Not the Thanksgiving call I was expecting

I had just gotten home from having Thanksgiving dinner with my family when the phone rang.  It was from a number that was not in my phone. I typically do not answer calls from unknown numbers because they are almost always someone trying to sell me something or inform me that I’m under investigation with the IRS/FBI and need to send them a target gift card right away to settle my account or else I will be arrested.  However this one was from Arizona. My brother in law Steve is in Arizona and we usually talk on holidays. In fact he had recently had a birthday and I had forgotten to call him. I know his birthday is near Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving being so late this year I missed my cue. I thought I had his number in my phone, but perhaps he changed it so I answered thinking it was him.  As I answered, a familiar voice said “Hi Roni, it’s Marta.” Marta and I met my first year of college. Marta and Steve got married shortly after I met Scott, and we spent a lot of time with them during our first few years in college, before Steve graduated and they moved away. I used to love the fact that Marta would introduce me to her friends as her sister-in-law, even though Scott and I were not even officially engaged.  We were family. Ironically, Steve and Marta were in the process of divorcing when Scott and I got married. Steve and Marta had two children together, and Marta and I have remained friends. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in years though, but we chat every now and then through facebook.  

I didn’t even wonder why she would be calling me.  It was Thanksgiving after all and maybe she just wanted to say hi.  I asked her how she was, and she said she was okay, and then hesitated.  “Oh no” I thought, and suddenly realized this wasn’t just an out of the blue call to catch up.  She continued on, with a shaky voice “there was a car accident, and Steve passed away.” “NO!!!, NO!!!!, NO!!!!”  I cried as I crumpled to the floor of the kitchen. I’m not sure how many times I said it, or how long I sobbed before I asked her what had happened.  We cried together. We cried for Steve. We cried for their kids. We cried for Steve’s mom. My mother in law – OMG… followed by more “NO!!’s.  

Barb and Sid had three children.  The photo above is from their 5oth Anniversary celebration. Steve was the oldest, followed by Scott and then Lisa.  Lisa struggled with mental illness and sadly she passed away in November of 2006 due to what we believe was an accidental overdose or adverse reaction to several different medications that had been prescribed to her for mood stabilization and a recent bout of pneumonia.  Lisa was living in Boise at the time of her death. Scott and I didn’t have a close relationship with her and only saw her when Barb and Sid came to town. I remember getting the call from Barb and Sid telling me that they had reason to believe Lisa may have passed and asking Scott and I to go check out her apartment to see if we could confirm it.  When we arrived, her neighbor confirmed that she had been removed by the coroner. No parent should ever have to bury their child. Even though Lisa was a difficult family member, her death was still tragic and took a toll on her parents. We all had to clean out her apartment which added to the trauma of her death. Seeing the conditions she was living in made her death seem like a blessing.  I won’t go into the details of what we found in her apartment, but she was truly struggling with many things. It was sad. I was sad because I felt bad for not being there for her. Yet my decision to not be part of her life was out of self preservation for mine. I’m sure everyone else was feeling the same. Barb and Sid made some very difficult choices when it came to Lisa. Choices that I didn’t fully understand until just recently.  Choices that I now fully admire and respect – because they chose live their lives and let Lisa live hers. This is something I’m dealing with now, and it is gut wrenching. I think Sid made some of these decisions to protect Barb. When Scott was alive, he was bad cop to my good cop (more like my pushover cop). I relied on Scott to make the tough decisions. Now I am dealing with the consequences and having to make all of the decisions on my own.  I often wish he was still here to help me be strong. I think that Sid may have regretted some of these decisions after Lisa died.  

Not long after Lisa died, Sid started having some pains and health issues.  He had just sold his business and finally retired. It was time for Sid and Barb to really get their lives back and do the things that they enjoyed.  I don’t remember when the diagnosis came in, but in the fall of 2008 Sid had a major surgery at Swedish Hospital in Seattle for an aggressive lung cancer.  Scott and I drove to Seattle to be with Barb while Sid had the surgery. Steve and his wife flew out from Arizona. It was a grueling surgery that spanned over two days. I think they may have even had to take a day or two off before completing the surgery to give the team and Sid time to rest.  Honestly, a lot of that time is still a blur to me. Scott and I were having some problems in our relationship and my defense mechanism at the time was to pretend it wasn’t happening. I created a world of denial and do not have very clear memories of 2006 through 2010. I remember seeing a sign on the wall in the laundry room of the hotel we were staying at that listed the signs of emotional abuse.  I didn’t even know it was a thing, but after reading them I realized I was going through it. Sid made it through the surgery and they said it was a success, but his body had been through a lot and it may take a while for him to wake up. Steve and his wife left at the end of the week, and Scott and I stayed another week with Barb, waiting for Sid to wake up. Sid had asked the boys to not leave their mom until he woke up.  After 2 weeks we had to go back home to our jobs and our daughter, so Steve flew back out to be with Barb. Sid finally woke up, but they found another spot on his lung. 

