Weldon H. Sandusky
The Dallas evening is cold as Weldon’s son leaves the hospital to find now his father’s apartment which the doctor has given him instructions to. The McDonalds, the stadium…Steve pulls into Springhaven Apartments to the rear space—F16—his father’s car still back at the hospital to be towed or whatever later. The rent-a-car assumes the space and the new tenant, as it were, with briefcase, finds the apartment. Making a quick call home to Mary-Beth each of the children, especially Maggie, have to talk also. And while some pizza rolls cook, Steve composes a tossed salad from what his father left—radishes, lettuce, cucumbers—inadvertently in the process finding the handwritten will his father left by the telephone, exactly as he had said, other things now in the apartment—paintings, the Sanklee recording studio and boxes of tapes all neatly arranged as if his father had told him again about himself, belatedly, and, always with the kind of humility he used to relate to his son who studying the will and jabbing now at hot pizza rolls reviews, his eyes hot with tears and sleepy with the exhaustion the day has brought. A shower and general preparation for the night including inching up the thermostat in the cold room set the stage for an initial examination of what now appear to be mostly hospital records from Parkland and Terrell, the State Mental Asylum. Two commitments, one in 1977, the other in 1984, charted statements by Dr. Ronsayro, Dr. Petway and Dr. Chung concerning his father’s mental health, an order of protective custody (OPC) applied for by his father’s brother, Lloyd R. Sandusky, and, almost simultaneously Margie Hartnet stating they believed Weldon to be dangerous—threatening to bash Margie and her mother’s (Mary Hartnet) heads into a wall and on top of homicide to get a gun and commit suicide and to as well “take care” of the President. Threat-making and earlier in ’77 either threats or attempts to jump off an apartment roof into a swimming pool and jogging in traffic connote the parameters of danger his father represented. The Terrell State Mental Hospital records show, Steve is about to ascertain, when the phone rings.
“Hello,” he says thinking it might be a friend of his father’s.
“Mom,” he answers, recognizing her voice.
“Mom, Dad’s dead; he had a heart attack!”
“I know; Mary-Beth called and told me. I’m so sorry. You know, I still love him.”
“Ah, yes, Mom. It’s too late now! Oh, Mom, dad wanted to be cremated—it’s in his will. There’ll be a (not funeral), but a scattering.”
“We’ll be there, Steve…oh, son.”
About to say something, Weldon’s ex-wife says instead ‘goodbye’ promising to talk later as times and dates are finalized. Steve, still paused to hear something his mother perhaps wanted to say and didn’t, hangs up and resumes his perusal of the documents in the briefcase, stumbling to the place he was before the phone rang.
Terrell State Hospital: Mr. Sandusky…(the document continues…in summary was ‘delusional’ and ‘detached from reality’ but the medical record, apart from any court records, never addresses the merits, or, to put it mildly, it is clear his father never had a hearing and was obviously adjudicated mentally-ill based on State’s evidence—what L.R. Sandusky and Margie Hartnet said. They were never cross-examined or confronted nor were the statements his mother made subject to cross-exam or she to confrontation. Obviously, Steve surmises, there is a constitutional issue which was never addressed. Then, as though his Dad had pointed his finger, is the case: Chancery Clerk v. State of Mississippi and others, holding the same thing on the constitutionality of mental health commitments when LIBERTY interests are at stake. Satisfied there’s ground to stand on, Steve flips out the lights and goes to sleep, his father’s memory close and him feeling secure in something called love…fingers in the icy side of a mountain.
The garden where the ashes of Weldon are to be scattered is in North Dallas, really part of Restland where his father and mother are buried, all not far from any other place birth and death like simultaneous lines meet. And, as if time spoke, the children—Maggie, Colby and Chuck prepare to distribute Grandpa’s remains not without giggling even under the strict scrutiny of Mary-Beth who, demonstrating (somewhat exaggeratedly), lets the first spoonful disseminate like so many atoms of something that’s part of something else that Maggie insists are poisonous, the child running away to seek refuge behind a cement angel who, holding a bunch of flowers, allows her robes to conceal. Chuck and Colby, more maturely, scatter the ashes, symbolic, delicately, and, as though only certain spots on the ground of the garden are ‘correct’ spots.
“Why then didn’t you tell the doctors, Mom?” Steve’s voice on a wooden bench overseen by a Saint likewise near the angel, is almost loud enough to be overheard.
“Steve, your Dad…”
“Delusionary, schizophrenic, psychotic, and, you knew it was because of your relationships that he was that way. The divorce was only to cover for knowledge you were concealing. I can’t believe you just said nothing; and, let them think he was a nut. Why! Why!”
“You want to know why?”
