Serial Productions

Serial Productions makes narrative podcasts whose quality and innovation transformed the medium. “Serial” began in 2014 as a spinoff of the public radio show “This American Life.” In 2020, we joined he New York Times Company. Our shows have reached many millions of listeners and have won nearly every major journalism award for audio, including the first-ever Peabody Award given to a podcast.

We Were Three - Part 3

We Were Three - Part 3

Thu, 13 Oct 2022 06:10

Rachel goes back to California, to the place where she grew up and where her brother and father died, to find answers. For more information on 'We Were Three':

Listen to Episode

Copyright © Copyright 2022 Serial Podcast

Read Episode Transcript

This episode is supported by Better health. Unfortunately, being human doesn't come with a users manual. There's no set of instructions for when things get emotionally difficult or when it feels like everything may fall apart. That's when you need help to understand what's causing difficult emotions and how to cope with them better. Help is connected nearly three million clients with licensed therapists. It's convenient, accessible, and entirely online. Visit to learn more and save 10% off your first month. That's better. Elcom serial. Here's a question that occurred to me while I was sitting next to Rachel and her brother's car driving around Santa Ana, CA. Kind of hiding out here? Yeah, absolutely. I've been hiding out here for a while. She'd been in California for a few weeks when I got here. Her plan had been to start clearing out the house where her father and brother had lived. But when she got to the house, she couldn't stand being in it, so she fled up to Northern California. She wanted to be alone. Did that for a few days. That was awful. Then she met up with friends. That was better. Rachel's been talking by phone and text and FaceTime with her teenage kids every day while she's here. But by the time we were driving around together, she hadn't been home to her family in Rochester, NY for a while. Grief somehow maintains a public image of mainly sadness, fragility. But grief can also be selfish unfair. Kind of an *******. Rachel's aware. I don't know. I'm having a hard time right now. I'm just having a really hard time connecting with anyone. It's like ******* up my relationship, you know, with my partner. I just don't feel. Like. Might like anyone has my griefs back if that makes sense. Like I just. I I like crying in my car by myself. I go for drives. And just scream. And then I come home and I'm mom who's got a chore or, you know, snowboard lessons to drive you to or whatever. And it's like I'm just, I don't know, I I just feel like a ***** ** **** for saying it. I just. I just can't connect and get myself to do mundane ordinary things that. Are required of me. Rachel's described her father and brother as anchors for her, heavy but stabilizing. Without them, she's floating, driving around the place where they lived, looking for ways to feel nearer to them, to understand them. From Syria and the New York Times, this is the last part of we were three. I'm Nancy Updike. The economy is slowly bouncing back. If your business is growing, ZIP recruiter is the way to go. When you post a job on ZIP recruiter, it gets sent out to over 100 top job sites with one click. Then zip recruiters. Technology finds people with the right experience for your job and invites them to apply. Four out of five employers who post unzip recruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. Try ziprecruiter for free at ZIP recruiter Acom cereal. That's ziprecruiter icom slash serial. I'm Kevin roose. And I'm Casey Newton. We're technology reporters and the hosts of hardfork, a new show from the New York Times. A hard fork is a programming term for when you're building something, but it gets really screwed up. So you take the entire thing, break it and start over. And that's a little bit what it feels like right now in the tech industry. Like these companies that you and I have been writing about for the past decade, they're all kind of struggling to stay relevant. Yeah, I mean, a lot of the energy and money in Silicon Valley is shifting to totally new ideas, crypto. The metaverse AI, it feels like a real turning point. And all this is happening so fast. Some of it's so strange. I just feel like I'm texting you constantly, like, what is this story? Explain this to me. And so we're going to talk about these stories. We're going to bring in other journalists, newsmakers, whoever else is involved in building this future to explain to us what's changing and why it all matters. Hard fork from the New York Times. