to: Bill's family
Payson: The Last Time I Almost Became a Father
by William McGaughey
an irrational obsession
This is a story of my persistent irrational selfishness in wanting to have a child of my own. I mean a child in the biological rather than adoptive sense. I have twice been a father when I married women who already had children. One had seven children - five who were young and two in their teen years - and another had a daughter just one year away from college. While I accepted them all as a part of my family, their mother was more the parent to these children than I. I have wanted this to be on an equal basis.
The selfish part of my desire was to have a child genetically descended from me. Did I think this mattered - perhaps because I thought that I was genetically superior to other people? It was less the idea of being superior than having prolonged existence. Through a child, I would exist to a degree after my death. Biologically, my life would have mattered. Even if my child did not preserve or honor my memory after I was gone, I would never entirely be gone from the next generation and those who came later. Yes, there is selfishness in wanting to hold on to one’s identity beyond the point that it really matters.
I have wanted my own children throughout my life but that goal has eluded me. Now 71 years old and still childless, I have just been through a long and bitter divorce brought on by a pregnancy in a woman other than my wife. The fact that it was my former wife who was pregnant, presumably by me, did not help, but, to the contrary, made matters worse.
And that brings us to the subject of marriage. I no longer believe in marriage. As a battered veteran of three marriages, I would advise men against this unless one does not mind having an attorney or two picking at the carcass of whatever career one might have developed in one’s productive years.
Being a self-guided writer of intellectual inclination, I tend to take social convention lightly. I care less about my own reputation than most other people do; for it is me I have to please. If I were more into family relationships, that attitude might be different. But now I am set in my ways and must live with what I have become. I have never had to assume ultimate responsibility for a child or anyone else other than myself. Marriages come and go. At least, they have for me.
The root of my current problem was my attempt to define what marriage ought to be. In this day and age, the male is not necessarily the breadwinner in a family. Our post-industrial economy is increasingly staffed by women. Schools, kitchen appliances, and other conveniences of modern life have also tended to make women redundant in their traditional, housewife’s role - with one exception. That exception is, of course, being the mother to a child. To have a steady parental structure around children in their vulnerable years is a good reason for having marriage. It binds the parents together legally in a relationship that works to the children’s advantage.
Six years ago I found myself in a situation where I was married but evidently unable to have a child with my current wife. I began to chafe at the realization that, in my case, marriage was an institution that prevented me from becoming a father rather than one which facilitated fatherhood. Was this not a perversion of what marriage ought to be? I thought it was, so I took matters into my own hands. I began to look for opportunities to become a father outside of marriage. Adherence to social convention meant little to me. There was limited time left in my life. I had to act quickly.
Some will ask: If you put fatherhood above marriage, why did you not divorce your wife and then marry another woman who was capable of bearing a child? Here I might have made a mistake. In retrospect, that course of action might have turned out better than what actually happened. At the time, however, I thought it would be unkind to my wife to discard her because she could no longer have children. That was not her fault. No, I would not reject my wife for that reason. Instead, I would secretly arrange to have a child with another woman and then, after the child was born, I would let my wife decide what she wanted to do. If she decided to divorce me, I would accept her decision with a clean conscience.
Still another option would have been to sit down with my wife at the time when my plans were secretly being hatched and explain the situation. She could have decided then what she wanted to do about the marriage: end it or stay with me and a baby that I might have by another woman. I started to have this conversation several times but may have lacked the courage or resolve to reveal everything. My wife gave signs of not being sympathetic. In discussions of this sort, she would always stress the duties I owed her as her husband. We never progressed to the point of talking about having a baby. Marriage was the condition that she insisted had to be obeyed.
I think, later on, my wife sensed what was on my mind because she persuaded her daughter to change her last name to mine. Her daughter was now our daughter. She called me “Dad” and I signed letters to her that way. Now, if the question of children ever came up, the question might be: What’s wrong with the daughter you already have? Is she not good enough?
Of course, this daughter was good enough; she was an attractive, intelligent, dutiful, beautiful young woman, a credit to the family. On the other hand, she was eighteen years old when she and her mother first came to live with me. After one year of high school, she was off to college in another town, and then to a year’s community service in Philadelphia, and then to an adult career, first as a flight attendant and then as a linguist, stationed in Washington, D.C. I had no significant role in her upbringing. Neither did I try to hold on to her for selfish parental reasons. Children, when they are able, ought to strike out on their own. Maybe I was just a foolish old man who should stop being so selfish and accept the good things I already had.
choices made years ago
Yes, I was foolish. In hindsight, I see that. Let me start at the beginning to try to explain how I find myself in this predicament.
The more natural way to become a parent is not to wait until one is in his seventies; it is to get married fresh out of high school or college and start having children then. Become a father, say, at the age of 20 or 25, and a grandfather at the age of 50. Is this not a better idea than changing diapers twenty years beyond that point in life? Of course it is, but fate did not deal me that hand. Truthfully, I dealt myself that hand.
When I was a young man in high school and college, the goal of having children was far from my mind. In fact, the goal then was not to have children. It was felt among young men and women of that generation, and perhaps also of the current one, that the purpose of sex was to have fun. It was to experience physical pleasure or the conquest of another person and use birth-control pills to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Quite honestly, I conquered few women. I was uneasy about approaching them. My personal priorities drew me in another direction. At that stage of life, my life work was more important than family. If a man could establish himself in a prestigious, well-paying occupation, there would be plenty of women who might find him attractive. Marriage and family would follow in due course.
I was a product of my education. Being a serious student, I developed an interest in ideas. I wanted to be a writer who would develop ideas. As a young man, I sacrificed other experiences to pursue this interest. Consequently, I never had the experiences that other people had or was able to talk knowledgeably about certain subjects such as entertainment and sports which dominated casual conversation. This limited my social range. I felt uncomfortable at a party, at a bar, or other places where I might meet women. I had few close friends and, indeed, sabotaged many opportunities for relationships that I had then.
Eventually I grew out of this discomforting situation but it took a long time. Even now, I live largely in my own world. My point is what kept me from acquiring a family at a normal age was my own abnormal set of interests. In my case, a good education did not lead to a good job that would make me eligible for marriage to a suitable woman. It led mainly to a writing career that had limited commercial prospects. When I became employed as an accountant, I began in middling positions and and remained so. However, my writing improved. I accumulated enough money to live comfortably.
My first marriage
I was married for the first time on June 30, 1973. My wife and I were both 32 years of age. Carol was then office manager of an insurance agency. Having passed the CPA exam and been briefly employed in the public-accounting field, I took a position as cost accountant with American Hoist & Derrick Company, a crane manufacturer, in St. Paul, Minnesota. I held positions with that company for five years. This brought me out of my shell. With the pressure off to distinguish myself in self-directed endeavors, I started to lead a more normal life.
However, my writing interests did not stop. As an accountant, I was inspired to study labor statistics and build a case for legislation to shorten hours of work. This became the subject of my first book, published in 1981. My wife and I bought a small house in White Bear Lake. I used a side room as my personal study. Books lined a shelf close to the ceiling.
My wife had a parrot named Oliver that kept us amused. Our property included a small strip of land beyond abandoned railroad tracks that fronted the lake itself. We had our own dock and, in the last months of marriage, a sailboat. I frequently went swimming in the lake. We were also active members of a Unitarian church and occasionally took trips together. But mainly we worked at our respective jobs. I commuted by bus to St. Paul where I worked at American Hoist, across the river from downtown. My wife worked at the insurance office. Eventually she became a sales agent.
I lost my job at American Hoist in October 1979. My wife thought I had not tried hard enough, and perhaps that was true. (However, the company’s sales of large cranes used to construct off-shore oil rigs plummeted when oil prices dropped in the late ‘70s.) She said being unemployed was “the lowest of the low”. After one argument in September 1980, she called the police, saying that she did not feel safe. They investigated but found no reason to arrest me.
Our marriage broke up for several reasons. Basically, my wife stopped having sex with me. I was diagnosed with a disease called “sarcoidosis” which attacks the lungs and eyes. I might have contracted it after having installed fiberglass insulation in the crawl space of the attic or else, possibly, from having caught cold while removing the dock from the lake when the temperatures dropped. Carol thought sarcoidosis might be contagious so she stayed away from me. She must also have become tired of our love making which, by then, had become routine.
We did not have children because my wife had endometriosis, which causes infertility, perhaps because she had used birth-control pills during her first marriage. We went to a clinic at the University to see what, medically, might be done. Carol found this whole experience distasteful of being naked and strapped to devices on an examining table. She accused me of pressuring her to become pregnant.
I filed for divorce primarily because, without any sex, I thought our marriage had broken down. We could not even discuss the subject. My wife was continually describing me in negative ways, saying that everyone else agreed with her. I had the impression that my wife’s arguments were like a broken record, repeating the same thoughts over and over again, with little possibility of moving toward a reconciliation. Starting in November 1981, we began seriously to discuss the possibility of divorce.
My earnings paid for the bulk of household expenses during our marriage while my wife’s earnings went toward jewelry or whatever else she wanted for herself. Some valuable Danish Christmas spoons bought by my mother came up missing. My wife first said she did not know where the spoons were but then, when I filed a loss claim with insurance, she said they were “in storage”. Acquisition of property seemed to be her main interest in this marriage.
I soon learned that the police and judicial systems were not friendly to men in adversarial situations with women. When I finally decided upon a divorce in April 1982, I made the mistake of hiring a female attorney whose billable hours for me included work she had done to see how my wife could keep our telephone number. She also worked out a deal for me to vacate the main house and move into a one-room cabin in the back of the property. A judge signed the order for me to move in May. I lived in the cottage for several years.
While I was in the process of hauling some personal belongings to my new residence, my wife locked the door. I called the Ramsey County Sheriff for assistance. After examining the court papers, the Sheriff’s deputy persuaded Carol to open the door. He insisted on remaining there personally until I had removed the rest of my belongings. Afterwards, I would not be allowed back into the house.
While she was sitting at a table talking with the deputy, my wife told him that I was a spoiled rich kid who had not treated her well. The deputy immediately became hostile toward me. When I tried to take some plates and kitchen utensils back to the cabin, the deputy stopped me, saying “she (my wife) can make you eat off paper plates if she wants to.” I did not appreciate this remark or being under a time limit in retrieving my belongings. I asked the Sheriff’s deputy to write a report about the incident of being locked out of the house, but he refused.
After firing the female attorney, I hired an elderly male attorney who had done work for a divorced woman at my office. He was a pleasant man but not noticeably aggressive on my behalf. My wife’s first attorney committed suicide; then his law partner, a nastier person, took over the case. The two attorneys, mine and hers, negotiated over a settlement for months that ran into years. My wife was adamant that she wanted the property in White Bear Lake. Our discovery requests were ignored. When negotiations broke down in February 1984, a trial took place before Judge Roland Faricy. The other side delivered all our discovery materials in a box twenty minutes before trial proceedings began.
This judge, Faricy, was far from impartial. He made numerous sarcastic remarks about me from the bench. When the trial was over, Judge Faricy awarded my wife 85 percent of the property. She was given the White Bear Lake property; I was given the related debts. Those debts consisted of money loaned to me by my brother and mother. The judge called them “loans or gifts” in the divorce decree, suggesting that, because they were debts owed to my relatives, effectively they were gifts. Surely my mother and brother would not send debt collectors after me. Whatever they were, I would be responsible for those obligations while my wife kept the unencumbered house.
I decided to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. I also hired a new attorney, Donald Hillstrom, to represent me. We made a no-nonsense appeal that resulted in the court overturning Faricy’s decision. It remanded the case to the trial judge, instructing him that he had to declare whether the money that my wife and I had used to buy the house was in the form of a loan or a gift.
