I went over to my mother’s house, and my father was there, staying in the back bedroom. He had come to town for a brief visit. I heard his voice coming from the back as I came down the hall. There was a home hospital bed set up in the middle of the bedroom with an IV and a heart monitor beside it, and my father was laying there talking to my brother on the phone. He kept telling my brother how stupid and worthless he was. He spoke so calmly. He said every horrible, hurtful thing he could think of and he held nothing back. I took a seat in a chair at the foot of the bed and listened to every awful word.
From bits and pieces of my father’s tirade, I gathered the fact that my brother had stolen some money out of my mother’s purse. I waited a while for my father to get off the phone. I wanted to ask him about all of this. It began to get dark out, and my mother came in to turn on a lamp in the corner of the room. I wanted to ask her what was going on, but she just held a finger to her lips and hurried out the door. We had to be quiet while my father was on the phone. I sat back and waited, and when he finally let the phone fall weakly from his hand, I tried to talk to him, but my mother came in and ushered me out of the room. She said that he needed to rest and that I couldn’t get him too worked up before he went to sleep.
This incident ruined my father’s entire visit. As a conciliatory gesture, my brother offered to let my father use his car while he was in town. He said that he would leave the keys at my mother’s house and he told my father that he understood if he didn’t want to see him otherwise. But even this sad gesture didn’t quite come off somehow, and my father left town still upset, and everyone felt horrible about the whole thing. Worst of all, I knew that this would probably be my father’s last visit. I knew that he didn’t have the strength to make the trip again. And this was how we had left everything.
After he had gone, I dropped by my mother’s house again. I still didn’t completely understand what had happened and I wanted to ask her about it. Summer had passed as the weeks had gone by and there were fallen leaves in the front yard. I found my mother alone in her living room, sittting in a chair over by the window. The curtains were drawn, and I could hardly see her across the dim room. I talked for a long time and I asked her all sorts of question and all the while she just sat there. Finally, she spoke up in a low voice, almost under her breath, and she said, “You know that I never should have gotten involved with that monster.”
I knew that she was talking about my father and I resented her saying that. I looked at her and said, “A monster!? A monster could just as easily be someone that does something petty like stealing money from their mother’s purse when they have a perfectly good job and they make a decent living and they have absolutely no reason to be doing things like that.” But then it occurred to me that I still didn’t know the whole story. So I asked, “Did he even tell you why he did it? Did he give you any kind of explanation?”
She hesitated, like she wasn’t sure how much she should say. Finally, she told me that my brother had taken the money because someone was threatening to kill him. I didn’t understand. “Why would someone want to kill him? What does that have to do with taking money from your purse?” She sighed, and then she muttered something about some football team losing a game. I started to put it all together, and I began to realize just how big of a problem my brother really had. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I said, “He didn’t just take a little bit of money from your purse, did he?”
She began to throw her hands about erratically. She tried to explain that my brother had taken some credit cards that she had had, and he had maxxed them out. But then, overwhelmed by her efforts to explain, she just burst into tears and buried her head in her hands. The whole ordeal had left her financially devastated, ruined. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. My hands were shaking. I didn’t know what to do. I just sank down into a chair, and I sat staring with my eyes wide.