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. Part 3. I'm all that is left. Amen. Rachel and I have separate but overlapping missions here. We're both trying to see these people. She's lost as fully as we can. I asked to come to California while she's here, partly because I wanted to see the places she talked about. But also, I'm still trying to understand what life did COVID land in with her brother and her father? What was happening in their lives before the text messages? Rachel has some answers and her perspective. And other answers are here in California. I'll be there shortly, my dear. We're off to see Sandy Rachel's father's longtime girlfriend, longtime as in, she met him in 1978. We're going to meet Sandy now because I want to talk to her and she's agreed. Sandy saw Rachel's brother and father during COVID when Rachel didn't, and she's also known all three of them for decades. She met Rachel when Rachel was three years old. This is the girlfriend Rachel called in the middle of the wine and roses fight with her father and his then wife, Alex. Sandy remembers the call, though she doesn't remember finding out about the marriage until later. Oh, I will, I will. I'll stall. It's OK. We never have eyebrows when we wake up. Sandy's telling Rachel she doesn't want us to get there until she has time to do her eye makeup. Alright, I'll see you soon. I gotta draw him in. Alright, I'll see you soon. Thank you. That's great. Yeah. OK. Bye. Sandy, in photos from Rachel's childhood, is a young white woman with blue eyeliner around her Big Blue eyes, a California girl with her hair parted in the middle and hanging down. She's holding a grumpy looking Gray cat in one photo, cigarette in another. There are also many photos over the years of Sandy with Rachel's dad. Sandy and Rachel's father never got married, but they never 100% quit each other. Sometimes Rachel calls Sandy her kind of like stepmom. Sandy lived with the Camacho family more or less constantly, with an occasional monthslong hiatus until Rachel was around 14. Even after Sandy moved out, she lived right around the corner for years. On the drive over, Rachel tells me she and Sandy have never talked about her father's abuse. He had all of them. The violence, experiencing it and seeing it twisted Rachel's view of women, including herself and Sandy. I grew up resenting her. I grew up a misogynist. I grew up thinking women were weak, and I pinned it all on the fact that she would not leave my dad. I she to me, and this is just, you know, a dumb child mapping it out for for herself. I. I just believed that. Women were incapable of having the kind of strength that would. Allow you to exit. There are a lot of things they've never talked about. I mean, the last time we had even been with each other, I I had. I had. We were in a physical altercation. You and sandy. This was after wine and roses, after Rachel had graduated from high school and she didn't have anywhere to live. She had her baby boy and he sometimes stayed with her during the day and he'd be with her ex boyfriend's family at night and she was pregnant with her second child. Sandy let her stay on her couch for many months. Rachel remembers an argument escalating from something tiny. Like did Rachel eat the last packet of Sandy's ranch dressing? And I was on the phone and she was screaming at me. I'd been homeless at that point for like 9 months and I was just exhausted and I'm like get the **** out of my face and she wouldn't and like leaned over me and I was sitting and I just got up. And I and I just started swinging and she fell back. And it was pretty brutal. Yeah, I. And you guys have never talked about that? No. I moved out the next day. We've never spoken of it. The first time we spoke again was like via text when I reached out from, you know, like getting her info from my brother's phone. Wait a minute. US had not spoken since then. Yeah, that was like the 20 you. So in 25 years, you guys had not talked from from when you hit her until your brother and Father died. And she has since been nothing but. A generous, thoughtful, informative person to me. So that's incredible. Like, you know it. Actually, I have a lot of shame. Um, that I responded in the way that I did. And it's just it's just not who I am. It's who I can be. That's not who I am. All right. Well, here we go. Here goes nothing. See what happens? I'm here. We park in the driveway alongside a single story house. Big succulents out front and by the driveway, some geraniums. Eucalyptus. Hi dear. Alright, I'm gonna sit in the shade. This is the house where Sandy grew up and now lives with one of her sisters. We walked around to the backyard. Go ahead and go to the table. And the law was there. Table. Yes, and there's Sandy. Still got long brown hair parted in the middle, hanging down a little Gray at the roots. She's tan, wearing a blue sun dress and flip flops. While we're scrutinizing people here, my hair is also a little Gray at the roots, and I'm dressed in black and Navy, like a slightly rebellious cat burglar. When Sandy met Rachel and Peter's father, the father's name is Pete, which can get confusing. That's why I mostly call him Rachel and Peter's father. When Sandy met Pete senior, the father, it was the late 70s and they were living in the same apartment complex. It had a pool in the middle. Pete was putting some very smooth moves on Sandy and she was smoothly evading them. He kept saying come in my apartment, we have the managers former apartment. The air conditioning is great. Ohh wow. And it was so funny because even then after running into him different times, I wouldn't go in. I just put my arm in there. I'm going. Yeah, that's nice. Isn't that funny? I was so cautious. I love it. I'll help things, but there was always flirting and then, you know, I think it really. We really became good friends. With the pool, because