Delia's Life Story
Afternoon TV Magazine, January 1978
by Katie Hall
Article Provided By Wanda
Delia Reid Ryan was the youngest of two children born to Joseph and Maureen Reid in the Riverside section of Manhattan's upper west side - the same neighborhood where she now lives as the wife of young Dr. Pat Ryan. The home in which Delia and her brother, Bob, grew up was an unhappy and impoverished one - it lacked the feelings of love, warmth and security, as much as the the material comforts of life.
Joe Reid, Delia's father, drifted from job to job and was more often unemployed than working. When Delia was very young, her father suffered a severe schizophrenic breakdown and had to be committed to a state asylum for his own protection. After five years in the asylum, it was discovered that he was suffering from bone cancer. He was released from the mental hospital, only to be admitted to Riverside Hospital where he remained for two long years before dying.
Maureen Reid, a thin, frail woman, was forced to go to work to support the family. She took a job with the New York Transit Authority, selling tokens in the subway at night. Delia and Bob did their share as well to help with expenses. Bob always had a part time job of some kind, running errands or working in local shops, and Delia had her babysitting jobs and worked in the local five and dime store during high school.
Delia met the Ryan family through her brother, who was Frank Ryan's best friend. The Ryan household, with its warmth and laughter and noise, with people relating and caring and involved with one another, was a kind of heaven for her. She felt alive when she was with them and she was delighted with every invitation to join in their activities. The Ryan who delighted her the most was young Pat. When Pat smiled at her, she felt good, and protected. Feelings she never experienced with her own family.
Delia and Bob never talked much as children. But his pain and anger were closer to the surface and with a little help he could tell you what was on his mind. Delia could not do that. She envied his assumption that people cared about what he thought. She had no sense that anyone cared about her and her feelings - her father was too sick, her mother too sad and tired all the time, and her brother too angry.
All the Ryans were kind to her. Mary Ryan found her a good companion and Delia was grateful for the interest and frequent praise. However, Mary's interest dimmed a little as Pat's grew. Probably because Pat was Mary's special brother and Delia was the first girl in whom he had expressed a genuine interest. Also, Delia's blossoming body made Mary anxious. She looked at Delia and then at her own long bones and feared none of that was ever going to happen to her.
Delia was a little anxious herself about her body until she realized boys liked the way she looked. So, she decided to like it, too. Pat's friendship dazzled her. She adored him. She believed he genuinely enjoyed helping her and she could rely on him as a source of wisdom and strength about anything. But, Pat had no idea of Delia's feelings about him until they were well into high school. He was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to her and she could not believe her luck.
After a year and a half as his best girl, she knew she would rather die than lose him. By this time she was shrewd enough to foresee the problems ahead of her when he went off to college, and then medical school. And so, threatened and very insecure - feelings that plague her to this day - she went to him bed with him. After a short time, she discovered to her surprise that she enjoyed it, and it was Delia as often as Pat who found opportunities to make love. At just about this time, her now bedridden mother died and that heightened her emotional dependence on Pat.
She wanted desperately to marry Pat. She wanted him and his family and the security that she associated with all of the Ryans and had never felt with her own family. When she felt him moving away from her she was threatened at her very core. She realized she was pushing him too hard, but she did not know how to stop. But Pat was not ready to settle into marriage and he often became angry at her persistence and would flirt with others girls. She wanted to hurt him back and tried to make him jealous enough to bring his full attention back to her. When it did not work and they finally broke up, she was in despair.
The First Ryan Marriage
After Delia and Pat broke up, Pat's older brother Frank began paying attention to Delia. That seemed the perfect answer to her despair. Frank's interest was a boost to her bruised ego, a continued connection to the Ryan family - and a sure punishment for Pat. Delia began to focus all of her cleverness, energy and intuition on Frank. And he was delighted because she was beautiful, vulnerable and marvelous receptive company. Delia blossomed with Frank. She made love with calculated childlike spontaneity and enthusiasm and she was delighted by Frank's response. Within six months they were married.
Pat did not seem to suffer as much as Delia had anticipated. She and Frank rarely saw him, and when they did, he was usually with some girl. So, Delia gave herself over to her first year of marriage and had a wonderful time. As a matter of fact, it was the best year of her life. She had decided she might be really in love with her husband, after all.