“Yes, I want to know why; I’ve got to appeal this mess.” They stare at each other insistently.
“To begin with, Steve, it was I who took the abuse; I only thought if he (your father) did nothing, then, what would or why should the government do anything.”
“Nevertheless, it was you who should have spoke up, and, because you didn’t, they saw Dad as dangerous—a threat maker. He was denied his day in court and when it comes to something as fundamental as the sanctity of marriage that’s got to be unconstitutional.”
A large gray cloud is dispersed by the children in unison while a song, “About Love,” is played on the garden P.A. system. Mary-Beth sees that her husband and Peggy are done, for what its worth, motioning everyone to gather in prayer—a final commitment of Weldon’s soul to eternity. There is unity at last, Peggy’s husband, Ron, clutching the group into a bonded whole, even Maggie, momentarily escaping near where the empty urn is—empty space, but, not just nothingness…
“Everyone, your presence in the coffee room, please.” The pastor of the garden and crematorium is a handsome man of reserve though ruggedly “nice” as if to say: “There’s no death—not even life—only ETERNITY.” (ETERNITY, boiling down to hot coffee and juice and cake for everyone.) While the children are suspended in some vague hope, Steve and his mother and Ron and Mary-Beth review an old photo-album, Weldon appearing more than frequently even with his kinfolk, brother, Lloyd, their mother and Aunt Frances somewhere in Colorado by a pine tree outside a vacation home.
“He got cheated out of everything,” at last, says Ron, Peggy’s husband, who in turn frowns! “Did you know what he (Lloyd) was doing, honey?”
“No,” says Peggy, returning a glance to her son. “His brother, Lloyd, seemed concerned for Sandy’s welfare—that he intended to defraud the estates was nothing I had knowledge of.”
“Then why if a cool half million didn’t interest him, didn’t he say anything about Wisconsin—the divorce, your friends or the night here in Dallas when Mat Johnson, the young kid you ran off with, and they (Lloyd and his wife) found your ‘ X’ on the bed drunk, in tears, and, Steve, deserted and frightened.” Ron stares at his wife like someone he’s rescued and deserves an answer from. While the children and Maggie hold down a kind of inferior court, Peggy continues to be drilled by her husband, Ron, and her son, Steve, until, at last, she explodes:
“It was I who got sexually assaulted in Wisconsin, it was I who put up with his failure for ten years, it was I who hoped a better man would come along. If no one was going to take care of me, I decided to take care of myself! Sure bring on the government and let them explain why it’s women who are defenceless—little toys in a game: my sister, stalked and stabbed to death, my mother, assaulted and committing suicide, my sister, Marylyn, assaulted, Sandy’s mother, his aunt, my friends, the story is so old and so boring and so obvious, then, you try to turn it around—even you Steve—my son. What happened to Mary-Beth?!!!!”
“Mom.” Steve almost shouts.
“No.” Peggy continues. “Mary-Beth, her divorce, battery and assault!”
“Honey.” Ron adds, as his wife concludes:
“Appeal it and let the government talk all about women victimized and men who go insane like it was some kind of defence to cowardice.”
Overhearing in part the diatribe the pastor begins to release balloons alerting the children to new activity and perhaps the adults to a more discreet level of conversation. The balloons quickly fill from a helium loaded cylinder and are next twisted by the multitalented pastor into animals—a giraffe, held and then abandoned to the ceiling, a snake, attacking Colby, next, Maggie, at last, manhandled by Chuck then exploding into residual strips of rubber. Coffee, fruit, punch follow, then, suddenly, as if he were insane, the pastor begins squeaking and manipulating the gas cylinder with series of fat and skinny balloons, hence, released, accompanying his act with the statement: “Breathe deep homos,…Ayeeeee!!! CONSPIRATORS. Come to me now.”
Everyone is silent and shocked, staring at the empty urn outside through the window, then, at the pastor who, giggling, twists once more the cylinder knob, announcing:
“Hydrogenás…COME FOR THEM.”
Steve decides then to call Rueger! And with the families departure, Weldon’s soul rests in limbo, either he was crazy or there’s a conspiracy—not just, Steve thinks, involving Lloyd but also his mother and her concealment of about what went on and involving the hospital and there’s obviously, at least to Weldon’s son, a denial of constitutional rights going on. His dad, he concludes, was right.
Weldon graduated from Texas Tech University in 1968-a B.A. in English.
He then got an M.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin and
a law degree (J.D. l975) from the same school. Divorce followed as did
commitment to, first, the private psychiatric hospital, Timberlawn,
in Dallas, and , later, the State Mental Asylum in Terrell, Texas. Mr.
Sandusky petitioned for habeas corpus claiming a conspiracy to
unlawfully commit him existed in violation of his constitutional rights.