Gilbert was there too. And then. They talked about how they were going to play guitar and I so I think I ended up, since I played guitar too, you know, come on over and then they, you know, have barbecues and. He invited me to the movies and so it was actually 78, but it didn't really become like a big romance. I know he wanted it to be. You know, relationship until like 79. Sandy got to know Pete and his younger brother, Gilbert, and the rest of the family. She hadn't lived with Pete in over 30 years when he died. But their relationship, in one form or another, outlasted everything. Except COVID. Rachel says her father and Peter, when she talked to them on the phone, often rolled their eyes about Sandy, talked about their relationship with her, as if it were a burden. But Rachel is also sure that they rolled their eyes about her and complained about her behind her back. So. What Sandy describes is 3 people supporting each other. She, Pete senior and Peter celebrated birthdays and holidays, talked on the phone and checked on each other. Sandy doesn't have a car. Peter drove her to get groceries and go to doctor's appointments. Peter didn't like dealing with bureaucracies. Sandy would make those phone calls for him. She found a dentist and made appointments for him and his father at their request. Peter would bring her fresh juice from his juicer. Sandy says Pete, the father, was calling her every weeknight for a while as he drove back from work because he was afraid he'd fall asleep. She talked to him all the way home, even if she was tired of talking. The next day, Pete had told his son that Sandy was the one he should call if he, the father, ever got sick or anything went wrong. Your dad was thinking seriously considering the vaccine. And I said let me make you an appointment and and he said well let's let. All the. Because it's just come out. He goes, let's let all the immune compromised people get it first and and then he goes because I'm perfectly healthy. And he goes maybe next month. That was January of 2021, Peter. In the meantime, he didn't like the mass. He started believing it was gonna cause pulmonary. Ohh. God edema, all these things. I would. I would embarrass him in stores on purpose. Even your dad and I talked about this. Your dad would go humor me. Put your mask over your nose. I don't want to die from COVID and cause. I don't want it. I don't get sick. Sandy got COVID vaccines and boosters. As soon as she could. And when she said she felt fine after each shot, Peter the son would say, yeah, well, let's see how you feel in three years. Long before COVID, Peter had had a habit of dismissing things other people believed that he didn't by saying, oh, you fell for that. COVID seemed to slot right into the oh, you fell for that groove. Every time Peter drove Sandy to an appointment, he would hand her videos he said she had to see. I've seen some of the videos Peter was looking at. There were hundreds of videos and memes on his computer. A pharmaceutical analyst who said COVID vaccines were intended to poison healthy children. Someone quoting an undertaker who predicted mass deaths from vaccines. Not people who held press conferences and sounded slick. Sandy said the videos she remembers were regular person sounding off. And I swear to God, literally on a corner of New York with the, you know, the accent and it was somebody interviewing her. But she was a nobody. It was just a person on the street, literally. Impairs going listen to this. I'm going. Who the F is she? I'm. You're making me listen to all this stupid crap. You're giving me a headache. And he would just throw up his hands. I can't believe you, Sandy. I'm like, I can't believe you. Well, I mean we would argue all the way to my Newport Beach pain Doctor appointment. I'd get there any more pain in my neck and mentally exhausted headache. And you know how from stress or neck tightens I'd be like give me double the injections please, from riding in the car with Peter. So we were getting all these arguments, but we'd end up laughing about it. And. You know, he'd end up laughing, but he'd go Sandy, really, you need to start listening to these things. Her dad just thought Peter was being ridiculous. And he. Told me numerous times, ohh you just can't. He said I didn't. He goes, you know what I do? He goes. I try to convince him otherwise on all these things and he doesn't listen. He gets really stubborn and upset. He goes, you can't change his mind. He goes. So he goes. I don't like hearing all of that. You know, he he gets on the computer, he starts telling me and trying to get me to believe it and he goes, I argue with him till I'm blue in the face. And so he goes. Now I just go ohh uh-huh uh huh. And walk away and go to my room. Peter started believing that the vaccines made people shed the virus and therefore those people were dangerous to be around, his father told Sandy. He didn't believe that, and it's not true. But in the name of keeping the peace. Peters, 67 year old father now couldn't imagine getting vaccinated. He said. You know, well, I've been thinking about, he said. Peter would flip out. That would have probably been by that time, the end of February or March, because that's when Peter. Did not want me in the car anymore. And