Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sandy ~ Part 2

The is a continuation of "Sandy ~ 66 years less 5"
Written and posted 12/9/2017. Placed here to be after part one posted in 2012.

I was going for a level of plain truth in the original piece. There's a harder part of her life that deserves a few paragraphs also. When I hear the song below it takes me back to that time.
After rereading the original post 5 years later there were so many details I left out. A deeper level of honesty is called for or those memories could be lost altogether if I don't type them out.

As tragic as her last 15 years or so were, I can't help thinking of the first years (or was it middle years?) of her time with Richard. Every couple of weeks, at regular intervals, she'd show up at my door or a window. She'd have an elaborate story of half truths with just enough desperation to ply me. This-n-that happened and this-and-that was said and I owe this other person and then there's the car that needs gas and... What ever the story was it ended with her needing $12.50. The price of a dime bag and a pack of smokes. Other times that much money or property would go missing. So many elephants in the room. The too often used phrase/refrain "I'm your sister" filled with equal parts guilting me, guilting herself and pure rage, anger at life. I wanted to help them but she knew and I knew; that if she admitted it was for junk I couldn't help them. I was just one in a string of schemes and enablers so it's not like me cutting them some slack 2 or 3 times a month prevented the AA/NA hitting bottom so you can pull yourself up. Besides that doesn't always work and the person dies. It was getting caught and jailed a couple of times that had them changing course.

They got caught shoplifting cigarettes from a supermarket. Easy to resell. A misadventure in her twenties left her with seizures. I think it was. This is where the timeline is not clear to me. She was prescribed something called dilantin. One of the side effects, she told me, was that you had to ramp up the dose slowly and ramp it down if you want to stop. Heroin also prevents these seizures or she stopped caring. Either way, when she got to the jail she hadn't taken the anti-seizure med for a very long time. At intake they asked about medical conditions and they gave her a full dose. This caused a seizure and a stroke. She hit her head on the jail cell toilet. They took her to Kern Medical Center where the prognosis was grim. I guess since junkies are throw away people they didn't want the expense of care on the county's dime. I got a call at 2 in the morning from a deputy telling me to pick her up at the jail downtown. That is not the usual protocol for the release of prisoners. There was no paperwork. All records of her stay there were deleted. I found Sandy stumbling blind behind the jail next to the train tracks. This is when she lost her sight or was about to. I didn't know this, she insisted that I just leave her where they had stashed their car behind our parent's house. It occurs to me now that she was probably in bad need of a fix along with everything else. I watched her speed away swerving.

The next thing I remember is she ended up in Mercy hospital. Scans showed damage to her visual center. She was paralyzed on her right side. Our mother Bertha hadn't spoken to Sandy in years but came to visit. This biker looking woman came to visit at the same time just as I was leaving. Nice about it in a streetwise way, but pretty much pushed mother out of the room. Mom didn't know why and I wasn't going to tell her. I heard about it later and figured out that the woman was Sandy's supplier there to fix her. After that the slow speed crime spree continued with stealing metal that they could sell as scrap from a construction site. This lead to a year or so in prison. For Richard this was his 3rd strike.

Caring for Sandy gave Richard purpose. He got a job and she got disability. They lived in an old 4 story hotel downtown called 'the Tegler' that had been converted to low income housing. They had a sweet studio on the first floor. It was large for a studio, outfitted for the disabled and had a very high ceiling. It had originally been the lobby waiting area. After a year she was able to walk fairly well. use of her right side returned to some degree. After a couple of years they moved into a single wide mobile home on the south end of town they got from Sandy's first mother-in-law Mrs. Cheek. Sandy always said her name as one word MizCheek. Their life was much calmer. For a couple of years I drove her every week to the methadone clinic. Talk about a scam, don't get me started on what a scam methadone is. Richard got cirrhosis, never was drinker. That got him on disability also. He got very sick from it and died. Richard was a dear person, wild and mean as a young man I was told. The token white guy in a latino biker gang or something like that. There was a crash or something where his leg was trapped under the bike's hot exhaust long enough to cook a big chunk out of it. He had been a good looking guy and had a terrible scar across his right jaw. The whole time I knew him he had a long mountain man beard to cover it. There was a head injury too that left him a brain damaged, simpler, but sweetened guy. Drugs and crime notwithstanding. His brothers were much worse. She liked the intensity they brought when they arbitrarily moved in with her. Soon they made Sandy's life miserable taking advantage of the blind widow at every turn. The mobile home still belonged to MizCheek, I think she was still alive then. At any rate things fell apart and she needed a place to live. Her daughter Sonya and her husband Ron rescued Sandy and gave her a room in their quiet suburban home to live out her last couple of years.