Enter Jill Coleridge
By this time, Frank was in law school and carrying a very heavy schedule that took more and more of his attention away from Delia. And she began to take it as a personal rejection. She very much wanted the prestige and affluence - and in her mind, security - that a lawyer husband provided, but she also wanted Frank's full attention. To her, this was not an unjust demand. It took Frank some time to fully understand her tragic sadness, withdrawals and temper tantrums. And when he did, he was annoyed. Of course, that provoked a more intense response from Delia. The resulting unhappiness increased till Delia was awash in her own helplessness and Frank was miserable. It was just about then that Frank discovered Jillian Coleridge.
Frank had known Jill all his life through the friendship between their two families, but they had never been more than acquaintances. She was just a few years older than Frank and already a lawyer and he had always felt a little out of her league. However, they were brought together when she turned up as a teacher in one of his law courses. He became highly intrigued with her. In contrast to Jillian, Delia's emotional limitations became even more pronounced. Frank and Jill began seeing each other after class and they slowly began to move into an affair.
Frank did not realize that about half way through the affair Delia discovered what was going on. The pain and fear and outrage that overwhelmed Dee was almost unendurable. She had discovered the affair quite by accident. One night she had gone to a movie with a girlfriend from the office - she was working at the telephone company at the time - and because it was a beautiful night she walked over to watch the river for a few minutes before she went home. On her way back she passed Jill's apartment building just in time to see Frank help Jillian out of her car, both of them laughing - clearly very happy. She watched them go quickly into the building and waited an hour and a half till Frank came out. She followed him home, waited a few minutes and then went in herself. She apologized for being late and asked him about the day, which he gave an account of and simply left out the final hour and half as she had observed it.
Delia started waiting in the shadow of a stoop diagonally across the street from Jill's building and watching their arrivals. She asked idle questions and searched Frank's pockets for the minute piece of evidence. She was determined not to let him get away with this affair and so she decided to get herself pregnant as quickly as possible The results were just what she hoped. Frank brought himself to end the affair and spent much more time at home.
The only problem now was that Dee hated being pregnant and was not at all sure she really wanted a baby. She did, however, have sense enough to suffer bravely. By the time the baby - Little John - was born, Delia'd had it with maternity. She now wanted Frank's attention in a different way. But Frank had to go back to school and Dee found herself with a baby to content with. She decided - as was her pattern - to punish Frank. She took little or no interest in the house, only a desultory interest in keeping the baby clean, and spent a lot of time in bed with romantic novels.
This drove Frank back to Jill as quickly as he could get there. Dee recognized the old signs and realized she might have gone too far. Though she had no proof that Frank was seeing Jill again, she made an effort to get herself together, with a lot of help from Maeve Ryan. She slowly realized that she had allowed half the illusions on which Frank had based their marriage to slowly molder away. Delia was furious and confused and she did not know what to do next. All she really knew was that she would never let Frank leave her for another woman.
Delia Becomes Violent
Finally, one night when Frank had gone out on 'campaign business' - he was now running for the office of city councilman from the Riverside district - Delia left Little John with Maeve and Johnny Ryan, explaining that she had some errands to run. She walked over to take her old post across from Jill's apartment building. After a short time, she saw Frank come out. She was hurt and she was furious. She decided to confront him. Instead of heading home, he went to Riverside Hospital and Dee followed. By the time they both reached the hospital, Delia's hurt and anger were almost uncontrollable as she confronted him in the corridor. With Dee nearly hysterical, Frank took her into a nearby stairwell to avoid a public scene and tried to calm her down. But, Delia was not to be calmed and under the pressure of her emotional onslaught Frank admitted that he had resumed his affair with Jill and that he wanted a divorce from Delia. In a blind rage, Delia struck out at Frank, accidentally knocking him down a flight of stairs. When she realized what she had done, she fled in panic, leaving an unconscious Frank lying at the bottom of the stairs.
Delia was too frightened to tell anyone what had happened because she believed she had killed her husband. When Frank was found, still unconscious and badly hurt, Dee was relieved that he was still alive, but also panic stricken that he would tell what had happened when he regained consciousness, and that he would certainly leave her when he recovered. Frank remained unconscious and near death for many days. When he regained consciousness, Dee begged him for his forgiveness and was able to extract his promise that he would not tell anyone what happened. Frank also agreed not to proceed with his divorce action. His decision was not based on a change in his feeling toward Dee, but, rather, the awareness that a divorce at this particular time could cost him the election.
Even though the local political party found out about Frank's affair with Jill, Delia appeared before a district committee meeting and assured them that the affair was over and that she and Frank were happily reconciled. Frank went on to win the election and Dee now had her husband back.
But, all was not as she would like it to be. Frank refused to make love to Dee and excluded her from almost all areas of his life. And she suffered constantly from the nagging doubts that he might still be seeing Jill.
