"Babe, I leave this for you"

Seven years after her police-officer husband died in the line of duty, Lydia Galvan clings to his memory -- any way she can

Mrs. Galvan gets up from the sofa and walks the three small steps up into the kitchen. There, before her, is the refrigerator door, adorned with magnets, including one with a small photo of Senior Cpl. Galvan, a man with dark features, smiling broadly in his uniform and cap. As if she's about to perform a sacred ritual, she becomes silent; only the sound of her heavy breathing fills the room.

With her mouth clenched shut, Mrs. Galvan solemnly pulls from the freezer what looks like a small, brown box of chocolates. Setting it on the counter, she reaches for a knife to cut the cellophane tape around the rim. She lifts the lid. Inside, a blue-and-white paisley handkerchief shields a square object that occupies half the box. It's the same handkerchief "Big David" loved to wear because, as his wife says, he "sweat a lot." He would wear it all the time, whether doing odd jobs around the house or even at work, where he tied it around his open collar so as not to dirty his uniform. Any rookie cop would have been reprimanded for violating the police dress code, but to this 16-year veteran, not a word was said.

"I used to cuss the bitch that took the father of my babies," says Mrs. Galvan, as she unwraps the handkerchief to reveal a Ziploc bag. There, inside, rests all that remains here of David Galvan -- a brown object in the shape of a fish fillet. Through the years, Mrs. Galvan has seen the piece get smaller, drier, less red.

A picture that Lydia Galvan recently bought in Mexico to honor her husband's memory stands before the utility poll that David Galvan collided with that December morning.
Mark Graham
A picture that Lydia Galvan recently bought in Mexico to honor her husband's memory stands before the utility poll that David Galvan collided with that December morning.
In the small back room of her home, above, the photos and medals that marked David Galvan's life and career adorn the walls. N
Mark Graham
In the small back room of her home, above, the photos and medals that marked David Galvan's life and career adorn the walls. N

"That's the meat that came from the thigh," she says, slapping her side.

She opens the bag, which lets out a musty smell tinged with freezer burn. Inside, amidst the meat, is the white congealed fat that helped pad David Galvan's 5-foot-10-inch, 250-pound frame. And mingled with it are the small, brown pieces of grass and leaves from the grassy knoll where he died.

For a moment, Mrs. Galvan holds the bag. Then, without so much as a word, she retrieves her husband.

Somehow, her long nails and the gold rings that adorn every one of her fingers give the slab of meat resting in her hands its due honor.

The fat on the meat is the first to respond to her warmth. It melts almost instantly, coating her hands, her gold rings, and her wedding band, with a luminous, oily sheen.

A moment of looking solemnly at the piece is all the time she can afford this precious perishable. She tucks it in the bag.

"But like I said," she says solemnly, as she goes to the kitchen sink and washes her hands with Dawn soap, "that's all I got of him."


Every month, Mrs. Galvan visits the stretch of road on West Ledbetter Drive where she found her husband's partial remains. She stays for 15 minutes or so, just to talk to him and tell him how she and the kids are doing. There, alongside the road, she maintains a memorial, where a white, wooden cross, stenciled with his name, stands in his honor. On the cross is a small porcelain angel, with hands outstretched to the world. And a few feet down stands the utility pole, still as indestructible as the day her husband collided with it. The pole is now adorned with the cloth flowers she stapled to it. At its base, buried beneath the dirt and the tattered, faded American flags that fellow officers left behind years ago, rests some part of David Galvan.

In a sense, David Galvan has three homes, there on West Ledbetter, at the cemetery, and, of course, in his wife's freezer. And in the past seven years, Mrs. Galvan has tried to mend her own fragmented life. She has tried to find her center.

In the midst of her quest, she has never shied from telling people about the piece in her home. That meat represents, she says, some bit of "justice" in the midst of all the injustices: the driver whom she blames for her husband's death, the mortuary service that failed to pick up all the remains, and the final, devastating blow from the police who denied her request to see him.

She has tried to claim some justice for her and her family, for David Galvan.

After years of court proceedings, she won her case against the apartment complex, Smith Creek, from which the other driver was exiting. Mrs. Galvan claimed that bushes several feet from the curb obstructed the view of an already reckless driver, who failed to yield the right of way. Last March she says, Smith Creek settled with the Galvans, paying $45,000 to be divided among her and her four children. As for the driver, Gwendolyn Lucas, the court ordered her to compensate the Galvans with $12 million. She'll be paying for the rest of her life.

Lucas didn't apologize then, and she isn't in the mood to apologize now. "The only thing I can tell you is to talk to my lawyer," the 27-year-old says combatively when reached at her home in Dallas. "I don't even want to go back seven years. All I can say is that God has a reason for everything."

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