Here are bits of remembered data, some throw my whole timeline out of whack. I'll list them anyway for the record, as it were.

They also lived in the most notorious part of town known for gang activity in the 70s and 80s. Behind Kern Medical Center and Jefferson park. The juvenile hall was there also. Sometimes with his mother. A mean and angry woman that must have had a very hard life. Then for a while in an apartment nearby. Sometimes I'd pick up or drop off one or both at a run down mobile home park that I assume held a shooting gallery or whatever it's called.

He had 3 cars one right after the other that were all the same. 1985–1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. V8 factory muscle car. Black on black, no sun roof. After market fancy wheel rims.
For a time he worked on an oil rig and they seemed to be on the way to a regular life. Started having friends and went to BBQs, that kind of thing. Then he was injured on the job. Not sure I believed it was as bad as he let on or completely an accident. It took a year, maybe two to receive a settlement. The bought the 3rd Olds. This also let him get back to his roots and buy a Honda 750. They went everywhere on it. Sandy was already blind at the time but would hang on the back and enjoy the motion, wind in her hair.

Kind of like this one but a Honda 750 with a Green tank

For a while, more than a year, when they were going to NA meetings and before the oil rig settlement, they lived in a 24 foot trailer on Richard's brother's land next to his house  in the Walker Basin. To get there you had to go through Caliente over winding uneven mountain roads. Through places like Last Chance Canyon, millersville and over Sand Canyon Rd. Only a few miles from Bakersfield but for the most part a dry and inhospitable area most people living here are not even aware of. One advantage for them was that so far from civilization temptation to use was minimal. Can't remember his name now but that older brother was a cold hearted asshole. Charged them a tremendous amount of rent for what it was. Made them turn all of Sandy's disability over to him each month. The chipboard floors had rot and holes. The winter there was extremely cold. More cold than the trailer was designed for. Brother did nothing but complain about them using power for heat; refused to let them stay in his warm house next door even on the coldest days or help with propane for heat.

They got a powder blue VW Rabbit and saved a lot on gas. Richard had a job in Bakersfield. Early one morning on the commute home he was probably dozing and the car slid off the road near Caliente and flipped over. He crawled out of the car and having no choice proceeded to walk back to Bakersfield. The time before cell phones so 20 miles before he got to a pay phone. Whatever other impression I may have given you about this man he was  meticulous about certain things. His tool box was his most prized possession. Every wrench and socket was always clean and it it's place. The Highway Patrol found his car and had it towed to a wrecking yard. When I got there with the two of them the car was totaled all he really wanted was that toolbox. It wasn't there. The CHP has the reputation for being more by the book than other law enforcement so it must have been logged in with the accident report. Accusing the officer of theft was a non starter for throw away people. They were just screwed.
Then had an old orange pick up for transportation and to do hauling, it was expensive to run. 


I was young during her first marriage so didn't know Sonny as well. He was a rather shy fellow, or he was intimidated. Mother was a bigger than life character. We speak English using all the words, no cussing and standard grammar. The Bunch of us were not what he was used to. For a time before they had kids they lived with us in our family home. He hid out mostly, even ate in their room. Our uncle Hank was a odd duck that drank a lot of beer. He and Millie (one of mom's 6 sisters) were visiting over the holidays. I remember Hank making a big deal out of staking out their room sitting there for hours watching their door. He assumed that sooner or later Sonny (Clyde) would have to use the bathroom.

When I was 18 or 19 the folks pushed me out of the nest to find my own way. Sandy and Clyde bought a house on Grace street in east Bakersfield. She was waitressing of course and he was a mechanic. Their third child Kimberly was a new born (1976 or 77?). I moved into their garage. Sonny was not too happy about losing his place to tinker on project. 1947 Dodge pickup built on the frame, suspension, engine and drivetrain of a big V8 car. It had the flared fenders and all of that. Really cool.
It was a selfish, self involved thing to do. Barge into their little family life like that. While clever in many ways, I was slow to develop in others, especially social ways. At 60 I'll be a fully developed adult any time now. MizCheek came by one day to clue me in but I didn't get it.
This was the end of their marriage. Alcoholism. He had a long history of time in the county jail for drunk driving. Long before mothers against drunk driving was a thing so each occurrence was only 30 or 60 days but it added up. Years of waitressing double shifts with the help of speed caught up with Sandy too. Nuisance brother-in-law me hanging around didn't help.
On the plus side I got to spend more time with Tawnya and Sonya. Their hippy uncle that lived out back.
A couple of years later me, Sandy and Kimberly were living back with the folks. Kimmie and me were the bestest buddies then. She was so little and that was so long ago she probably doesn't remember. I see the other two from time to time in person and on facebook. I have no idea about Kimmie.


