February 10, 2014
Leaving Georgia and everything that it had meant to me, I headed West, to St. Louis where I was to realize there was nothing there for me, old friends, no longer even acquaintances. Onward, California seemed to be a good idea, at least an opportunity to be with my Sister and perhaps, discover all that we had missed as children growing up in difficult times. It was the beginning for us...
Hardly a beginning for me as I discovered how I would enjoy living on the dark side of life, drinking too much, avoiding drugs, but not many of the other temptations.
Then, I met a man, not personally, but his book, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napolean Hill. I devoured it, line by line, page by page and vowed, my life could change, my life would change.
The first step was getting rid of my pride, the cupboard filled with booze. The next step, a serious attempt to discover what church should mean to me. After all, I had been "in" church for all of my life, never as a refuge, but as a place where I could discover encouragement to "be" good, great ideas, but something I could never reconcile to being a part of my daily life.
Now I took it seriously, made good friends, and even better, I thought at the time, a girl who agreed that we ought to be married. That was a good idea, she was pregnant and in due course, the most beautiful moment in my life, our first daughter was born. I have never been so proud in all of my life.
If only my career measured up. The first thing we knew, it had collapsed. Because of necessity, we moved in with my sister and new opportunities developed in due course. Another daughter was on the way, but now there was a problem. At seven month, her mother's "water" broke and she would be born prematurely. I would learn the value of brokeness - if there ever was such a word. It would be weeks before she was home from the hospital and even more visits as she was subject to bouts of pneumonia because of the fact her lungs were not developed as they should have been.
My employment opportunities seemed to be growing as I was now working for a former boss, a man I thought to be my friend. Another child came along, this time a boy.
We were doing well when another tragedy struck. For reasons still unknown to me, my wife stole mail from our neighbor's mail boxes and used the credit cards she would discover. She faced ten years in prison and all I could do was stand by her side, praying for mercy. It came about when the Judge gave her a better option than prison, an opportunity to come home and live a normal life.
In a sense, it ended my tenure with my employer in the form of a more excellent promise of earnings and a car, to boot. I accepted the offer and we moved from where we were living. The job prospects grew and then, another tragedy. We had moved into an apartment complex and were offered the task of collecting rents with an agreement to lower our rent. It appeared to be a real opportunity, until...
Until there was rent money missing. The management blamed us, of course, I blamed my wife as I knew I was not involved and eventually, the both of us were arrested. And I almost forgot, along the way, a second son was born.
Knowing that my wife would surely go to prison as the Judge had promised earlier, so I made the dumbest move I could possibly make. I plead guilty and was ordered to trial. Fortunately, the DA's office assigned one of their people to investigate and he asked me to be present as he monitored the accounts of our landlord. There was no evidence that the "lost" money could be traced to us, so I was encouraged to go to trial without a jury, to let the Judge determine guilt or innocence, based on my testimony and that of the building management. He ruled that I was NOT guilty.
Life moved on except for the fact my employer did not seem to agree with the ruling of the courts. I had been responsible for thousands of dollars we were paying to transient employees and although there was no evidence of shortages in my accounts, I was fired.
I was offered another job, in the same business, and an opportunity to prove my skills as a manager and sales executive. I did extremely well as did our company until it was discovered, our management chose to ignore their responsibility to forward the taxes collected from our hundreds of transient employees. It didn't take long for the IRS to enforce their obligations and the business closed.
I was never as dismayed as I was when reviewing the recent past. Fortunately, I did not go back to drinking and I did discover another job with a nice guy who had purchased a franchise in the business with which I was most familiar. We were doing quite well when my life decided to take the kids and move away. I can't say that I blamed her as I was probably a disappointment to her, but the move was more than I could handle at the time.
There is an old adage that "time heals all wounds" (or conversely, wounds all heels) and nothing might be more applicable to our life as the following months would reveal.
I probably lost credibility with my boss and I could not blame him, so in due course we would part ways. With such an act pending, I contacted my wife to see if there was any chance at reconciliation.
There was and I moved to the community where she was living, where my sister was living also, and it wasn't long before I had a new employer; three in fact, as we had enormous bills to pay. It went well for us except for the fact, it seemed like, every other day I was discovering bills that she had incurred that I had no knowledge of. I had an offer to work for a company operating in San Diego and we agreed, if we moved there - an ideal community for employment and for the children, it would be the end of stealing and the end of bank accounts opened with the minimum and spending to the maximum.
But it didn't take long for promises to disappear. There would be another invasion of our neighbor's mail boxes and I decided there was no longer any hope for us. I had assured her I would do nothing to help if such an occasion arose. I watched as they took her to jail and said nothing. I did not attend her trial nor did I offer to bring the children to see her when she went to prison for a period of observation.
What to do for our children was my greatest concern. They loved their Mother and I was more than just aware of things she had told them about me - lies for the most part, but life had taken its toil on all of us. I sought counsel with church elders and was devastated when they had no suggestions. There is no way I can explain my feelings at that point. I even thought of suicide; even bought a gun, but would wind up throwing it away. I called a religious group's phone number to share my grief and would up hearing that it would be good if I sat down with their leader to discuss - possibilities.
Great! He was in Tulsa, OK and I was in San Diego, CA. Sounded impossible. But then, I had a visit from the area "Family Relations" people that had obviously been sent because of what my wife was telling them about me. We worked through our differences and I brought up the possibility of placing the children on "foster" care for ninety days while I sorted out my options. They agreed and within a couple of weeks, I was on a bus headed for Tulsa.