Friday, September 17, 2010
Old Emails From A Friend
Shown here are copies of some emails I received from a friend of mine shortly after my husband suddenly left me in 1999.
I first met this woman in a Sunday School class I joined soon after my husband and I moved to Central Texas in 1986. She and I each had children of the same age, we both were expecting another child soon, and she was a teacher who knew I'd done some college-level instructing and had a long-standing interest in education, so we had a lot in common.
We quickly became close friends, and our children got along well, too. My friend invited us to join a little playgroup of hers that, besides her, consisted of the wife of a local lawyer, the wife of a local police officer, and their young children. For years we took turns getting together for visits at each others' houses and sharing potluck lunches. Even after my friend's youngest child entered school and she returned to her teaching job, we remained close and saw each other frequently at various church and school functions.
As our children got older, one of her kids began being harassed both at church and at school by a relative of my husband's. I tried to talk to his family about it, but they refused to even acknowledge the problem, much less do anything about it. Eventually the situation became serious enough that my friend and her family were forced to leave our church, which was very upsetting to me.
At the time I received these emails from my friend, I was also in the middle of mentoring one of her kids with a high school science project, so we were corresponding much more frequently than usual. Notice how she asked about the problems I was having with the brakes on my van, which had been failing suddenly and frequently and which the local dealership could not seem to fix despite six weeks of repeatedly trying.
Also notice how my friend warned me about the harassment--the "ganging up" on me. At the time she wrote this, these kinds of incidents directed at my children and me were starting to become quite serious and severe. (Only a week or so after I received this, someone hit me over the head with a shoebox at the local Walmart store and ran off before I could see them well.)
Then there's the woman whose name I've removed here (from the red box). This woman was the widow of a man found dead under a tractor under suspicious circumstances whose death may be related to our case. The widow remarried and now works at a local bank. When my ex-husband recently set up a college account for one of our children, he had this particular woman handle the transaction. (Note: This is the only bank account my ex- has ever set up for any of our children that was not at a bank run by his family.)
Sadly, my long friendship with the writer of these emails came to a sudden and puzzling end. In August of 2004, the teenage daughter of the lawyer and his wife from our old playgroup was found unconscious somewhere along Main Street (accounts differ as to exactly where) and was rushed to a hospital in San Antonio. She lingered in intensive care for about a week, ended up on life support, and finally died.
The dead girl's lawyer-father happened to be a partner to my ex-husband's divorce lawyer and a close, life-long friend of my ex-'s and his family. As it happened, my children had been on a trip with their father and stepmother and were driving back from San Antonio when one of their stepmother's adult children called to tell them the girl had just died. My children had grown up with the deceased, and one of them had gone all the way through school with her, so this news was extremely upsetting to them.
A few minutes later, my kids said my ex-'s mother also called to tell him the girl had just passed away. My children told me they became very frightened when their dad suddenly started yelling at his mother over the phone while he was driving them. They said he was shouting, "Get the story straight! Get the story straight!" My kids insisted their dad take them straight home, and he did.
My kids were crying when they came home and told me what had happened. They also said my youngest child hadn't been feeling well all day. Sure enough, about an hour later, this child began vomiting and was clearly sick.
That evening, my friend who'd written these emails called to see if I'd heard about the death of our old friend's daughter. I said I had and told her what my children had overheard. My friend said she didn't know many details about the death and would try to find out more about what had happened.
Later. my friend called back with a strange request. She asked if she could come over to my house and pick me up in her Suburban so we could go over to the deceased's home and visit with her parents. I was surprised that she would want to bother the family only a few hours after their loss, but I also realized my friend was upset. I gently suggested to her that this might not be the best time to visit and that perhaps she ought to try calling the bereaved family first, but she insisted on driving there, and she insisted on my coming with her.
I told my friend I couldn't leave my sick child who, as it happened, vomited again while I was on the phone. Upon hearing this, my friend started begging me to let her come and pick me up so I could direct her to the girl's house in the dark because my friend said she'd never been there and didn't know the way.
I found this puzzling to the point of frank disbelief. I knew the lawyer and his wife had built a fancy new house out in the country, but I'd never been there and didn't know how to get there. I also was aware they'd actually been living in the new house for some time. My friend, who'd remained in much closer touch with this family than I had (because of the connection with my divorce), had almost certainly been to this house before. I immediately began no wonder why my friend wanted me to go driving down deserted country lanes with her in the dark for such a strange reason.
In any case, it didn't matter; I couldn't leave my sick child and didn't know the way. But when I tried telling my friend this, she became increasingly upset. She pleaded with me over and over again for fifteen minutes or more to go with her while I kept trying to make her understand that I simply couldn't help her. Eventually she got mad, and she finally hung up on me.
My child continued to be sick off and on all that night. The next morning, my friend called back and again pleaded with me to let her pick me up to visit the bereaved family. I asked her if she'd ever called them, and she said she hadn't. I also made it clear that I didn't know how to get there, but she said someone else had given her directions. I finally told her I still couldn't leave my sick child, and she hung up on me again.
My friend phoned me one more time, to ask if I wanted to attend the girl's funeral with her. I had to tell her my child was still sick with the stomach flu and I couldn't go. I wondered why she wasn't going with her husband but decided she might have just been concerned about my having to go to the funeral by myself. When I talked to her this time, she was still upset, but she seemed to have calmed down considerably. She told me she was sorry I couldn't go, asked if we needed anything, and said she'd check on us later--but she never did.
One of my children was in the same grade as my friend's youngest child, and the two of them were best friends. The following Monday, my child said their friend had been absent from school that day. We wondered whether the stomach flu was going around town, so I tried calling my friend, but there was no answer.
The next day, my child came home and said their friend was still absent and wasn't answering the phone or responding to emails. We thought this was strange and were worried they might all be sick. I drove over to check on them, but their house was dark and their vehicles were gone.
At the end of the week, their child was still absent from school, and we still hadn't heard from them. I tried calling their house again only to hear a recording that their phone service had been disconnected. When I got a similar recording from my friend's cell phone number, I realized something was radically wrong. I knew my friend's husband had extended family living close by, so I tried contacting them next--but they didn't answer their phones.
The next Monday, my child finally heard that their friend's family had moved to a ranch they owned in a neighboring county. My child was bewildered and crushed to learn their best friend had suddenly left town and transferred to a different school without telling them. My kids and I were all mystified and stunned. We knew the family had been talking for years about moving to this ranch eventually, but we also knew they'd planned to wait until their youngest child graduated from high school and until they'd made some much-needed upgrades to the ranch house that included major plumbing repairs.
Several months later, I finally received a call from my friend, but it was very brief and strained and strange. My friend would only say they'd decided to move very suddenly. She apologized for making me worry. She said she'd been too busy with moving to call me. She also said she was now commuting to her teaching job. Although she'd been living there for quite awhile, the phone number she was calling from came up on our Caller-ID as belonging to someone else. None of my children recognized the name, but I recognized it vaguely as belonging to someone else from our church, although as far as I knew, this person didn't live in the other county as the number indicated.
I ran into my friend at school and social functions a few times after this and was able to visit with her briefly, but I lost touch with her when she retired from teaching. On a happier note, my child and hers were eventually able to reconnect on a social networking site.
More recently, several people around town have told me that a local man who's done prison time for cocaine trafficking is a lifelong close friend and hunting buddy of my friend's husband. I remember my friend being very upset when this man was caught and convicted, but I believed at the time this was because the man's wife was a fellow teacher. (The wife was also arrested on drug charges but I believe was spared jail time so she could care for a young child.) My friend never mentioned her husband's friendship with this man to me.