The judge sat on the case for six months. Then we had another court appearance. To save money, I represented myself. The other attorney tried to talk me out of appearing before the judge, but I insisted that the hearing proceed. The judge again did not come clean with an equitable division of property. He refused to do what the Appeals Court had ordered: state whether the money advanced by my mother and brother was a loan or a gift. He drafted another document with slightly different wording but much the same substance.
My attorney and I then drafted a second appeal to the higher court. This time, the other side took the matter seriously. After I agreed to knock $1,000 off what would have given my wife and me an equal division of the property, she agreed to settle on those terms. She kept the White Bear Lake property and, in return, gave me $32,750 - $9,000 by 1991 and the balance in 84 equal monthly payments commencing in 1991 with interest at 7 percent. In fact, she stopped paying on the note a few years later, and I had to put a lien on the property for the amount due by that time. When she sold the property in 2000, the transfer of title took place even though I was still owed money.
I last saw Carol at the signing event that took place on December 5, 1985 to settle our divorce. She said she had no interest in seeing me or talking with me again in the near future. When I called her on the 30th anniversary of our marriage in June 2003, she accused me of stalking her. That was our last telephone conversation.
I have learned that Carol later moved into a house on Lake Owasso that might have been owned by a retired naval officer. In the 1990s, an anonymous male called me to ask if Carol had ever been hospitalized, presumably for mental illness. I said I had no such knowledge. The caller would not reveal his name. A computer search indicates that Carol may now be living in Mesa, Arizona, where her parents had a retirement home.
Martha, Linda, and Ann
It had taken nearly four years, from the time of the initial filing to the settlement date, to conclude the divorce with my first wife. Sexually, I was still in my prime. I actively dated several women during the decade of the 1980s before settling down in the 1990s to a more passive role as an inner-city landlord.
While I was still living in the cottage in White Bear Lake, I dated a woman named Martha. I had met her on a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters area in northern Minnesota over the Memorial Day weekend, 1983, with a group called “Minnesota Rovers”. My friend, Harvey Hyatt, was an organizer of this trip. Martha was then executive director of “The Minnesota Project”, a non-profit started by Mark Dayton, now Governor of Minnesota. She and I hit it off on this trip and we began dating a week later. She was then trying to balance her intellectual self (being an administrator) with her inner or emotional self. At her suggestion, I read “Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology” by June Singer.
For several months in the summer of 1983, I was enamored of Martha. She was 28; I, 42. Yet, she was far more advanced in a career than I. My only claim to fame was having published a book on shorter working hours. Martha had a vision of an economy based on small businesses and handicrafts. We took a walk together around Lake of the Isles, watched “Sophie’s Choice” at the movies, went fishing, attended a play at the Mixed Blood theater, spent an afternoon paddling on the Cannon River, attended a sky-diving event, and once had sex in her Minneapolis apartment. The problem was that I was in fear of losing Martha. She sensed this and then pulled back. We slowed down in June and July, and by the end of August our relationship was through. I had been too “suffocating” in my dating approach.
I went on another date with Martha in the summer of 1984 - to a Minnesota Twins ball game - but the old magic was gone. Eventually, she quit her job in the Twin Cities, did volunteer work in South America, and then moved to Lanesboro, in southern Minnesota. When I called Martha once during this period, she made it clear she did not want to maintain contact. From the Internet, I have learned that Martha died on October 31, 2008, from a rare form of ovarian cancer. At the time she was living in Winona, Minnesota, wrote a blog, and was married. She had developed an interest in acrylic and silk painting. Several works are for sale on her web site.
Up to this point, all my girl friends and lovers had been white. This changed in September 2005. One day, I sat in the back row of seats on the bus as I returned home from work. A vivacious young black woman, named Linda, was seated next to me. There was energy in our conversation. We both got off at the same stop and walked up the street together. Linda’s house was midway up the hill, on the left. I continued walking for another block. My home, rented from Harvey, was on Greenbrier Street to the right.
During the State Fair, I knocked on Linda’s door to ask if she would be interested in going with me to the State Fair. She took a quick look at me and said she would “pass”. But then, a few weeks latert, Linda knocked on my door. She and her partner, Laura, had just been evicted from their home. She needed a place to stay. Yes, I had room in my upstairs apartment.
So began one of the most interesting romantic and cultural adventures in my life. Linda promptly informed me that she was a lesbian. She was also a singer who had won a contest at First Avenue, the scene of Prince’s film, “Purple Rain”. She had come to the Twin Cities to see if she might become connected to Prince or his entourage, perhaps through his drummer whom she had met. (Although unsuccessful then, she had better luck during a visit five years later and even got me into one of Prince’s late-night parties at Paisley Park in Chanhassen.) Linda had once had her own band in St. Louis but the equipment was destroyed and she had to revive her career in some other way.
Linda represented two new worlds rolled into one: She was a black person and she was a lesbian. The lesbian aspect was especially strange to me. Linda described the roles in lesbian relationships, how lesbian couples made love, and secret signs they used or recognized in social situations. She also introduced me to the contemporary music scene. Since Linda was a physically attractive person, she, of course, had many dates. Once or twice, these lesbian dates met her at my house. On one memorable evening, Linda combed my hair and picked clothes for me to imitate a gay man. I followed her around from one gay (or lesbian) bar to another. She was lionized wherever we went. I tagged along as an observer and her friend.
Over the weeks, sexual tension began to build. Linda slept on one bedroom: me in another. I respected her sexual orientation. Even so, once when she stood in my room in a sweat suit, I suddenly pulled her pants all the way down. Linda seemed pleasantly excited. A few days later, as I was sitting at my desk, she asked if I had any condoms. I did not. However, we soon undressed and made love in my bed. That was the start of a weeks-long sexual relationship. Linda demanded reliable performance. We were intimate in many ways.
Our relationship blew up the day before Thanksgiving. Linda wanted to cook a big dinner for us. I think she was also anxious about Laura because she was now taking up with a man. I said something which struck Linda the wrong way, she slapped me in the face, and I slapped her back. Then she chased me around the room with a knife. When I remained calm, she called 911. The St. Paul police came and took me off to jail. The officer told me of a new policy to arrest the man in such situations. Although the city of St. Paul did not prosecute the case, that was the start of my interest in men’s-rights issues.
I was in jail for twenty-four hours and then released on bail. Linda was gone from the house. When she contacted me a day later, she said she wanted to move back to St. Louis. My room, heated by a wood-burning stove on the floor below, was too cold to spend a winter there. Linda returned to a former boy friend. After he died, she moved to Denver and eventually married a white man who does computer work for large organizations. They now live in Las Vegas, where Linda has a teaching position with the state university.
I was intrigued by Linda’s sense of herself as a character in a number of different situations. She could be a lesbian mini-celebrity, an aspiring singer, a black Republican, and a mistress to powerful men. (Her specialty was cultivating relationships with NFL head coaches and high-level politicians.) She became a White House intern under Bush 41 but was eased out of that position when she complained of racial discrimination. In one of our telephone conversations, she said she had just met Clarence Thomas. I was privileged to have, through her, a peep hole into the personal lives of certain well-known individuals.
Although Linda’s sexuality like mine has weakened over the years, we remain long-distance friends. I was amused to hear how Linda, after she broke up with a white boy friend in Missouri, called the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to give an anonymous tip that this person had been dating a black woman. Never one to become too moralistic or emotionally involved, she retained an objective sense of herself.
After Linda left the area, I met Ann, a white female who had previously dated my friend and landlord Harvey. A former roommate of Harvey’s, Ken Christianson, had started a free-circulation newspaper called “Di’s Meet People”, for singles interested in meeting other singles. Ann made contact with Harvey in this way. She suffered from depression. Her brother had tried to put her into a mental institution but she had escaped. This was an appealing story for me. I became Ann’s friend, and soon her lover and fiance. I brought her east to meet my family in the summer of 1986.
Ann was a sweet person who lived in the vicinity of the Southdale shopping center in Edina. Her parents were still both alive as were her aunt and uncle who had held an executive position with the Federal Cartridge Corporation in Arden Hills. Her brother, an employee of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and ardent Lutheran, was often at odds with Ann, seeing himself as her protector. Ann’s father lived in her apartment, while Ann herself lived with her mother. It is fair to say that she was a vulnerable adult.
For several months, however, I was planning to marry her. She would come over to my place in St. Paul and we would often have sex. Then I would work on my writing projects while Ann kept herself busy in various ways. The first crack in our relationship happened when Ann started driving around town with a man whom she had met at the library. He was arguing that I was unworthy of her. They had taken a look at Harvey’s house in a poorer neighborhood of St. Paul and decided it was unsuitable. Ann gave me an ultimatum that I had to do better than this. That seemed to be the general attitude about me. So the marriage was put on hold.
Before I married Carol in 1973, I had had a passionate relationship with a young woman named Judy which had lasted for several months. Years later, I managed to contact her again through her parents now living in California. In the winter of 1987, Judy called to say she wanted to visit me. She complained of her current boy friend, Dave, a mathematician working on the Star Wars project. This, of course, put a strain on my relationship with Ann. Nevertheless, I welcomed Judy’s visit and made preparations to let her stay for a few days in the spare room. Judy arrived at the airport with a large trunk. Evidently, the visit would last for some time.
Judy and I spent an afternoon and part of the evening talking about various things. We tried to make love but I could not. Having lost weight, her skin hung loosely upon her body as if she was wearing a rubber wet suit. Then, suddenly, I found her on the floor shaking with some kind of seizure. It turned out that this was a tremor brought on by alcohol consumption. Judy had found a flask of wine in the refrigerator and emptied it. She now wanted me to call an ambulance to take her to the hospital. Instead, I drove her downtown to the St. Paul Ramsey hospital and had her checked into a unit to treat her condition. Judy spent the next week there.
When she returned to my living quarters, we spent another day together. Our conversation was strained. She was on the telephone with Dave. They sounded so natural talking together I thought Judy belonged with him. Then, by mutual agreement, she returned to Dave, taking her large trunk.
I was too passive in my approach to women. Instead of actively pursuing someone I I loved, I tended to let women come into my life to see what happened. I was then focused mainly on writing and my accounting job. With Judy gone, Ann came back into the picture. We carried on much as before. We were no longer talking marriage but just spending time together, including time in bed.
At some time in late 1987, Ann told me that she was pregnant. Rather hysterically, she demanded that I marry her. I was worried about falling into a life-long relationship with an emotionally unstable woman. Another problem was that Ann had been receiving lithium treatments for depression. Lithium was known to cause mental retardation. The doctors ought to have asked Ann if she was sexually active before prescribing the lithium, but they had neglected to do so. I had the impression that they were urging Ann to have an abortion. Even if the doctors were not, her brother certainly was. Without consulting me, he arranged for the fetus to be aborted at the University hospital. I visited Ann in the hospital after the procedure had been performed.
In retrospect, I have regretted that I did not fight harder to save this child. Ann’s hysteria - understandable to me now - made me hesitant to commit to her. The possibility of birth defects also concerned me greatly. My parents seemed to feel that abortion was the right course. So I dallied, neither giving Ann the comfort that she needed nor forming a clear picture of what I wanted to do. In the end, Ann’s righteous brother took matters into his own hands and made the decision for us.
After the abortion, Ann and I never had sex together again. She took up with a new boy friend, Steve, while continuing to talk with me on the telephone from time to time. I would occasionally receive calls from her years later. Then the calls stopped. I finally summoned the nerve to call her brother to inquire about Ann. The brother was out in the yard but his wife informed me that Ann had died of cancer several years earlier, in January 2004. She was buried in the Fort Snelling cemetery.political interests
After Ann, there was a period of several years when I dated no one or, if I did, soon let the relationship go. I became instead absorbed with political causes. The first was the cause of men’s rights. The police should not automatically arrest the man whenever a woman complained of violence. While the crest of the women’s-liberation movement had passed, similar attitudes were working their way through the judiciary and other government agencies. I attended a rigged meeting of the Minnesota Supreme Court Task Force on Gender Fairness in the Courts and was shocked to see how gender politics could override Constitutional guarantees of fair and equal treatment for all people. White males were being disrespected. At work, I gained a reputation for being a bit of a crank on this subject.
