The FBI Wife: A Memoir292
The FBI Wife: A Memoir292
"There would be another house to make a home, a relationship to repair and a heart to make happy with a new determination"
Sandy, a 1960's FBI wife, finds herself in territory for which there seems to be no roadmap, yet she knows she is somewhere important, an observer and a participant in an unfolding scene which is impacting her as she moves from assignment to assignment across country under Hoover's rigid FBI expectations. Caught in this world, juxtaposed against the social explosions of the time, Sandy takes the reader on an emotional journey across country, through the trauma of the Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King's Selma march and.the war on organized crime, knowing all the while she is giving up more and more of herself.
They are a couple marching out of step, searching for a connection. Sandy aspires for a partnership based on trust and shared aspirations; Cliff is seduced by the danger of working high profile criminal cases. She must find that person lurking within, separate from her identity as an FBI wife.
"My river's life echoed my own as I searched, manipulated, pressed on, gave up to finally reach a place I hadn't been before."
Sandra Windsor's FBI Wife beautifully explores what it's like to live next to big moments in history, to hold home and family together as your partner engages in the headline events of your time.
William Haywood Henderson, author of Augusta Locke
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|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The FBI Wife
By Sandra Windsor
Abbott PressCopyright © 2016 Sandra Windsor
All rights reserved.
Dear Mr. Hoover
She was a faded yellow, one-story house on a huge weed filled lot backing to a busy street, not my ideal 1920's two-story with a white picket fence, but with some flowers in the vacant window boxes, paint on the peeling shutters and, yes, a bright new coat of paint on the front door, she would do. Temporarily. Once Cliff got settled in his new corporate job, we would most likely upgrade from this rental. But for now I could acknowledge her as my home.
In celebration of our recent move, I set the table for dinner, not my dream dinner because the wedding china and silver were still packed in one of the many moving cartons crowding the living room of our latest rented house. I had cleared the flimsy, scarred kitchen table pretending with its linen tablecloth to be seating for a family celebration. I looked at the final setting and liked what I saw: four place settings, two of plastic for my toddlers, candles I'd retrieved from the box with the dishes. Yes, we would have many of these family celebrations. Cliff had accepted a great job with my dad's company. We would settle. Life would be good.
I heard the car pull into the cul de sac, then the door slam and finally footsteps to my scratched and dented front door.
I watched him walk toward me and the open door, fatigue in his step, tie loosened and jacket slung over his shoulder. I smiled as I met him with my arms extended for a hug that somehow fell apart. I leaned forward for the kiss that brushed my lips.
I told myself he just needed a little time to adjust to yet another new job. After five moves in five years for two teaching/coaching jobs and a military assignment, we were back home in Newark, Delaware where for the first time in our short marriage, I could plan dinner and feel I was playing a role in a 50's June Cleaver segment where Mommy dresses each afternoon in preparation for Daddy's return from a job he loves.
Tonight, instead of a snappy greeting for the kids, he waved at them where they sat atop our unpacked boxes. I offered to take his jacket, but he held it as if it were somehow an important possession. I watched this strangeness move down the hallway where he acknowledged his day had been okay. But my self-confident, positive husband hadn't walked in the door. Someone else had.
Something was up, and it probably had something to do with me. Had I been too excited about being back in Delaware? Did he feel he'd been coerced into this new job? Something.
"Are you up for coffee?"
His "no, thanks" came slowly, almost as an afterthought, so I poured myself a cup and snuggled close beside him on the recently cleared brown plush sofa, only to feel him adjust his body sideways, making a correction, or was it a statement? With more distance between us, he moved slightly to the side to face me. His wrinkled brow suggested he'd rather avoid whatever this conversation was going to be. He opened his hands in front of him as if I would find meaning in his gesture. I sipped my coffee and adjusted my angle so as to directly face him.
"I wrote a letter to J. Edgar Hoover."
There it was: no warning, no discussion, no sharing until this announcement. Was I just an extra in this play called marriage?
"I've been thinking all day about how to say this because I knew you were going to be upset." His stare expected some reaction.
"Upset? You're right! I am upset. At least I think so. A letter?"
"Listen, honey, I know you're happy right now, but this sales job isn't going to work. It's boring and uninteresting. I can't do this the rest of my life." He turned his hands, palms up as if to say, "that's it." "Besides, it doesn't feel right working for your dad."
"You don't even know anything about this job yet." I could feel my dinner churn in my stomach as I scanned his face, the set of his mouth for indication I'd heard him wrong. "Give it time. You haven't been in it a month."
"Time in this job isn't going to change anything. This isn't the life for me. I know it. There has to be something else."
"But it is for me," I said as I moved closer to make a connection with his rigidity. "Look at me. This is the kind of life I want. We've been moving around from pillar to post for the last five years trying to find the perfect job for you. Now you tell me it isn't this one either? What else is there we haven't considered?" I willed the tears to stay in their hidden places.
"I know you like this life; you've told me that since we got here."
