Two weeks after Dad died, his business partner went missing. He was the vice president of Dad’s oil company, and had given a heartfelt eulogy at the funeral. He even broke down in the middle of it, sobbing. Then, the motherfucker showed up at our house a week later, and told Mom that Dad’s company was in trouble and that he needed fifty thousand dollars to get the company back on its feet. She gave it to him, he took off, and the company went bankrupt.
Soon after, the same people who sent condolence cards started calling Mom, demanding money. Dad’s investors somehow held Mom accountable for the company’s failure. Even Uncle Buzz, her own brother, asked for his twenty-five thousand dollar investment back. That really pissed me off, because Uncle Buzz was such a cheapskate. I always hated that guy. When I was fourteen, Dad, Liz, Dan and I went to the Grand Canyon with him, and we hiked seven-and-a-half miles to the bottom because Buzz said there was going to be this great steak dinner at this ranch at the end of the trail. When we arrived, they served us some disgusting Salisbury steak. Dad and I were expecting filet mignon the way Buzz talked about it. I could tell even Dad was pissed, and he hardly ever got mad. Then, on that same trip, we all went out to dinner with some of Buzz’s friends in Flagstaff, Arizona. Buzz was being so petty about the bill – at Bob’s fucking Big Boy! – Dad just paid for the whole thing himself. He didn’t make a big deal out of it, but I noticed that Dad ended up paying for everything of Buzz’s on that trip. Mom never saw any of this though, because she stayed home with Diana, who was just a baby. Mom loved Buzz; he was her brother. So of course she gave him back his damn money.
Then, the Bank of New York called. It turned out that Dad had taken out a loan for two hundred fifty thousand dollars six months before he died to buy an oilrig that he was going to use in Honduras. And he had Mom co-sign it. Suddenly, she was responsible.
Mom had no idea Dad’s company was in such bad shape. No one did. He was good at hiding things. But there were subtle signs. A few weeks before he died, I overheard him talking to his lawyer on the phone. He was like, “Wait a minute. Are you kidding me? How did we not know this? There has got to be a way to fix this.” Something about the oil in Honduras belonging to the government and how he was not going to be able to drill after all. He was in the kitchen talking on the phone and he had this tall glass in front of him. He had given up alcohol for New Year’s, so I assumed it was Fresca. When he wandered out into the hallway to talk out of earshot, I took a sip from his drink and wound up spitting it out all over the kitchen floor. It tasted like turpentine.