August was one of those months that went by in a flash. By the time we knew it, it was August 26th and time for a new school year.
We did some last-minute shopping for the girls the evening before school, the 25th. We went to the outlets with the 3 little ones in tow and got the girls their shoes. Mario picked the boys up that evening. It still breaks my heart into a million pieces that I can’t be there to see them off before school :*(. Alaethia must have felt the same because as we all hugged and wished them good luck on their first day, she and I both bawled. I tried holding it in, but seeing her burst into tears was what did me in :*(.
I took that first Monday off so I could spend as much time as I could with Emily; for moral support, if you will, since it’s her first year in school and as excited as she seemed to be, I wasn’t sure how she’d react when I left her in a new environment for the first time.
So we dropped Alaethia off in the morning. She was excited and anxious to see her friends, especially her BFF Audrey :).
Mario sent me a photo of the boys ♥. My handsomes! They’re so grown up! Eenan’s in 9th grade (OMG) and Jaylen’s in 6th (double OMG).
Emily and I made breakfast together back at home. We ate and she was ready to put on her new outfit.
It wasn’t even 10 yet (she’d be going in at 11:30) but she was excited and ready to go.
She was all smiles when we arrived at school. They corralled the afternoon class in the front lobby while the assistants became available after the morning class went home. I thought this was odd; I mean, it was the first day of school and they weren’t even going to get to meet the teachers till an hour later?
Emily was still fine; until she heard the wails of at least 3 Pre-K students as their parents left, and about 2 other kids that were in the cafeteria already, in higher grades. One little girl even ran out the door after her dad. She looked up at me, apprehension all over her face. I reassured her that she’d be fine; the little girl was just scared, that’s all. I kissed her hand and told her she was doing great and was being so brave!
Mario showed up to see her off on her first day. We watched as they took her to get her lunch and she picked a seat and put down her backpack. She was sitting right next to a poor little girl who was bawling. The poor little girl didn’t touch her food and silently whimpered :(. Emily ate quietly, taking everything in.
Then it was time to walk them to computer lab. She was excited again. Until a little boy slumped into a wailing pile as his dad tried to leave. She looked a little nervous, but a counselor, who assists with Pre-K lunch duty, grabbed Emily’s hand and took her to the lab. Emily looked back and waved. We breathed a sigh of relief; she was fine, thank God!
I’d already gotten dressed for work and made it right on time at 1pm. That would be my life from now on: take my lunch hour starting at 11:15 to arrive at home for Emily, drop her off at school and eat in the car on the way to work again–all in 1 hour. I was already mostly off the Keto diet since July-ish, but still doing well. Eating in the car was going to be difficult. All I could think of to make for a lunch-on-the-run was sandwiches!
I was feeling a little overwhelmed, but by Tuesday afternoon, as I helped the girls with homework and made some lettuce-wrap burgers for us for dinner I told myself we’d all be fine. We were getting into a new routine and soon enough it would be cake!
I’m satisfied with my new-found optimism and I’m happily sautéing the onions and mushrooms when I get a call from an unknown number. I never answer those, but something told me I should. It’s my half-brother, Juan’s, half-brother Bobby, letting me know my dad’s provider found him unresponsive in the morning and they wouldn’t give any of them information at the hospital since they aren’t blood-related. He says my brother Juan (my dad’s other son with his mistress of many years, not John) is in jail, and will be in there till September 15th so he can’t call. I ask for the number at Knapp Medical Center, tell him thank you for calling me to let me know, and hang up.
I’m sort of in shock. I don’t know if my dad is ok, or in ICU, or God forbid, if he passed. I stand there, idly mixing ingredients in the pan and Jorge gets home. I tell him about the call I just received, and just start bawling. He holds me and rubs my back.
Now I had to tell my mom. Dad and I hadn’t been particularly close the last 3 years or so. We had just started becoming close again back in 2007 or so, after having Alaethia but before Emily was born. He got to visit when Emily was a few days old in 2009, and that’s the last time we actually saw each other.
Back in 2010, when Mario and I were having problems and he finally served me with divorce papers I told Dad–and I’m not sure exactly what it was–whether he felt uncomfortable or he felt like my marriage failed because I didn’t have my parents’ marriage to look up to, but we sort of lost touch after that. It was strange. Then he got sick again and got his other leg amputated (he had the first amputated in 2002 or so because of his diabetes), and we talked even less. He would call Mom almost daily, though, just to talk to her and would tell her to tell us hi, but that was really it. All the times I tried visiting him when I was in the area, he was off at appointments, like dialysis. He would get dialysis 3 times a week or so, and although he was sick, he would still visit his best friend, Tino, who just so happens to be my best friend’s (Sally’s) dad.