"What's wrong with my wanting this kind of life? We have a nice income, benefits, and you're home regularly. Is all that so bad?" I blinked at the wetness and took a breath.
"There's nothing wrong with the life. It's the job I don't want. I have to be doing something that makes a difference for people, like teaching or coaching but not those." He paused. No, he had already tried those.
"That's why I wrote the letter." He lowered his gaze with this announcement.
"I don't know what this is all about, but I'm your wife, and we have two small children. I'm sorry you're bored, but from where I'm sitting things look pretty good." I turned my head to meet his gaze, which wasn't directed toward me at all but at a distance across the chaos of our room.
He turned to stare at me directly as if he could brain dump the contents of his mind into mine. "I've always been curious about the FBI so I went to the top with my letter. I didn't really expect a reply...."
"So you wrote a letter to J. Edgar Hoover? The J. Edgar? You've always been interested? Why didn't I know any of this? Is there anything else I should know?" My hands involuntarily flew to my face. "Why didn't we even talk about this?"
I listened to my words as they tumbled unsolicited from my mouth. Did they sound as desperate as I felt? I wriggled my way to the opposite end of the couch for a change of perspective and picked up my nearly empty coffee cup for comfort. My hands needed something to do. I looked down at my fingers wrapped around the curve of the cup and turned them to feel anew the radiating warmth. I looked at this man, my partner, the one with whom I thought we would always share everything. Now, I felt solo. I saw concern in the wrinkles of his brow so familiar to me when he was under pressure.
Of all the words I might have expected that evening, these weren't even a consideration. That he wanted a divorce, that he was going back into the military, that he was....? I set my cup down and stared across my cardboard table to this stranger with the odd expression.
"Look, I should've told you, but I never expected to get an answer. Then, today I got a phone call from the Baltimore Special Agent in Charge." His chin dropped slightly before the next sentence blurted from his lips. "Mr. Hoover sent him a copy of my letter, and now they've invited me to meet with the Resident Agent in Wilmington. He also said...."
"Stop!" I raised my hand to halt any more words. Silence slithered like an ominous cloud across the box-filled warehouse of a living room. "This is insane. You think I want to be married to some G-Man or whatever they're called?" I stared at this husband turned stranger and thought of Eliot Ness, made famous in TV's Untouchables. Surely Ness didn't have a family; no family man would consider such a career. And why would the FBI want a man with a family?
"Look, I have an appointment to meet this agent tomorrow in Wilmington to find out more about this organization. It's just a meeting. It isn't even a remote possibility until we actually know something." He raised his hands in an action of resignation, turning his palms up as he twisted his wrists. I watched his non-verbal statement that he had to do this.
"What's happening to us?" I didn't expect an answer so I continued. "I don't want to be part of the FBI; you just need to know that. I read the papers, see the 'Wanted' posters in the post office ..." My hands, too, were speaking, wrapping themselves around one another. If I focused on them, maybe I could keep the tears at bay.
It wasn't the letter itself. It wasn't even the writing and mailing it. It was the secrecy involved as if I were somehow incapable of understanding my husband's obsession for finding his passion in the workplace. I might never have known about it except for the Bureau's reply.
I stood up from the couch, walked into the tidy kitchen and refilled my coffee cup. I resisted the allure of the road behind the house. Fight or flight? My preference at the moment was to run. I knew I wouldn't. But I did seize the opportunity to grab my jacket from the closet as I bolted out the front door to some place away from the chaos my life had become.
I walked briskly around my small cul-de-sac until behind me I heard his footsteps; not a clop, not a shuffle but a firm even step confirming his assuredness.
"I'm sorry about the letter. I was wrong. I was just afraid talking about it was premature and that it was another pipe dream that wouldn't materialize. This whole FBI thing," he said, "I just didn't know how you'd take it. Or maybe I did." He reached for my hand, the one that was in my pocket, the one whose fingers curled around my Kleenex, the one whose fingers clenched more tightly. I thought of many things I wanted to say, but nothing seemed right.
That was it, wasn't it? He hadn't told me.CHAPTER 2
It was just a form. That's what I told myself each afternoon as I typed content onto the endless pages of the application form. The meeting with the agent had gone well, and Cliff had come home with a fat application packet. I agreed to help him as long as we both knew I had reservations about this new career direction. Perhaps while this process was going forward, a better idea would surface, or maybe he would even decide Delaware was pretty nice and he could stay in his present job, or we could both look for teaching positions. Maybe all or none of this could happen.
Evening conversations on the brown couch became our board meetings, the chance at the end of the day to check in with each other. Seated side by side, working together, felt like a relationship renewal. It was just an application that we didn't necessarily agree on, but we were earnestly talking. Actually mailing this thing would be another matter. Of course, if Cliff were accepted, he could always say no.
Who was I kidding?
Checked, double checked, and signed, I mailed the application packet. Then one afternoon a few weeks later I saw the postman across the cul-de-sac.
"Gary, anything for me besides bills?" I extended my hand like a kid waiting for Santa's treat.
