June 6, 2009

Part three -- the end

The brokerage firm that sold Sam his franchise was very particular. They demanded a certain amount of public service. He was expected to be on local boards and committees. His earlier arrest did not go over well with the company. Senior management explained very succinctly that if he was not trusted clients would not invest with them. His actions reflected upon the company. His bad name was their bad name. They did not threaten. They did not need to. The message was clear to Sam.

Thursday morning found Sam slumped, drunk behind the wheel of his car at a local grocery. The cops arrived. Sam opened an eye and peered at the person tapping at his window. He could only manage a slurred "Huh?". The officer was saying something, but the vodka translated it to sound like the grown-ups in Charlie Brown...wah wah...to Sam's brain. "Huh?", he again asked.

The officer pulled open the door and Sam slid out of the car. His arm got caught in the steering wheel. Sam found this amusing and offered a lopsided grin.

"Sir, are you OK?"
"Sir, are you OK?"

The cop called for backup.

Later that evening Sam was released. His son had posted bail. Linda locked him out of the house. Neighbors saw Sam walking the streets of the subdivision, still in his suit and tie. It was after nine at night.


Friday morning dawned bright and sunny. Midmorning, I was working at the computer when I heard the sounds of a truck idling outside. I passed it off as a UPS ruck. Sometime later I realized the truck was still outside, it may have been a few minutes or maybe as much as twenty minutes later. I looked out the window and saw a fire truck outside. I went out to see if the neighbor's house was on fire.

I saw an ambulance and two, three, no, five police cruisers parked outside Sam Cassidy's house across the street. I saw the old lady who lived next door to the Cassidys outside on her porch. I crossed to see what was going on. She said she heard on the scanner that Sam had tried to kill himself. "He is off the wagon again, you know", she confided. "He is such a perfectionist" she gossiped.

I moved here in 1989. The town we chose was half-way between my job and my wife's. As we had no intention of putting the kids in daycare in the capital city, we looked for a babysitter in the small town where I worked. A co-worker recommended a lady she knew. After a year or so, the babysitter said she was no longer going to watch kids, but suggested her sister, who had just moved to the city where we lived from North Carolina. She had kids about the same age as mine. Her name was Linda Cassidy. Over time, Linda and my wife became great friends. They shared many of the same tastes. They shopped together, went to the same playgroups and had a great time. Sometimes all of us would go to a movie or to eat. The kids were great friends as well.

As the Cassidy's lifestyle changed, so did their friends. My wife began to quit calling. Subtle hints and never returned calls can ultimately discourage even the best of friends. If we saw each other we would have a nice conversation, but things were never the same. A few years later we moved to a house across the street, by coincidence. We liked the house, it just happened to be near our old friends.

Linda rarely came outside and avoided conversation with everyone after Sam's first arrest. Her only comment on Sam was only that he had changed, but they were trying to make it work after she let him come home. They took a cruise in March. One April Wednesday Sam and I waved a pleasant greeting over the trash cans. The next day, a Thursday, Sam pulled the vodka bottle from his desk and took a fateful swig.

Some weeks later Sam remains in the hospital. His hands will never be the same after the deep cuts through the tendons and muscles of his wrists. His mental state is even more precarious. You see, now his failure to live the perfect life weighs even heavier. Who will trust their money to a crazy man? The shame, the embarrassment, the humiliation, the failure all depress him further. No amount of medication will erase the front page story of his attempted suicide and arrests from the public image or more importantly, his own memory.

I feel a deep sadness and hopelessness for a family I know. I toss prayers to the heavens, but I am not sure how these lives can ever be fixed. Life goes on and I look at the closed doors of my neighbors and realize I don't know anything about people or life.

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