In the early ‘90s, opposition to free trade became my cause. Through my earlier interest in shorter-workweek legislation, I became connected with some union members at the Ford plant in St. Paul who belonged to the UAW “New Directions” movement. They had connections with Ford workers in Mexico who were struggling for independent union representation. I became a foreign human-rights observer at the union election held at the Cuautitlan Ford plant in June 1992, sending a report back to U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone.
Behind these activities was concern about the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement that would facilitate export of U.S. manufacturing jobs to low-wage places such as Mexico. Combining information from U.S., Mexican, and Canadian sources, I self-published a book, “A U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement: Do We Just Say No?” It may have been the first anti-NAFTA book on the market.
More and more, I became a free-spirited employee who said and did what he wanted. Such interests and activities did not help my career prospects at the public-transit agency. Accountants are supposed to be methodical number crunchers, not persons embracing various fringe causes. Even worse, I took a conspicuous part in a union drive. I began to receive poor job-performance reports.
In anticipation of losing my job, I purchased real estate in the neighborhood, not far from my place of employment, where I now lived. I bought a four-plex, my current residence, in 1992, and a nine-unit apartment building next to it a year later. I had moved there from Harvey’s house in St. Paul in December, 1989, after a fire
how I met my second wife
Now begins the “modern” era of my life. I lost my accounting job in May 1996 and began working as a full-time landlord and self-publishing writer. My brother Andy had moved to Minneapolis from Washington, D.C. in June 1993. New life adventures were about to begin.
I knew what I was getting into when I purchased the house at 1702 Glenwood Avenue in June 1992. The property was cheap but I put lots of money into restoring the copper pipes that had been stripped out of the house and contracting for other work to be done. A year later, in August 1993, I purchased a drug-infested nine-unit apartment building next door. However, I was able to buy the building for $72,000, financing half with a contract for deed.
Two weeks after closing, I received a summons from a committee of the Harrison Neighborhood Association which was concerned about crime in my building. Our area’s city council representative was on hand. At the meeting I tried to explain that I had already met with tenants to solicit their opinions on how such problems might be addressed. That did not satisfy committee members. They called me “naive” and “unfit to manage rental property”. The committee demanded that I evict all tenants immediately and replace them with persons who had been carefully screened. I told them this was my business, not theirs. I would be the one to decide what steps to take. In the end, however, I did agree to evict tenants with a record of having been arrested for crimes.
There were three such tenants. I delivered notices of eviction to them on the same afternoon. A black tenant named Jimmy, occupying apartment #1 in the building, seemed obviously to be a drug dealer. I often saw him standing on the street corner, baseball cap turned back, engaging various individuals in business-like conversation. Jimmy was one of the persons with arrest records. I went down to his unit, knocked on the door, and handed him the eviction notice, explaining that I was evicting persons with arrest records.
Jimmy then went ballistic. In disclosing that he had been arrested, I had violated his privacy rights. He would sue me. Jimmy screamed and yelled at me for a minute or two as I stood there speechless. Suddenly a beautiful young black woman appeared at the door behind him and said: “Leave him alone, Jimmy. He’s just doing his job.” That had a calming effect. Jimmy took my paper and I closed the door.
Although I did not know who this woman was, I saw her in the downstairs hallway several weeks later. I was about to go to the University with a friend to see foreign films with English subtitles. This woman said that she also liked movies with subtitles. We bantered a bit about this. The woman asked if I might be interested in “dating” her. A “fee” might be involved. It seemed, therefore, that she might be a prostitute. I said I was not interested in paying fees but might date her conventionally. However, I did “lend” her some money several days later when she knocked on my door.
This woman, Sheila, was a drug addict who was not a tenant but someone who frequented Jimmy’s apartment when the addicts were partying. She also had several young children. The youngest, Erika, had been born a month earlier. Sheila and I soon became sexual partners. We tried it first, standing up, in her rented house in north Minneapolis, because sleeping children were occupying all the beds. More often, we had sex in my bed in the upstairs unit at 1702 Glenwood Avenue. Sheila sometimes spent the night there. We could do the deed either in the evening or early in the morning.
In short, Sheila became my new girl friend. She kept me informed of what was happening in the building. I was a middle-aged white man dealing with a largely black clientele. She was my advocate in that dangerous place. Evidently the drug addicts thought I had lots of money. Sheila later told me that plans were discussed in the building to rob and even kill me. However, she herself continued to use drugs and she sometimes took money from me to feed her habit. Others also broke into my house to steal money or other property. Some European coins and currency that I had owned since the 1950s disappeared.
Sheila and I were able to talk about controversial topics. For instance, we argued about race. She first claimed that Cleopatra was a talented black woman. I said she was descended from white Greeks. Later, Sheila learned that Cleopatra had married her brother and might also have been a slut. White people could have her. We argued about race, religion, politics, and many things. Sheila wanted to be a writer. Her mother was meanwhile taking care of Sheila’s children.
Before long, Sheila went into treatment for cocaine dependency. She relapsed once but then went into another treatment program that stuck. She lived in a halfway house in Anoka for a time. We sometimes played chess at a downtown coffee shop when I visited. Sheila regularly listened to Christian broadcasts for inspiration to keep her on a path of recovery. In time, she took her children back and became a conscientious mother.
I spent time with Sheila and her children at her rented house on Hillside Avenue in north Minneapolis in the week before Christmas, 1994. My name appeared on some of the presents. We decided to get married. Sheila arranged for a judge in the Juvenile Detention Center to marry us on the New Year’s Day holiday, January 2, 1995.
This judge failed to keep his appointment with us. We looked around the building and found another judge, John Stanoch, who was cleaning out his office. He agreed on the spot to marry us. After lunch with friends Harvey and Julie, Sheila and I drove down to Treasure Island, a casino south of St. Paul. We gambled modestly and had a meal. A tire went flat on the way home but we found a garage open that would fix it.
I suddenly became a father to five young children, three girls and two boys, living with Sheila. We occupied three units of my four-plex. Sheila’s oldest daughter was now grown and lived elsewhere. Her oldest son lived on the street. Later, my brother Andy, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, came to live in a unit next to mine on the upper floor. Sheila and the children had the run of downstairs. Today, the memory of our household routine is a blur of kids running around, watching television on the sofa downstairs, eating meals together, and my going to work.
The trips we took together were the most memorable part of this marriage. In early June, we went in two cars first to a Civil War-era pageant at Sisseton, South Dakota, and then up into North Dakota to the badlands west of Dickinson, and then down to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and finally back home. Daughter Lena and her boy friend, Jermaine, had to use one of the cars to return home early because he had to keep a court appointment. The other trip, that August, was to my cabin near Lake Superior. We had recently acquired a large dog named Russell. He was with us on that trip, romping on the beach and into other people’s cars in the parking area, but soon afterwards disappeared. I have regretted that my brother Andy, then committed to a mental facility at Anoka, was unable to accompany us on that trip.
Another who might have benefitted from the trip was Sheila’s eldest son, Tony, who was a gang member. A month later, Tony accidentally shot and killed a young woman in an alley of north Minneapolis when a bullet he fired ricochetted from a car occupied by rival gang members. I came up with $10,000 for Tony’s legal defense. That year, 1995, had so many murders that year that our city became known as “Murderapolis”. Tony was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to fifteen years in the state penitentiary. He was the first juvenile in Minnesota to be tried as an adult.
Whether it was racial or for other reasons, my parents were not in favor of my marriage to Sheila. My mother arranged for my brother, Andy, to go on a trip to China with a group of alumni from Exeter prep school from which he had graduated in 1960. The tour leader, an Exeter graduate, had been U.S. ambassador to China at the time of the Tian’anmen Square massacre. I was asked to accompany Andy to make sure he took his medications. The trip, begun in late April 1996, lasted three weeks. When I returned to Minneapolis, Sheila and the children were gone, along with the large-screen television set and other possessions. I had an inkling of this situation when I placed a phone call from Shanghai and no one answered.
Sheila later explained that she had told a psychiatric counselor at North Point clinic that my brother Andy, after watching a horror film with the children on television, had said that the kids “wanted to be raped by the bogey man.” Andy, rough hewn and overweight, may have looked like a bogeyman. Therefore, the psychologist concluded, my brother thought that Sheila’s children wanted to be sexually molested by him. Andy liked children but he would never have molested them. It was an unfortunate choice of words. Nevertheless, the counselor said that he would have to report the incident to child protection if Andy continued to live in the same house as Sheila’s children. I would not kick my brother out of my house. Therefore, Sheila had decided to move.
I was shocked when I returned to an empty house. Sheila and the children were now renting an apartment in Brooklyn Park. Even though Sheila and I continued to have a relationship, we decided to file for divorce. Neither of us made demands on the other. We arranged for a paralegal to draw up the papers for around $100. Sheila later said that, before signing the divorce decree, the judge had asked her if she was sure that she did not want any of my property. Sheila did not, and we were divorced in November 1996. Andy continued to live in my home. On Valentine’s Day 1998, he himself was married. I was single during this period of time.
No children resulted from my marriage with Sheila because, unknown to me at the time, she had her tubes tied after the birth of her last daughter. We were not married long anyhow. Toward the end of the marriage, we explored the possibility of reversing the tubal ligation but the cost was high. We thought of having the procedure done in Vancouver, Canada, by one of its pioneers but the marriage soon ended and so did our plans.
In 1999, Sheila married a man named David who, like her, was a practicing Christian. They bought a house together in the midway section of St. Paul and then another property in south Minneapolis. Sheila began to borrow money from me, perhaps to finance the real-estate purchases. I also discovered that she had opened several credit cards with my forged signature which had accumulated significant balances. I managed to avoid responsibility for paying these debts even though they were incurred while Sheila and I were married. Sheila was also using falsified documents to persuade me to lend her money. When I realized what was happening, I hired a lawyer to recover some of the property taken from me. Without explanation from the lawyer, the suit was dropped before trial.
Sheila, David, and the children moved to Louisville, Kentucky. They were there for perhaps two years. David turned out to be a drug addict and Sheila obtained a divorce. Then she and her children moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they lived for another two years. I had little contact with her then. Meanwhile, on a Saturday morning in late July 1999, I found my brother lying face down on the floor in his living unit across the hall from mine. He had died of exposure to heat. Andy’s widow soon took up with another man in the neighborhood. I was left by myself as one millennium ended and another began.my third and present wife
While on the Chinese tour, I had asked the tour guide, who had an unmarried sister, about the possibility of meeting a Chinese woman for purposes of marriage. It was just an inquiry. I was still married to Sheila, of course, but problems were developing in our relationship. The Chinese tour guide later became a student at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. While living in that city, she met a Chinese woman at a social gathering who said that her sister was interested in marrying an American man. That is how I met my third wife. The tour guide called me and put me in touch with the sister, who sent me contact information for the woman who soon became my wife. Soon after we had email contact, I made arrangements to visit her in Beijing.
This woman, Lian, was a former hotel general manager who was now working in the hotel division of China Everbright Corporation, China’s first corporation. She was 43 years of age. Her teenage daughter was studying for a year in England. Although Lian had hired an interpreter, we were able to understand each other in English-language conversations. For instance, she told me that Chinese women readily adapted to their husband’s circumstances. “If marry a chicken, (the wife) is a chicken. If marry a dog, (she) is a dog,” was how she put it. It also impressed me that Lian was able to remove the cork from a wine bottle without a cork screw - a trick learned during her hotel-management career. She seemed to be an adventurous, talented woman.