So you can imagine the regret I felt hearing this news. He had recently told Mom, “Dile a esa niña que me voy a morir y nunca me vino a visitar”
“Tell that girl that I’m going to die and she never came to visit me.”
I had spoken to him when he said that and told him not to be silly; that the kids and I would make it out there one weekend =\.
I called the hospital and got transferred from one department to another for about 10 minutes. They told me he was in ICU, but didn’t have any other information. I could call back at 9pm to find out from his nurse. So I waited and called. They told me he was “the same”, whatever that meant, but that they were already weaning him off the blood pressure medication and that his glucose was normal. *whew* Thank God.
I had sent John a text to let him know what happened. I just got a text back that said, “What?” and that was it. It was the reaction I was expecting; he really never forgave dad for what he did (cheating on Mom, walking out on us, leaving him in a hot car while he visited the mistress when he was around 3…yeah. I don’t blame John for the resentment) and was never close to him. I asked Mom if she wanted me to come home for her the next day after work to go visit him, but she said she didn’t want to see him that way, and would stay home with the girls.
So Wednesday after work, as I got into my car, I had a knot in my throat and nerves so bad my stomach was hurting. I didn’t know what condition dad was in and I was scared to go alone. Not to mention the fact that I was sleepy and had to drive for 30 minutes to get to the hospital. As I set my GPS on my phone, Jorge calls. He asks where I am. I tell him, “I’m just turning on Old 83 and 10th.” He says, “Ok good. Do you want me to go with you?” I was turning back to his work before he even finished his sentence. I love him :).
We stopped by Burger King to pick up drinks and were on our way. We get to the hospital and Jorge waits for me in the ICU lobby. I sort of wanted him to go with me, for support, but he said he didn’t want to meet Dad that way for the first time. I understood, so I took a deep breath and went through the double doors.
I get to Dad’s room…and am completely relieved to see him sitting up in bed in his hospital gown, watching TV. As if nothing ever happened. His hair is nice and trimmed, and there’s a huge smile on his face. His voice is raspy when he says he’s so glad I came to visit and, “Ahora si me puedo aliviar” (“Now I can get better”). I felt a strange pang when he said that, though, almost if he was saying, Now I’m free to go…
But I shook that feeling away and ask what happened. He said he blacked out. That he doesn’t remember anything. He told me his daughter-in-law, Angie, my half-brother Juan’s wife, told him he texted her the night before. He says, “I don’t even know HOW to text, so that was weird.” He didn’t remember anything except waking up at the hospital. I asked him, “Did you have a stroke?” He said yes, a slight one, and that it was something to do with his heart and blood pressure. I misunderstand, and hear him say that he’s going to a nursing home. When I say, “Yes, Dad. You can’t be by yourself, especially not after something like this. You need constant care and a nursing home is a great idea.” He double takes and says, “What? No. I don’t need that. I need to be at home. I have my provider.” I tell him that the provider isn’t there all the time. He says he’ll be fine. And Angie drops things off for him when he needs it.
He changes the subject and asks about Mom, the kids, and John. I told him the kids were fine, how they were doing at school, that John was okay and working and that Mom wished him a quick recovery.
He goes on to tell me that he wishes he and Mom had been able to work things out all those years ago, but that he and Mom had major differences when it came to the household, and that my aunts would always interfere when they’d argue. They were always intrusive. That he still cared about her. The angry, finger-pointing part of my brain whispers, “And don’t forget that you had a mistress…” But I shut it up. I still wondered why he was telling me these things.
He asks about Jorge. I tell him he’s fine, he’s wonderful and he’s such a hard-working man. He says, good. That now that we’ve found each other we need to take care of each other and listen to each other. Support each other. Love each other. I find this part of our conversation a little strange, too, but I tell him, “Yes, Dad. We will. Of course we will.”
Then he asks, “How’s Jorge’s stature? He’s a big guy, right?” I laugh and say, “Yes. He’s tall, broad shoulders, a strong guy.” And I flex my arms like a body-builder to prove a point, heh. He has a far-away look in his eyes and says, “You know, I have a fish named Jorge. And he’s a big guy, too.” I thought that was the sweetest, most random thing LOL.