Delia's New Lover
Delia, of course, was unable to take her focus off Frank and develop her own interests. Even though she was aware that she should pursue a life of her own, each time she made an attempt she eventually wanted - and needed - Frank's participation. His continued refusal was a constant source of hurt and frustration for her. Eventually Dee's search for attention and love led to her discovery of Roger Coleridge, Jill's brother. Roger had been aware of Delia as a beautiful and sexy woman for some time but now he quickly recognized Dee's need for attention and affection and he showered her with both. Dee responded quickly to the charming, handsome, rich and sophisticated Dr. Coleridge and soon their relationship bloomed into an affair. Delia had misgivings but the unscrupulous Roger did not.
In order to arrange their romantic trysts without arousing Frank's suspicions, Dee invented a friend Sheila. To explain her frequent absences form home, Dee told Frank that she and a newfound friend - Sheila - were taking Chinese cooking lessons from Mrs. Lem. The affair with Roger was a delicious diversion for Delia, but for Roger, it meant even more. He genuinely cared for her and he took great pleasure in seeing her happy and responsive to him.
Then one night Frank made love to Dee and the next morning he told her that he would once again try to make their marriage work. Delia was elated. It seemed the answer to her prayers. However, when she went to Roger and told him that she must end the affair, he was not understanding. In his way, Roger was as selfish and self-centered as Delia. He told her that if she stopped seeing him he would tell Frank about the affair. Once more Dee was in a panic. She was torn between the fear of Roger carrying out his threat if she stopped seeing him and the chance of being discovered by Frank himself if she continued the fiction of Sheila and the cooking lessons. Finally, she took a firm stand with Roger and ended their romantic rendezvous. But, the unscrupulous Roger carried out his threat. He arranged it so that Frank would discover that Delia's friend, Sheila, did not exist.
Caught in this elaborate lie, Delia made up an even more elaborate web of lies. She told Frank that she had been spending the time away from home with Father McShane trying to work out her personal problems, and thus to help their marriage. Frank was still suspicious. Slowly, he began to suspect that Dee might be seeing Roger Coleridge, since Roger seemed to be the only person who ever mentioned meeting the non-existent Sheila. One afternoon Frank announced in front of Dee, Roger and Johnny Ryan that he had to go out of town on political business for the night. The story was a deliberate lie on Frank's part to see what Dee would do that night. Dee, still being emotionally blackmailed by Roger, went to his apartment that night. So did Frank. And he walked in on Dee, dressed only in her slip, and Roger in his bathrobe.
Frank was outraged. He told Delia he wanted a divorce and told her to get out of the house immediately. A panicked Dee begged and pleaded with Frank to give her one more chance. He refused, still insisting that she move out of the house at once. She beseeched the Ryan family to intervene for her but only Pat would come to her defense, to no avail with Frank. Desperate, Delia came up with a plan that she thought would change Frank's mind. She took Little John, left the Ryan home, and checked into a hotel. She waited until she was sure she and the baby had been missed and then she called Frank. She told him the name of the hotel she was in and the room number and then added that he would find Little John there but not her. While Frank and other members of the Ryan family rushed to the hotel, Dee put the rest of her plan to work. She climbed out the window onto the hotel ledge high above the street. Distraught as she was, Delia, of course, had no intention of jumping. In her mind, it was a sure way of getting Frank to take her back. And, indeed, when Frank arrived and found her out there he agreed to stay with her if she would come in. Dee believed him, but when she tried to crawl back to the window she discovered she was too frightened. She was frozen to the spot. Finally Pat Ryan arrived and, risking his own life, climbed out on the ledge and led Dee back through the window.
When Delia admitted to Frank that she never really intended to jump from the ledge, he was so incensed that he told her he would go ahead with the divorce action and that he would seek custody of Little John as well. And once again, Frank turned to Jill.
When Delia was served with Frank's divorce papers, she sought advice from a lawyer as to how she could fight it. Her lawyer, Anne Burney, told her she could block Frank's charges of adultery only if she could prove that he was currently involved in an adulterous affair. So, when Delia overheard Frank and Jill planning to meet at Jill's beach house that night, Dee began plotting to catch them in the act. She convinced Pat to drive her to Jill's beach house so that she could have a quiet talk with Jill. Of course, when Pat and Delia walked in on Frank and Jill, Dee feigned shock and surprise in order to gain Pat's sympathy - and it worked.
