Sara Whitman

The Final Exit

Filed By Sara Whitman | July 10, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: family problems, killing, Murphy's Law, sisterly love

Editors' Note: Sara's story started with "Manfriend, Mania and the Dead Puppy" and continued with "A Surprise and Getaway Plan." You'll want to read them too to catch up before this episode begins.

This is the hard part.

On Tuesday morning, Mama was up first, coffee made, and ready to read a passage from the bible for inspiration. Mama was staying with us to keep us safe, keep Manfriend away, and I have to say was a generally pleasant person to be around.

My standards were pretty low by that time but I mean it. She was a kind woman.

We drove the puppy to the pound, after I spent an hour wondering if I could keep it. The animal shelters in Georgia are not "no kill" facilities. I thought the puppy had been through enough but I also knew I was driving home with my sister, enough animals, and to add them to the regular ol' chaos of three boys, summer vacation... well, even I knew it would be too much.

The pound was a miserable place and I really don't want to say anymore than that about it. Part of my problem was I kept looking at things through my suburban mindset and this was anything but that. I walked away reminding myself of the next stop- the doctor's office for the final diagnosis and recommendation for treatment.

It was what we believed. It was impossible to tell how long she'd had it. There were a couple of options for treatment.

Can we have the files please?

We were certain, and the doctor agreed, about going to Boston.

It was late in the day by the time we arrived back at the house. I got on the phone to make my sister's doctor's appointment. And then Manfriend showed up, to get more of his things.

He walked in and announced his dear friend had told him he should not speak with my sister unless there was a witness present. I was in the next room, on the phone. My sister explained what I was doing and where I was- he waited for about thirty seconds then said he had appointments to keep and he needed to leave.

This the man who had no problem talking to me for hours at a time.

He started to leave just as I finished on the phone. I went after him, catching up outside. Again, with the threats.

I said I was deeply disappointed in his behavior. I can't help it, I'm a parent and those words just come spilling out.

He again got right in my face and explained to me that he was promised things- my sister's RV, a truck- in my sister's will and he was owed those things.

I said, um... do you understand what a will is? Hello? She's not dead.

Again, I was told about the not getting mad just getting even. At this point, I'm too angry to care much about the threat. I tell him he's just like every other low life scum who has lived off my sister.

He didn't like that too much. He left in the truck- oh yeah- that my sister had bought him.

That'll show me, right?

Something shifted for me in that moment. I wasn't afraid anymore, just really mad. He wanted to get in my face? I took a step closer. Bring it on. I wasn't a scared 12 year old, I was a 46 year old woman who was a force to be reckoned with.

Bring it on.

I wanted to leave Wednesday, but my sister dragged her feet. It was hard for her to imagine leaving. There was the animals, and she kept thinking of ways to keep them in Georgia and I thought... no, have them where you are. Don't trust anyone else to care for them.

I had arranged for a kennel up in Littleton to take them for a while. The cat, well, you know how I am about cats so she would stay with me.

I picked up records from the hospital, ran a bunch of errands and then it was Wednesday night, we were ready to leave the next morning.

The friend of Manfriend calls. Manfriend wants to talk to my sister before she leaves. She says, we are leaving at 9AM. Be here before then.

I roll my eyes. I understand this yahoo will show up at 9:03AM and yammer on for hours. But this is part of my sister's process of leaving. It's going to be ok.

The next morning, I pack up the car. Mama is reading a bible passage about the big city and strangers. At 8:50AM, I get the cat into her carrier, and put her on the back seat, the door facing the car door for extra security. I get the two dogs, put them in the far back. I sit on the edge of the car with them. One is lying down, mellow, the other is straining to see the cat.

I made him lie down. He keeps standing. It's 9AM. No sign of Manfriend, as I expected. I get the dog down again, close the hatch and go to get my sister inside.

Time to go, I call into the kitchen.

Mama gets up with her and they start walking towards the door. I go back to the car, I'm not thrilled with leaving the dogs.

My sister needs some help, I grab her bag, she goes to one side of the car and opens the door.