I get an idea. I tell him, “Jorge is here. He’s in the waiting room, would you like to meet him?” I know Jorge said he didn’t want to meet Dad in his current state, but I just really wanted them to meet. I felt they had to. So I go and get Jorge.
Jorge was a bit reluctant, but I tell him Dad looks good, and I really want them to meet. He says okay and we go back to his room hand-in-hand.
I get this warm feeling of pride and, once again, relief when they shake hands. They talk about work. Dad takes out his wallet, hardly closing from all the cash in it, and shows us an old, delicate dollar bill. He says it’s the first dollar bill he ever made when he worked at the shop on 17th street with Tino and Arimon. He kept it in his wallet all these years :).
Jorge and Dad start talking about their TV’s. Dad says he’d just gotten a huge 60″ Sony, his pride and joy. He had a smaller 20″ flat screen too, and of course, his old projection TV. They continue to talk. I find it amazing that Jorge and Dad really do have so much in common.
Again he tells us to listen to each other, take care of each other and love each other. I smile at Jorge and rub his arm and say, “We will dad.”
We chit chat a bit more, and we realize we’re about 15 minutes before visiting hours are over. Dad’s looking tired, and his voice is a bit raspier so I tell him we’re going to go ahead and let him rest. I kiss him on the forehead and tell him to get better. We plan a BBQ; I tell him next week when we have the kids, on Sunday when Jorge is off. He says that’s great, so all the grand-kids can get together. He never mentions that my half-brother is in jail.
As Jorge and I are walking out I thank him for meeting my dad. Then I say, “Dammit!! I should have taken a picture with him!!” I feel panicked and sad suddenly. I just knew I should have taken a photo with him. But Jorge says, “Don’t worry, baby. We can take one during the BBQ.”
Jorge’s car had stayed at his work, so we went back to get it. We kiss and I thank him for going with me. He says, “No problem baby. See you at home.” As I drive away I just start bawling. From relief. From overwhelming regret. From overwhelming gratitude that I got to see my Dad. From overwhelming gratitude for Jorge for always being there for me when I need him.
We get home and Mom had already given the girls dinner and put them in the bath as well. It’s such a huge help. She asks how dad is and I give her a summary. I read the girls their books for a while, watch a little TV with them and put them to bed.
My girls were leaving with Mario the next day for the weekend, so I got out of work a little early to get their things together and take them to a Birdhouse Building activity at IMAS (the museum). It was a little different than I thought it would be (they were using recycled materials), but they had fun choosing their materials and bling and putting their houses together.
Mary was already waiting at the house to pick them up. I got their things together and gave them hugs before it started drizzling. It was a lonely few hours before Jorge got home.
Fast forward to the next evening. I woke up with a sore throat and it was quickly becoming a full-blown cold. I got home after work and laid down for a while. Dad calls around 8pm, while I’m making dinner for Jorge, Mom and myself. He sounds good and says he’s back at home. I find this odd, since he was in ICU just 2 days before, but I tell him if he needs anything at all, to call, no matter the time. He says to tell Mom he’s going to call her, so I do, and she speaks to him also. I hug Jorge and tell him Dad’s home. I feel a weight off my shoulders. I make it a point to plan the BBQ soon.
Jessica M. had been trying to get together for a while, so since Jorge was having some of the guys over I invited her over for a glass of wine. I begin to feel tired, my throat is killing me and I almost want to cancel. Plus, I had a nagging feeling that I should just go to bed and rest, but I tell myself I need to quit being such an old lady and be social for once.
We chat a bit, and have some wine on the porch with the guys.
Jessica was meeting some friends in town, so she took off. Remi had invited his girlfriend over and I didn’t want to be rude and just go to bed, so I hung around for a while. I went to bed around 1am, which is insanely late for me.
Jorge didn’t have to go in to work till 10am, so we were planning on sleeping in a little bit. My phone rings at 8:30am. I don’t recognize the number, but answer anyway. It’s Alicia, my dad’s ex-mistress. She says that the provider once again went to the house and dad was unresponsive and they think this time Dad did pass away. My heart sinks, and I’m almost angry when I yell, “But how?? I just spoke to him last night! He was fine!” She says she has no info and of course, because none of them are blood-related they won’t allow them to call. I’m not even sure where I’m supposed to call, or where I’m even supposed to start during something like this.