One concern was her age. Even though I was fifteen years older than she, I was worried that a 43-year-old woman would have difficulty in bearing children. Lian said she was quite fertile. She put me on the phone with her sister in the United States, a medical practitioner, who assured me that Lian could have children up to the age of 50. I did not feel justified in rejecting her as a wife because of concerns about her reproductive ability if she had so many other good qualities. Therefore, we processed the required paperwork and, on January 28, 2000, signed documents at the Beijing marriage bureau while seated together on a sofa.
Our immediate problem, as husband and wife, was to obtain a visa that would allow Lian to enter the United States. Later we added daughter Celia to the application. Would-be immigrants from China go through a multi-step application process which ends in an interview at the office of the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou. In our case, it took a year and a half for Lian and Celia to obtain their visas. They arrived at the Newark airport on July 31, 2001. In the meanwhile, I visited them twice in China.
I took my new wife and daughter first to Milford, Pennsylvania, where I had inherited a house from my parents. Would Celia go to high school there or in Minneapolis? Lian said she preferred to live in a city. After two days in Milford, we drove straight through to Minnesota to begin our new life. Celia was enrolled as a senior at Patrick Henry high school in north Minneapolis. She spoke excellent English having spent a year at the international school near Oxford, England. Lian had no immediate plans other than to prepare her new living quarters and adjust to American life. I was briefly a candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, as a result of involvement in a landlord group. My new family was introduced to landlord friends.
While Celia was continuing her education, Lian seemed to flounder. Used to performing at a high level in China, she was embarrassed by her relative lack of proficiency in the English language and ignorance of American culture. I did not press her to take a paying job. Consequently, she often sat in front of a computer playing games. I meanwhile pursued my own interests centered in politics, writing, landlord organization, and managing rental property. We became stuck in our separate lives.
Lian and I regularly flew to China during our marriage. The first order of business was to check with a fertility clinic in Beijing which might assist us in having a baby. Evidently, the old-fashioned route to pregnancy would not work in our case. In vitro fertilization was required. My job was to deposit semen in a cup. I remember looking out the window over the roofs of the nearby Forbidden City thinking that, at last, I would become a father. The doctors were encouraging when we had lunch.
Back in the United States, however, I received an email on September 8, 2002, which read: “I’m sorry to know that your wife hasn’t (been) pregnant last time ... I hereby provide some information for you to consider. First, the age of you and your wife are both not young, the probability of pregnancy will be low, at about 10%, while the rate of malformation of the baby will be high. Secondly, the quality and mobility of your sperm is not so good, and your wife’s endometrium is not good enough as well ... Thirdly, the health of your wife is not good, she has diabetes and hypertension, pregnancy will worsen these diseases. By the way, the cost of IVF is more than 20,000 RMB and the procedure is complex. Hope the above information is useful for your decision.”
What was I to do? The possibility of a deformed baby and possible negative impact on my wife’s health were ominous. I thought, there are risks in any medical procedure; what were the probabilities of something going wrong? I sent the doctor an email which read in part: “Today my wife said that you had told her that there is a possibility that she might die during a pregnancy. How likely would that be? If my wife faces a serious risk of death, then, of course, we would decide not to have the operation. But rather than make a decision based on a general statement, I would appreciate more information about my wife’s health risk.”
I could not get an answer from the doctors about the probability of my wife dying during pregnancy or of having a deformed baby. Perhaps it was unrealistic to ask. In subsequent conversations with Celia, I decided that this situation was hopeless. Of course, I could not tell the doctors to go ahead with a procedure which they had warned might result in Lian’s death. I told Celia I would agree to discontinuing treatment at the fertility clinic.
To be resolute in my pursuit of fatherhood, I might then have told Lian that there was no further need to continue the marriage. She could pack up and go home. That would have showed that I considered my wife to be nothing more than a means of producing babies. I was not so heartless. Lian and I were still working on our relationship. She was still trying to find her way in America. Celia also was starting a new life here. Lian had demonstrated good faith in seeking help at the fertility clinic. It was certainly not her fault that she could not easily or safely have a baby. Part of the “fault” might even have been my own.
At the time, I had other irons in the fire. Following a smashing defeat in the primary for Minneapolis mayor on September 11, 2001, I joined the Independence Party of Minnesota. In July 2002, I challenged the party’s endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate in the primary. The campaign consisted mainly of driving around the state to visit newspaper offices. The result was a second-place finish with 31 percent of the vote in a three-man race.
Since that campaign had turned out unexpectedly well, I now ran for President as a Democrat. After the DNC chairman disqualified me in South Carolina, I spent five weeks in 2004 traveling around the Louisiana running against six better-known candidates in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. In this contest, I finished fifth among the candidates, winning 2 percent of the vote. John Kerry, who had locked up the nomination a week earlier, finished first.
My wife did not participate in either of those campaigns. She was wary of politics because her father, persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, had told her that politics was dangerous. In fact, Lian was in China during both primary campaigns. She let me do my thing while she did hers. Celia, meanwhile, became a student at St. Olaf college in Northfield, Minnesota.
Lian applied for a temporary position at the Target store in downtown Minneapolis during the 2003 Christmas season. Because of her good work, she was asked to stay on as a permanent employee. Her job assignment was to tend the fitting room. This position was below what she had in China, but she ambitiously cultivated relationships with her managers and fellow employees. For my part, I was thrilled to see my wife standing on the floor in her bright red uniform. I wrote a poem when she was named “Great Team Hero” of the month in 2005.
Her career at Target came to an end in May, 2006, when a reckless fellow employee repeatedly rammed Lian in the leg with a shopping cart. She was in a wheel chair at Celia’s college graduation ceremony in June. Later in the month, we drove to Milford. Passing through Chicago on our return trip to Minneapolis, a Chicago police squad car ran into our car on interstate I-94. The car was totaled. Lian was again injured. She promptly went to China.
Celia had enjoyed her years at St. Olaf. Briefly she had a Chinese boy friend who gave her a fox-terrier puppy as a birthday gift. To my joy, the dog wound up in my care. Lian disapproved of the boy friend because he also dated other women. He and Celia soon broke up. To my knowledge, she has not yet seriously dated anyone else.
Celia did a year of paid volunteer service in Philadelphia’s Chinese community. Then she took a job as a flight attendant with United Airlines. Celia was stationed near the Dulles airport serving Washington, D.C. Her employment at United allowed Lian and me to travel to and from China for free.
Sheila was out of the picture for several years while she lived in other states. She returned to Minnesota some time in 2004. Sheila and the children lived for a time several blocks away from my home and later in a St. Paul suburb but I was then married to Lian. Sheila and I saw each other occasionally. That was about to change
whether a woman would have my baby without marriage
Temptation entered my mind in March 2006. Maybe it was spring or the reappearance of a long-festering thought. I was feeling trapped in this marriage with Lian. She was insisting that I give her at all times what she called “wife’s position” but what I wanted from her, a child, seemed out of reach. One idle thought led to another and I soon hatched a plan. While staying married to Lian, I would advertise on Craigslist for a woman willing to have a baby without being married to me.
I would be completely candid about it; the benefit would be the baby, not romance or the trappings of marriage. Surely there would be a woman out there, perhaps a single woman, who had not yet found “the right man” but feared that time was running out on her chance to become a mother. This type of person might be interested in what I had to offer. I would, of course, assume my fair share of the parental responsibility.
The advertisement posted on Craigslist on March 12, 2006, under the topic “men seeking women” had this headline: “Biological clock ticking? Mine too.” The text of the message was equally succinct: “Let’s meet over coffee to discuss catching the “Last Chance Express.”
Almost immediately a woman expressed interest. Calling herself “spartanwarrior”, she was 30 years old, a school teacher, separated but not divorced, with one daughter. After receiving clarification of what I intended, she expressed an interest in following through with the plan.
An email from her dated March 23rd got right down to business: “I am definitely ready to have another baby. Like you, my clock is ticking as well and you never know what will happen even next week. I will be wearing a pink long sleeved shirt, jeans and probably boots based on the forecasts for next week. What day were you thinking about? Just so you know, we should have sex every other day during my most fertile time to ensure that the egg is fertilized. That means from day 10-15, so either 11, 13, 15 or 10, 12, 14. Talk to you later. Hope that you think of me tonight if you do something naughty. ;) I know that I will.”
Our email discussion progressed to the point that she named a nearby coffee shop as a meeting place. Only the time of our date to meet for the first time remained. I sent out an inquiry but heard nothing back. Spartanwarrior suddenly became silent. Maybe her husband had learned of our secret conversation and took steps to block the meeting. Maybe she was just playing with me. Whatever the case, after sending repeated messages, I never heard back from this woman again.
That was the closest that I came to finding someone to bear a child outside of marriage on the internet. Some responded scornfully to an older man wanting to be a father for the first time. When the child graduated from college, I would either be in a wheel chair or in the grave. How selfish could I be? When I complained that Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter could have a baby but I could not, my message was flagged for inappropriate content.
One woman who responded referred me to her picture on a dating website. I could not view the picture without joining the site by paying a monthly membership fee. This was my introduction to interactive sex sites. Eventually, I joined a site called SexSearch.com and then HornyMatches.com. I picked a code name, posted a brief description of myself, and then started to respond to ads from women whose nude pictures seemed appealing.
As with the previously described experience, my inquiries never led to a date. Several women made enticing offers to do certain things but I could never pin them down on a time and place to meet. Not wishing to give out personal phone numbers or email addresses, we were communicating within the site through our code names. Eventually, we would have to trust each other with information enough to schedule a meeting in the flesh. That situation never came.
The tone of discussion on those sites was purely sensual. Sex was meant to produce physical pleasure. In some cases, it might lead to love and marriage. However, sex for the purpose of procreation seemed beyond the pale. I posed as a pleasure-seeking man and then, if the time seemed right, I would switch the subject to reveal that what I really wanted was a baby. I cannot recall that this strategy ever worked. Since I was committed to staying married to Lian, I was dealing with one hand tied behind my back. Eventually, I discontinued my membership. I would continue receiving emails from women on the list but could not reply without renewing the membership.
Lian was in China for the latter part of 2006. Meanwhile, my former wife, Sheila, came back into the picture. She had just landed a job with Boston Scientific, a medical-device manufacturer in Arden Hills, as telephone support for the sales staff. Occasionally, I would drive her to work.
On one of those occasions, I told Sheila of my attempts to find a woman who would have a baby with me without being married. She could not oblige since her tubes were tied. However, while we were married, we had briefly planned for her to have an operation to reverse the tubal ligation. The technology had progressed since those days. Sheila did a search on the internet and found a place in Clearwater, Florida, which would do the reversal procedure for $10,000. She thought that her health insurance with Boston Scientific might pay part of the cost. If interested, I would have to pay the rest.
I was interested. In December 2006, I wrote a check to Sheila for $2,000, and then one for $2,600, one for $3,200, and another one for $2,900, and then for $2,500. It turned out that her employee health insurance would not cover the procedure.
Sheila flew down to Florida for the operation. We could only communicate by email, not by telephone. For some reason, she had to stay an extra day. I was receiving emails that described lizards she saw in the parking lot. Finally, on January 22, 2007, I received another email from Sheila to the effect that she needed me to put $2,320 into her checking account so she could cover extra hospital charges and return home. No, I could not meet her at the airport upon her return.
Lian was returning from China about this time. She saw my face flush with anger at Sheila’s latest request for money but I, of course, could not explain. I feared it was all a scam. Even if Sheila had gone to Florida to have her tubes reconnected, we would have to have sex on a regular basis to produce a pregnancy. I had spent more than $15,000 to create a condition that could not be fulfilled unless Sheila and I slipped away several times a month to a bedroom beyond Lian’s peering eyes.
Filled with doubt, I sent an email to the director of the clinic in Clearwater, Florida, whose web site Sheila had once shown me. She replied that the clinic had no business relationship with Sheila. Clearly, I had been scammed. When I confronted Sheila, she said that there had been a last-minute change in plans. Actually, the procedure had been done at the University of North Carolina hospital in Raleigh. However, the web site for this hospital did not list reversals of tubal ligations as being among the medical services that it provided. After an angry exchange of emails with Sheila that took place over several weeks, I was convinced that Sheila had duped me.