During the 80s my best friend and running buddy was a gal I called Cereal.  Cereal had her own DUI to deal with and spent a month in the county jail called Lerdo. She met Sandy there. This was before the stroke and desperate days.  Sandy was 5'9" but with the bigger than life personality seem taller.  She was able to offer some protection and advice for the new to jail life smaller woman.  They became friends after jail as well.


Sandy was in the class just behind Karen Carpenter at Downey High.
Her best friend in High School was a goofy teen guy named Dudley Bonk the third.


For 2 or 3 years I was Sandy's designated payee. Social Security would send me her checks. It was my assignment make sure the money was spent on her upkeep in a practical manner. She wasn't using then and so she would have none of it. I just gave her the money and she did spend it on rent utilities and food as it was intended. They made me report on how the money was spent. I sent the filled in forms back with the truth and they didn't seem to have a problem with that.


I am a believer in the universe sending you what you need out of the blue sometimes.
My recollection is that "Baby" was a stray that turned up one day. Baby looked very similar to this American Eskimo Dog in the picture except she was no more than 15 lbs. Big fluffy tail. The sweetest most loyal dog. Looked after Sandy and was by her side constantly from the start. Sandy was alone quite a lot and Baby was companionship.
I say constantly. The mobile park was on H & Pacheco. Baby was out on the busy street and got hit. Left hindquarters had a big gash. She was in considerable pain but only yelped when we moved her. Sandy called me in a panic, we took Baby to the vet inside of Petco. They wanted $400 just to start repairs. $350 more than we could scrape together at the time. Professional help was not an option. We shaved the area and applied this purple liquid wound dressing for horses. Taped the wound closed as well as we could. Fingers crossed that there were no broken bones. the white fur on her whole left side and big tail was purple for a month. She made a full recovery eventually. We didn't know how old she was when Sandy got her but they were together Sandy's last 6 years or so. Lived another few years with Sonya, plenty of grand kids to play with.


As I indicated in part one Sandy had no particular attachment to telling the truth even before the junkie years. No part of her growing up was without it's complications. Things said could be to transmit information or to incite a response. Get someone to do something or just for the sake of the drama. My guess is that this behavior was fueled by a deep inner anger and self loathing. Armchair psychologist.
I met her in-laws when I was 8 or so. I was a standard middle class white bread kid. The things they did and said were unfamiliar. I didn't have the words for it at the time but I knew that when they did and said certain things it was about the drama, the stimulation of an ongoing drama. Things like calling the Sheriff about minor happenings. Blowing up the details for the sake of making more drama often resulting in someone getting hauled off to jail. Not that there were a shortage of things going on to justify being hauled off to jail. They lived in an unincorporated community north of the river from Bakersfield called Oildale (the poor side of the tracks). Even recently the LA Times,  BBC and others have done exposes about this area. I have always avoided people that acted that way. So maybe I'm clueless but it seems that while it still goes on this behavior has been in decline as the price of air conditioning and television has gone down.

I never could figure out if this was a thing or if she was playing me. She told me about her birth father Bob the poultry merchant drinking with his buddies where the chickens were kept in pens. She was 3 or 4; he held her up by her heels over the chickens to watch her scream and for the amusement of the other guys. I believed that part. The terrified little girl in her voice 50 years later wasn't faked. She also talked about a cross country trip she and my father Burl went on. A chance to bond with the new step dad. This was about the time she lost her baby fat and was developing. They got along very well as far as I remember until she turned 18 and went wild. She hinted that dad may have sexually abused her in her early teens, maybe on that trip, but would stop herself short mumbling things about how I wouldn't believe her. She pulled out the half siblings thing from time to time as self pity and to get me to say that it didn't matter to me, she was my sister, end of story. Maybe I wouldn't have believed her at the time. Dad was always a sweet affable man. Plain spoken but also a salesman that loved to talk and draw people out. He was also emotionally kind of a basic guy. I can see him at 30 his primitive urges rising because of a nubile young woman. He was also deeply moral, heavily indoctrinated with the fear of god growing up. I doubt that he would have acted on these urges. I know that women and girls can be creeped out feeling the vibe of suppressed urges like that. Or maybe he did do something. Couldn't have been much. They both would have been too afraid of mother's potential wrath at something like that. 

That is not a happy way to end this. Let me think on it. I'll add something more jolly when I think of it.

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