Dave was arrested in the fall of 1983 while on the job at Ford in Connersville. In January of 1984 we moved back home to Richmond from Brookville to await his day in court. Before he went to prison, Dave signed several weeks of unemployment vouchers so I would have money to supplement my paycheck from the liquor store. I didn’t feel comfortable mailing the vouchers in every week, or with forging Dave’s signature when the checks arrived, but the fraud helped me stave off disaster for a while. After the vouchers ran out and the unemployment checks stopped coming I couldn’t keep up with utility bills. My gas was turned off twice that winter for non-payment. The refrigerator quit and I couldn’t replace it. My Mom and stepdad let me borrow their Coleman cooler to keep fresh food in. I managed to keep milk, lunch meat, and government commodity cheese most of the time. Micheal and I lived like that for several months until my mother-in-law bought a refrigerator for us.
I was miserable and afraid, and I was drunk nearly every day. Working in a liquor store made that the easiest part of my life. I don’t remember much about that year except I paid a utility bill or the rent every month, trying to stay one step ahead of being cut off or evicted. Juggling bills allowed me to keep buying food, but I was drowning slowly. I felt alone and isolated, with no anchor, no family. My divorced parents were busy establishing new lives, remarried to other people. Plus, both parents had me at arm’s length because of my lifestyle with Dave. Even though adrift, my business got taken care of somehow. Micheal got a ride to and from school with the neighbor kids. I walked to work. I worked six days a week, so mom, sometimes dad, kept Micheal on Saturdays. After work one Saturday my mother had a proposition for me.
“I know you’ve been struggling for a while,” she began, “I know how hard it is for you. Walt and I have been talking. We’d like to help you out by keeping Micheal for you for a while so you can get on your feet.”
“What do you mean, ‘keep Micheal for a while?’” I was confused, I didn’t get at first what she was suggesting.
“Well, you have been moving around a lot. You will have to move again soon because you can’t pay your rent. Micheal needs stability, and we can take care of him while you get your life together” As my mother spoke, it became clear to me what she meant. She meant I was a bad mother. She meant I couldn’t take care of my son and he was better off without me.
“You think I can’t take care of him, don’t you?” I couldn’t believe my own mother wanted to take my son away from me. “No…No, I’m his mother and he will stay with me.”
“Just think about it for a while, Jane. You need to figure out how to get your life on track. If Micheal is with us you will have the time and freedom to do that.” She tried hard to make it sound like an opportunity, but it didn’t. It sounded like a condemnation. It sounded like a judgment. Aside from the cooler loan, the only help she had given me for months was babysitting on Saturday. I thought it had been a matter of principle, or personal economics, but it had really been a manipulation. I was under siege. She and her husband had been trying to starve me out. Trying to support myself and my son on a minimum wage job was beyond difficult. Doing it without help was impossible. Bewildered and feeling more alone than ever, I went home with my son and did what I did nearly every other night. I drank a fifth of apple schnapps over ice.
10 November 2018
I pick Micheal up at the hospital and I bring him to my home. He moves slowly, every step ginger. With both sides of his torso wounded, there isn’t a motion that’s pain free. He climbs the stairs to the room I’ve put all his clothing in. I leave him be and he takes a shower. An hour later he comes down the stairs with his coat on.
“Where are you going?” I ask, incredulous he would be going anywhere.
“I’m just going to a friend’s house.” he says, “Don’t worry, Ma. It’s a girl. We are kind of in the same place, not having anybody. We just want to keep each other company.”
A car pulls up and he slowly moves to the door. “Okay,” I say, “Just send me a text after bit if you want me to come get you.” He assures me he will.
Just before bedtime I get a text telling me he won’t be coming back, he’s with the girl for the night.
He’s with the girl every night after that. I hear from him every day or two. He calls me to take him to the doctor. When I give him a ride, I pick him up and drop him off in different places. He sends me a message when he needs more clothes. He always asks me if he’s safe. He wants to know I haven’t asked the police to follow me so they can arrest him. I meet him sometimes to take him food. He tells me he won’t come to Thanksgiving dinner. He’s concerned the police might be there. Because he doesn’t trust me I meet him in an alley to give him leftovers. I take them in storage bags because I don’t trust him with my Snapware. I know I’d never get it back. I cry a little on the way home because his life is so sad. I think I’m thankful he’s alive. I know I’d be thankful if he were safe in jail. I remember my promise to Agent McDonald about the phone I can locate him with. I hate to do it, but I know I must. If I don’t, I might find out just how thankful I am he is alive.