hand, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”
Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”
Reading the correspondence from Gatsby at the time makes me very sad.
In November 2013, after I cancelled my flight to Washington DC so we could go and meet Bink in hospital when the police had been looking for her all the night long, I had written Gatsby a long and carefully tactful email, advising him that she needed more than one person to look after her, that this should be done by her family and it was likely to be very sacrificial.
How many years of both their lives could have been spared!
Now, he wrote asking that we cooperate over her care.
I replied, again as courteously as I could, to say we found it hard to cooperate with someone who stole into our home, so secretly, in the middle of the night when the household was asleep, to conduct his business.
Rather than visiting as a friend, and greeting us openly by day.
His response was explosive. She was not a chattel or a child to be stolen away: how much this revealed of our attitude! He knew he wasn’t welcome in our house… though the last time we had seen him we wined and dined him.
And it was now clear we didn’t even want to cooperate over her care.
(This last was true enough. I didn’t think Bink and Gatsby should have anything to do with each other. I had believed so for many years.)
Far more telling, he insisted he had no desire to care for our daughter. He described his life looking after her “a misery, a hell on earth. I cannot work. I cannot sleep. Often I cannot eat.”
He described himself as a prisoner in his own flat.
He said he contemplated suicide daily.
It was a deeply shocking and deeply disturbing email... And yet not at all surprising.
We had lived with Bink’s illness for many years.
I had anticipated it all. And tried to tell him.
“However, I am bound by commitments I have made. Long ago I promised her that there would always be a home for her under my roof.”
Oh Gatsby, Gatsby!
And so mistaken.
What can you even begin to say, to someone so convinced he is right?