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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Conversations With The Dead: September, 1978, Weatherford, Texas


Dear Bug,

Got your letter this morning. That sure was fast. Was so good to get it, and to talk to you the other day. I've missed you so much.

We were going to go pick up a car today but the guy we were going to get it from had a death in the family and is out of town. If he isn't back by tomorrow we'll have to wait until Tuesday because everything will probably be closed Monday (Labor Day).

Charlotte called me the night I talked to you and she and Mike and the kids are coming out Sunday and Buddy's going to barbecue some steaks. It's been ages since I've seen them. She sounds like she's happy. I hope so.

I called David and they said he's been gone from there about ten days. He's moved in with "someone" but they didn't know who. They still have the letter for him that your daddy sent hoping that he'd come back to get it. Just don't know about that kid. You just can't keep track of him.

We got a lot of good rain the last few days and we sure needed it. Helped my flowers a lot. As soon as I get some more film I'll send some more pictures so you can see the flowers and back yard, etc. Keeps me pretty busy keeping all the weeds hoed up and all, but I enjoy it.

When you get your school pictures this year, be sure and save me one (the same size as the last one) and I'll pay Patty for it, okay?

There's a lot of things we're planing [sic} on doing to the trailer as we get the money. Like I said, Buddy's had this place for about four years but only used it on the weekends and stuff. It'll be fun fixing it like we want it. It's got three bedrooms and two baths so we have plenty of room. First thing we're going to do is get some new furniture. All that we have in it now is second-hand.

Well baby, I guess this is all for now. By the way, what do you want for your birthday? Be thinking about it and let us know. Write me whenever you can and call anytime. I love you very much.

Mother & Buddy

The visit with Charlotte and the kids won't go so well. You'll get drunk and Buddy will put his hands on kids, etc. On 10/24/78 you'll purchase a .45 caliber revolver from Weatherford Finance & Pawn with a hot check in the amount of $288. I can only imagine your intent. On 11/3/78 you'll try to sell it back to the pawn shop again. On the original Seller's Bill of Sale is the following information about you: Age - 39, Weight - 125, Height - 5'2. I can tell from the Polaroid of you enclosed in this letter that you're thin. On the back of the photo you wrote that Buddy took the picture while you were talking to me on the phone so in a way, the picture is of us.

It's almost been a year since Jimmie died. I never knew he was only 54 when he died. He looked 100. There was a 17 year age difference between the two of you. On his certificate of death it listed his parents, Elmer and Virgie, both deceased. Jimmie served in WWII. His cause of death was listed as "Medullary Failure/Cerebrovascular Accident". That's the long way to say, "Stroke". He was buried in Greenwood Cemetary in Fort Worth. On 9/22/77, the day after his death, you used a Mastercard to pay for his burial and plot, etc. You lived on that same Mastercard and a Wards credit card until at least Christmas. I can tell from the three-digit codes on the back of your Wards receipts what sorts of items you purchased. There was the $30 pant suit, lots of gas and auto repairs, some pharmacy items and lunches. The credit cards were in Jimmie's name. I guess when you could no longer use the cards and couldn't afford to pay the balances (I read your letter to Wards apologizing for being so delinquent and explaining about your recent hospital stay), you began to write hot checks. You wrote a hot check to your attorney, Frank Coffey, on 10/3/77 in the amount of $100. Many followed that one and soon you were receiving letters from Tim Curry, the Criminal District Attorney in Fort Worth (1/12/78). That didn't stop you. In shaky handwriting you wrote a $110 check (#175) on 2/31/78 to Dr. L.H. Luck Optical on Camp Bowie in Fort Worth. That check was written on a closed bank account. There were also checks written to Big Daddy's Package Store, Safeway and Skaggs. All hot. You opened a joint checking account with Buddy, aka Nathan Graves, and went on a hot check-writing spree from mid-October to November, 1978. Then something happened. Maybe it was Buddy knocking out your front teeth or the barbecue incident with Charlotte, but you'd had enough and finally left Buddy. Then you began paying for all those checks to stay out of jail. I found all the receipts for the cashiers checks and money orders you had to use, and all your lists of check numbers, amounts and recipients. Your loyal attorney, Frank Coffey, would have his secretary (also a Charlotte) write on May 10, 1979:

Dear Rogene,

I paid the money orders to the district Attorney's Office this morning and got the enclosed list of checks (Skillern's Drug Store, Daniel's Drug Store, Early Drug x 3, Eckard's Drug, Montgomery Ward x 4, Buddies Supermarket x 4, Skaggs, Safeway x 3, Piggly Wiggly, Krogers, Pantex foods, Majestic Liquor x 4, Kings Liquor x 3, Land Mark Liquor = $900.95). The money you have sent will pay these off. However, there have been two additional checks to Chicotsky's totaling $58.70 still out there. That will clear up the ones at the main Court house. Frank said there were some out at the Northeast branch Courthouse that total about $300-$400, but those have not been turned in to the main courthouse yet. I can call out there and find out what they have and the total of them if you want me to. I am gald [sic] that you are still doing okay. don't give up.

I also found some medical bills which fill in some blanks. You were admitted to All Saints Hospital after visiting the ER on 9/1/77. The diagnosis is 1. Overdose 2. Depression. You were held for three days. On 1/17/78 you were treated by Dr. James Brooks, our family doctor for as long as I can remember, for a respiratory infection, hormone insufficiency and a vitamin deficiency. Then on 1/28/78 you were admitted to All Saints Hospital with a diagnosis of 1. Acute alcohol withdrawal and 2. Depression. They kept you until 2/1/78. On 2/5/78 you visited Harris Hospital where I was born for x-rays of your forearm, nose, skull, chest. On 2/28/78 you were admitted to All Saints Hospital again with a diagnosis of 1. Alcoholism with delirium tremors, 2. Depression and 3. Fractured nose. You were released on 3/7/78. Since you were Jimmie's widow, Champus/Champva paid for most of these services. These hospital visits and injuries took place during the early days with Buddy, and now I remember the cheap paper on which you wrote me a letter with no return address. You wrote that you were no longer with Buddy. You wrote it from the hospital. All this and you'd not only go back to this monster but marry him. You called yourself "stupid" for ever being with him in the first place. You said it.

Patty and Dad will be getting a divorce soon. I remember feeling bored one evening, wishing a bomb would go off in the yard or the sun would melt. Any change at all. Then a fight broke out between Patty and Dad. The fight was over something stupid, a broken glass and a rip in the upholstery of a new chair they'd bought themselves for their fifth wedding anniversary. Anyway, Dad punched Patty in the face and it was over. Honestly, she had it coming. So your next letter will be sent to my new address in Arlington, Texas. I'm moving in with Dad's sister, Charlene. There are legal documents I didn't learn about regarding this move until after my fortieth birthday, but more about that later.

Once you left Buddy for good there's a letter you saved from Dad written just after Christmas, 1978. He writes:

Dear Rogene,

Hope this finds you well. I noticed your letter the other day at Charlene's and got the address off it. I probably shouldn't be writing to but I get tired of talking to myself sometimes. I often remember the night we had together. It was nice. I won't write much. Don't know if the address is current. Write if you can.

My best,

I don't think he ever stopped loving you.


  1. I am left thinking that your mother must have had something that kept you and your father keeping coming back to her. I think I would have run by now, and kept running; I do know I lack compassion.

    As ever it is the tone of what you write that packs the hidden punch.

  2. This is so very rich and you've been waiting a lifetime to write it. Keep going, keep going, keep going!