I know why she called me. It was a conversation John and I had had before, whenever we found out that Dad had yet another visit to the hospital or was sick again. We knew that, God forbid, when the day came and something happened to Dad, those people were going to call me and leave me with the responsibility.
Jorge wakes up while I’m having this conversation. When I hang up I feel like I’m in shock. I lay back and stare at the ceiling. And the tears come. He wraps his arms around me and just holds me. After a while, I wipe my face, sit up and call the police station. They tell me I need to go in; no info over the phone, no matter if I live in a different city that’s 30 minutes away. I tell them I just need to know where he is: is he still at home? Funeral home? Hospital? I’m still in denial and holding on to a tiny bit of hope that maybe it’s like last time and an ambulance got there to take him to the hospital.
I search Google and find a random number to a funeral home in his city. I tell the man the situation: I don’t have any money saved up, his other family is putting the entire responsibility on me to figure things out, I don’t even know where to start. Is there an organization or something that can help with expenses? Is that even an option or what will happen to my Dad if I can’t pay?? The thought alone makes me dissolve into tears again. The man is very nice, very patient. He gives me the number to Memorial Funeral Home and says to speak to Leon. I call, and Leon tells me to call another number later, once I sign the form with his time of death. I get ready to shower since we’re going to have to drive over there anyway. Jorge calls his boss and tells him what happened and that he’ll be in later. I feel so guilty that he’s missing work, but he says it’s not a big deal and wants to stay with me.
Mom gets a call as I’m getting into the shower. I don’t know why they keep calling her phone, but they do. It’s Angie, my half-brother Juan’s wife. She says she’s at the house and that Dad is inside. She confirms that he passed away and that they aren’t letting anyone in the house since nobody is related to him. I tell her I’m on my way in 10 minutes. She says the coroner is there and wants to speak to me. He tells me he’s pronouncing him deceased and that I need to sign the form. He says he’ll bring it to me, all the way to my city. I get back on the phone with Angie and she says she’s locking up the house. I told her I’d be at Dad’s house as soon as I spoke to the Funeral Home to make arrangements.
It’s about an hour till the coroner arrives with the paperwork. My stomach flips when I notice his name is exactly like Dad’s. He says he’s sorry for my loss and leaves. I’m bawling again as Jorge and I walk back inside.
I had so many emotions coursing through me.
Guilt: because it took this long for me to see him. Because we didn’t get to have that BBQ. Because he didn’t get to see the kids :(.
Anger and resentment: For leaving us all those years ago. For not taking better care of himself. Resentment to that other family for literally abandoning him in his time of need and leaving me to deal with everything on my own when they TOOK HIM FROM US. Anger at him for not listening to me when I said he needed 24-hour care.
Immense sadness: for the above reasons and because I couldn’t stand the thought that he literally died all by himself, all alone :(. Because he was gone and I was never going to see him again. That thought just keeps playing over and over in my head. It’s what causes me to cry suddenly, unexpectedly the rest of the day.
I cry so much I feel nauseous. My cold feels like it’s gotten so much worse to top it off. Jorge tries to calm me. It’s almost noon, and almost time for Jorge to go to work so to distract myself I make some lunch. Cheesy mushroom chicken and cauliflower mash. Jorge thanks me, hugs me tight, and reluctantly leaves. I try and distract myself the rest of the day. I was kind of in a daze.
Sally and Charley come by around 5pm with a fruit tray and a cheese/cold cuts/cracker tray. I appreciate her so much ♥. I have no appetite, so we sit and I relay the happenings of the past few days leading up to that day. I bawl again. I get a return call from the Funeral Home, finally, and Jorge lets me know he’s ready for me to pick him up whenever I’m ready. We’d pick up his car later. Sally and I say our see-you-laters, I thank her again and Mom and I leave to pick Jorge up.
We arrive at the funeral home and wait a while. A young man named Jason lets us in and asks questions. As we’re walking through the halls I feel a chill. Funeral homes feel so cold, old-fashioned and generic. We sit in a room and start filling out paperwork. I don’t have a few things, like Dad’s social security number, so I call Angie to check if she has it. She says she does, because supposedly Dad’s electrical bill is under their name. That made no sense. Jorge mouths that she must have his wallet, therefore having the wad of cash that was in there. I had a feeling that would happen, but I don’t say anything, just thank her for the information. She asks when we’ll be over there. I tell her in about an hour.
