Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chapter 11 she couldn't stop weeping

Lisa had been embarrassed when Henry offered the visiting elders from their assembly a glass of Scotch, but she kept going to church. She was a Believer. She loved the Lord and she loved being with the Lord's people. But Sunday after Sunday people kept asking her about Henry. Where was he? What was he doing?

What could she say to them? He wasn’t there because he was high? Or because he had been out carousing all night?

Lisa went back to the Episcopal church where nobody asked her anything. No one had any idea whether she was single, or widowed, or divorced. 

A couple of ladies from their old assembly would always send Lisa cards on her birthday. On holidays they would send a note  letting her know they were praying for her.

Lisa still read the Scriptures, especially during particularly hard times. Verses she had memorized would come to mind. She remembered Hebrews 13:15, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” When anxiety would flood over her, she would calm herself with Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Fourteen months after marrying they had a boy they named Nicolas. Alfredo and "Fafo" followed soon after. Then came their first daughter, Erica. They had four children within five years. Henry was making serious money. They had a beautiful home in a private neighborhood. Once a week a maid and a gardener came to their house. They even had a man who would come in to clean their cars.

The birth of Nicolas had made an impact on Henry. He loved Nick. He took a few steps back out of the fast lane to be with his son. He vowed he was going to be a good father, a good example to him. But that didn’t last. Henry was soon back to where he was. He did what he wanted and was beholden to no one, certainly not to his wife.

When their second son Alfredo was born, Lisa’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was told she would be dead in a week. Lisa’s dad thought that they needed to get Alfredo in the hospital quickly so that his grandmother could meet him before she died. He helped Lisa sneak both Nicky and Fredo into her hospital room. She was so pleased to be able to hold her new grandson and to give little Nicky one last hug. But several weeks later she was out of the hospital. For eighteen more months, Lisa had her mother. Though her mother had little physical strength to help Lisa with the babies, she provided her with much needed emotional and moral support.

Before her mother died, and in spite of his lifestyle, Henry shared the gospel with her. He gave her a book called “The Fight,” by John White, and also one by C.S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” She read the books and discussed with Lisa what she had read. These books gave her a spiritual and a practical understanding of the gospel. Lisa prayed with her. “She may have accepted the Lord as her Savior,” said Lisa. “It’s certainly my hope that she did.”

Five months after her mother’s death, Lisa got sick. She couldn’t keep food down and she was losing weight. Henry was gone much of the time, sometimes on business, sometimes with other things. Lisa ended up in the hospital. They did numerous tests on her and could find nothing physically wrong with her. Her doctor concluded she was having a nervous breakdown. He put her on medications.

Then Lisa’s best friend Gail was murdered by her husband. He crushed her skull with a hammer. Later, during an argument with Henry, Lisa threatened to leave him. Henry grew red with rage. “If you ever leave me,” he said, “just remember what happened to Gail.” Lisa was terrified, much too terrified to talk to anyone about it.

The more that alcohol and cocaine got a grip on Henry, the more difficult it became for Henry to bring in money. He was losing salesmanship charisma. He continued to fly down to Honduras for three weeks and then fly home for three weeks, but he didn’t have the discipline to work his Honduran clients or to bring in new clients. To make up for the decline in insurance commissions, Henry expanded into drug trafficking. He made sure he had enough money to pay for his cocaine addiction, but often there was no money for the family. Lisa took a job as a teacher’s aide at a private children’s school. It only paid $100 a week but it also included tuition for three of her children. The school gave Lisa a place to go every day. The people she worked with were good people. Lisa still had her sense of humor. Her life could be so normal at the school.

When there was no money for food, she would show up at dinner time at a friend’s house or at a family member’s house with four kids in tow. Lisa would discard whatever bills that came in the mail without  opening them. She soon learned which bills were most urgent when the electricity or the telephone would get shut off.  

But worse than the bills, Lisa never knew when Henry might show up. She never knew what state he might be in. Henry was good with the kids. They adored their father. He played with them. He teased them. He sang Cuban songs with them. But every evening when the kids went to bed, Henry would go out. “I don’t know where he went,” said Lisa. “He just went out.” Sometimes he would be home around midnight. Sometimes it would not be until daybreak. Sometimes not at all, for days. When he showed up at daybreak, Lisa had to make sure the kids kept quiet so Henry could sleep. She would take the kids for long walks. They had to go some place, any place, but to their own home. 

Lisa remembers one good day when she had money in her wallet. She had enough money to purchase everything she needed to make a nice meal.  She can’t remember what set Henry off, but suddenly the spaghetti sauce that was on the stove went flying in every direction. It splattered the ceiling, the walls, and covered the floor. While Henry raged, Lisa slipped quietly into the closet and rolled herself up into a tight ball. After he left, she came out, comforted the kids, and cleaned up the mess.

One evening when Lisa took the two pills that had been prescribed for her anxiety, she thought, “I love my children, but I just can’t take this anymore.” So she took two more pills. And then more pills. The bottle was almost empty when her stomach rebelled. She started throwing up.

The kitchen door opened and in came Henry. “What are you doing?” he demanded.She told him. Then she threw up some more. Henry brought her into the car and turned the air conditioning on full blast to keep her awake. The kids were at home asleep so they kept driving around the block. After an hour or two with Lisa showing no serious physical symptoms, they returned home.

Henry showed compassion for Lisa, for about a week. But after he left one evening, Lisa went to take a shower before she went to bed. The water felt good against her face, but something was wrong. She found she was still fully clothed.

 One evening Henry took off, and didn’t come back. Not that day or the next day or the next. Lisa started thinking, “When he does come home, then what? I have to do something. I must do something. But what? What can I possibly do?”

“I have to go,” she told herself. She was able to round up about $200. “I’ll just take off. I’ll take the kids and go as far north as I can.” She couldn’t tell her father. When Henry found her gone, he would blame him, threaten him. She had to leave her father out of it. But who could she tell?

Before she left, she decided to see Henry’s parents. They needed to know why she had left. It wasn’t right that they should think badly of her for leaving. She would tell them what had been going on. She would tell them exactly what Henry was like.

When she came to their door, Henry’s mother was on the phone. She was crying. She was talking to Henry. She looked at Lisa and then handed her the phone. When Lisa heard Henry’s voice, she started to weep. She couldn’t stop weeping.  

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