You know, screw that "Best Of Times/Worst Of Times"-Dickens-crap, this year sucked moose dong… simple and plain. It was the worst year of our lives, full of despair & turmoil.
The story begins in June, 2000. My wife just bought out a company that she hoped would pull us out of the hole of debt we were in. The previous owner promised a lucrative amount of contracts and work for her and her business partner. In reality, it pulled us to the edge of our sanity. A nightmare we sometimes feel we’ll never awake from.
She pulled the car over, one summer afternoon. Blinded by the tears she was holding back. It was three weeks later, and the business checking account was depleted, trying to keep a fraudulent company afloat. Checks were bouncing all over the Poconos, workers and suppliers grew impatient…
That was also the same day our house was sold in a Sheriff’s sale.
It was more than she could take. The children were terrified as they looked toward our future. A future with no home, debt, and a lot of insecurity.
“At least”, she thought, “we’ve hit rock bottom, and can’t get any lower”…
Sure it could.
She was in and out of courtrooms and Magistrates (Pennsylvania Judges), as angry homeowners needed to sue someone. Not only did the previous owner of the construction company swindle Carole out of thousands; He also took large sums of money from dozens of people from two states, with no intention of ever doing these jobs. She also faced criminal charges for all of the bounced checks. Each time, we worried if this time would be the last time we see her free again.
Depression set in all of us. The children didn’t want to go to school… so a guidance counselor decided we should be under investigation of Children & Youth services.
In October, she woke me up one morning. “Eric, a Constable is here to arrest me!” One daughter was home sick. She watched from her bedroom window, as her mommy was handcuffed, and taken away.
We didn’t see her for 10 days, as she was sent to jail. Held on ten thousand dollars cash bail. No bail bonds…CASH ONLY.
Ten days of my children crying themselves to sleep; Ten days of her calling collect from prison, crying hysterically, begging me to get her out; Ten days of me not sleeping, or eating; Ten days of me finding out everything she tried to protect me from, and finding out how really bad it was….
That’s when the miracles began.
I called the people she and her business partner were afraid to. They were surprisingly cooperative with me… all they wanted was their money… and at least the hope that someone will give it to them. I even managed to stop a few legal actions in their tracks.
The Magistrates that had pending arrest warrants were all wonderful. I called one and confided that I was short on cash and only able to make a partial payment. He waived the interest and the court fees, so I can pay it in full and have the charges dropped.
Her business partner became the coward I always knew he was, he was getting away scott free, and leaving Carole holding the bag… he turned his back on her, blamed her every chance he got, and eventually wouldn’t even accept her phone calls from prison.
…never even asked me if I needed milk for the kids or anything.
A Magistrate eventually nailed him into court, and fined him $1,000 per day for a variance violation on his property from several months ago. No one was “getting away” with anything. (heh heh!)
Through the help of friends and family, the biggest miracle happened: What her “sellout” lawyer said was impossible…We raised enough cash to pay the outstanding warrants to not only get her out, but to insure she’d never have to look over her shoulder… or our hearts to stop beating with every phone/doorbell ring.
Each court case afterward, was just a matter of showing up to have the Magistrate decide to either drop the charges or persue them anyway.
Three Magistrates in three days... and all three dropped the charges.
Miracles. Each and every one of them.
Oh yeah, and she called her business partner, and told him to "Fuck Off", and thank him for being of no help whatsoever. I never liked the prick anyway.
The holidays sucked. The children had no will to dress up for Halloween with their mommy in jail. I tried to make the most of it by carving their pumpkins with them, and having a makeshift halloween party with them at home.
By Thanksgiving, we had gone close to a month with no income, shelling out thousands in savings and borrowed money. Frank, the investigator for Children & Youth Services, stopped by with boxes full of food for us. The man is supposed to be investigating us, yet he’s been a total sweetheart looking out for our family in these rough months.
It looked like a grim Christmas for the kids, given our financial situation… we got them something, but not what they’re used to. Certainly nothing that they asked Santa Claus for at the
Frank mentioned the agency “getting something for the kids”. We thought that was sweet, but never gave it much thought. He showed up on Monday for his monthly visit. When he was done, he called me outside to get the presents for the kids, and sneak them inside. I figured I can hide them in my jacket…no problem. His back seat, and passenger side, were filled to the top with toys and clothes! I commented how much he was like Santa… with his red car filled with toys, making his rounds delivering them.
Carole and I sorted through them, and were stunned. It was everything these kids wanted… top of the line toys, and brand-name clothes.
What miracles are…
When people think of miracles, they picture the booming voice of God; Accompanied by a flash of lightning, and a parting sea for good theatrical measure.
The God I’ve always known never worked that way. It was always the little natural things in the background that beat the odds and did the impossible. That was always miracles to me…
And I took note of each and every one of them the past few months. Despite the fear, and the terror… with every leap of faith I had to make, there was always a step waiting there to catch me & my family. More await us as a sheriff is expected to lock us out of our home next month… but we’ll deal with that the way we always have. One step at a time, and wait for the next miracle.
You see, the sheriff was supposed to do it last week, but decided to give us more time.
My holiday wish for you all is to see the daily miracles in your life. You know, the ones you take for granted. Little acts of kindness & mercy when you least expect it.
I never stopped believing in Santa either. This time of year, there’s always a spirit of benevolence that falls on people. A change you can’t quite define, or even expect.
My children will probably never know it, but this year…
Santa’s name was Frank.