A Long Way Home
Myra Hargrave McIlvain
Myra interviews Meredith Haggerty, the protagonist in this wonderful story I reviewed here last Sunday.
BLURB: After crippling her husband in an auto crash, Meredith Haggerty endures years of his abuse while harboring a plan to escape when she can make it look as if she died. She grasps her chance at freedom on 9/11 when she survives the fall of the North Tower. Heading to a new life in Mexico, her seat-mate on the bus is Father Jacque Richelieu who convinces her to teach English at his community center on the Texas Rio Grande. She finds a home, but she and the priest discover that they have not found themselves.
Since it’s starting to warm up here, and certainly in south Texas where Meredith is, let’s have some sweet tea. Help yourself, and enjoy.
Myra: Why did you believe that the only way you could escape your abusive husband was to find a time when it would look like you had died? Why didn’t you just divorce the guy?
Meredith: I struggled with that. It sounds like the coward’s way out, and it may have been. I knew if I divorced him, he would be living on disability, which is hardly enough to survive. And I knew that he would constantly harass me on the phone.
Myra: So, you came up with the idea of a big life insurance policy on yourself?
Meredith: No, my husband insisted I take out the insurance. That’s when I began thinking that he’d be perfectly happy to lose me if he had plenty of money.
Myra: You were the main breadwinner?
Meredith: Yes, from the beginning of our marriage, I had a great job.
Myra: You couldn’t have known that the horrors of 9/11 and all that loss of life would give you the chance to get away?
Meredith: Goodness, no. I was working there when the first bombing happened back in ’93. I really felt safe, but somehow, I believed that something would happen and give me a chance.
Myra: So, you just continued stuffing hundred-dollar bills in your satchel and waiting for your chance?
Meredith: I guess it sounds insane, but that feeling of always being prepared, of believing that someday I’d get to escape is what kept me sane.
Myra: You didn’t have any family, but you certainly had good friends. How could you just erase all those people? Let them grieve over your death?
Meredith: I am a loner by nature, which means I didn’t have a lot of close friends. Jerry, my physician and his wife were my dearest friends––more like family. They knew about my life. Jerry thought I was crazy not to divorce Harvey.
Myra: Then why didn’t you at least let them know you were alive?
Meredith: It felt like an added wrong for me to involve them in my escape. After all, I was committing insurance fraud. If they knew about, they would be complicit. I believed I had to make a clean break.
Myra: Speaking of the break, you had it so well-planned that you knew the bus schedules out of town.
Meredith: From the beginning, I’d planned to go to Mexico. I’m fluent in several languages, but Mexico was the closest and still far enough away that I thought I would be well-hidden.
Myra: Did you major in languages in college?
Meredith: I’m a linguist, but I lived all over the world as I grew up. My mom and I moved with my dad who was with the military.
Myra: I want to talk about the priest/physician, Jacque Richelieu, whom you met on the bus as you headed to Mexico.
Meredith: I love talking about Rich.
Myra: What made you trust him? Why would you ever agree to stop at a community center on the Texas side of the Rio Grande and teach English?
Meredith: I didn’t intend to have anything to do with him. If you remember, I tried to find another seat, away from him.
Myra: Yes, but you agreed to give it a try. Sight unseen, you climbed off the bus and went with him to that center that catered to migrant workers and illegals who cross the border. Were you always so quick to follow a man? Was it because he was a priest?
Meredith: That bothered me too. My dad was very controlling. And I guess it’s pretty clear that my husband Harvey was also controlling. I got away from my dad when he died; I ran away from Harvey. Having courage was one of the things I had to work on.
Myra: I agree, but honestly, I think you handled it all pretty well.
Meredith: Thanks, I needed that!
Myra Hargrave McIlvain is a teller of Texas tales. Whether she is sharing the stories in her books, her lectures, or her blog, she aims to make the Texas story alive. She has freelanced as a writer of Texas historical markers, written articles for newspapers all over the country, and for magazines such as Texas Highways.
McIlvain has written six nonfiction books about famous and infamous Texas sites and characters. Her most recent, Texas Tales, Stories that Shaped a Landscape and a People, is a collection of 113 of her favorite Texas history blog posts. Her historical fiction includes Stein House and The Doctor’s Wife, both of which chronicle the development of the thriving German seaport of Indianola on the Texas coast. The characters in those award-winning books have recently returned in Waters Plantation an award-winning sequel that opens in 1875 post Reconstruction Washington County. A Long Way Home is McIlvain’s eleventh book. Visit her BLOG meet her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER and GOODREADS
That’s all from me for today, folks. Do stay safe and healthy in these scary times.