"Might be something here in this brownish envelope. Looks like government." He handed over a slim packet of envelopes. A letter from Mom, a few bills and this ugly yellowish tan oversized envelope addressed to Cliff. It could be. Yes, it could be what we'd been waiting for.
The children were napping. No one would know. Well, he would when he saw the ripped seal. No, this was addressed to Cliff. I wouldn't want him opening my mail. But then I had a vested interest in the contents of this envelope. Hadn't I typed this damned thing?
Suddenly, I didn't care who this was addressed to. The envelope and I went to the kitchen for a knife. Only momentarily did I think about putting it in the stack with the other mail. Only momentarily.
As Cliff opened the door some hours later, expecting his usual greeting, I stepped into the entryway with my outstretched hand, shakily extending the government envelope bearing the inexpert scars of a kitchen knife.
"Here it is. It isn't over. I couldn't stand to just look at it so I opened it."
Cliff's face with dark circles cradling his eyes and frown lines etching his forehead, told me this had not been a good day.
"Do I want to know what it says?" He slid his coat over the arm of the chair, extending his hand as if he feared another in this week's disappointments.
"I think so," I said, handing over the envelope. "Look, it says everything's in order. You have been selected for the training academy at Quantico."
I watched as he slipped open the un-taped flap exposing the contents, half-smiling as he read the brief notice. He shook his head in disbelief while I smiled. It felt good to see Cliff smile.
What did I want? Truthfulness and respect in our relationship from a man who loved me. This train we were about to board would be a drastic change for us, one I wasn't yet sure about.
It was settled. I knew it. We were about to become an FBI family. Training at Quantico and the interview with Hoover were all that remained. Pack up the house, contract with the movers, get airplane tickets and for two months move in with my parents in Michigan. This is where the children and I would wait.
In celebration of our summer stay with them, Dad decided to take a week off from his duties as president of Motor Wheel Corporation, and spend it with us at "The Dome," their summer home on Lake Michigan.
I could smell the warm, inviting aroma of Lake Michigan and the hot sun in the air before we actually turned onto the one-lane trail leading to a distinctively rounded igloo shaped dwelling. The driveway, newly blocked by the dunes which had shifted since Mom and Dad's last visit, brought our journey to a halt as we tumbled from the car to inspect how much sand we would need to shovel to get to the house. Tami and Ray's running, jumping and rolling down the dunes reduced the volume or at least spread the sand in new directions.
I hadn't been here for a while, long enough to have almost forgotten its effect. It wasn't the house or the fun foosball table and player piano inside. It was the sweeping vista, the caramel colored sand flat against the blue-gray water, as if to defy it to come closer on shore, then rising cliff-like straight up to a plateau where some courageous person like my dad might construct a refuge. Stretching for miles, the sand and wind danced with the lake's waves as if to remind me that nothing stays the same.
I needed to be here, to be quiet, to listen. And I did.
Hours and days passed in a rhythm luring me to the warm sand, covering my feet and swishing my hands at my sides, I watched the wind take the clouds across the water, maybe to Ontario, and felt myself attach to them, allowing their drift to take me without resistance. Now if only I could remember this feeling of releasing to these clouds. If I could carry this with me ...
In the middle of one of these reveries, Dad joined me on the beach to build a sand castle with Tami and Ray. We were in need of an engineer as our structure was lacking balance and stability, slightly listing to one side.
"Hi, honey, isn't this beautiful? Mom and I should come up here more often."
"I love it here, Dad. I'm so glad the kids and I could come. I needed this time away. Besides, I get to spend time with you and Mom." My hands played over the roof of our latest sand creation, smoothing the wrinkles.
"Honey, I'm happy about your new direction. Cliff seems excited about his future with this organization. It's a good job: good pay, good benefits." Dad was my mentor and my hero. I understood his message: "this is a good opportunity; make it work."
Returning to my parents' home in Lansing, I sat in my mother's sunlit kitchen enjoying a second cup of coffee while I waited for Tami and Ray to get up. During these weeks together, Mom and I were best friends sharing this special time together. Each day brought a renewed closeness. Frequent excursions to Potter Park Zoo, Bancroft Park, a shopping excursion for the latest in fashions and maybe even a few bargains. Each day brought a memory in the making, even if it were just helping Mom tend her flower garden or prepare the evening dinner followed by grandpa's arrival from work to take the children to the carousel at the local shopping mall. I was living the June Cleaver life, and I loved it; this was the kind of life I wanted: settled, stable, shared.
Leaf raking would soon be in order as I watched a few yellow shapes cascade from above. The phone rang. This early call could be news of our assignment. This train I had hesitantly boarded was headed where?
"Well, it's a place we've never lived. We're on our way to Houston."
"Hmm ... Texas." I heard a voice reply without emotion. "Well, whether we like it or not, at least it's only a year or so."
Excerpted from The FBI Wife by Sandra Windsor. Copyright © 2016 Sandra Windsor. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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