The Angel of San Diego

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Chapter 2 - Past Life

Five years ago he had a wife and two kids. He was working in an optical plant as a machinist. The pay wasn’t terrific, but it did pay the bills.

Mary. He could see her face; her hazel eyes with the golden flecks. He thought about her a lot lately. If only I had had the gifts then. Maybe I could have done or said something differently. I certainly would have known what she was really thinking. He shook his head. No. That’s nonsense. It wouldn’t have helped heal the marriage. It would only have told me earlier what was going to happen.

She was never satisfied with anything he did anyway. No matter how hard he worked or how hard he tried, it was never good enough. She constantly berated him about his job not paying well so he decided to take a college course to certify him as a computer technician.

“That course won’t help you get anywhere,” she said sarcastically, “It’s a useless certificate.” It wasn’t long before her constant discouragement won the day and he dropped out.

Evidently she knew more than the guidance counselor, he thought.

Not that she did much. She refused to go to work to help out their condition.

“You should get a part time job at night to help us out,” she would say, “My job is to take care of the house and the kids.”

That was a joke. The house was a jumble. It looked more like an abandoned storage shed than a home. Her clothes were strewn everywhere, things were left out and never put away, and the sink was always full of dirty dishes.

“If you buy me a dishwasher, I’ll do the dishes every day.” She promised; another joke.

She used the dishwasher two weeks and then the sink piled up again.

One complaint after another, he thought. The truth was she was pretty lazy, but mostly just not ready for a committed marriage. So she left him for another woman, taking two year old Jennifer and five year old Robin Jr. with her. They moved out of California without leaving any forwarding address; making it impossible for him to see his children.

Four years later Mary called him out of the blue and invited him to visit the kids for Christmas. They had moved to Washington State. He took two weeks off of work, drove up to Seattle, and had a great time playing with the kids. The fact that she had invited him up there to sign the divorce papers and meet her new lover, Cindy, didn’t dampen his spirits.

That visit was a turning point in his life. It was then that he realized that his feelings for Mary had changed from the intense love he once felt to friendly concern. He had finally made peace with himself over the break up and he was able to see his kids again.

He made arrangements for the children to come down to San Diego for a month during their summer break. He thought it would be great having them around so he could reestablish his bond with them as their father. The drive home was one of the happiest of his life.

One rainy morning he received a call at work that changed all his plans. It was Cindy calling from Seattle. He greeted her with a cheery “Hello.” Instead of returning the greeting, she said in a serious tone, “Robin, there’s been an accident.”

His heart sank. “What happened? Are Mary and the kids okay?”

There was a pause on the line. He could hear Cindy stifling a sob, trying to get control over her emotions. She spoke softly, with sorrow in her voice.

“They’re gone, Robin. They’re all gone.”

With dread in his heart he said, “What do you mean? What’s happened?”

“Mary picked up the kids from school and was heading home when…” she broke down without finishing. He could hear her crying.

Robin sat speechless waiting for Cindy to continue.

He heard her blowing her nose into a Kleenex, “I’m sorry, Robin.” She was trying desperately to control her sobbing, “Give me a moment.”

“It’s okay. Take your time.” Robin was trying to comfort her while trying not to break down himself. He sat with his hand on his forehead, his elbow leaning on the desk. He felt anxious and helpless.

“Thanks,” she said. Taking a breath she continued, “As Mary was driving the kids home a hit-and-run driver ran a stop sign in his truck. He hit the rear of her car from the side and made it spin out of control. It went over an embankment and fell two hundred feet to some rocks below. The gas tank ruptured and before anyone could get to them…” She burst into tears again. Between sobs she said, “…they were burned alive.” Then she broke down completely.

Robin sat in a numbed daze. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. They fell onto his company paperwork smearing the ink. In his mind he could see the happy faces of his kids laughing with glee over their Christmas gifts. It seemed impossible that they were gone – that he would never see them again.

“I’m so sorry, Robin. I keep thinking that if we had stayed in California this wouldn’t have happened. I feel like it’s all my fault…” Cindy sobbed.

Robin came to and said, “It isn’t your fault.” He had to clear his throat. “It could have happened any place you lived. Excuse me a moment.” Robin grabbed some tissue and blew his nose. He wiped the tears from his eyes with his sleeve of his smock and continued.

“What about the funeral? Have you made arrangements? I’d like to be there.”

“I haven’t planned anything yet. I’ve been too upset to even think straight. I don’t know where I would get the money or how to arrange things.”

“Money isn’t a problem. They are all covered by life insurance policies through my work here. Look. I can get a bereavement leave of absence and go up there to help you with the details if you want.”

“Would you?” she sounded relieved. “Oh, thank you. I’m at a total loss of what to do.”

“Is there someone there who can stay with you? A friend I mean. You shouldn’t be alone now.”

“Yes. One of our neighbors is looking after me.”

“Good. I’ll be up there in two days’ time and we’ll do what has to be done.”

“See you then. Goodbye and thanks.”

“No problem. I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

He hung up the phone. His heart felt like a hunk of lead in his chest. He sat staring at the wall with tears streaming down his face.

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