After consoling Mathew at the morgue, Wilson and I visited the brownstone apartment building. Death by hanging does not always happen quickly. In a situation where someone in a noose is dropped from sufficient height, the person may die quickly from a snapped neck, but without height, the person may strangle for several minutes, gagging and suffering before finally succumbing.
As I stepped into the closet where Julia, who was taller then I, had hanged herself, the wooden rod from which the clothing hung just touched the top of my head. She could have saved herself simply by standing up.
Did she hate herself that much? How could anyone hate themselves that much! How deep her despair must have been! Oh, why didn't any of us realize the extent of her suffering? That beautiful girl! Why didn't we visit her? Why didn't I just come and talk to her, be her friend, take her to get her license like I had promised? Something!
That evening, we got a call from a detective in the emergency room at the medical center. Roger had been stabbed in the chest.
"Oh, No," I said. "His sister Julia just died!"
"Julia died?" The detective asked, "Do we know how Julia died?"
"Oh, yes. She was upset about their sister Wanda's accident and she hanged herself".
"Wanda?" He asked hesitantly, "And do we know what happened to Wanda?"
"Yes, she fell down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair and re-injured her back". The detective paused. "Do we know how Wanda fell down the stairs?"
I paused. "Yes. She was upset that Julia didn't want to her help her down the stairs, so she threw herself down them."
At this point the detective must have been wondering if there were some kind of conspiracy against the family. I think, in some backward way, many of us hoped there was. It was too much to imagine that all this could happen to one family in one week's time. Worse - that they had all done it to themselves. It would have been a morbid comfort to have some other explanation.
The social worker in care of Julia's little brother Bradley released him into my care so that he could attend the funeral. I actually had to work that day and couldn't go to the funeral, but didn’t tell her that because I figured it wouldn't matter whether it was Wilson or I watching Bradley.
However, as it turned out Wilson volunteered to take Julia's body back up north to the reservation in our van and Bradley was shuffled into his mother's car. Wilson fell apart up there and began drinking again and Yvonne did not return from the funeral on the day promised. When the social worker called looking for Bradley, I was alone at my house and had to confess I didn't know where Bradley was or when he would be returned.
I was never allowed to take him again.
For the most part, I had learned to live with crisis in this family. But this week had been too much. Once I learned that Wilson was drinking, I couldn't eat or sleep. My stomach churned constantly. I knew that Andrew and I were going to be on our own again. Because I couldn't eat or sleep, I didn’t think I’d be able to properly care for Andrew either, so I called the Crisis Nursery to see if I could place him there for 48 hours. The counselor, one whom I’d never gotten along with, suggested I put Andrew in a foster home. I hung up on her. I just needed help right now, for this moment; not forever.
To my relief Wilson came back a week before our wedding reception. However, he told me he'd have to go back up in a few days to bring Dale and Tammy down. When he left, Cheri went with him. I was nervous about him leaving but couldn't change it. On their way out of town, Andrew and I rode with them as far as my sisters house where we were going to spend the night. On the way I told Cheri about my new pants, blouse, and white blazer that was missing. "Misty was the last to wear them," I said. "She probably took them," Cheri responded.
When Wilson didn't get back on the day he said he would, my stomach again began to churn. I knew I should probably cancel the whole reception, but canceling would be so embarrassing. There was still a chance I was wrong and everything would be okay.
Of course, everything wasn't okay. Wilson rolled his van load of people into my dad's driveway late the night before the party. The entire vehicle reeked of beer. Wilson was drunk. So drunk, he'd allowed 16-year-old Cheri to drive.
"I don't want Andrew around all of these drunks," I told him.
Cheri answered, "Well, we grew up watching my dad drink and if its good enough for us, it's good enough for your kid!"
"Yeah, but look how you turned out," I responded.
"Get in the car," Wilson growled.
"I'll drive the rest of the way to our house," I answered.
"No. Cheri's driving. She drove this far and she'll drive the rest of the way."
I was disgusted, but was too embarrassed to go back into the house and let my family know everyone was drunk. Maybe things could still work out, I hoped.
Driving the open highway is one thing I suppose, but through the city is another and Cheri didn't have any idea how to use the side mirrors of the van.
"Look out!" I hollered, "There's a car right next to you!"
"Shut up," she spat.
"I'm so sick of you and Misty. All you guys do is come in and steal from me. Misty better get those clothes back to me, too."
"She don't have your clothes."
"You said she took them!"
"I did not!"
We made it home and people continued to arrive all that night. How was I to know that when I sent a couple of invitations to Wilson's sisters, forty of his relatives would show up at my house to stay?
And wedding receptions to this crowd meant heavy drinking. While Elaine and her crew were fine, many others I knew only by name and had to tell them over and over again that they could not drink at my house. Despairing, I stayed awake as long as I could, but eventually fell asleep about 4 am.
The next morning, I found Paul sleeping on the floor. He was one of the children that I had given a bed to, but apparently James, now out of jail, and his wife, Gloria, had come in after I had fallen asleep and kicked him out of the bed.
Sickened that Gloria - the woman that beat her own child to death - was in my home at all, I told Paul never again, in my house, to give up a bed that I had given him.
Sure, I could talk tough to Paul, but wouldn't / didn’t say a word to James or Gloria.
Wilson went to the store that morning with James. When he didn't return, I grew more desperate. The party was in just three hours, what happens if he’s drinking again? What if he doesn’t even show up? I had no way to go look for him.
Then Gloria offered to drive me. My sickened feelings about her and what she did to her baby would have to take a back seat to my sickened dread about Wilson. I needed help. After driving around a little while, we finally spotted Wilson’s van at Arthur's bar.
Coming out of the bright sunlight into the dark room, it took my eyes a moment to adjust before I recognized Wilson, his back to me, playing pool. His beer sat on the edge of the table. Walking quickly up behind him, I swung my purse and smacked it down on his head. He swung around. Seeing me, he started to laugh. The most frustrating thing was there was nothing I could say that he didn't already know. There were no words that could make any difference.
James got into Gloria's car and followed Wilson and me in the van. Back at the house I didn’t know what to do. I was supposed to go up to Dad’s house to help my sisters get the yard ready but I didn't want to leave my house to these people. No one was here to watch my things. Elaine was busy making a dish to bring to the party, but I knew I couldn't trust the others, including Wilson.
I was leaving my home unprotected. But my sisters were waiting for me and I couldn't call them and tell them anything was wrong. So I thought I had no choice. I took Andrew and left for Dad’s house.