Lian returned home from China on the day of Sheila’s last request for money. Within 30 minutes of her return, Lian announced that she had found female clothing in our bedroom and some black hairs in the bathroom. A woman must have been living with me while she was gone. As a former hotel general manager, she said she knew how to look for tell-tale signs of how rooms had been used.
Yes, it was true that Sheila had visited me from time to time although she never lived in my house. However, I did tell Lian about my attempt to find a woman on the Internet who would have a baby with me outside of marriage. I told her about Sheila’s having taken money from me for the purpose of reversing her tubal ligation. I even admitted having sex with Sheila on several occasions.two women in the same area
Understandably, my relations with both women cooled. I regarded Sheila as a scammer although I continued to see her occasionally and even give her money. My relationship with Lian took a sharp turn for the worse. She now suspected me of infidelity at every turn. She blamed our financial difficulties on money that I had given Sheila or paid to her brother, Alan, for maintenance work. She played up her own frugality in comparison.
I was marginally involved in Sheila’s life in the period between 2007 and 2009. She and I would get together depending on Lian’s presence in Minnesota. For a time, she lived a few blocks from me but we did not see each other often. The youngest daughter, Erika, had respiratory problems aggravated by the city air. Sheila then moved her family to Cottage Grove, a suburb in the southeastern part of the metro area, where the air was clean. This community was also predominately white and was, in some cases, hostile toward blacks. That bothered Sheila more than it did her children. They readily made white friends.
Sheila again purchased real estate but lost it again. She arranged to be the caretaker of a mansion overlooking the city of Hastings. Once or twice, when Lian was gone, I took my dog out there to romp around the lawn with Sheila’s dog, Rico. Sheila’s mother was also living there at the time. Sheila needed to borrow money from me to pay the rent, promising that her mother’s share of rent would be forthcoming. However, this money was instead sent to another daughter in Kansas City preceding the mother’s move there. I was left holding the bag. The owner evicted Sheila and her family soon afterwards. She did not have a steady job.
Meanwhile, Sheila’s children were growing up. Her second oldest son became a father. Her first oldest son was released from prison after serving out his term for murder. Her eldest daughter’s boyfriend and father of her two children was also convicted of murder; he was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. (I am convinced he was framed.) The second oldest son had a girl friend who falsely accused him of violence. He had punched a hole in the wall to express his frustration. Sheila was often accompanying her sons to the Washington County court house to meet with probation officers or pay fines. On the other hand, her three daughters managed to stay out of trouble. None has become pregnant. All were in school, with part-time jobs.
Lian was not happy with our marriage after Celia moved from Minnesota. She thought I was “selfish” when I did not readily agree to do what she wanted. Lian wanted to travel the world. She wanted me to live in Beijing for longer periods of time. I pointed out that my rental-property business tied me to the Minneapolis area. When I gave or loaned money to Sheila or to her brother Alan, she would complain of my stinginess with her. Since she was no longer working at Target, she had more time to sit in front of the television watching Chinese-language drama on DVDs or videotapes sent by her sister. She missed Celia.
We did have some good times together. We both enjoyed Do Do, the dog given to Celia by her former boy friend. When my old cat Toni died after trying to crawl into a hiding place, we together experienced the loss and buried Toni’s carcass in the yard. In December 2007, we took a tour of Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia with a Chinese group.
As 2008 began, Lian was growing even more restless. She wanted a life of travel and of shopping while at home. One of the things she wanted to do was to watch Yao Ming, the Houston Astros basketball star, in an NBA game. We did that in 2008. Another thing, which was postponed, was to see nude dancers at a strip club. Lian called this a part of “American culture”.
In 2008, tests showed that Lian had diabetes. Her mother had died of that illness. Lian was increasingly critical of me because I had loaned Alan Morrison, Sheila’s half brother, money to meet some of his medical expenses. Anything done for Sheila or her brother she considered money taken from the marital estate.
This was becoming a political year for me - and Lian hated politics. First, Mitt Romney, whom I had known slightly while growing up, was running for President. There was a possibility that a wealthy independent candidate, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would become a presidential candidate, too. Minnesota’s Independence Party might support his candidacy. I also knew the Socialist candidate for President.
Later in the year, the Republicans held their nominating convention in St. Paul, where Sarah Palin became a political star. I became a candidate for Congress for the Independence Party in Minnesota’s Fifth District. At our election-night party, former Governor Jesse Ventura praised this year’s crop of the party’s candidates.
Lian was often telling me that she was unhappy. I was a selfish man who paid little attention to his wife’s needs. I refused to buy Lian a new car when she asked for one. In poor health, she continued to smoke. She sat in her unit’s living room watching Chinese-language tapes or played solitaire on her personal computer. We did take a week-long cruise from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California later in the year.
Alan Morrison, who used a Section 8 voucher to rent the downstairs unit, grew tired of Lian’s criticism and bought a house of his own in Brooklyn Park. That put additional financial pressure on me. But whenever I complained of not having enough money, Lian would point out that I had given it to other people.
I had thought that marrying a hotel manager meant that my wife would be someone with whom I could reason if we disagreed. That turned out not to be true. Like my first wife, Lian often sounded like a broken record: I was not living up to my duty as her husband. I never gave her “wife’s position”. I was selfish. I wanted only to enjoy things myself. When I showed any irritation in my tone of voice, I was “getting angry” at her. She was the angry one. Once, while listening to Lian’s tirade, I decided not to argue at all but simply remain silent. I said not a word as we went on with her accusations for fifteen minutes or so. To my surprise, when the tirade had ended, Lian said this was one of the few times that I had listened to her.
Part of what was happening then was that Lian was becoming ill. She was spending more of her time in China. In 2009, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had one breast surgically removed. Medical tests showed that she had a type of cancer likely to spread. That news did finally persuade Lian to give up smoking. She checked into a Western-style hospital in Beijing while also receiving “Chinese traditional medicine.”
My life in America was spent mainly at the computer, composing materials for one of my web sites or longer compositions about election campaigns or my identity as a white man. I regularly spoke with Lian on the telephone from America using an inexpensive calling card. Our conversations were generally pleasant. Often I put the telephone receiver next to our dog Do Do’s ear so he could hear and appreciate Lian’s familiar voice.
This year, 2009, was a year when my aunt from California died. Since her husband was related to them, she was buried in the Studebaker family plot in South Bend, Indiana. I flew to Chicago, rented a car, and barely made the family gathering at a South Bend restaurant. In the fall, I visited Lian in Beijing. We took a week-end tour to inner Mongolia. staying in a round stone hut. I caught a bad cold, perhaps the flu. Back in the United States, I ran for Mayor of Minneapolis with the self-invented “New Dignity Party”. The election results were disappointing.
In the last month of 2009, I began to create a web site called “BillMcGaughey.com” as a focal point for my website writings. I retyped lengthy manuscripts from my youth. Personal stories would be my specialty. Lian, however, was continuing to complain of my selfishness. These days, we seldom slept in the same bed. Lian had her own bedroom in the other unit. She suspected that I might have AIDS. Increasingly, however, her time was spent in China so that doctors could monitor her condition to see if the cancer had returned
a secret romance
About this time, I was dealing with perhaps the worst tenant I ever had. She was a young single mother, who was a lesbian. Alan had hired her to help clean apartments. He assured me that she was employed and could pay rent. An agency paid half of the first month’s rent in December, 2009. Yet, as soon as she moved in, this tenant, Ashley, began to complain about maintenance problems in the apartment. When Alan tried to fix them, she complained about items being stolen while she was away from her apartment. Ashley took the position that she would not pay rent until all the maintenance issues were resolved. She refused to sign a lease. Someone had told her that I could not legally collect rent if she had not signed a lease.
Ashley told me that she would be taking a trip to Mississippi to visit her father. Her partner, Julianne, would meanwhile be occupying the apartment. I was concerned about an unauthorized hand off of this apartment to an unknown person. I insisted that Julianne fill out an application and be accepted before I would grant her request. However, there was still the matter of unpaid rent. On February 27th, I gave Ashley a letter demanding that she sign a lease and pay February’s rent before she left for Mississippi or I would evict her. Ashley was irate. I went to court the following Monday to file for eviction.
The hearing at housing court was held ten days later. As I sat in the hallway, Ashley and Julianne were consulting with Legal Aid attorneys. A complaint was filed accusing me of improper service, violating the tenant’s privacy, and refusing to fix maintenance problems. She wanted to be allowed to stay in the apartment at a reduced rate of rent.
Ashley may have made a mistake when she refused to stand when the housing-court referee entered the chambers. The referee explained that it was not for him personally but to show respect for the court. He promptly rejected her claim that lack of a signed lease precluded my collection of rent. The referee said that, if Ashley put $1,269.50 (including court costs) into escrow by the following day, he would allow the maintenance issues to be raised. Ashley said she would have the money. When the court was reconvened next morning, she had none. The housing-court referee signed an order giving her a week to pay me the money by certified check or in cash. If the money was not paid, “a judgment and writ (of eviction) shall issue by default.”
The money was not paid, of course. For another $100, I arranged for a Sheriff’s deputy to serve the writ three days later. Ashley had the weekend to remove her belongings. On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s deputies posted a notice on the apartment door, giving the tenant twenty-four hours to move. A day later, they returned to the apartment. No one was there. The deputies left a note saying that the tenant was now legally evicted. It would be considered trespassing if anyone returned to the apartment.
My troubles were far from over. The problem was that Ashley’s small apartment was jam-packed with her belongings. Some items such as clothing were in black plastic bags. Others lay in piles on the floor. Ashley also had large pieces of furniture, notably a thick wooden table which must have weighted a hundred pounds. Legally, landlords are required to rent storage lockers to keep evicted tenants’ belongings for sixty days after they are removed from a rental unit. The tenant can later reclaim the belongings if the storage costs are paid. However, the landlord also has to pay to rent a truck and pay workers to load the truck and help with the move.
I had already arranged to rent a storage locker when Alan called to say that Ashley had called him from Mississippi asking if her partner, Julianne, could bag and remove some of her belongings. Of course, I agreed. Everything which Julianne removed was something that I would not have to take to storage. So I let her back into the apartment to put Ashley’s clothing in bags. As she left with the bags, she asked if she could come back in a day to take additional items. I also agreed to that.
A friend who had managed apartments warned me to be careful about allowing someone who is not the tenant to remove the tenant’s belongings. It could be setting up a lawsuit. When Julianne returned, I asked her to sign a slip of paper stating that “I have removed several plastic bags from the apartment with the permission of Ashley and Bill McGaughey.” Knowing Ashley, I thought her partner would balk at this request. I was prepared to take a photograph of her carrying a plastic bag out of the apartment. However, Julianne gave me no trouble. She readily signed the statement.
Julianne had arranged to keep Ashley’s belongings temporarily in her mother’s apartment in St. Paul. She and I rode in my car to deliver the bags of clothing. Alan had rented a U-Haul truck for the larger items. As Julianne sat in the front seat next to me, she was texting her friends. I tried to make conversation. What were her plans, I asked? She said she would continue working through the summer and then go to college next fall. For the time being, she would stay with her mother. Julianne had a black cloth draped around her forehead and was wearing athletic clothes. I wondered, was this the latest fashion or was she a female gangster?
Alan told me that Julianne had made a name for herself playing basketball. I asked her about this. Julianne said that she was the state's top-rated female high-school basketball player, and the fourth top-rated in the nation. Recruiters for college basketball teams were often calling her on the cell phone. She wanted to attend college to study early-childhood development.
When we reached her mother’s house, Julianne thanked me for the ride. Jokingly, I asked her to think of me while shooting a basket in one of her games. She said that, if she played college basketball, she would be sure to get me a free ticket to games. This was unusual conversation for a tenant and landlord who had just been through a bitter court battle.
