a devastating loss is sincerely lamented
| That Woman
Yes tis true, tis true indeed, he had known how to feather his nest, that's all there was to it...but when the nest disintegrated and he was left with money and nothing else..what then..? Why then, he was only at loose ends for a few years. Someone else came by that knew how to feather her nest, and the last time I ran into him he had the look of a courting man, just impossibly slicked up, sheepish looking and proud at the same time.
The next thing I know sweet little Janet appears bawling, wiping red eyes and saying, "you know Uncle Ralph was killed , killed and we can't do a thing about it..." Well Ralph and I had known each other all those uncountable years. Naturally I felt something, I felt like I had tried to swallow something that had stuck in my throat and wouldn't go down.
"That woman! That woman..she did it,,," was all sweet little Janet could say for a while. And I kept asking what happened, what happened???.. And it finally came out, as much as I was ever to know...
" You know he was in that nursing home, it was a really nice place...". (I had often wondered what an astronomical amount of money it cost to live there.) And as it so happened, one Sunday this woman came to get her husband who was there for a month or so while she was away tending to some very important matters, and when the woman went home she took Uncle Ralph as well as her husband away, on a grand and exciting adventure to her home , my understanding was that her husband was a cripple and in a wheel chair, " he didn't have much left up here either...." Janet pointed to her head.
I already knew all this background information more or less, and for the past three or four years or so all I heard when I saw my daughter Janet was, "I'm worried about Uncle Ralph, I can't get to see him or talk to him.." I thought this constant and tortured lament by Janet rather odd, are people not free to receive visitors of their choosing while living in a nursing home?
But he visits you doesn't he." "No not any more, he and that woman visit together, Uncle Ralph and I have never had a personal word alone together since she carried him off that fateful Sunday."
"How about the phone?" "In times past you called him and he called you." "Yes." Janet responded fiercely, but after he met that woman he couldn't come to the phone, or he never answered it, sometimes he seemed to be nearby; I could hear his faint but familiar voice speaking in the background as that woman would answer the phone, that woman sounded so mad, and after a brief pause Uncle Ralph would speak, but he would not say anything, just how are you, and so on...
By now my tears had begun to leak out and sweet little Janet was bawling afresh. I said, "oh I can hardly believe he is dead ... of course he was a very old man, but he was still so strong , not spry of course, but strong, he carried far too much weight to be spry, but he could carry and fetch and all that, and walk around as well as anyone...
"Yes!" "Killed! Killed ! " "She did it deliberately. She arranged it, that woman." Now I suddenly began to get the story, but I faltered and didn't want to ask . "You mean.. Well how, how can you be sure, and if you are sure, don't the police? ... "Oh don't say police to me Janet hissed bitterly, thus to imply she had gotten a real brush from the police.
Now taking a big breath I asked , "how did he die ?" You can't be more direct than that. She stopped crying, wiped her eyes, and began in a whisper getting it all together and by the time she ended, she was almost yelling and once again crying as though something was broken in her that would never again mend .
Well you know how I dearly loved Uncle Ralph, even though he was a really sarcastic guy when he wanted to be, that was just him being him, that was just the way he was..... And I've never seen anything disturb his equilibrium .. I loved him almost as much as I loved Aunt Louise."
Then getting herself together once again Janet continued, "you are my mother, and you weren't any too fond of Aunt Louise, so you didn't see Aunt Louise and Uncle Ralph all the time like I did." Aunt Louise meant for everything she had to go to Joanie and I after she died, everything, everything, all of it!, Aunt Louise made most of that money, that money, that money," suddenly Janet was sober, now conscious of more than a loss of another human being.
"Well .... judiciously a lot of that money was used up in Louise's illness .. It could have been all gone had she lived longer," I reminded her, maybe he didn't get much?"
Janet quickly contradicted , "Oh yes he did, the insurance and all! Oh yes Uncle Ralph got a boodle, a boodle, Uncle Ralph had his own business and his own money, lots and lots of money, all kinds of money, he was left with a boodle, a boodle plus his own money from the business. He could have lived all the rest of his life in the nursing home, no matter how expensive it was." (Was this actually true? Could this be possible, it would seem that unlimited financial resources would be necessary for such a proclamation as this to be true.....)
I frowned, this catharses wasn't telling me what I couldn't stand knowing anyhow ... "What actually happened to your Uncle Ralph, I can't believe he's dead, but if he had to withstand what ever happened to him, surely I can stand hearing about it," or could I?
And true enough I couldn't stand it! "He fell" she began slowly, "Fell?" "Yes through the screen door, it wasn't locked!"
"What do you mean it wasn't locked , how could anyone be killed by walking through a screen door.?"
Janet, with great anger and bitterness confirmed, "If it was two stories above the ground and the ground was a paved driveway that's how." "By accident that woman says, but she probably pushed him."
I felt myself falling, falling, horribly, slowly to the final impact, Oh no! It couldn't be Ralph, he was clever, a very-very clever guy nothing like this could ever happen to him.
Now there was hardly any way that I could contain the feeling that assailed me, but I still strove for details that would make the picture come into focus more clearly, though Lord know's I hardly wanted it to become clearer .
Janet was now in almost in complete control of herself, having gone over this horrific tableau hundreds of times in her mind, I imagine.
"They were remodeling the house, putting on a whole new wing, they had torn away the old porch below, and also the gallery and room located above it, having left the old screen door that previously went out on to the gallery in place and undisturbed, all this due to the remodeling project..
I responding in dismay, "my God why didn't they board it up until everything was finished?" It's like keeping a rattlesnake in the other part of a double
sink, where you wash dishes every day!
Janet replying sarcastically through tearful countenance, "Yes why didn't they.....they were poor as a could be, how could they remodel anything let alone a whole wing of the house!" "Where did she get the money?"
Shock is not the word for it! Just wanton carelessness, or was it actually premeditated murder? Keeping the same screen door in it's original state while making such repairs certainly gives one pause to consider a myriad of morbid possibilities.
Janet responded with her final tortured and tearful lament, " And there is not a lick of money left , nothing, nothing at all....