She screams. The cat is out!

I yell back, Close the doors! I think the cat is walking around the car.

She's dead! My sister screams, over and over. I open the door and indeed, the cat is dead on the seat. Neck broken. I know which dog did it- he's standing on the seat next to her. I pick her up. She's gone.

My sister is sobbing, I am bent over, holding this cat, feeling like someone just kicked me in the stomach. No no no no no.

This can't be happening.

Mama comes up to me, are you sure she's dead?

I'm sure.

Mama takes the cat, cradling her.

I'm on my knees crying. I should never have left them alone. It's my fault. I should never have left them alone.

My god, what is this place? Who lives like this?

The next part is a blur- I take the dog who killed the cat back to the kennel. I clean the blood out of the car. Mama has removed the kitty litter, food dishes from the car.

I hold my sister for moments in between.

We have to leave, I say. We have to get out of here now.

At this point, if she argues, I am ready to drag her into the car. She does not argue. She gets into the car.

We both cry all the way to Virginia. By Maryland, I can't cry anymore. I am exhausted. We've driven 10 hours with one dog, no cat. I am numb.

It's a story I can't tell, I keep thinking. No one will believe it.

We made it to Boston Friday afternoon, just in time for Zachary's baseball game. I have never been so happy to see a group of suburban moms- chatting about the summer vacation, the weather, what the kids were doing- before in my life. Seeing Walter and Allan in their chairs, watching the game.

Back to a world where up is up and down is down and things make sense to me. I almost started to cry.

My sister has her first doctor's appointment with her new primary care doctor on
Wednesday. I know and trust this doctor- she will be getting the very best care available. If all is still stable, we will be going to Ogunquit this weekend.

The remaining dog is going to a kennel run by an animal control officer on a farm outside of Boston. She'll be trained, and kept safe while my sister has treatment. Eventually, she'll join my sister.

My sister wants to find a place on a lake, in southern Maine. A small cabin, she says, simple and where she can be at peace.

And come for Sunday dinner every week. See the kids baseball games, plays, school events. Be with family that loves her.

We made it. My sister and I... well, we've been through some shit together. When we were kids, when we were in our twenties and now... again. Shit.

The one constant? We're sisters. We love each other. And will always be there for each other. That's just the way it is.


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Sara you are a saint. I have been following this and I am so glad that you guys got through that and got it worked out so that your sister is in a better environment. I know that you'll take good care of her but keep us updated. And BTW what was the secret ingredient? I like potato salad and like to try different ones.

Congratulations. You earned a well deserved vacation. Hope your sister does better too.

ah, Rob... the secret ingredient? sweet pickles. actually, not only do you chop them up for the salad, when the potatoes are hot, just drained? you pour some of the pickle juice on them.

this trick also works if you want to use red wine vinegar, too. must do when hot, then it really soaks into the potatoes.

I'm not a saint. I think I need to go to ACOA meetings, personally.

Oh, I always use sweet relish but I usually wait until things are cool. I'll try it warm and add more of the juice to it.
I'm not big into those kinds of meetings I think that I would go to an Adult Children of Drunks meeting or Adult Children of F***ed Up people who Shouldn't Have Been Allowed to Adopt. They tried to send me to an Alateen or whatever meeting when I was a kid, that did not go well at all, I didn't want to go back and they definitely did not want me to come back.
What we need is a potato salad meeting. Now that is a support group.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 11, 2009 12:34 PM

Your story is very moving Sara. I preface what I am about to say with my every hope for your sisters full recovery. It is not meant to upset you.

I have lost a lovely female friend to cancer recently just a few years older than myself. Losing loved friends and family is damn hard, but it is necessary to remember that successful aging means learning to accept the inevitability of loss. I learned that from observation of my amazing 94 year old grandmother who had learned to be cheerful at funerals, consoling others, and reminding everyone how wonderful the departed person was to her. She was already older than the people she cheerfully mourned. There is a valuable lesson there somewhere.

Sara,
Thank you for sharing your life with the rest of us. Hearing your voice through your writing gives me courage and strength.