After the trip to her mother’s apartment, Julianne and I returned to my apartment to help Alan fill the U-Haul truck with furniture and other items. This, too, could go to her mother’s apartment. Since there was no need to rent storage space, I cancelled my previous reservation. I had to take a half hour break to attend to other business while Alan and Julianne loaded the truck.
When I returned, Alan was gone. Julianne asked if I would drive her to northeast Minneapolis to pick up her battery charger since the cell phone was nearly dead. We drove past Edison High School where Julianne had played basketball. She said she was born in Milwaukee but had spent most of her life in the Twin Cities - in St. Paul, Cottage Grove, and Minneapolis. Julianne said she was good with computers. She had used the Internet to locate Ashley’s long-lost father.
Julianne and I drove back to her mother’s. The back seat of my car was filled with bags. Alan meanwhile drove the U-Haul truck. We managed to take everything with us except for the heavy wood table which I said could remain in the apartment for up to a week. Together with her brother, Julianne, Alan, and I carried filled bags and pieces of furniture into Julianne’s mother’s apartment. She did some heavy lifting of furniture. Afterwards, Julianne asked if she could borrow several dollars to take a bus to work the next day. I had only $20 bills in my wallet. I gave her one of those and she gave me a hug.
That evening I did a Google search on Julianne’s name plus basketball. Yes, the Star Tribune had published a story about her in December, 2007, titled “Prep star no longer homeless”. The article began: “A high school girl scores a total of 75 points and grabs 46 rebounds in the first two basketball games of the season but few people have heard of her. Improbable but it happened. She hadn’t played varsity basketball since her freshman season, but now, as a senior at Minneapolis Edison, she’s making all sorts of folks - college recruiters included - pay attention. Poor grades, compounded by a tough home life, are the main reasons she sat out. And as of mid-September, she was living in a homeless shelter.”
So Julianne had been the heroine of a Cinderella story. Imagine being homeless and not playing basketball for two years, and then suddenly she breaks out in her senior year of high school to dominate the game. KARE-TV also did a story on her. Yahoo! Answers asked “ Who is the top rated high school basketball player in Minnesota?” For female players, it was Julianne - of Edison High School. But that was two years ago. The trail had since grown cold. In March 2008, there was a story on a sports website headlined “Julianne - signs to play at VCSU”, a college in North Dakota. Nothing further came up.
Julianne said she was planning to move to northern Mississippi near Clarksdale to be near Ashley’s father. She and Ashley had found an apartment in a small town there. Julianne thought she might enroll next fall in a community college in Clarksdale. She asked if I had received Ashley’s $208 MFIB check for April. I had but was not entitled to keep the money. I withdrew $200 from an ATM, threw in $8 more, and gave it to Julianne. This would be used as bus fare for her to join Ashley in Mississippi. My accounts with them were even.
On Monday, April 5, Alan called to say that Julianne would be calling to try to hit me up for a loan of $400 supposedly to be repaid from her Walgreen’s check later in the week. He advised against making the loan. When Julianne called later in the afternoon, I told her that we had a business rather than personal relationship. Could she find someone else to advance the money?
Julianne later called back to plead with me for the money so she could go to Mississippi. No, she could not delay the trip until she was paid on Friday. Her supervisor at Walgreen’s had agreed to give me her pay check. I said that, if I could confirm that arrangement, I would make the loan. Could she ride with me to Walgreen’s to talk with the manager? Julianne said that she would.
It was Monday evening, April 5th. I wrote a statement for Julianne to sign asking Walgreen’s to give me her check on Friday. My main purpose, however, was to have another opportunity to be with Julianne. She packed her bags for the trip to Mississippi, put on a wig and a tall funny-looking hat, and climbed into my car for the drive to Walgreen’s. Julianne said her bus left St. Paul for Mississippi at 6 a.m. She would have to catch an early-morning city bus to the Greyhound station.
I was nervous. I knew what I had long wanted to ask but dared not. Then, in my own dorky way, I asked Julianne if she would be willing to have a baby with me. She responded only by asking why I wanted to do that. I tried to explain. Julianne said she was not ready to have a baby just then. She wanted to do some other things first.
It was a reckless move. Julianne was leaving for Mississippi early next morning, and, though she would briefly return to Minnesota, she planned to live there for an indefinite period of time. Furthermore, she was a lesbian in a committed relationship. I was not pressing her to have a baby then. But I did want her to know of my desire in case the circumstances were right in the future. A big factor, though, was that I wanted to see if I had the guts to say out loud what was on my mind. Attractive women have always intimidated me. Julianne was attractive in an odd way.
Anyhow, we drove to Walgreen’s in south Minneapolis, talking all the way. Julianne told me how she was almost arrested at the Mall of America as a terrorist suspect. She was walking along a road near the Mall wearing a back pack. A police officer demanded to look in her back pack. Julianne refused to give consent. The officer then wanted to see a photo ID. She had none. Evidently, the officer did a check on her name and found nothing, so she was released.
Alan told me that Julianne’s father had been killed ten years earlier by Cottage Grove police. Previously, the family had been intact. However, her father’s death threw everything in turmoil. She had often lived in shelters. I asked Julianne about her father. She had he had been pulled over by the police for no good reason and been taken to jail. A man who was six foot, five inches in height, he had supposedly hanged himself in a jail cell whose ceiling was not much higher than that. Her uncle had called for an investigation, but nothing ever came of it.
Even so, Julianne had basketball. As a young girl, she had been sent to a summer camp. A former member of the Harlem Globetrotters was on the camp staff. He showed the young campers how to do tricks like letting the basketball roll down his back. Julianne fell in love with the sport. She practiced it often as a young girl. That is why when she entered her senior year at Edison High School, she quickly became a basketball star. She seemed to have a natural talent for the game.
We arrived at the Walgreen’s store. I showed Julianne’s signed statement to the manager on duty. He initialed that he had seen it. Julianne bought a $6 pack of cigarettes and asked me to pay for it. She and I then drove to the U.S. Bank ATM on 5th Avenue where I withdrew $400 and handed the cash to her. We were headed back to her mother’s home. It was almost 10 p.m.
Julianne had one last request. She needed to buy some underwear and socks for her trip to Mississippi. What she was currently wearing was too dirty. Why not wash what she had and let it dry overnight? The problem was, Julianne explained, that she did not know which plastic bag contained her clothing since everything had been packed in a hurry. She would need to buy new underwear and socks.
I proposed trying the Wal-Mart store in the Midway section of St. Paul. We learned that this store closed at 10 p.m. and we were a few minutes late. We saw a Super Target in the next parking lot over to the east. This store closed at 11 p.m. Off went Julianne towards the women’s clothing area of the store, wearing her funny-looking hat. After parking the car, I entered the store but could not see Julianne anywhere. I looked around for ten minutes or so. Then I saw Julianne walking toward the check-out counter. She did not see me as I came up behind her trying to catch up. Then she turned around and smiled. She paid for the merchandise with the cash I had just given her.
During the ride home to her mother’s apartment, I asked Julianne why she did not enroll at the University of Minnesota and play basketball there. She said she had not yet passed the GAT test. Why don’t you take the test then, I asked? Julianne told me she had taken practice tests and received a “24” score, which was on the high end of the scale, but she was not prepared to take the test then. In any event she planned to attend college in Mississippi.
I told Julianne that I had self-published several books. She said she would be interested in reading them. She said she liked to write poetry. I told her that I knew some poets. Arriving at her mother’s apartment, I let her out of the car. Julianne said she might call me next morning as she was leaving town. If she did, I was asleep.
I tell this story, which I have not told anyone before, because the time spent with Julianne aroused my sexuality. I had been in a sexual rut, verging on non-activity. But here I was, a 69-year-old man chasing a 20-year-old woman who was a high-school basketball star. We were of different races and cultural backgrounds. Yet, Julianne seemed to be accepting me as a prospective boyfriend. The feeling of romance was muddied by occasional requests for money. It was not money for sex since Julianne and I never had sex. However, if I said I wanted a baby with her, she knew what I meant. She apparently did not find that repulsive.
While Julianne was down in Mississippi, my former wife, Sheila, came over to my house one day and we had sex. I was hard. When I ejaculated inside her, Sheila said there had never been so much water. The prospect of sex with Julianne may have primed my pump. I was not thinking of her when I had sex with Sheila but subconsciously Julianne may have prepared me for the act. Ours was an unexpected, spontaneous relationship which is often the best kind. While talking with her softly in the car, it had seemed to me that we were on a date.
Julianne did come back from Mississippi several weeks later. Ashley did, too. Occasionally she would call me to ask if I could drive her some place. I did pick up Julianne’s paycheck at the Walgreen’s store. The check was for $383.08 - less than the loan amount. Because her signature had to be on the check, I eventually received none of this money. She was now into me for hundreds of dollars beyond the loss I had suffered from Ashley’s being a tenant yet I was always excited when she called.
When women took money from me, I was concerned that I had been duped. I was a stupid old man to have given consent. The woman had treated me as a means to some other end. With Julianne, though, I also think my willingness to give her money - not much, but some - was a sign that I cared. Sex for men would be a sign that women cared about them in the right way. Money for women would be a sign that the man would go out of his way for her. So we each had to give a little to the other to make the relationship grow.
Julianne and I saw each other occasionally in 2010. It seemed that we might eventually become lovers. At one point - I have forgotten exactly when - Julianne agreed to come back to my house so we could be together alone, but then she remembered that she had promised Ashley to be somewhere else soon. So we postponed the event to a time which never came. In May, I told her I was expecting to become a father by another woman. It would not have made sense now to keep pushing Julianne in that direction.
My last meeting with Julianne was strange. It was in the second week of February, 2011. I had not seen her or heard from her in months. She may have gone to Texas for a time. In any event, I received a telephone call at 3 o’clock in the morning, as I lay asleep. Julianne wanted me to meet with her in Columbia Heights, around 50th and Central Avenue. She said she needed a ride from there to her mother’s place in St. Paul. At first, I said “no”. I did not care to be bothered so early in the morning. But this was Julianne, after all. I called back to say I would be there.
I put on my clothes and drove out to Columbia Heights. No one was waiting at the designated corner. I drove the car around the area for awhile, parked it, and walked back to the corner. Eventually, a woman crossed the highway to meet me. Yes, it was her. Julianne and I walked back to my car. I told her that I would drive her to St. Paul. We started driving down the highway in that direction. Inexplicably, Julianne then said that she did not want to go to St. Paul. She asked me to drive her back to the corner where we had met. She got out of the car and asked for $5.00. I gave her the money.
This event happened, almost as in a dream, about a week before I was arrested for domestic abuse the first time. I never saw Julianne again. I have heard that she is still in town, but her cell phone number has been changed.
another shot at internet sex
I was often at the computer in March of 2010. I argued with people on the Minnesota-based e-democracy forum. There were postings to be made for the landlord organization. I was helping my friend Bob Carney promote his candidacy for Governor of Minnesota. But sex was also on my mind.
In an idle moment, I thought up a clever ad for the personals section of Craigslist reminiscent of my initiatives in 2006. Mostly lurid hype, it contained an element of truth. The headline was: “Horny landlord, tired of peeping at tenants through key holes” The text read: “No, if I did that, I’d probably be in prison. But I do own rental property and I do think about women from time to time. If you’re female and want a casual date this weekend, let’s meet at a coffee shop and talk about ourselves. To be conscious that we’re both sexual persons who might be willing to act would itself be a turn-on. Can’t promise anything more until we meet.”
Playing to the stereotype of the venal, greedy landlord, I knew I was on to something when I immediately received six responses. A few of the women sent semi-nude pictures of themselves. As before, however, it was hard to get a live date. We went back and forth a few times with messages and then the discussion petered out. For some reason, I could not close the deal.