that's when he really got weird thinking that we shed the virus. So he said I could never get it. He said with Peter believing that, you know, we would talk about all the time. And he said he'll he'll think I'm going to shed the virus all over the house. And then what is? And I said just do it and don't tell him. What did you say to that? Because secrets always find a way of getting out. And he goes. Let's see how this plays out. This is how it played out. Slowly he started thinking. Just like Peter, and I was horrified. Because he kept saying he he wanted to get the vaccine. Then all of a sudden, well, I want to wait on that. Then he starts saying he was worried about what was in it and that he was reading things that it could kill you in three years. He's. I mean, he was sounding like Peter. Sandy for years have been noticing Pete seniors quick sharp brain becoming less quick. Now the declines seemed to be accelerating. Pete the father was forgetting words. He even forgot to come by in Sandy's birthday, which utterly out of character. Several months before he died, he started lecturing Sandy and her niece Sarah via text. So he puts me and Sarah in a group text thing and, like, bashing Fauci some little JPEG and this is what you look like after vaccines? A monster. I'm like, Oh my God. And it got to the point where. He and I I mean, her dad was always a fun, smart guy. Got to the point where. And he still was. We talk on the phone and laugh, but every you couldn't say anything. Without it going back to the vaccine. Sandy, like Rachel, distanced herself from Pete. She'd known him for 43 years, and in the months before he died, she was barely talking to him because the covin conversations were unbearable and he wouldn't talk for long about anything else. Like Rachel, she figured she and Pete the father would go back to talking more and seeing each other once the COVID fervor had run its course. When Sandy got the text from Peter that his father was dead, she had the same reaction Rachel did. Oh my God, car accident. Because just like Rachel, she'd had no idea he'd been sick. Sandy says her knees buckled when she grasped that Pete the father was gone. Peter told her he had asked his dad if he wanted to go to the hospital, and his dad said no, he didn't have insurance because he was in between jobs. Sandy wanted to scream, but he did have medical coverage. His father was 67 and covered by Medicare, and she remembered when Pete signed up for it. Peter told Sandy he was sorry he didn't call her when his dad was sick. Sandy was so angry at Peter, but now he was sick she put off her anger and worried about him. Peter texted her from the hospital, the one Rachel had talked him into going to. Two days later, he told Sandy what he didn't tell Rachel, that he was leaving the hospital against medical advice. Peter's phone is full of texts from Sandy in the last weeks of his life checking on him, suggesting different clinics and urgent care places he could go to. Since she knew he wouldn't go back to the hospital, she could not budge him. Neither could her niece, who'd known Peter since they were kids, and Peter was lying to Rachel this whole time. The fact that they were all women and that we here were all women sitting around talking about men who were no longer alive. Men Rachel and Sandy had tried to keep alive in this pandemic. It stuck out. Rachel said that when she thought about it, her brother's COVID views and her fathers had always skewed in the same gender direction in her conversations with them. The women in their lives were pleading with them to get vaccinated. They were all a bit hysterical about it. Her father and Peter both used the word hysterical. A bit simple. Brainwashed. One of Peter's last texts to Sandy was. You really need to stop talking or mentioning the word COVID or anything remotely related to COVID. Listen, machismo and misogyny helped assisted my brother's death as much as many other things they. Thought that we were dumb women. I mean, they did. They they were patronizing and would be paternalistic at times. Like snarky. You know, Peter was worse. He was very bad. But like he learned that that's a learned behavior. There was a time in my life I didn't imagine it would be me and you at the left, at the table. Can you imagine? Like, who knew? Holy **** it's shocking. It's just we still in shock. Like, we've outlived a lot. Yeah, alongside each other. And, you know, in spite of the men in our lives who. Who just couldn't get it right, right? You know, when he was the worst was Anaheim. I know. He was drinking more than. What? Why, I wonder. That's third grade. That could have been because of having to go to Lacey, maybe. Lacey is the Theo Lacy corrections facility in Orange, CA. Rachel remembers hearing that her dad had to go there on weekends for a while. I asked why? Why did you do that? Because he assaulted me. It's that we kept it quiet from the kids. And he would tell them he thought it was for me. No, I thought it was. So Theo Lacey was because of you? Yeah. They began to have this conversation they'd never had. Gingerly, they didn't get into the incident between them where Rachel hit Sandy. But they talked about Pete the father and his violence. One of them would mention an incident and