If you've managed to plow through things as they possibly should be, and taken a glimpse of things as they were, let's finish the job, shall we? Again, sorry for the length, but I think this is important.
Kirk went missing on October 9th, 2003. I've said that so many times in so many ways its acquired a strange life of its own. For a very long time it was defiance, and denial as I tried to shield Kirk and the children from what was happening; eventually there was a battered sort of resignation while I tried to find a way to tell the story without... well... disturbing anyone. But that's where it starts.
Kirk was the breadwinner of the family. He used to laugh and say that he would win the bread if I would win the gold. It was a private joke we had although I used to feel a bit guilty that I played around with things, taking private contracts as they appealed to me so I could stay home with the kids and do what sounded fun or caught my interest. I could have done a lot more; I had the skills to do it, but there were soccer games to go to and lunches to pack and Kirk was, at least in California, earning a pretty good living.
When he joined Ultra Services he asked for a salary that would equal what he brought home from his civilian job. We knew that if things went well there could be bonuses far above that, but for his base salary he didn't ask for anything more than what he was already making. It was important somehow, to both of us, maybe because of the brush that all contractors seem to be painted with.
When he went missing his immediate boss, his friend C, did his best and managed to get his salary paid to me for two months. That two months helped support my family for the next two years (the only work I found -six months after Kirk disappeared- was part time).
It was in March when my sister, a lawyer, told me about a strange little law she had discovered. It sounded a long shot to me - Kirk had not yet signed a contract with the company although he had clearly acted on their behalf (with military contracts signed and paid); worse, the company had not carried the required insurance since apparently they hadn't known of the requirement, but, about six month after Kirk vanished, I filed a claim with the labor department, and tried not to hope that something would come of it.
It's hard to describe how debilitating it is: money. I hate it. I was raised to hate it really, which makes it even more difficult. There aren't words, aren't even cliches which I've explored extensively in the last several years, to talk about what happened. But worse, in the 3 a.m.'s, the horrible weakest moments when I didn't even have logic and reason to help cover up the fear, the bleak knowledge of raising three children alone. So there was a dreadful tug of war between wanting to believe that the claim would come through and a depressive belief that nothing positive would ever happen again. And, ridiculously, I had the ingrained idea that even hoping for a settlement was somehow putting a price tag on Kirk's life.
Of course I never even had the chance to get to that point. It was months and months before I got the letter in the mail, the one telling me that as Kirk was missing, and as the investigation was on-going, the Labor Department could sadly not rule one way or the other. By that time it wasn't even a disappointment.
Months and months and months later there was a meeting with the CID and a 'final' answer (sorry, the quotation marks aren't intended to be ironic, honestly). Within a week or so I sent a copy of the certificate I was given: Presumption of Death of A Citizen Abroad to the Labor Department. At least, I thought, I'd know one way or another.
And nothing happened.
Really nothing, not a letter, not an acknowledgment that the claim now had changed: nothing.
And I thought that was it. Because I was raised to think that it was wrong to press things when it came to money.
But Susie Dow wrote an article. And someone who makes it his business to see that the government does what its own laws says it should do took an interest, and... well, it seemed that things were going to actually progress.
Hands up: who can guess what happens next?
Sorry, no prize for the winner.