While my mother grieved, I went back to running the family business. We had closed the store for a day out of respect for my father and to allow the staff to attend the funeral if they wanted to. I was surprised the mall owners had been so easy to deal with over this. What surprised me more was the number of people who came in to pay their respects. It was obvious that Dad had used a different face for the public than the one he used for his family. It brought to mind events from my youth when he had spent a good deal of time using ‘the strap’ on us – and then he would turn around to the nearest stranger and say what a wonderful family he had. I use to hate him for that.
One day my mother called me at the store and asked me if I had arranged with the nurses to increase his final cocktail. She thought it had looked different from the other ones. I told her that wasn’t something I had the power to do – only the doctors could. She kept insisting that I had arranged to have the painkiller cocktail increased, and the increased dosage had killed him. I knew she was distraught and grieving but I couldn’t understand why she would think I would try to arrange to euthanize him. I could also understand that she would be grasping at any straw immediately after his death – but when this continued for six months….
One day I received a phone call from a total stranger.
“Hi! This is Mona. I use to be engaged to John. I was wondering if you would like to get together for a talk. I understand you were engaged to be married to him as well and that he called off the wedding. I have some information for you that you might be interested in.”
Who could pass up something like that? We arranged to meet at a restaurant close to the mall after I closed the store.
Mona told me that she had been engaged to John for a couple of years and had given him back the ring just weeks before I met him. She had kept tabs on him and had heard all the details of our engagement from a mutual friend. I had never heard of Mona before but I made a mental note about telling that particular friend anything else. Mona knew that we had been planning to go to Mexico for our honeymoon and that John had applied for a passport.
“Did he show you the passport when it came in the mail?” she asked me. I thought about it a moment and remembered that he had said it had come, but that he had left it in his truck. I never gave it another thought – just put it down as one more job accomplished.
“So he never actually showed you his passport?”
I wondered where she was going with this.
“John can’t get a passport. He has a record and is not allowed out of the country.”
“What are you talking about? He works at a prison – how could he have a criminal record and work at the prison?”
“Oh,” she said. “He didn’t go to jail – but he can’t leave the country. He never showed you the passport because he can’t get one. And,” and here she almost gloated, “that is why Ruth divorced him.”
“Why exactly did Ruth divorce him?”
“Because he was caught looking in windows and taking pictures while people were having sex. He was charged with being a ‘Peeping Tom’. Or if you want to put it more accurately – ‘A Peeping John’. A lady saw him looking in their bedroom window and she called the police. He ran, but they caught him and hauled him down to the police station. Ruth had to bail him out. It apparently wasn’t the first time and she filed for divorce.”
While Mona sat on her side of the table looking smug, I sat on my side of the table and wondered if I was going to throw up.