I remember the day Barb called us and told us about the new spot on Sid’s lung.  It was September 16, 2008. I remember the date because it was the 25 year anniversary of the day Scott and I met.  Despite the problems we were having, we still celebrated the day we met. We were sitting out in the gazebo and had been drinking champagne when the call came in.  Scott took the news really hard, and proceeded to get even drunker than normal. I’m pretty sure we got into some kind of argument that night, because I went to bed in the office.  I was woken up by a gunshot. I panicked, thinking Scott had done something horrible and ran out to the back yard. The shot woke our daughter up too. When I got to the back door, Scott was standing there with the gun in his hand, drunk as a skunk.  I was relieved and mad and scared all at the same time. I struggled with him to get the gun away from him. Yes, I realize that was not a very smart thing to do, but in the heat of the moment it was what I thought was best. I also panicked and called 911.  I may have called 911 before I tried to get the gun away from him. The night is still a blur. They told me to get out of the house until the police arrived. I refused, because I didn’t think Scott would ever hurt me or Vikki. I was worried about him hurting himself.  I joked about it later (much later) that I thought I was calling Andy and Barney to come take him to the drunk tank to sober up and then they would send him home. This is not how it works in the real world. Apparently someone else in the neighborhood had called 911 before I did though, because as soon as Scott realized I called the cops on him he tried to get in his car and run away.  Neither one of us were making very good decisions that night. When he opened the garage door, there were already cops outside our house and they all had their guns with the laser scopes pointed right at him. They wrestled him to the ground, all the while with the laser scopes lighting up his head and body. Our daughter was watching all of this happen and is still traumatized by the memory of it.  I was screaming at them not to hurt him because he wasn’t going to hurt anyone. I realized later that they HAVE to take every precaution whenever someone has a gun, but at the time this was not what I expected when I called for help. After they got Scott cuffed and in the car, they started questioning my daughter in the garage while I was inside answering other questions. They kept asking me if Scott had hit me.  I told them no. Scott may have pushed me a little to get me off of him when I was struggling with him. And I’m pretty sure I was hitting him because I was so MAD, but Scott NEVER hit me. Ever. I remember saying to them “look at me, do I look like I’ve been hit? No. I’ve been crying, and I struggled with him to get the gun away from him but he never hit me.” They just kept pressing, and eventually asked if he just hit me with an open hand.  I thought they were clarifying what I described when we struggled so I said yes. They asked me to put it in writing and so I did, thinking that I was clarifying that Scott did NOT hit me. This turned into them filing charges against Scott for domestic battery in the presence of a minor. They filed a restraining order prohibiting Scott from being near me or Vikki. That meant he couldn’t come home. This was NOT what I had in mind when I called for help.  I told them I didn’t want the restraining order and they said they had to file it but that I could go to the courthouse the next day and file to get it lifted. They warned me though not to accept his phone calls or try and contact him until the order was lifted. They either didn’t tell this to Scott when they booked him in the jail or else he didn’t understand, because he kept trying to call me that night and I was too scared to accept his calls. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was a trauma that I would deal with later.  

I went to the courthouse the next day and filed the paperwork to get the restraining order lifted.  I was told it would take a while but that a hearing would be scheduled. The cops the night before made it sound like it would be an easy thing to get the order lifted.  They also told me that Scott would be able to bail himself out if he had his wallet. Not true either. Fortunately, Scott finally called my mom and she went and bailed him out.  She came and got his clothes and we drove his car down the street so he could have that, and he moved in with her until we could get the restraining order lifted. Scott had to hurry and pick a lawyer, and unfortunately the one he chose turned out to be a bad choice.  Scott’s lawyer’s strategy was for Vikki and I to avoid any subpoena and not show up to court because without a victim there wasn’t a crime. For this reason he also told me not to show up to the hearing to get the restraining order lifted. This strategy blew up when the cops showed up and pulled Vikki out of school to question her and deliver a subpoena to her.  Queue more trauma. When this happened I was in Washington DC on a business trip and Scott had been living with my parents for a month. I decided to hire a lawyer to help me get the restraining order lifted. I hired a good one, and Scott and I were finally able to talk to and see each other and eventually he got to come home.. nine weeks after the incident. During all of this Scott’s mom was still in Seattle with Sid and I was trying to keep our drama from her because she was dealing with enough and I didn’t want her to worry about Scott.