We finish up the paperwork. He refers us to the County office, whom he’s sure will help us with some of the expenses. He says to find all his bills, everything, and jot it down on the application. The more expenses, the better. Cremation is the best way to go, he offers. He says since Monday is Labor Day that they won’t be available till Tuesday, but I should get all the appropriate paperwork together and arrive at the office at 8am sharp. I panic. “What will happen to my Dad?” I ask him. He says they will keep him safe, not to worry.
I feel a little better since he said he’s sure we could get help. All I’ve ever heard was that funeral homes won’t do a THING if you don’t pay up front, so I was extremely scared. But he was nice and he made me feel confident that everything would be okay.
We arrive at Dad’s house. Mom walks ahead of us and Jorge holds my hand. We hear a dog barking. Mom says, “Didn’t your Dad have a Chihuahua? If he does, I’m taking him home.”
Jorge says, “No animals!”
“Not even Jorge the fish?” I ask quietly. I feel a fresh wave of sadness and tears sting my eyes.
Jorge pulls me close and wraps his arms around me as we walk. “Oh, baby!! Of course you can take the fish!”
A few minutes later a black Escalade parks behind us. It’s Angie. She unlocks the house and we walk inside. I’m nervous to see what we find, but everything is almost the same as I remembered it. I don’t even know what I’m doing. I tell her I’m going to look for paperwork we need for the application with the County, and that I didn’t want anything other than photos and a few things to remember him by. And the fish. I’d told Jorge earlier that I wasn’t going to fight over the material things, like the TVs, unless we could sell them fast to get some money for the cremation. I was hoping his wallet was around somewhere with the cash so we could use that as well. But there are no TVs. Dad had a brand-new cherry wood dresser and we could see the dust outlines where 2 TVs once sat. I assumed Angie went in there before we arrived and cleaned the place out. Dad was always into gold jewelry, and none of that was in his dresser, either. Just a few old batteries. But again: I tell myself that they were the ones who visited Dad more and took him things when he needed them in his final weeks, so I wasn’t going to say anything.
Jorge helped me search for important info. He finds his old box of important documents like birth certificates, citizenship papers and I even found out that Dad was in the Mexican military. Not even Mom knew that.
We take our time looking through Dad’s paperwork. I have to give it to him, he was a very organized man. All his bills were in plastic bags, but they were in order by month and year he had every single thing we needed. Jorge reminds me to ask Angie for the wallet for his social and his ID before she leaves. She already had it in her bag, which I found odd because she never mentioned having it. I notice how wobbly and flimsy it is, and not one bill is left in it. I ask Jorge, loudly, “What happened to all his money?” She answers quickly and says, “Oh, it had like, $5.” I said, “No. It was so full he could hardly close it on Wednesday. There’s no way he spent it all on Friday, the only day he was out of the hospital.” She shrugs and says, “You know how providers are. She probably took it.” Something about her immediately rubbed me the wrong way.
I check that his social is in there and it is. And so is his 1st dollar he ever made at the Shop :).
Angie leaves and we get ready to go too. We’d gone outside to check the laundry room and I hear a beep come from the stove. It had turned itself on and was beginning to self-clean. I turn it off. Weird.
We start trying to figure out how we’re taking the fish and their tank. It’s a 30-gallon tank, and heavy. I find a round fish bowl and we decided to put the fish in there and take them home in it and empty the big tank of water. I go into the kitchen to find a pitcher or glass to scoop the fishies up with…and realize the stove is on AGAIN! I call Jorge to disconnect it from the wall. It would be catastrophic if we’re the last people in the house and the darn thing sets itself on fire. Then it dawns on me that maybe Dad is letting us know he’s there. And then I think that he should pick a less scary way of telling us, heh.
So, with a little trouble, Jorge scoops up all the fishes…except Jorge the Fish. He’s a fast one and he’s quite huge. He finally scoops him up…and I kid you not: Jorge the Fish jumps out of the pitcher, smacks Jorge a few times on the face and then jumps back into the tank!! Jorge stood stunned, dripping and in disbelief. He laughs, “Did you see that?! He slapped me!!” I couldn’t stop laughing. Mom got to catch only the end of it but she couldn’t believe it either. Finally, Jorge scoops him up and all 10 of them are in the bowl. *whew*
We don’t take much. His old records and a record player. His old toolbox I remember from when I was little. A small blue little organizer with tons of drawers with old tube-tv parts that I remember he had in his old shop back when he lived with us. A few photos I found here and there. The fishies. And Mom took his cactus plants :). I collected all his paperwork, and before we left I went into his closet to retrieve one of his signature Hawaiian shirts. I remember him in that aqua blue shirt.