One of the women invited me to view her photos on an interactive site which charged a modest fee for an initial visit. A half hour after I gave my credit-card number, I received a call from the credit-card company notifying me of several large charges from Singapore. I had to cancel the card and order another.
I soon discovered that there were a number of sites on the web that exhibited pornography for free. Of course, these sites had upgrades that cost money but a person would remain indefinitely with the free stuff and be emotionally satisfied. I could not believe what I was seeing - videos of nude women and men performing sex acts of every kind. The women were of all ages, races, weights, and heights, but all appealing. Since sexual pleasure is mostly in the mind, this was almost as good as the real thing. Certainly there was less work. I became for the first time in my life a regular consumer of pornography.
However, there were some real women in my life who were willing to have sex with me. When she was around, I had my wife. When Lian was not around, I occasionally had my former wife, Sheila. Even though I was not a great performer in bed, real sex was available from time to time.
What I discovered was that regular exposure to pornography on the internet weakened my ability to perform in real time. I would become aroused at the first sight of a nude woman but my penis would quickly become soft. Maybe this was a result of age. I never used Viagra or similar medications. However, I also reasoned that my desire for real sex waned as I spent more time on pornography sites. That might have been because the internet images satisfied me emotionally. This experience became a substitute for the real thing. There was no longer a thirst for sex if I was getting its satisfaction another way.
And so, I concluded that internet pornography is like junk food. It is immediately tasty but not nourishing in the end. I had to wean myself off this type of activity. Intellectually, I realized that, if fatherhood was my objective, the mother that was required would not be found in images on the web.
Lian was in Minnesota for a month in January 2010. The arguments started right away. As was her custom in recent years, Lian slept by herself in a bedroom reserved for Celia in the other upstairs unit. We never had sex. On February 2nd, Lian flew back to China to have her health checked. We were worried that her cancer might have spread.
I stayed behind to work on my computer projects and manage the apartment business. In late February, 2010, the Minneapolis police did a raid on my apartment building, found drugs in one of the units, and sent me a “warning letter” that required me to submit a “management plan” for keeping the building free of drugs. In the same month, a friend from Wisconsin and I were planning to attend a conference of American Renaissance, a pro-white organization, in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. “Anti-racists” threatened the hotel staff where the conference was to be held and it had to be cancelled.
Around this time, Sheila and I had unprotected sex, probably in mid or late March. Neither of us gave much thought to it at the time. I did not think Sheila would become pregnant because I did not believe that she had had the surgical procedure to reverse her tubal ligation. Sheila said she also thought that, because of her age, she would not become pregnant. The sex was some of our best, but, we supposed, that was all.
Sheila had plans to pull herself up by the bootstraps now that her children were grown. Her three daughters - Jasmine, Justine, and Erika - all had part-time jobs. A son, Chris, recently graduated from high school, was scheduled to become a Marine in November. Sheila herself had a job at Wells Fargo. She had been on a personal mission to lose weight and perhaps attract a husband.
Just before I went to China in late April, Sheila dropped by dressed in a business suit. Here was a new woman determined to move on to a better life. She gave me a post-dated check for $834 with a note: “Deposit me on April 27, 2010, from airport in Chicago.” Out of caution, I held the check en route to China.
I flew to Beijing via Chicago on April 27th, carrying with me what I thought was $6,000 in cash to pay Lian’s medical bills. To my horror, I discovered that the bank had shorted me $1,000 when the teller handed me an envelope with $100 bills in two binders plus loose cash. Other than that, the visit went well. Lian had had an operation to remove cancerous tissue from her intestine. Evidently it had been successful. I accompanied Lian to the hospital on several occasions, visited a flower show with her, and generally had a stress-free visit. I brought along a book to read about the 9/11 attacks, which contained evidence contradicting what was in the 9/11 Commission’s report.
I returned to the United States on May 11th. On the following day, I called Sheila to ask if I might cash her $834. She said she had something to tell me. First, she had lost her job at Wells Fargo. She had been hired under a federal program and then let go, she thought, after the bank had received the related tax benefit. Second and more important, she was now pregnant. She had gone to a doctor not feeling well, and had learned the cause of her discomfort. Sheila came over to my house with a pregnancy kit. She peed in a bottle and I put a chemically coated stick into the fluid. Yes, the test showed that she was pregnant.
I had always regretted that I had not tried harder to keep Ann from aborting our baby in 1986. Now that I had a second chance at fatherhood, I could now make the right decision, which was to keep the baby. But, of course, the decision was Sheila’s to make.
Sheila was initially on the fence. On one hand, she had been looking forward to being on her own after seventeen years of being tied down with children. She was trying to lose weight to increase her attractiveness to men and buy clothing for a professional career. On the other hand, there was the prospective baby which had an appeal of its own. In the end, Sheila decided against having an abortion. The baby deserved to live.
I contracted the mumps in late May, 2010, when several photographs of me were taken with swollen glands. A doctor at NorthPoint could not make sense of it, but one at the Broadway University clinic did. She asked me if I had feelings in my genitals, which I did. The swelling went away after a week or two, but so did my sex drive. I was worried that the mumps in an older man would bring infertility. This made me appreciate even more that Sheila was pregnant.
We began talking about a name for the child. Sheila liked the name “Payson”. This was my brother David’s middle name: David Payson McGaughey. It had also been the middle name of my great-grandfather, Frank Payson Sawyer; and of his father, Stephen Payson Sawyer. I did some research on the family.
Stephen Payson Sawyer was a Canadian who wound up in Muscatine, Iowa, where my grandmother was raised. I knew that one of my relatives was Thomas McQuesten who was Ontario’s highway commissioner in the 1930s. That man’s grandfather was Calvin McQuesten, owner of a foundry business in Hamilton, Ontario. The fortunes of the McQuesten and Sawyer families became intertwined when an agricultural-implements company in Hamilton, partially owned by Calvin McQuesten, engaged the services of McQuesten's three nephews: L.D. (Luther Dimmock), Samuel, and Payson (Stephen Payson) Sawyer, who were expert machinists. They gradually assumed control of the company.
In 1857, McQuesten sold his interest in the firm to his nephews. The Massey Harris firm of Toronto bought a 40 percent interest in L.D Sawyer Co. and the combined firm became the Sawyer Massey Company. It lasted until 1910. The Massey Harris firm then operated on its own until it merged with the Ferguson Company in 1953 to become Massey-Ferguson.
Stephen Payson Sawyer, one of the three Sawyer brothers, had emigrated to the United States in the late 19th century to operate a hardware store in Muscatine. His son was my great-grandfather, Frank Payson Sawyer, who managed an Oat Meal plant in the same city. My brother, David, inherited part of his name. Now another Payson was on the way.
Sheila and I were firm on the name “Payson”. We decided that, if it was a boy, the name would be “John Payson McGaughey”; if a girl, “Jean Payson McGaughey”. An ultrasound indicated that our baby would be female. Therefore, Sheila kept referring to “little Payson” or, sometimes, “Jeannie” as she sensed movement in her belly during the pregnancy. The second name reminded me of one of my favorite Elton John songs.
Sheila made some heavy financial demands on me after learning of the pregnancy in May. I would not be cashing her check for $834. Instead, I would be paying her rent at 911 Dayton Avenue in St. Paul. Sheila originally told me that the house owner was allowing her to stay there for a whole year, because it was a foreclosed house; but that turned out not to be the case. I paid her $1,400 monthly rent at least four times. I also paid to repair Sheila’s car at Roger’s auto repair in Cottage Grove. I paid for a printing press to be used by her nonprofit business Hopeffin. I paid to incorporate Hopeffin. I paid for baby’s furniture, including crib, found in a want ad.
I complied with all these requests unthinkingly until I realized how deeply in debt I had become. As of October 8, 2010, I had also given Sheila a total of $22,905, and Lian $12,959 in the same year. This was obviously unsustainable. Sheila had assured me that she would not be a financial burden on me but the requests for money continued.
Sheila and I drove up to the log cabin in northern Wisconsin on the weekend of May 29th. I slept on the sofa and she on a mattress. Sheila said she wanted to spend time up here with little Payson. She asked me to give her half the property - the south twenty acres - so she would have something to fall back on if I died. The father of two of her children had given her nothing and he died. She was left financially stranded with children to raise. So I agreed. I wanted Lian and Celia to have something and I wanted Payson and Sheila to have something. I signed a paper deeding Sheila the property for one dollar.
One of our issues was when to tell Sheila’s children that she was pregnant. Sheila planned for me to come over to dinner some evening when we might make a general announcement. This kept being postponed. I was often over at the house on Dayton Avenue. So, one afternoon, I simply told Jasmine about the pregnancy in Sheila’s presence. Jasmine made a joke about being sexually responsible; for Sheila had stressed the dangers of teenage pregnancy with her three daughters. Did mother practice what she preached?
I myself had little evidence of Sheila’s pregnancy. There was the initial pregnancy test, of course. I had seen her naked body in the early months before the swelling began. Three times Sheila had arranged for me to go with her to the clinic to view the ultrasound. Each time the appointment was cancelled. Once we had car trouble, once Sheila did not believe I would return from a trip, and once was for a now forgotten reason. Sheila kept talking about little Payson whom she could feel inside. Other than the observation that she seemed to be gaining weight, I had no knowledge that what Sheila was saying was true.
Lian was in China much of this time. I had expected to go out west with Alan to move his brother’s belongings from Portland, Oregon, to San Antonio, Texas, in the second week of June. But Alan was not able to make the arrangements. Next, I flew to Salt Lake City on June 17th to attend a three-day conference of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Then, on Saturday, June 19th, I flew to Boston Logan Airport and drove to my motel in Lewiston, Maine, in order to attend my niece Emily’s wedding in Bristol, Maine, on Sunday, June 20th.
Lian returned to Minnesota from Beijing on July 5th. We both flew to Seattle on Tuesday, July 20th, to visit her friend, Ms. Lu, in Belleview, Washington. After a 3-day visit, we returned. Shortly afterwards, Lian flew to Nashville, Tennessee, to visit her sister Wenge and Wenge’s husband Chuck Paar. I flew to Washington, D.C, on July 31st to meet Lian and Wenge who had driven from Nashville. Together we drove to Milford. Then for three days we visited Philadelphia, New York City, and New Haven, Connecticut. Lian was angry much of the time. She returned to Beijing early in August. I kept Sheila’s pregnancy a secret, of course.
Around May 25th, Bob Carney, a fellow candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis, called me to ask if I would run with him for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. He was running in the Republican primary as a “moderate, progressive Republican.” Bob assured me that I wouldn’t have to do any work. The filing fee was $300 but he would pay that for me. I offered to pay $200 of the fee. This was something I could handle - letting someone else take the lead in a political campaign. Bob and I placed second among four candidates in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary held on September 10, 2010. We had about 9,800 votes or 7.5% of the vote total compared with Tom Emmer’s 107,600 votes.
In summary, I was kept busy with my writing projects and the political campaign. After September 10th, the writing intensified. I saw Sheila every several days when Lian was not in town. We tried to have sex once or twice early in the pregnancy but I was unable to perform. I did continue to give Sheila money, often with promises of repayment.
I had been planning to visit Lian in China around this time, but Celia asked me to stay in Minneapolis to help locate documents in connection with a job application. Later, the problem was lack of seats. So I stayed in Minneapolis. Lian returned to the United States on or around October 14th. She flew to Washington, D.C., to be with Celia. I flew to Washington on October 16th. The reason was that Celia was buying a town house in Herndon, Virginia, and wanted my advice. Lian had sold her small apartment in Beijing to help make the down payment. I spent Sunday, October 17th, looking at real estate.
On Monday, October 18th, Lian and I both flew back to Minneapolis. We started with the usual arguments. Later on, however, our relationship improved when I went shopping with her at Wal-Mart and then had lunch at the Super Grand Buffet. Lian wanted me to pay more attention to her. Riding the bus together was a positive experience. She returned to China on Monday, November 2nd, which was the same day as the general election.
