Sunday, January 15, 2012

Moving Onward, But Not Upward - Chapter 10

This is Chapter 10 in a series entitled Telling My Story.

There was a mini-series on television one year, when our children were still at home, and in those days most shows were decent enough for the whole family to watch together.

I do not recall our ever watching an entire six or eight part mini-series together before, or after this, but it was the year after the events in this chapter had taken place, and we were all kind of "huddling together" that year; because we had lost so much but we still had each other.

However, this mini-series was a melodrama, and at the end of the last episode, as the credits rolled our daughter looked at her father and me and asked, "I don't get it.  Where were the happy parts?"  We laughed and laughed.

You may be wondering about now, where are the happy parts in my story.  Truly, I am looking forward to sharing those with you.  But in order for those parts to be seen in an accurate context, you must first know what came before.  Thus we will slog on for a bit.  I do hope that you will find the journey worthwhile, when we come to the conclusion of my story.
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The year before the "brick wall" issue came to a head, one of our family members had been the victim of a crime.  I will say nothing of the details around that out of respect for the privacy of that individual.

It is enough for the reader to know that the perpetrator was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty.  I was shaken to my core over the matter, and pretty angry with God for allowing this to happen.  I knew that evil is present in the world, and that God will not override our free will, even to prevent harm, except in unusual cases.  Still, when wickedness touches one of our own, we are seared and scarred by it.

Additionally, because it was a small town, the perpetrator's family knew we had pressed charges and they threatened us, if we would not drop them.  We kept praying and refused.  We received "anonymous" phone calls in the middle of the night.  Things were thrown against our house in the night as well.  It was a nightmare that lasted for months.

Then suddenly, after only serving a year and a half of his sentence, we learned that he was to be paroled right back to our community.  I was in a panic.  One day at the grocery store I came around the end of an aisle and came face to face with his wife.  She looked at me with such hatred that it carried the force of a physical blow.

I went home and told K., "We have to move.  I cannot live here anymore knowing he will soon be back.  We have to think of the safety of our family."

Soon thereafter, K. received a job offer half-way across the country, and although we were barely able to function and plan by this time; we decided a cross-country move might be just what we needed.  A fresh start.

This morning in the church service I attended, a song was sung that contains these lyrics:

"I am not skilled to understand,
What God has willed
What God has planned..."
(I do not know the author, or I would give the credit.)

I do not know whether it was God's will for us to make that move.  All I do know is that we went with heavy hearts, but high hopes that things would be better in the new environment.  It was not to be.

Although we met some wonderful people there, we also ran into a dark betrayal, involving power, greed and envy; and after not quite one year, we decided to return to California.

Just before we packed up to return, I had a dream one night.  Since by this time I rarely slept soundly enough to dream, I almost never did; and even more rarely did I recall what I had dreamed when I awoke.

But when I awoke from this dream, my heart was pounding and I felt as though I had already lived through the events in it.  It was so real, so detailed.  K. and I had already discussed returning to the West Coast, but a few days after my dream, he also told me what his plan was for making the move. 

When he told me this plan, I turned cold and clammy, and literally felt my heart began to pound.  Now I am known to be a very practical, sensible individual.  I do not engage in the ethereal.

However, I felt compelled to tell him about the dream wherein our moving van had been left over night at a parking lot and discovered stolen the next morning.  I explained how real the dream was.  Then I said to him, "My worst nightmare, after all we have been through these past two or three years, would be to have the moving truck stolen and find ourselves destitute and living with your mother."

He scoffed at the whole thing, told me it was my imagination and that nothing like that was going to happen.

We tried to get a rider placed on our home owner's policy, but the insurance company declined to issue one because we were moving ourselves instead of hiring Mayflower or a similar professional moving company.  We could not afford to do that.  Thus it was an uninsured move.

On November 13, 1981 we parked the moving van in a vacant church parking lot, surrounded by a six foot chain link fence, with padlocked gates and drove the hundred and fifty miles to his mother's.  We dropped the kids off, stayed only an hour or so and then turned around and drove back, to spend the night with our friend and his wife. They had two very small children and a small house, and that is why we had taken the three kids elsewhere.

The following morning we went down to the church to pick up the truck.  We pulled up in front of the church, and K. suggested I wait in the church office while he and the pastor went around back to unlock the gates and warm up the truck's engine as it was cold that day.

I sat in the office for fifteen minutes or so, and wondered what could be taking so long.  Then K. walked in ashen-faced.  I took one look at him and said, "It's gone, isn't it?  It's been stolen."

He looked sickened and as he nodded "yes" -  he said quietly, "Marsha, please don't leave me."

He knew that I had described this very event in detail.  I had even said that this church was located in a high-crime area and was a particular risk, even discounting my dream.  We had discussed my reservations for nearly an hour that day; and as always, my opinion did not matter.  My concerns did not count.  He would do as he thought best; and the rest of us would pay the price.

It turned out that the pastor had been trying to help rehabilitate a young man with a drug history, who was working part time for the church as a janitor.  The young man was back on drugs, and had keys to the premises.  He knew of a drug ring operating in the area who fenced stolen property for five cents on the dollar, taking the stolen goods to the Bay Area and selling them over night.

The police located the van abandoned on a country road by the next day.  It was empty.  An entire three-bedroom household of furniture, our linens, dishes, clothing, our musical instruments (my son's Benj trumpet, my other son's Elgin symbols and drum set, my Baldwin piano) everything ... gone.  Baby pictures, birth certificates, tax records - seventeen years of marriage and family life wiped out.

My daughter sometimes says it would be easier to be able to say "we lost everything in a fire" - as this happens to thousands of people each year.  It is terrible, but something we hear of and read about, so it is comprehensible even if horrible.  Our loss was so bizarre it was tough to explain.

Now the brick wall was building in my own heart.  The losses and griefs of the past two years were the beginning, but they were unforeseen.  A complete shock.  But this loss, was not only foreseeable, but we had been forewarned and due to K.'s complete inability to value any opinion but his own, we were now homeless, and without the means to acquire one.

My mother-in-law was a widow, who lived alone in a three bedroom home; and thus, just as I had dreaded, because we literally had nowhere else to go, she was kind enough to take us in.  We lived with her for six-months while we slowly accumulated enough basics necessary for every day living that we could rent a house to move into.

That six months ....  well, we will save that for the next chapter.


  1. Oh, my heart did a flip when I read this. How utterly painful.

    I hope that song (which I love, too) gave you some comfort during this time.

    On pins and needles awaiting the next chapter~

  2. I continue to see your story as a beautiful tapestry when completed but it's hard to read the dark parts that will eventually make the colors pop.....

  3. How spooky to dream it first. That once happened to me but it wasn't a sinister dream but a happy one. What a struggle you have been through.