the other would remember part of it also. Rachel murmured. I'm so sorry that happened to you. Sandy told me later that it had been many years since Pete, the father, had hit her. The memories are vivid and painful. And mixed in with good memories. She said Pete never stopped asking her to marry him. She never wanted to. Lots of reasons. It took Sandy a few tries to move out of Pete's place for good and settle into an apartment that was separate but close by. And I don't know how I ever forgive him. But you had to forgive a lot. Boo Boo. You know I'm shocked at myself. Forgive a lot. I'm. I'm mean and I'm old and mean now. I wouldn't have forgiven any of it. You know, at this stage of my life. But you're not mean at all. You know I loved Rachel and Peter so much. Leaving like for good. Kill me. You know being away from from the kids, they. I mean they really felt like my children. And. I guess that's probably why I was stupid and coming back sometimes, you know? It was a lot better when he wasn't drinking. Yeah, but even even then, yeah, you had a temper. You just didn't know. And he said his dad used to beat the **** out of all the five boys and I'm just glad they were alive, lady. It's nice. I felt like I. Like sometimes he took, he would just maybe be frustrated over tired. And I had a feeling he took more of it when I was there, more of his anger out on me. And I used to think hopefully that's saving you guys. That's true. It is true. And I hated that. I'll be honest. Like that tears me up that we would be relieved. That at least there was a third body now that would take hits. Well, yeah, because that's that's so sad. Scary too. My God, my dad did the same to me. You know, I remember being terrified as a kid and being alone with my dad when he wouldn't. It was the same thing. It was the alcohol when he would drink, you know, when you're little and you got this mad man chasing that you're ready to hit. Yeah, the fear. The conversation moved on. Sandy waited until the very end of a cigarette at the table menthol. God, I miss smoking. I loved everything about it, the ritual, the repetition. The enforced pause of just taking one out and lighting it. I could go on. Sandy told us about a couple of quiet evenings with Pete, the father from the early days of COVID. I could picture it a different kind of pause. Two people who've known each other forever in a country at the beginning of a terrible time. Full of uncertainty. And they sit outside, near each other, but apart, talking, listening. Afraid of the same thing. He came a couple times, like by himself, you know, after work and we just sat out in the yard here and. And he. You know, he hugged me. And then before he left, he kissed me. And he was like, Oh my God, I'm sorry. Because he goes, I know we shouldn't, you know. Yeah, because it was. I know I shouldn't be doing that at this time. I'm, you know, I hope I didn't freak you out, because I was. I even said, you know, not necessarily 6 feet apart, but, you know, maybe we shouldn't, you know, kissing. Rachel and Sandy are the two who are left to their continued surprise, but they're also the two who get to talk, or at least start to talk about what happened. Rachel spent her whole life saying in different ways. Can we just talk about what happened? She couldn't do it with her dad, she thought, after her dad died. Oh, Peter and I are going to have some conversations now, real conversations that never happened. And maybe it wouldn't have happened even if he'd lived. When we were driving to see Sandy, Rachel had no idea what she would be willing to talk about that. Here's Sandy is grieving the same two people with her own heavy load of memories. And she was up for excavating some of the past with Rachel. Coming up and finally we start excavating the house where Peter and his dad died. That's after the break. Rachel's last conversation with her father was a few months before he died. It was an e-mail exchange about her decision to vaccinate her kids against COVID. It started out OK, then got very bad. It ended with Rachel writing eat **** you corny misogynist. And he responds minutes later. I would tell you to eat **** too, but you're already putting something worse inside you. And that's the last straw. That's when I say. You're making a face. Like, am I really going to read out loud what I said? But all caps like you are? Yeah, because this is how I am. Lol lol. Die lonely dude. Die without the family you massacred and beaten to a pulp every chance you got, wretched little creature. Guess what was the worst thing for my health? Pedro, you all caps. And then I blocked him. In my family, I sometimes fancy myself the blunt one, except for maybe my beloved Aunt Frankie. And this e-mail is so far out of my league, maybe because to me it seems final, like relationship over. But Rachel has no doubt she and her father would have come back from this. In the months before her father died, she was preparing herself for how her dad and her brother would make fun of her down the road. For how overcautious she'd been about this COVID thing. How credulous. Now, instead of arguing with them, she's going to the house they died in. She needs to start clearing it out. I see. What I need we pull up into the driveway. A small ranch