As we’re walking out, my half-brother’s half-brother Bobby and his wife show up. I find it weird that they’d be showing up so late. It’s almost 10pm. But we stand around and chit-chat about Dad and catch up. He says my Dad let himself out of the hospital earlier than he should have because he wanted to see Juanito in jail on Sunday. Bobby’s voice cracks as he tears up and says, “But he didn’t get a chance to.”
I can sympathize, but at the same time, I feel angry yet again because, once again, because of Juanito, because Dad wanted to be with him so badly, Dad was gone. When Dad got sick with Tuberculosis back in 1994 or so was because he left for good with that family. Then the rest of his health problems escalated. I can’t help but feel that if he’d stayed with us, he wouldn’t have gotten so sick. But he always wanted to be with Juanito.
It was a long drive back. We unloaded everything in the garage and began filling the fish tank. We were so grateful for the food trays Sally brought over earlier. That was our dinner at midnight. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.
Jorge had made plans with Johnny (his co-worker) to go to his boss’ ranch to hunt on Sunday. I didn’t want him to cancel and he didn’t want me to stay home. He was afraid I’d dwell, think too much and become depressed since I’d be essentially alone since the kids weren’t home. I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t think staying home would be a smart thing to do. So I went with them. It was extremely hot outside and I was beginning to feel feverish. I ended up getting dropped off at the little ranch house and literally slept the rest of the day.
By the next day my sore throat was mostly gone and I had a slight cough. The girls had school, so I picked up Emily and Jorge and I headed to Weslaco first to take care of some things, and then to Dad’s house to finish up with packing. I’m annoyed and pissed off to find that Alicia is there with one of her old sons. This man was recently released from jail and Lord forgive me, looks like he’s on some heavy drugs. Or was on heavy drugs and they really affected his appearance. Bobby and his wife are there, too and so is Angie. As we make our way into the living room and we notice that the huge projection TV is gone now, she says, “I let the provider take it. It didn’t work anyway.” I find that a bit odd, but say, “Yeah that’s fine, we don’t have a need for it anyway.”
They’ve done a great job clearing out the house. Jorge and I look around it’s almost like they’re being fast-forwarded; there’s people grabbing things left and right. As Jorge and I walk to the car to drop off a ziploc of slivers of photos Alicia handed to me I tell him, “The only word that comes to mind is SAVAGES.” He says, “Yes. And I want no part of it.”
We stick around a while and Angie tells us, “We need to keep in touch. The kids need to meet. They are family after all.” I don’t know what it is, but I have a weird vibe, but I say, “Yes, sure.”
It’s raining on the way home. Mario had brought Alaethia home like he usually does. I made arrangements at work to stay home the next day to take care of the appointments I had. I helped the girls with homework, started dinner, bathed them and put them to bed. Jorge got home and we began to look through the piles of paperwork we’d brought home with us. We found all the main bills we needed to document. We also found piles upon piles of payment stubs from pawn shops and loan companies. TONS. We begin to notice that most of the loans were taken out during the months of May & June…right around the time dear Juanito was thrown in jail. He was serving a 6-month sentence and was due to get out September 15th, so it made sense. A lot of the loan notes had Angie’s signature as a “witness”. My blood was boiling. When we’d jotted all his bills and expenses down on paper, which was part of the application process, his bills were $300 more a month than he brought in. It all started to make sense. The poor man HAD to take loans out to try and make ends meet per month because he was supporting Juan’s family. How else do you have an apartment and an Escalade when the husband is in jail and the wife is at home sitting pretty all day?? That’s right, you hit up a poor, vulnerable old man who would do anything for his damn kid.
So, I dropped the girls off at school and Mom and I arrived bright and early at the County clinic we had the appointment at the next morning. We turned all the paperwork in and everything seemed like it was working out with the first lady we spoke to. She asked us to wait in the lobby and 15 minutes later a second woman called us in. She begins to scratch out bills, and his rent, so when she’s done instead of him being $300 in the negative a month, it shows that he has $400 to spare!!