Delia's successful scheme created a rift between the two brothers and at times threatened to break up the Ryan clan. But to Delia's way of thinking, Pat had been the only member of the Ryan family who had shown any sympathy toward her and she planned on using that to her every advantage. She even told Pat that she was trying to break away from Roger Coleridge, but that he wouldn't let her go and threatened to harm her if she did. By now Delia had decided that her marriage to Frank would inevitably end in divorce, but she was determined not to give in until she was ready and certainly not until she had a stronger hold on Pat Ryan.
When the custody battle for Little John went to court, Delia was confident that she would win because she'd told the judge that Jill was pregnant with Frank's child. But shortly before the hearing, Delia found Jill Coleridge in her room at the Ryan's, playing with Little John. Hurt and angry that Jill was usurping her place at the Ryan's, Delia began shouting and screaming at Jill. Jill tripped and fell, hitting her head. The entire Ryan family was worried and upset, but Frank was furious. He remembered Delia pushing him down the stairs at the hospital and accused her of being violent and unstable. The Ryans were shocked since they'd never known exactly how Frank had fallen down those stairs. Everyone was furious with Dee, especially when they remembered how much sympathy she demanded when Frank was on death's door.
The custody hearing began and Delia was as surprised as anyone when custody of Little John was awarded to Maeve and Johnny, the baby's grandparents. Delia was hurt and angry and accused the Ryans of conspiring against her.
Delia's New Baby
Delia's need and determination to remain a part of the Ryan family was as strong as ever and she saw Pat as the means of maintaining her position in the family. With the loss of custody of Little John and the inevitability of the divorce, she began concentrating her attentions on Pat Ryan. But Pat had turned to Faith Coleridge, a young resident and Jill and Roger's sister. Faith had had a crush on Pat earlier in the story and it was a bitter and painful blow when he rejected her. Faith suffered from certain sexual hangups that led to feelings of insecurity. Faith and Pat were brought together again when Faith suffered a nervous breakdown after being kidnapped by the deranged Kenneth Castle and watching Kenneth kill her father. Faith recovered from the breakdown stronger than ever - and Pat found himself increasingly attracted to her. The prospect of Pat marrying Faith was a great threat to Delia, so she came up with yet another in her long series of schemes.
She knew that Pat did not approve of her relationship with Roger and felt certain that he would try and prevent her from further involvement with him. So, after losing custody of Little John, Dee went to Roger and told him she was willing to marry him if he would run away with her to another country. Roger was delighted and agreed immediately, being totally unaware that she was using him to help win Pat. Roger was to go ahead and make all the plans for their trip. Meanwhile, Dee went to Pat and told him that Roger had asked her to run away and marry him and that she thought she would do it because she seemed to have no one else to turn to now that she had lost custody of Little John. And Frank, of course, was sure to persist in divorcing her. Pat was concerned and sympathetic and advised her not to do it. It was exactly the reaction Delia wanted. And when Pat told her that he would never be able to walk away from a wife and baby as easily as his brother Frank had, Dee had yet another idea - she would become pregnant by Pat. She was sure that if she was carrying Pat's baby he would definitely marry her.
Dee was clever enough to fit her new scheme in with her plan to run away with Roger. She very carefully worked out the exact time of the month when she was most likely to conceive and then asked Roger to arrange their trip for them, and she specifically requested that they leave by ship. Roger booked passage for the next week on a ship sailing from Boston and on the day of departure Delia left a note behind for Pat telling him that she had decided to run away with Roger and told him the name of the ship and the time and date of the sailing. When Pat read the note, he rushed up to Boston in time to take Delia off the ship - unknownst to poor Roger. Pat and Delia spent the night at a Boston hotel where according to plan, Delia played on Pat's old feelings for her and managed to seduce him.
As soon as Delia was able to determine that she was definitely carrying Pat's baby, she agreed to give Frank the divorce in exchange for a cash settlement of $15,000. She felt that with the divorce settled, the way would be cleared for her to marry Pat. However, Pat had now decided that he had to break away from Delia once again and was determined that their relationship would go no further. His relationship with Faith continued to deepen and they were engaged. When Dee told him, on the night of the Ryan's engagement party of Faith and Pat, that she had discovered she was pregnant with his child, he accused her of deliberately planning it and refused to marry her. Since he seemed adamant about it, Dee decided that if Maeve and Johnny were to know she was carrying their son's first child they might convince him to marry her. Thus, she conceived another devious plan. She made an appointment at an abortion clinic - although she had no intention of having the abortion - and once there pretended to be too frightened to go through with it. She insisted that the clinic call Maeve to come and bring her home so that Maeve would learn about the baby.