Despite the pregnancy, Sheila had other interests. She had started a nonprofit called Hopeffin which would provide housing for troubled teens. Another venture was Writersandphotographers, Inc., a web-based business that would allow struggling writers and photographers to exhibit their materials on line. I wondered how such enterprises could earn money. Sheila assured me that she could get grants. She and her daughter, Lena, who opened a small clothing store in north Minneapolis, were then into positive thinking having read books by Napoleon Hill. My questioning was a negative influence.
In early October, Sheila and Lena drove down to Kansas City, Missouri, to visit her mother and also to try to locate her demented aunt Jo, believed to be dying. Along the way, Sheila planned to visit cemeteries to take photos of tomb stones for her web-publication project. I thought she should stay home and rest. The day she left, she asked me for money for the trip. I refused. Sheila got angry. Then, I had another request for money when she was still down in Missouri. I again balked, but wound up giving her the money both times.
Sheila stayed with a friend of Lena’s in St. Louis. She got sick there and had to go to the hospital. Sheila said that Payson’s heart almost stopped beating during that time. Although both were able to recover, Payson was now underweight and Sheila’s back gave her much pain. She bought a back brace to get around. Fortunately, the doctors told Sheila that she needed to eat right and spend plenty of time in bed. A return trip to Missouri was cancelled.
Sheila was planning to move into the downstairs unit of my house after the current tenants moved out at the end of November. However, she mistakenly thought that the tenants would be out at the beginning of November. Sheila gave notice to her current landlord of her intention to move then. When she realized her mistake, the landlord agreed to let her stay another month if she paid the $1,400 in rent. Unfortunately, she had nothing in writing. The landlord received an order from the court forcing her to move on November 1st. Served with this order, Sheila spent several days boxing all her belongings, taking some furniture and boxes to storage and the rest to an empty efficiency unit in my apartment building which I let her have on an emergency basis.
All this stress and strain was put on a woman more than seven months pregnant, Sheila and two daughters moved into a small room filled with boxes as they waited for the three-bedroom unit in my house next door to become available. In the meanwhile, Sheila said she needed $1175 to get her car back; she had pawned it to pay medical bills in Missouri. A week later, she said her back was hurting her so much in carrying Payson that she needed water therapy. That cost me $900. Also, I needed to pay $325 for parts to fix Erika’s car.
I flew to China on November 24th to spend ten days with Lian. We had planned to take a tour to Vietnam trip but that did not pan out because I lacked Chinese documents. We were also hoping to go to take a day-long trip to Tianjin but did not. We spent the entire time in Beijing where I bought new glasses and had a denture made. I returned alone to Minnesota, arriving in the early evening of December 5th.we crash
The first thing I noticed when entering my bedroom was that my set of keys was missing. (I had taken only the front-door key with me to China.) My check register was in the bedroom but I discovered that ten check blanks had been taken. Entering the numbers in the U.S. Bank telephone system, I learned that checks totaling more than $2,000 had been written on those blanks. Then I checked my email. Among the incoming messages was one from Sheila dated November 30, 2010.
It read: “I have bad news horrible news for the last two weeks my stomach has be(en) shrinking / I needed to know what was happening / yesterday when I went to the doctor / I got the horrible news that my Jennie McGaughey did not survive the gestation / I don't know when her little heart stopped beating. She will be removed today. Love Sheila”
Sheila was next door at 1708 Glenwood but she said she was too tired to talk with me. On the following morning, she admitted that she had taken both the keys and the check blanks. The reason for the check theft was that she needed to repay bank charges to TCF (Twin City Federal) so that she could get a job. When she had complained about someone altering one of checks several years ago, TCF had put a “fraud’ alert on her account. Employers who do a credit check automatically fire employees linked to fraud. Sheila said she had lost her job at Boston Scientific and also at Wells Fargo for that reason. However, a friend who was a human-resource specialist had explained the situation to her. If she paid the bank charges, TCF would lift the fraud designation and she would become employable again.
The good news was that she now had another job at Wells Fargo - one which paid $15 an hour. She had stolen money from me to pay the bank charges. She was also in the process of moving into the downstairs unit of my house and would have Emergency Assistance to pay one month’s rent and damage deposit. I had a decision to make. I could report fraud to U.S. Bank and recover the money - and also possibly send Sheila to prison - or I could accept the theft, hoping that all would be well. I chose the latter.
Money, however, was the least of it. Payson’s fetus had been in Sheila’s body for three days before doctors discovered that she was dead. Then it was removed. There were no pictures. I never saw an ultrasound. I had no evidence whatsoever of this pregnancy. Perhaps Payson never was. A lifelong dream was extinct.
Sheila took it even harder than me. She later said that she went into a deep depression at Payson’s death. She became sick, skipped work, and lost her high-paying job at the bank. Then she could not pay rent. When Lian came home from China, she demanded that I collect rent from Sheila. I put pressure on her not knowing the situation, and that pushed Sheila even deeper into despair. She began to drink. She started stealing money from me.
By late January, I was feeling depressed because it seemed I could not trust Sheila about anything. She borrowed $2,000 to cover expenses that would have been paid by another $2,000 I gave her. When she put the money in a Wells Fargo account, Wells Fargo froze the account because of the “fraud” alert placed by TCF. The money was supposed to have been released on December 30th but still the check had not been sent. All this seemed fishy to me. Maybe Sheila wasn’t telling me something. Maybe she was a con artist.
I had expected to be able to present a live, healthy baby to Lian when she returned home from China, trusting that, because she liked children, she would accept this one as a part of our family. In my eyes at least, Payson would be our ticket to a happy life in old age. But now I had no baby to present.
This was a reality so momentous that I had to tell my wife everything. Her reaction was that I had been duped. Sheila had never been pregnant; and, if she was, the baby was not mine. I could not have gotten Sheila pregnant with a single ejaculation. The fertility clinic in Beijing had concluded that my sperm was too weak to impregnate a woman in the conventional way.
I now started to put pressure on Sheila to confirm the pregnancy. She took this as another personal attack from a man for whom she had made such great sacrifices. Eventually, however, she arranged to receive a confirmation letter from the clinic. Sheila and I drove to the Allina Medical Clinic in Cottage Grove. As I parked the car, Sheila went into the building and soon came out with a letter in an envelope. The letter dated May 19, 2011, said: “Sheila xxxxx had a positive pregnancy test May of 2010 in our office. The pregnancy was terminated December 2010.” It was signed by Linda Auleciems, MSN, ANP.
I took this letter back to Lian. She was sure that it was a fake. After all, I had not actually seen a clinic employee give the letter to Sheila. She could have made up the letter herself on a computer, gone into the building, pulled it out her pocket, and then come out of the building again with the self-composed letter. I had to admit that this scenario was possible. Sheila had forged documents before.
I decided to drive back to the Cottage Grove clinic, letter in hand, to ask if it was authentic. The woman at the counter consulted with someone in a back room for half an hour and then told me that patient privacy rules would not allow Allina to answer my question. I would need permission from the patient herself to disclose such information to me. I asked to speak with the clinic director. Although she told me the same thing, she did give me a copy of the clinic’s stationery which showed that the logo and address were on the right side. On Sheila’s “letter”, these were on the left side. That was all she would say. I also picked up a consent form for Sheila to fill out and sign if she did wish to give consent to disclose the information I had requested.
Sheila was, of course, indignant. Later she told me that the ultrasounds had not been taken at the Cottage Grove clinic but at a medical office in downtown Minneapolis. She would arrange for me to speak with the doctor who had examined her. We needed first to fill out forms with Allina in which she would consent to the disclosure. We did this two times. First, it was evidently not the right form. Then, it was but the hospital refused to tell me anything over the phone because of patient privacy rules. Sheila had to come with me personally. I have not yet been able to arrange this. Therefore, I still have not received any evidence of the pregnancy from the doctors who had supposedly treated Sheila then.
Even though Sheila was no longer pregnant, she continued to receive money from me. Increasingly, however, she stole the money. In some cases, she stole my check blanks, wrote checks for large sums of money, and forged my signature. In other cases, having my checking-account or credit-card information, she arranged for me to pay her family’s cell-phone, car-loan, cable, or other bills. I closed and reopened checking accounts three times during 2011, and the credit card twice, in an effort to shake off the unauthorized charges. Because so many of my bills were on autopay through my checking account, there was a severe disruption of payment whenever I changed accounts.
My failure to report the check forgeries and theft to the police became a major issue in a divorce that my wife initiated in March 2011. It was taken as evidence that I continued to give money to my “mistress”. Nearly all my friends and acquaintances, my divorce attorney, and others thought Sheila was a thief, pure and simple. I should take every step possible to avoid her to prevent future thefts.
Almost alone, I retained a belief in Sheila’s decency. I also believed in Payson. Sheila, Payson, and I had been through experiences which others did not know or care to know. Objectively, however, I was considered a gullible old fool to be giving Sheila any more money. Someone suggested that, because of my age, I should be declared a vulnerable adult.
My attitude about money, however, is this: Even if I have sunk deeply into debt partly as a result of Sheila’s unpaid loans and thefts, I still own property of greater value. At this stage in life, there is little possibility of future success in a career. I probably have enough resources to live comfortably into old age. So why sweat money when one retains reasonably good health?
If I had a son or daughter, I would have an incentive to scrimp and save for the sake of the next generation. I could look forward to future growth in the family fortune. But I have no child. I have no blood-line heir to whom to pass property after my death. Sheila came closest to giving me this, and I refuse to dishonor her.
It is now just after the July 4th holiday in 2017 - seven years after the above narrative was written. Yesterday I finished translating and posting it in twelve different languages on my multilingual website BillMcGaughey.com. Frankly, I had forgotten much of it. The doctors say I have dementia.
I remarried Sheila on August 25, 2014 - on what would have been my mother’s 103rd birthday. But, of course, she died in 2001. Right now, I am largely dependent on Sheila. I have done little in the past six months besides translating previously written materials for this website. From the first week of January of 2017 until the present, I spend nearly the entire day at the computer in the upstairs office translating websites. Sheila manages the household.
I no longer drive a car. (Sheila’s brother drives me each month to the Eckankar services in Chanhassen and Mark Stanley drives me to the singing sessions at Robert Bly’s.) The battery died on my car last fall and it was never replaced Then, earlier this year, without my knowledge or permission, Sheila sold the car. She drives the van whenever we have to go somewhere. Also, I have stopped writing checks. Entries in my check register have stopped. Sheila, who now collects the rents, takes care of the bills. Our finances remain perilous.
Sheila and I now have a little boy living with us - Del or “Dale”, as I call him. He is the son of Tony Foresta, Sheila’s son who is in prison. Tony was convicted of murder. I think he was innocent. Dale’s mother is a native American woman named Shay. She lived in the Little Earth neighborhood in south Minneapolis. When Sheila determined that Dale was being neglected, she basically kidnapped him. Dale has been living with us for about two years. We have heard nothing from Shay. Sheila talks of formally adopting Dale.
I have to admit that Dale is a “hand full”. He is often unruly. But he is also lovable much of the time. Dale started talking about a year ago. I have trouble understanding him much of the time. Sheila, an experienced mother, insists that Dale will grow out of his unruliness. In the meanwhile, he has become a focal point of our family.
Basically what I am saying is that the situation has changed fundamentally since the above narrative was written. Sheila, who was a drug addict when I met her, has become my rock of Gibraltar. She is now a hard-working household manager while I pursue my writing interests by myself in a messy office upstairs.
While we lost little Payson, we now have Dale. We also still have the dog Do Do who accompanies me wherever I go. I walk him over to Harrison park and down to Logan each morning. It keeps me in reasonable physical shape.
So, isn’t this strange? Sheila comes across as a problem in the above narrative but she has lately become my salvation. In fact, life itself is strange.
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