Saturday, January 13, 2007

What About Bob? Part 4

Despite the animosity between Bobby and Chris, my mom and I still kept in touch with her and the kids. Mom felt bad for the plight of her grandchildren and would chip in money sometimes to help out. By the summer of 2001, my son Andrew was born, and my free time was constrained, but I would try to be a positive figure in the lives of Bobby’s children when I could. I was most concerned with Sean, who as the oldest of the three had witnessed and endured the most of the trauma and abuse. Every year I would take him to see The Lord of the Rings movies, but he was a quiet kid and difficult to reach.

In late 2002, faced with the prospect of being evicted from the house in Babylon, Chris agreed to let Bobby take the kids to live with him at an apartment he was renting in a house on Jerusalem Avenue on the border of Hicksville and Levittown and enrolled the children in the Levittown public school district. Bobby’s latest in what had been a series of revolving door girlfriends was a woman named Louisa. Upon meeting her, Louisa struck me as a feisty and strong woman, but I was soon to find out that my first impressions were wrong. The catalyst for it all was when Chris begged to be allowed to stay at the Jerusalem Avenue apartment, as she had no place else to go. At some point, there was a violent confrontation between Louisa and Bobby and Chris and Louisa forged some temporary alliance. Then Louisa and Chris turned on each other. In a repetition of an all too common pattern, Chris ended up taking over the apartment and keeping the kids, just as she had with the house on Prince Street. Bobby and Louisa stayed for a while at a cheap motel, with my mom helping to pay the tab so that Bobby could “get on his feet again.” Louisa had turned out to be an hysterical nut case. When Bobby and Louisa went their separate ways soon afterwards, no more was ever heard from her again.

By 2004, Chris had gotten evicted from the apartment on Jerusalem Avenue and she and the kids ended up staying with her sister in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania. While I am ignorant of the details, at some point Chris and her sister had gotten into a fight and Chris and the kids ended up in a welfare motel. As for Bobby, who had turned 40 the year before, he hooked up with an older woman named Laurie, who was a bleached blonde with a raspy voice. They rented the ground floor of a Levitt house on Spindle Road in Hicksville. It was quite obvious that as much as Bobby claimed to adore her, he really saw her as a means to provide him with a roof over his head. It also confirmed a prediction that I had made earlier that as his looks began to fade with age and his financial prospects worsened, the quality of the women he could attract would concomitantly diminish. By this time, Bobby had also abandoned any pretense of returning to sobriety.

By early 2006, the situation for Bobby, Chris and the kids deteriorated even further. Bobby and Laurie lost the apartment on Spindle Road, primarily because Bobby did not keep up with his share of the rent. While he was an excellent brick layer, he suffered from frequent absenteeism due to drinking and from bouts of illness. Furthermore, masonry work is ever dependent on the weather. One day of rain or snow here and there is hard but bearable, but when a job site is shut down for two, three or four consecutive days, that can be fatal to a mason whose financial situation is marginal at best. It also meant that Bobby was not making regular child support payments to Chris in Pennsylvania. Laurie went back to living with her mom, while I allowed Bobby to store the bulk of his possessions in my garage while he drifted from one friend to another’s every few weeks or so. In other words, Bobby was essentially homeless.

To add to the misery, during the spring, my nephew Sean along with a couple of his friends were arrested in Pocono Hills for selling drugs out of Chris’s apartment. I recently read a police report and in it Sean justifies the activity by claiming they needed the money. Chris claims that she knew about the marijuana but that she did not know that Sean was selling it. When told of the strong odor of marijuana in the apartment, Chris replied that she did not realize how strong it was because she said she must have gotten used to it. Sean was placed into a juvenile facility and Krystal and Bobby Jr. were put into foster care.

By this past fall, after bouncing around from one person’s house to the next, Bobby began making noises to me about going on Craigslist to find a room to rent so that he would have a place of his own again. But he never seemed to find the time to come over to my house. In November, he started staying at the same motel in Westbury where he had shacked up with Louisa several years earlier. On Thanksgiving Day, I had Bobby and my mom over for dinner (my dad had died from complications from heart surgery six months earlier). After I drove mom home and returned to my house, Bobby asked me if I could charge a week’s worth of motel fare on my credit card as he was short of cash. From past experience, I knew that he had no intention of paying me back, so I offered instead to give him enough cash for two nights. Subsequent events would confirm the wisdom of my decision.

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