house with an attached garage closed. Rachel hasn't been here for a few weeks, since that day she ran up to Northern California. What are all these stickers? These are new. Their stickers in the front Windows, agents, contractors, inspectors. Please know this property has been winterized. Yeah, they turned my water off and they kept it off those *****. And that's the bank who did that. He's leave Breakers in their current position, except for items winterized Rachel's wrangling with the bank over this house. Like, worried about what it's going to smell like in here? No. Wow. Madness. Officials told me a lot about this place, how much she hates it. In fact, it's so prominent in some of her memories of growing up. I pictured the inside as bigger, I guess to contain all the unhappiness. Rachel and Peter spent a lot of time here as kids, and she did not see it as a refuge. It was your grandparents place, and Rachel remembers both her grandparents, her father's parents, as cruel. She says they'd tease Peter about his Lisp Pitt family members. Against one another, swat the kids with fly swatters, throw stuff at them. She remembers an uncle overdosing in the living room, another uncle punching her in the face, and on and on. She calls it Hill House from the novel the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, a very creepy book. She was horrified when Peter moved in here at 17 years old. After the wine and roses fight, Rachel says he had to put a padlock on his bedroom door to make sure no one in the family. Stole from him. God being here now, Rachel is overwhelmed. Every room is crammed with stuff on shelves and all over. They started acquiring ****. And then? Never made room for new things. Instead, they just started stacking and like 01 day, this will be worth something. Or if I hold on to this for 40 years, it'll be worth quadruple its value. Like that's how they operated. I wish this. She walks down the hall and goes into her dad's bedroom, starts opening drawers in the Bureau. What are you looking for? I don't know. I just wanna see stuff. Socks. She's looking for clues, details about the life her dad and brother were living in these years. She didn't see them. Interesting. What were they doing? So my brother thought my dad was. Sober, and this is evidence he was not. That's a beer can hidden in his in his workout clothes drawer. We each wander separately for a while. I was also trying to imagine the life Peter and his dad had built in here. What was this House for them? The most startling aspect of the House is how dark it is inside. It's bright Southern California sunshine outside, and then you step into this bunker. The windows are completely covered with fabric or curtains that aren't just closed, they're clipped together so no eye can peek through. The curtains were to keep Rachel and Peter's mother from seeing inside if she came by. Their mom and dad divorced in 1977, but Rachel's mother has been a factor Rachel's entire life. Rachel remembers being on the phone with Peter years ago. Their mother was outside knocking on the door, and Peter was army. Drawing on his stomach, using his elbows to get from the kitchen to his bedroom to stay below any possible sight line, neighbors were unnoticed to let Peter and his dad know if they saw her. After texting with Rachel and Peter's mother, talking to people who've known her and encountered her over the years, and reading court documents that include statements she's made. I believe she's someone who's been failed by multiple systems in this country and is also someone whose behavior has had a sustained devastating effect on Rachel and her family. The darkness made the house to me feel somewhere between a trap and a cocoon. Rachel found stacks of papers in the house and let me look through them. From these, I finally get a sense of her dad. In his own words, I found an application her father had filled out for relief under the Dodd Frank making home affordable program. There's a handwritten statement in neat blue all caps writing called a hardship affidavit. It's from October 2016, her dad wrote. Quote Since 1975 I have been employed as a professional in the petroleum engineering industry that has fallen on hard times due to collapsing oil prices causing me loss of employment and income. I'm currently receiving $1800 per month in unemployment benefits, and that is my only current income. I have depleted all of my cash reserves in order to help keep a roof over the heads of my daughter and five grandchildren. I have no stocks, IRA, 401K or pension plan to fall back on. The second mortgage on my primary residence increased from $751.00 per month to $2768 per month recently, and I'm in danger of losing my home of 52 years as this statement is written. End Quote. Rachel says her father was always mysterious about money, and she says she didn't know about any of this, didn't know he was unemployed back then, didn't know about the ballooning second mortgage. Didn't know how worried he'd been about money long before COVID. Pete Camacho was an intelligent man with a college degree who made decent money when he was working and worked most of his life. He also fully supported his adult son and had helped his daughter get and keep her family's home in Rochester. Peter