 Around the time Scott got to come home, Sid was transported back to Idaho to a rehab facility and soon he also got to come home.  Sid was sleeping in the family room in his recliner because that was the most comfortable for him. Barb slept beside him in hers.  Scott’s charges were reduced down to disturbing the peace, but because a gun was involved he got put on probation for 2 years and couldn’t leave without permission, and he had to attend several anger management and domestic abuse classes.  With all of this, we were not able to make a trip up north to see Scott’s parents. Sid wanted us to wait anyway until he was feeling better. I remember talking to him briefly on the phone on his 73rd birthday, which was February 2, 2009. He was pretty weak and didn’t feel like talking much.  On February 5th, 2009 I was at work when I got a call from Barb. “Sid’s gone” she sobbed. I couldn’t believe it. He was getting better, or so I thought. Or so I wanted to believe. I knew that they had brought in Hospice, but at that time I didn’t realize what that meant. I just thought it was home health.  Scott had his court ordered classes that night and wouldn’t be home until later. I waited for him to come home, dreading the news I had to give him. Scott adored, respected and admired his dad. He got permission from his Probation Officer to go up north for the funeral. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last time Barb would be together with both of her sons.  The last time the boys were together.

In 2012 Barb came to visit in May for Vikki’s High School Graduation. On the way home from the graduation ceremony Scott took his mom to see where he worked. It was the first time she had seen it. They didn’t go in, but she still talks about how much it meant to her that he wanted to show her where he worked.   Scott was let go from his job a few months later due to job burnout and decided to quit drinking.  In case you don’t know, it is very dangerous to quit drinking cold turkey. You can die.  Scott had a seizure and once again I called 911. He came out of it as the paramedics arrived and did not want to go with them, but they insisted and he went to the hospital for testing.  They told him his liver was in bad shape. They told him not to drink and scheduled him for a liver biopsy in 6 weeks. He took this seriously. When he went in for lab work before the biopsy they told him his liver stats looked good and that he dodged a bullet.  They cancelled the biopsy and told him not to drink any more. Unfortunately, he did not take this advice.

When Vikki was born, Barb and Sid started a tradition of spending Christmas with us. This was a great tradition because my parents live in town and so we got to have our entire family together every Christmas while Vikki was growing up.  I don’t remember if they came back down for Christmas of 2006. They had just been here the month prior for Lisa’s funeral. I know that they didn’t come in 2007, because Sid was not feeling good.  In 2009 we convinced Barb that she should resume the tradition and come spend Christmas with us. Barb and my mom always got along so well and she fit right in with all of the family here. We played lots of card games and enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine together.   In 2013 I started seeing that I was starting to have signs of job burnout. It was looking like Scott wasn’t going to be going back to work any time soon (if ever). I had a Mary Kay business and we had no debt and a good amount in savings, so I decided to retire early in August of 2013.  With Scott drinking all day, I told my mother in law that our household had gotten chaotic and I didn’t think she would be comfortable in this environment, so she did not come down for Christmas in 2013. Scott continued to drink and I started isolating myself. By Christmas of 2014 the environment was even more chaotic than the year before and our Christmas tradition with Scott’s mom ended. Christmas of 2012 was the last time Barb and Scott would see each other.

In early February of 2015 Scott finally decided that he was ready to quit drinking.  Sadly it was too late. He died on February 9th 2015 from a heart attack with an underlying cause of chronic alcohol abuse. I couldn’t even call his mom to tell her. My mom called for me. Every time I talked to Barb she would tell me she was worried about Scott’s drinking. Every time I told her he was fine and not to worry.  I couldn’t do anything to stop him and neither could she. I still feel bad that I told her he was fine and not to worry. I knew he wasn’t fine, but I didn’t want to talk about it. Barb and Steve came to Boise as soon as they got the call. They were able to see Scott before he was cremated. We didn’t have a service for him though and I think they were both disappointed by that.  They had come all the way. I couldn’t pull it together though. We decided instead to have a celebration of life for Scott on his 50th birthday in June. Had I known then that I would still be in a fog in June I would’ve agreed to have something thrown together while Barb and Steve were here. 

 In June of 2016 we celebrated Barb’s 80th birthday in Las Vegas.  Steve was there with his family and my mom came with me. It was a great time.  It was the last time we were all together as a family. It was the last time I would see Steve.   I have so many fond memories of Steve. He and Scott were roommates when Scott and I met our freshman year of college.  I will never forget being in their room and Steve was taking a nap. His alarm went off and I asked him if he had a class to go to.  He looked at me all groggy and eventually said “no, the Flintstones are on”. That still makes me laugh. The three of us would usually eat dinner together in the cafeteria.  That’s where I learned to eat fast. If I didn’t finish before they did, one or both of them would start salting my jello and playing with my food. I still eat fast to this day. Steve visited us several times when we lived in LA and we got to go visit him when he lived in Kansas City.  And the Vegas trips with the whole family… so many great memories there. Steve was a great guy. I always felt a little more connected to Scott after he passed when I would talk to Steve. Now they are together with Sid and Lisa. My heart hurts so much for Barb. No mother should have to bury a child, let alone all of them.