Last night, as I picked my 10 year old up from swim team practice, I was stunned to hear sniffling coming from the backseat as I drove down State Street. I looked in my rear-view mirror and thought I saw him crying. When I asked if he was ok, he told me yes but life is just hard sometimes. ”Tomorrow it will be one year, mom. Last year at this time I was making an art project of a ship. Do you remember how well it turned out? And that night is when I found out about everything.” How can a little boy who was only in third grade remember so much about one particular day? Probably for the same reason we all seem to. It was the day our family ended. And I hope soon and someday he gets what I’ve been trying to teach him, and demonstrate to him, for the past 365 days: this latest “project” is going to turn out well, too.
When I woke up this morning, my hand brushed something as I shut off my alarm. It was a note from my two teenagers: ”Here’s a little something to brighten your day. We know it has been hard, but we all love you! We are so proud of you for rising to the challenge and living what you have taught us!” I think March 18 is on everyone’s minds. (And I promise, I don’t walk around talking about it with my kids. Hmm…I wonder if they have discovered this blog?:)
Anyway, life didn’t turn out QUITE as I expected it to. Here’s why.
Last March 18 I dropped my three-year-old off at preschool. I had a plan for the 2-3 hours he was going to be gone. And then my spouse called me on my cell phone. ”What are you doing this morning?” he asked.
I told him my plan and he told me he had hoped to spend time with me. I invited him to join me doing what I had planned. He told me he didn’t have that much time. I asked him how much time he needed, he told me (it was the same amount of time it would have taken to do my activity, and when I pointed that out he told me he wasn’t going to do that activity with me.) So like the flexible, kind wife that supported all of his dreams that I’d always tried to be, I turned the car around and headed home to spend time with him. I had no idea I was turning around so he could destroy all of my dreams.
Before I reached home, he called my cell phone again and asked me to meet him in the motor home. He loved that thing. (I hated it, had never wanted it, but had supported him in that dream as well.) Looking back, it was probably a bit odd for him to request I meet him there. But then again, I had no idea what was about to go down.
I walked in and he was talking on the phone to someone. (Not unusual. He had spent his days and nights calling clients and putting business deals together our entire marriage.) I sat at the table, waited for him to finish his phone call, and happened to glance to the left where I saw a yellow legal pad with names written on it: Market Street Advisors, C.G.Boerner, Majestic Mountain Construction and Impressions Everlasting. The only thing I knew about anything on that list was that they were my spouse’s business ventures. I didn’t have anything to do with them. I figured he’d been doodling or making one of the endless lists he was famous for writing down on yellow legal pads. I was wrong.
He hung up the phone, sat across the table from me, folded his hands together on the tabletop and paused. I looked at the legal pad, slid it across the table to him, and asked, “What’s this?”
He replied, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” In a voice as calm and unemotional as I’d ever witnessed. Nothing about his performance tipped me off as to what was about to happen.
Turns out, that yellow legal pad was a list, but only the beginning, of the lies I didn’t know he had been telling me and everyone else…for over 16 years.
It’s still not quite real. The fall out is, of course. But everything else STILL doesn’t seem real. And without warning, I found out everything I thought was real, actually wasn’t.
“My company, Market Street Advisors, is a sham.”
One simple sentence, and the complicated web of choices, actions and decisions of ONE person, the man I’d known since 1988 but apparently hadn’t known at all, shattered my world.
March 18, 2009.
But I didn’t get it. Yet.
I know it showed in my face. I didn’t have a clue what he was telling me. My first thought (always a party or holiday thought at that stage of my life!) was, “Is this an early April Fool’s joke? Doesn’t he remember yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day? Boy, does he have his dates wrong! What kind of joke is he trying to play?” All I could do was look at him with a puzzled expression on my face.
Suddenly, in spite of my education and my knowledge of English and vocabulary, I didn’t understand the word “sham.”
He explained, “My company isn’t real. It’s a sham, and has been from the very beginning. I’ve been running a ponzi scheme for the past 16 years.”
I didn’t know what a ponzi scheme was.
I’d heard mention of a ponzi scheme on the news, I’d heard the name Bernie Madoff, I knew he had done something illegal, I knew a lot of people were mad at him and what he had done, but I didn’t understand what it was he, or my spouse, had done.
I got the condensed version. What I was told left me in complete and utter shock. But it didn’t stop there.
My spouse told me he had hired an attorney (that was the day he got dressed up and “went to meet a prospective client” downtown, came home, had dinner with the family, had family home evening with the family, and had family scripture study and family prayer with the family.) He told me he had already turned himself in to the government authorities and to our church leaders (that was the night he missed dinner to meet with a church leader and then came home and watched American Idol with us, as usual.) He told me he would be going to prison and getting excommunicated from our church. He also told me everything had been seized (I didn’t know what that meant but was too shocked to ask–he was still talking.) He told me I would be left alone to raise our children. And he told me I needed to hire an attorney right away but he’d maxed out all of our credit cards paying for his.
I was shocked. I was stunned. I was confused. I was scared. I was devastated. And at the same time, I didn’t know what I thought or felt.
All I knew was that I had been thrown out of an airplane…without a parachute.
What was I going to do?