The standard greeting after school from my 15-year-old granddaughter is to ask me if “we” can stop to get something to eat.
By “we” and “stop” she means the drive-thru at Whataburger, and though there are days the order is enough for two, she’s usually the only one eating. On Wednesday, her request was the usual, but the specifics had changed.
She wanted to take a meal to her friend. He hadn’t eaten all day, she said.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“His mother died last night,” she said.
“What happened?” I asked, horrified, but allowing a two-word question to cover a whole lot of bases.
“She got shot.”
“Who shot her?”
“I don’t know, Grandma. I just heard about it, and I messaged him and he said he hadn’t eaten. So I said we’d bring him something and he likes Whataburger.”
I realize I’m not translating this conversation very well. Me, who talks too much, especially about things that could use my opinion, have learned to edit myself with Kristena.
She, who uses two words to answer questions that need at least a volume of information, has learned – I hope and pray – that her grandma is going to find a way to fix things, to help what she can. She depends on it, always with a warning, “Grandma, don’t stress.”
Anyway K had the order. Honey barbecue chicken sandwich, large fries and a red Powerade. And the address. A very nice older apartment complex, hidden away in a neighborhood in central San Angelo. I thought I knew where it was, but K’s ridden around San Angelo with me enough to keep Siri at her ready.
I waited in the car while K went around the corner of the building with the orange-and-white sack and bottled drink. Waiting, I said all kinds of prayers, wondered all kinds of what can be done questions and tried to come up with something more helpful than a honey barbecue chicken sandwich meal from Whataburger.
But K returned, empty-handed and somber.
“He said, ‘Thanks,’” she said. She paused, and said, “He’d been crying so much his eyes were nearly closed. But he started eating as soon as I gave him the bag.”
“Was he there by himself? Do we need to do anything more?”
“No there were some friends there, and they were all I saw.”
“Maybe, but I didn’t see them.”
The rest of the way home we talked about her church youth meeting that night, and that I had life group meeting. We talked about little things and parts of our day, and when we got home, after I turned off the ignition, she said, almost randomly, “I told him we would pray for him.”
“Let’s do that now, while we’re still in the car,” I offered.
And we did. She started off, and I finished, asking God to take over the details and needs we couldn’t comprehend or imagine.
When I got home from life group about 9, I found the online news stories of the Valentine’s Day murder/suicide and figured the stunningly beautiful 39-year-old woman had to be the boy’s mother. She was a caretaker of a 78-year-old man, suspected of shooting and killing her before sitting down on the bedroom floor and putting the gun to his own temple.
As the story unfolded the next two days, the woman’s boyfriend said the older man was obsessed with her, and though she was irritated by his advances, thought that he was harmless. It had been the boyfriend who found their bodies several hours after the shootings. He suspected her Valentine’s gifts from him had put the older man into a jealous rage.
I read everything I could find, including the social media comments, wanting a real answer. Finally I found a graph in one of the stories explaining the woman’s survivors include a 20-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, who lived with his father.
“So there was someone to take care of him,” I thought. I supposed I’d done all I could. I figure I’m not solving anything by worrying, but I will continue.
I asked K if she talked to her friend anymore.
“Not much,” she said. “I sort of don’t know what to say. You can’t ask if he’s doing OK. His mother is dead.”
“I know,” I said. I might have added, “but he’s always going to need a friend and you can let him know you’re that,” except I’m pretty sure she had that part figured out.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..