She nonchalantly stuffs all the paperwork into her folder and with an air of calm tells me they can’t help us. Plus, he was just issued another check on the 31st, so it shows that that money is floating around somewhere, too. I’m stunned. The tears start flowing again as I explain that I have no savings, my mother has no savings and his other family, whom he spent most of his life with, was leaving ME with the responsibility. I tell her I NEED their help. She holds out a tissue box to me and she dismisses us from her office.
We’re walking to the car and suddenly I’m no longer sad, I’m livid. I have a plan. I call Angie and tell her, calmly, “So, our application was denied. The way the information was entered on their part shows that my dad had $400 left over a month, and that he has his current check as well. I need to know what happened to the money that was in his wallet because we need that money for his final arrangements.”
She loses it, just as I thought she would. She raises her voice and the sweet little Angie she was is gone. She screams, “I told you there was no money in it!” I tell her, calmly, “OK. Then I’m going to call the cops on the provider, since you did say she’s probably the one who took it.”
She’s screaming once again and says, “What the fuck is your problem?? Why are you involving other people??”
I say, “Um. You’re the one who involved her, remember? You’re the one who said she took it. And I also need his Social Security check they JUST sent out.”
She says, “The provider has the check. I’m not scared of you, you little bitch!” and hangs up on me. All that tells me is that she’s completely guilty of taking his money. I call back and get no answer. I’m driving towards home but turn back towards Mercedes. She finally calls me back and says she has the check from the provider, that she JUST got it. In a matter of 5 minutes. Hmm. I say fine, I’m going for it. She hangs up again, but not before saying, “You know, it’s sad. It’s sad that you didn’t come around till your dad died!” I get to yell, “Honey, you’re the ones who called ME for help, remember?”
Holy shit, my blood pressure. Who the hell did she think she was?? She had NO IDEA what my dad did to us! No idea the life we had because he left us! And she had the audacity to talk to me this way!?
Of course I’m bawling again, from anger. 2 minutes pass and I get a call from Bobby, telling me HE now has the check already. Interesting. I tell him I’m going over, and should I arrive with police because I have to be back for my daughter by 11:50 at her school and I wasn’t about to put up with Mrs. Ghetto. He says no, just go over, she’s not there, she was crazy and not to listen to her.
I get there, and Bobby hands me the check. Someone had already opened it, probably getting ready to cash it. Alicia is standing outside, and her son Ramiro, too. Another lady, who looks a lot like Alicia walks down the sidewalk and into the house. I shake her hand and she introduces herself as Olga. The provider!! Now it’s making sense. I had no idea she was Alicia’s sister. Bobby tells me again not to listen to what Angie says and I choke up again as tears threaten to spill out and I say, “She has NO RIGHT to tell me what she said! She doesn’t know ANYTHING! She doesn’t know that he left us for her–” I point at his mother, who looks down awkwardly. “–she doesn’t know what we went through because of him, so she needs to shut her mouth!! I didn’t call the cops, but I should! Don’t think I don’t know that she stole his money from his wallet or his TVs or his jewelry!! I know she did!” He glances uncomfortably at Alicia and wills me to calm down. I don’t know if she thinks it’s going to make me feel better, or what, but she says, “Angie ‘ta loca. No le hagas caso. She and I don’t get along.” And then she has the audacity to walk to the car and say hello to my mother. I was enraged. How DARE she speak to my mother after everything! I drove out of there before I caused scene.
The rest of the day is a blur of phone calls. I call Social Security to let them know about my dad’s passing and whether we can use that check he just received for his funeral expenses, since it being issued is supposedly one of the reasons why the County didn’t help us. The lady says no, the check can’t be used at all and that if anyone does use the check they can go to jail. She suggests we call so my mom can set up a meeting and maybe she can get a “lump-sum” of $225 (which she didn’t get because Dad didn’t have sufficient credits).
The funeral home never called me back; I left 4 separate messages throughout the day. I began to panic about how much “holding” my dad at the funeral home was going to cost, especially now that I seemed to be S.O.L. I wanted to just go in there and pay with a credit card, whether anyone from that family helped me or not. It wasn’t about that anymore. It was about doing the right thing for my dad.
All this time Rosie is giving me advice. I appreciate her so much for all she said and did for me those few days.