told Rachel after their dad died that the last job their dad had gotten, he'd been let go the first day because he couldn't provide proof of vaccination. Peter said their dad had cashed out his life insurance policy a few weeks before dying because he was behind on mortgage payments for the Santa Anna House. A cocoon and a trap, like many people's homes are. Rachel doesn't blame Peter for talking her father into his COVID beliefs. No, I'm mad at my dad for creating a person who could talk him into that. I mean it's. Frankenstein's monster it's is Mary Shelley as you're going to get like. You did this. You cobbled together the pieces of a person you broke. And you did your best to keep them animated, but in the end like. You didn't. You just did. You just there just wasn't enough effort on your part to sort of undo the damage that you caused. For years, she's been carrying in her head visions of alternate futures for her dad and her brother. In everyone, they are out of this house and away from each other. She'd imagined Peter possibly married. A father. Transformed by parenthood in wonderful ways, if he was lucky. He was only 44 when he died. Plenty of time for even big changes, if you'd wanted that. Here in the house, I saw Rachel mourn these lost futures 1 by 1 and begin laying each to rest alongside the people her father and brother had actually been. She sat down on a chair in Peter's room. I was singing the other day. How? How close he was to a world where my dad wasn't in it, where our dad wasn't there. I mean, if your dad had died and then Peter had survived, Peter had survived like the night I said Peter, we have to sell that house knowing he was going to deny it. And when he said I know that changed everything for me, I understood that he understood the weight of this House like the true. Weight of it? How physically demanding to. Crawl through all of this, you know, like mountains of cascading ******* nonsense. He understood in that moment. Even when he was dying. This House had to go. And I think. Of like who he could have been without this house. And who he could have been without my dad. Like he could have. And maybe this is just my own rewriting, but I really believe that. He could have been free, like. Like, I felt like with them, our dad dying. I was getting a new brother. I was getting a. Petless, Peter. And what was that going to be like? I had hope. God hope. What's left in the waning days, what we hope are the waning days of a pandemic? Just us, the country we were before. We lost over 1,000,000 people to COVID. The country we still are. A place where the non system of health care and mental health care with 67 year olds who are running out of money and 44 year olds driven to paranoia by lies and isolation and poets slogging their way through death paperwork while raising children and trying to make sense of their losses. After spending months talking to Rachel, I thought about how often grief has questions at its core. What have I lost here? How much is what's left enough. A lot of Rachel's poems are answers to those questions. Different answers at different times. She has a love poem that has No title. I asked her to read the end of it out loud. It's about loving someone after you've loved a bunch of other people. It's about the overwhelming feeling of finding home. After having wandered for a very long time. Last love. I once vowed my heart to another forgive me. Last love. I have let my blind and anxious hands wander into a room and come out empty. Forgive me, last love. I have cursed the women you loved before me. Forgive me. Last love, I envy your mother's body where you resided. First, forgive me. Last love. I am all that is left. Forgive me. I did not see you coming. Forgive me. Last love. Every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen. Last love. You are my last love. Amen. Last laugh. I am all that is left. Amen. I am all that is left. Amen. We were three was produced by Janelle Peifer and me and edited by executive editor Julie Snyder. Editing help from Neil drumming, Ira Glass, Jen Guerra, Hana Jaffe, Walt and Sarah Kanig. Editorial consulting by Kiese layman, Ivan Oransky and Sarah Cavado. Research and fact checking by Ben Phalen. Original score by Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy, with additional. Original music by Matt McGinley. Sound design and music supervision by Michael committee. The supervising producer, is in day Chubu. Julie Whitaker is digital manager. Sam Dolnick is an assistant managing editor of the New York Times. At the New York Times. Thanks to Jordan Cohen, Kelly Doe, Lindsay Fischler, Jason Fujiko Uni, Dana Green, Desiree Igbokwe, Lauren Jackson, Nina Lasam, Jeffrey Miranda. Anisha Mooney, Megan Shepard, Julia Simon, Alamine, Sumar, Kimi Sai, and Susan wesling. Special thanks to Anthony Almoguera, Rena Oddish, Tyson Bell, Trevor Bedford, Rachel Bender, Ignacio Danielle Elliott, Jeremy Faust, Derek Lowe, Kristen Ponta Agani, Jason Salemi, Mark Shapiro and Tim Trumbull. I'm grateful to everyone who talked to me about Rachel, Peter, and Pete, and thank you to Rachel and to her family. They let me into their home at inconvenient times and answered every question. We were three is from serial productions and the New York Times.