The Second Ryan Marriage
Her plan did not work. Pat still refused to marry her. Truly desperate, Delia came across Jack Fenelli's pain killer pills in the Ryan apartment and decided, once again, to try a suicide attempt as a means of impressing Pat how much she needed him. Of course she had no intention of actually committing suicide and planned it so that Pat would find her in time. This time her plan worked. Pat found her so vulnerable and helpless that he told her he would marry her and take care of her and their baby.
Delia felt secure again. Pat's promise to marry her satisfied her driving need for emotional security and it would also mean that she would continue to be a part of the Ryan family. And, with the fifteen thousand dollar divorce settlement from Frank, Delia also had material security. However, life was not about to be as uncomplicated as she had planned it.
Shortly before the planned wedding Delia injured herself while lifting Little John and suffered a miscarriage. She was terribly scared - not only because she had lost the baby she wanted, but because she was afraid that losing the baby would mean losing Pat. She knew that Pat was marrying her only because of the baby and that if he found out about the miscarriage, he would back out. Delia kept the miscarriage a secret and went to another hospital to be treated, using the name Sheila Brown. At the hospital, she met a young hospital aide Alicia Nieves, who helped her through the frightening miscarriage. Later, when Alicia joined the staff at Riverside Hospital Delia panicked. She was afraid that Alicia would inadvertently tell the truth about "Mrs. Brown." But Delia begged Alicia not to tell anyone and made the facts about her miscarriage "their little secret."
Delia went ahead with her marriage to Pat and when the wedding was safely over, she faked a miscarriage. Of course, Pat as well as the rest of the Ryan family felt sorry for Dee and tried to help her recover from the loss of the baby.
But because Delia had never realized that the root of all her problems was within herself, conflicts began to arise in her relationship with Pat. With cutbacks at Riverside Hospital, Pat was forced to work longer and longer hours with a very heavy caseload. That meant that he spent more and more time away from home - and Delia. Resentful, Dee made constant selfish demands on him, which left Pat both physically and mentally exhausted. In addition, Delia was jealous and suspicious of Faith Coleridge, although she had no reason to be. With Pat away so much of the time, Delia turned her attentions to Little John.
One day she took Little John to the park - and lost him. She frantically returned home and told the Ryan's what had happened. Frank, of course, was furious and accused Delia once again of being irresponsible. The baby was finally found and hospitalized. Frank didn't want Delia near the baby but she insisted. Frank made it clear that she would have no say about his care at the hospital and might never be allowed to take the baby out with her again. Desperate for some attention, Delia took the child home from the hospital - without Frank's knowledge or permission. When Frank finally found Delia with the baby, he was outraged. Delia tried to get Pat to help her, but Pat refused to get involved.
Without Little John to keep her occupied Delia demanded more and more of an increasingly exhausted Pat. All of Delia's selfish demands for Pat's attention during the little time he had off from the hospital prevented him from getting the rest he needed. Finally, an overtired, overwrought Pat made an error in judgment in the treatment of Angel Nieves, Alicia's younger brother. Because of Pat's mistake, the boy almost died. Pat was in danger of losing his medical license, but in the end, the hospital board only issued a reprimand. Delia of course was frantic when she learned that Pat had been responsible for Angel's condition - she feared that Alicia would tell Pat the truth about the miscarriage. Alicia reassured her she wouldn't, but she did hold Pat responsible for the wrong diagnosis and began a lawsuit. Meanwhile, Delia had lots of other troubles to worry about.
Delia and Roger Scheme Together
Delia still lived in constant fear of losing Pat to Faith and she resented the time he spent working with her at the hospital, One day Delia came upon Pat and Faith in Bucky Carter's residence at the hospital. Pat was just giving Faith a kiss of friendship and gratitude for the help she had given him during his review before the hospital board in the Nieves case. But that was enough to convince Delia that Pat was resuming his relationship with Faith.
Delia was determined to put a stop to it. In her search for a solution, she remembered that Pat first became involved with Faith (before Delia became interested in Pat again) after she had a nervous breakdown following her kidnapping by the mentally disturbed Kenneth Castle. So, Delia decided she would pretend to have a nervous breakdown so that Pat would be forced to focus all of his attention on her and forget about Faith. To help her carry it off, she once again turned to Roger Coleridge. Roger, a true soulmate for Delia, was amused by the idea and coached her in her new plan.
But even the best laid plans often go astray - and this time, Delia may get more than she bargained for!
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