Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Day and the Hour are Unknown

The phone rang at 11:45 p.m. on the night of July 3, 2009. It’s rarely good news when the phone rings that late in the evening. More often than not it’s a wrong number, a phone misdialed by someone who thinks that after a drink or seven their best buddy wants to chat with them. “Geez, I haven’t spoken with Bob in years. I think I’ll call him. It’s only one a.m. What time is it in Albuquerque?” When I picked up the phone and said hello, the last voice I was expecting to hear was that of my friend Butch. I knew instantly that something bad had happened. “My father was murdered this afternoon,” he cried.

67-year-old William Hallin owned two apartment buildings on the south side of Chicago. On July 3rd he went to collect rent from a tenant, something that he had done countless times over four decades as a landlord. The media reported that an argument ensued when Mr. Hallin told 27-year-old Martin Vega that he could not keep a dog as a pet in the pet-free apartment. There were also reports that Mr. Vega may have stolen some of Mr. Hallin’s tools from the basement. Either way, Mr. Vega responded by grabbing a tire iron and beating Mr. Hallin. The police told my friend and his sister that Mr. Hallin’s bloody handprints on door jambs and door knobs showed that he desperately attempted to flee the building. In his full confession, Mr. Vega told police that Mr. Hallin begged for his life. His last words were along the lines of, “I have children and grandchildren and I want to see them again.” Mr. Vega declined to fulfill that request. Instead, he beat Mr. Hallin to death. In an effort to hide his crime, Mr. Vega attempted to burn down the building by lighting Mr. Hallin’s body on fire. He only succeeded in calling attention to his crime and creating the need for a closed casket funeral.

I’ve known Mr. Hallin for thirty years. I know of the public details of his life and death as well as many of the private details of his life. He wasn’t a saint. He was very friendly and extremely kind. Many years ago, during my separation from my first wife, I needed a place to live. I was poor, substitute teaching, had just been served with divorce papers, and I knew that remaining in my house with my first wife was not an option. I called Mr. Hallin, the only person I could think of who might be able to help me. I hoped that he would have a vacancy in one of his apartments. I had no money for a security deposit, but I was ready to offer my services as a handy man in his buildings. I hoped that since he knew me, and knew me well, that he’d take a chance on me as a tenant and allow me to work off the standard month’s rent up front. I could pay my rent each month, just not the start-up costs. Could he help?

Mr. Hallin listened to me very quietly as I made my sales pitch. Unfortunately, he did not have a vacancy. “Let me call you back in twenty minutes,” he told me. Mr. Hallin knew of an older couple that lived across the street from him and had a basement apartment for rent. After hanging up the phone, he walked across the street and arranged for me to rent that basement apartment for $200 a month, no utilities, and I controlled the thermostat. “You’re getting this apartment because I vouched for you,” he explained when he returned my call. “Don’t let me down.”

I lived there for six months until my substitute teaching job ended. That was when I packed up my belongings and moved to Kansas City to start my life with the Boss. I did odd jobs for Mr. Hallin along the way. He’d arrange for a lawn mowing job here or there, and I’d pick up some gas money after I was finished teaching for the day. I’ve always been grateful to Mr. Hallin for helping me when I really needed help. He didn’t have to. He did it because that is who he was.

Early tomorrow morning I am going to start the Camry and drive to Chicago. I will be at the funeral home by 3 p.m., ready support Butch and his sister Kelly in any way that I can as they deal with a tragedy that none of us are prepared to handle. There will be a reunion of sorts, as many mutual friends from grade school and high school will be on hand to lend their support to Butch and his family. There will be as much pain as there will be pleasure in that experience, for an entire host of reasons that can be summed up by this fact: I did not live a Biblically sound life in my early years. After crashing at my parent’s house for the night, I will attend the Friday funeral, the subsequent luncheon, and then head west for the long drive back to Apathy and my family that awaits me here. We need to drive to Hutchinson, Kansas, on Saturday to get General Mayhem from space camp. My gluteus calluses will have calluses. I’ve driven A LOT this month!

I have no sound bites for this blog. There are no nuggets of wisdom or sage bits of advice. This is just something that I have to do. It is painful. God willing I will return safely to my family on Friday night, slightly numb emotionally, prayed-out for my friend, and ready for a short bit of sleep before I am awakened by Captain Chaos after she starts her day whether any of us are ready for her or not.

For the next two days I will post two “Best Of” blogs. I combed through the files of Arby’s Archives and retrieved two blogs that you should find entertaining. The Boss read one and laughed as hard as she did when I first wrote it. I hope that you enjoy.


Kathleen said...

Oh, Arby, I'm so sorry for you and for the Hallin family. What a great memory, though, of how he reached out and touched your life in such a deep and meaningful way. I pray that you are able to touch some of those hurting by your now-Biblically sound life.

Good luck on the drive. May your gluteus maximus retrieve some feeling back soon, and I look forward to reliving some good ol' Arby's Archives!!

TeacherMommy said...

I am so sorry, Arby, so sorry. May God guide you in what to say and not say, do and not do, as you revisit this part of your life.

CrossView said...

I'm so sorry. So very sorry. Death of those we care about is always hard. Adding an unnatural and horrific murder to it makes it even harder. I'm so sorry.
Drive safely!

Eat, Fart and Bark said...

You will be on the church prayer line in a moment. Know that we will be praying for you and the Hallin family. I know God will use your presence there for good. Drive safe, and stop often to fluff up those glutes '-0. Twisted

Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

My warmest heart-felt sympathies. What a tragedy. Your friends are lucky to have you to lean on in this time of misery.

Anonymous said...

How terrible. I'm so sorry.


Brownie said...

I'm sorry Arby.