Chapter 8 1992 - Tears in Heaven

The day began like any other. The sun came up, glorious as it lit up the earth from the night’s slumbers, bringing the life-giving heat to all who fell in its path across the sky. Only a few clouds interrupted its passage, as it seemed to crawl across the sky. Everywhere on earth, there was peace, as it surveyed the tiny humans below, going about their business as if there were not a care in the world, and for many, there weren’t. Occasionally, across the globe, one might find a raindrop, or two, or thousands, but giving it up for the earth’s bounty, thankfully, as if they were tears in heaven, saying “I’m here to serve you.” A wind might blow gently, or strongly, or with hurricane force. Or it might not move at all. Somewhere, in the high peaks, a snowflake would waft in that wind, making its way to a new, temporary home on earth. Sometimes its brothers and sisters would also fall, in rapid succession, until they would make a city, a region, a nation, populated by a blanket of fresh whiteness. In another part of the world, the wind would whip up sand from the ground, giving flight to many who had only known the darkness of buried deep in the earth, visiting sunlight for the first time ever.

The oceans would pick up that wind, and create waves, some gentle, some tortuously violent, crashing into yet another rock face, created more sand that may some day turn up in the desert, or washed forever to the depths of the sea, perhaps never to experience the sun’s ray again. Then, as suddenly as the wind came up, it would die down, providing an unexpected calm, belying the forceful violence that preceded it.

Sandy Daly awoke on that bright sunny morning as on any other. Sometimes challenged by the struggles of her previous life, sometimes without a care in the world, ready to face the day ahead with cheerfulness and thoughts of unexplored opportunities. Today was a dark day for her. It had been exactly fifty years since her father, Col. William Thompson, had been killed in a mission during World War II. Although she was just a young teen at the time, the experience had taken its toll on her, and her entire family. She turned to abusive habits, mostly alcohol and cigarettes, and raised their use to excessive. Gifted with naturally good looks, her alcohol-induced low morals made her very popular among the men of her generation, and she gained quite a reputation. A not-quite-unexpected pregnancy sent her out of state for a few years, and when she came back to her home town several years later, she was responsible, in a loose way, for the well-being of two children: her love child from her late-forties dalliance, Eric Thompson, and her son Isaac by Robert Daly, now her former husband.

When Sandy and Robert met, Sandy was the young unwed mother of Eric, and had not yet completely fallen on hard times. The future for the two of them seemed to be bright, and Sandy’s wild days almost became a thing of the past. When, again not so unexpectedly, Sandy turned up pregnant, Robert was quick to marry her, and provide her first full family experience since her father’s death. Although struggling financially with a new wife and her child, and a child on the way, Robert still attempted to provide for the new family as best he could. When Isaac was born, overwhelming expenses made them seek out public assistance to help cover the bills. Although it helped some, they were not enjoying the American dream of two cars in the garage, and a chicken in every pot. Young Isaac was brought up, lacking complete nourishment, and often was ill, and did not grow as quickly as other children his age.

On the rare occasion that Sandy took him to a doctor, the doctor would express concern about his development, and insist that Sandy and Robert provide a better environment for their child. Sandy, never being one to listen to criticism, responded by refusing to return to the doctor, even when Isaac was stricken by many of the childhood diseases that plagued children of the fifties and sixties. As Isaac’s general health deteriorated, one might wonder if he was going to survive childhood at all.

Sandy’s own recovery from her wild times was also affected, and tension between her and Robert increased. Shortly before Isaac’s seventh birthday, Robert filed for divorce, and moved out of town. Sandy fell deeper into the pit.

Six months later, Sandy arrived back at her hometown with the two kids in tow, and tried to resume her former life, but drinking, smoking and some drug abuse followed along with her. Enrolling the kids in school, Sandy briefly reconnected with Henry Mall, whom she had slightly known during her teens as “the chicken guy”, discovering that his son and Isaac we going to be classmates. Encouraging a friendship between the two, she managed to find a bright spot in her existence and began the slow road to recovery. Over the years, she had left the drugs behind, but continued to drink, often in secret, ending each day in a stupor, and greeting each morning as a new opportunity to open yet another bottle. Her public assistance money was barely enough to keep her and the kids off the streets. Some relief came when Eric, turning 16, decided to move in with his father, who now lived in Oklahoma. Despite the fact that his parents never married, he did manage to have developed a sort of relationship with him, and knew that it would be better all around if he just “disappeared.” Sandy was publicly adamant about him leaving, but secretly relieved that another mouth to feed was out of the home.

By the time Isaac turned 18, Sandy had been through a succession of boyfriends, who had helped to support Isaac, but also fought demons of their own. Some pulled in income from shady operations, either fencing stolen merchandise, stealing cars and operating a chop shop, or dealing drugs. Sandy could never get completely away from this lower-class environment, and Isaac even succumbed to some of these illegal activities as well. Isaac’s brief high-school romance with I’s cousin, Betty, did not last much beyond their graduation, and the two drifted apart. Eventually, Betty and her family moved to Nevada, and Isaac soon nearly forgot about her.

As Isaac’s involvement with Golden Fingers began to emerge, as as the income from their successes began to mount, Isaac was able to finally help his mother. He moved her into a new home, provided her a monthly stipend, and for the first time in many years, no longer needed the help of public assistance to live from day to day. A path to recovery was finally firmly established, and her excessive drinking began to taper off. When in attendance at I and Angela’s wedding, she arrived sober, but could not help in taking to the liquid refreshment following the ceremony.

With Isaac’s continued help, she finally was able to suppress the addiction of alcohol, and admitting she had a problem went a long way to keeping her sober. Now with fifteen years of sobriety behind her, she found herself once again facing the challenge as she mourned on the anniversary of her father’s death. “One drink to honor his memory won’t hurt,” she thought to herself. She climbed into the driver’s seat and drove to the liquor store, picking up a bottle of scotch. Upon returning home, she poured out a shot, raised the glass in the air, and toasted aloud, to the empty room “Daddy, this one’s for you, wherever you are!” She knocked it back, savoring the heat of the alcohol, and suddenly rushing with desire for another. She poured another shot, a gulped that one down as well. Drink after drink, she soon discovered that the bottle was empty, but that her need for the liquid was not abated. Climbing once again into her car, she set out on the road. Swerving around other vehicles, it was very clear that she was no longer in control, and when she swerved too widely, she ran off the road, striking a tree head on.

When paramedics arrived an the scene a few minutes later, it was clear that she had not survived, and was pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour later.

The days following her death were filled with activity, Isaac and Dawn made arrangements for the funeral, Eric Thompson and Robert Daly flew in to give their last respects, and I, as a surrogate nephew, was asked to give the eulogy at the funeral.

“Sandy was a longtime friend of the family, and had experienced both the lowest lows and the highest highs that life had to offer. She was taken from us tragically this week, and though time may forget her to all but a close few, she will be held in our hearts forever from this day. I’m sure there are tears in heaven today at her memory and passing, and tears, like the gentle raindrops we see today, on earth to mark it as well. Go, Sandy, find your peace now, perhaps a better peace that you ever found in this life, and we will all rejoice together when me meet again.”

Sandy Thompson Daly, aged 64, was laid to rest alongside Dawn’s daughter and grandson, whom Sandy had befriended in their brief time together. Isaac, at the graveside with Dawn, shed another tear as they lowered her body into the ground. Holding onto Dawn for comfort, together they were able to battle their own personal demons, stretched to the breaking point by two successive years of tragedy. Their forbearance in the face of pain was an inspiration to all who knew them. They were going to be OK.