Suddenly, Rosemary’s mother comes “back into focus.” Her mood is vastly improved, and she returns to tasks such as cooking, showering, and playing the piano. The family go to Waikiki, Hawaii for Christmas, and it is the first time Rosemary has ever been on a plane. During the trip, she learns to swim. Rosemary notes that the trip is made possible by Fern’s absence, and that she thinks of Fern constantly but does not mention her. Rosemary’s father suggests that Rosemary’s mother should get a job now that Rosemary is going into kindergarten, but Rosemary’s mother indicates that she doesn’t want to discuss this.
For the first time, Rosemary explicitly admits that there are positive consequences of Fern’s disappearance. While Fern lived with them, the family were prohibited from engaging in many normal activities, such as going on vacation (or, in Rosemary’s case, learning to swim). At the same time, Fern’s absence continues to haunt Rosemary. The fact that Rosemary must repress her feelings about Fern hinders her from recovering emotionally from the loss of her sister.
Back at home, Lowell suddenly brings up Fern, asking: “Remember how Fern loved us?” Rosemary’s father tells him not to discuss her “yet.” He says that Fern is happy now, but at this point Rosemary’s mother is crying and Lowell has stormed out. Lowell does not come back for two nights, and the family never finds out where he went. Previously, Rosemary had asked her father where Fern went, and he explained that she now has a “different family” on a farm. Rosemary was upset at the idea of Fern being forced to try new foods. She notes that both she and Lowell believed that the “farm” was real for years.
Repressing the truth—particularly a truth as serious and painful as the loss of a family member—is inherently unsustainable, and it is thus unsurprising that the silence over Fern’s absence eventually gives way. Each member of Rosemary’s family has a totally different way of dealing with Fern’s absence, but none of them seem to be working (in the sense that they do not allow the family support one another and heal together).
At eight years old, Rosemary suddenly remembers a time when her father ran over a cat that was taking too long to cross the road in front of them. She asks Grandma Donna if the memory is real, and Donna assures her that she must have dreamed it. Rosemary is reassured by this, as Donna doesn’t like Rosemary’s father and so would have no reason to lie. However, Rosemary continues to reflect on whether or not her father is actually kind to animals. She notes that her father doesn’t believe that animals can think like humans, but that he doesn’t think very highly of human rationality either.
Rosemary’s father evidently carries a strong sense of bitterness about the world. This is exhibited in his disdain for phenomena ranging from psychoanalysis to human rationality, as well as his drinking problem. Yet bitterness does not necessarily translate into cruelty. Rosemary’s concern over whether or father actually ran over the cat is a distillation of the broader question of whether or not he is a good person.