I get a call around 3pm from Juanito, from jail. He says, “What happened?”
I say, “Oh you heard about your wife and how she spoke to me? I don’t appreciate that from her, as I’m the one who’s taking care of EVERYTHING.”
He says, “Yeah. So what happened to the check?”
I’m taken off-guard, “Um, the check?? I have it.”
He says, “Ok, just hold on to it okay? ‘Cause I’m gonna need it when I get out of here.”
2 seconds of speaking to him and I’m livid. “You can’t use it,” I say. “I already called Social Security and reported dad’s death. You’ll go to jail if you attempt to use it.”
He says, “Well, a guy at the pawn shop’s gonna cash it for me. Dad and I had a car out together, and several loans–”
I cut him off, “Yeah, I noticed that.”
Not once does he apologize for Angie’s behavior, nor does he say anything about helping me. Bobby calls later and asks how it went. I told him I’ve gotten nothing done and the funeral home never called back. He says he’s getting $200 from his brother in Houston and would call me to get together so he can give it to me. I speak to my dad’s niece’s (Ana’s) husband and he tells me to send Ana a photo of the invoice so they can help me, because they wanted to. He tells me himself that he caught on to Angie and her gold-digging ways and he knew when someone was after money. That was the last I heard from him. And from Bobby. I can’t say I’m surprised in the least.
Sally comes over in the evening and asks how things went. She’s holding tiny Charley as I explain how nothing worked out as I’d hoped. I start bawling and Mom sighs, “She’s been like this all day,” she says.
We talk a bit more and as she’s leaving she shoves an envelope in my hands. I tell her no, she doesn’t have to do that. She insists and says, “Please take it, Yaya. Use it for whatever you need to. I wish I could help more.” I’m in tears again as she gets into her car. She is such a wonderful, giving person. I’m seriously blessed that I can call her my best friend :*).
I called all my bosses and let them know my situation and ask for Wednesday off. They completely understand and told me to take the rest of the week if I needed to. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in one day. I thought it was bad on Saturday. I hadn’t heard from John, which was understandable, but I texted him and let him know what a shitty day it was for me. He said he was going to sell a few of his things to help me. I said he didn’t have to do that; I just needed his support.
On Wednesday, I drop the girls off and instead of calling the funeral home, I drive straight there with all of the documents I need. They let me into the office and tell me they’re charging me the same amount they told me on Monday and a girl named Yajaira takes my info. She says it’ll be a few days till they release my dad’s cremains to me.
Rosie had suggested I call Catholic Charities, and they helped me with $100, which I was completely grateful for. She said she was going to try and get some donations. I tell her not to worry, she doesn’t have to do that and I’d feel embarrassed. Everyone I spoke to told me not to be =\.
I go into the work the next day, because it’s a good distraction. Beto calls me into Steve’s office. They present to me a card, signed by my co-workers with their thoughts and sympathies…and money. Lots of money that they all collected. I’m so overwhelmed I dissolve into tears and tell them it’s too much; I can’t accept it. They insist and tell me they’re going to try and help with more. I couldn’t believe it. I honestly don’t think I could work for a more generous company, for more wonderful people :*). I deposited the money and made a credit card payment right away. I wanted them to know the money they collected for my dad went to my dad’s expenses. I even turned a receipt in to Beto, just in case. Their generosity was just so incredibly humbling :*).
They finally called me in to collect my dad’s cremains a week later, and Mom asked to keep them. She has a little space in her room that she’s dedicated to him. After all these years, they’re together again :(. It makes me sad that it’s in this way.
And just to update. On Monday, October 7th, Alicia called me asking for my help. It’s laughable. She asked if I could please send her Dad’s death certificate because the money he used to send her for child support (still) came from Dad’s Social Security check (lie, he would cash his check and then make a money order. I know, because I found the stubs in his paperwork) and supposedly Social Security told her to send them the death certificate so they can continue to help her. I told her that Mom, who was actually his wife (oooh, burn!), was denied because Dad didn’t have enough credits, so it would be no point to send it to her. She again asked if I could help her. I said, “You know what? No one helped me when I was trying to bury Dad. Everyone left me with the responsibility. Bobby never called me back and Juanito hasn’t even called to check up. So I’m sorry, I’m not going to help you.” She goes on to tell me that there’s a God, and he’s watching, and something about Karma. I said, “Yup, you’re right Alicia. You are completely right.”