Darryl Davis' problems began when his wife, Nancy, an attorney, was pregnant with their second son, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Nancy died four years ago at age 43. Left to care for his two little boys, Davis lost his job as a legal secretary and fell behind on his mortgage payments. In 2009, he called his lender, Bank of America.
So began a new nightmare, although, he said, "It wasn't as bad as the process of my wife becoming sick and passing."
Davis' home is in San Francisco, but not one of the swanky parts. It has three bedrooms and one and a half baths, and is one of the faux Mediterranean houses built in the middle of the last century at the south end of the city.
I met him and his sons Julian, 5, and Drew, 7, in the Capitol outside the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee on Monday. He had dressed the boys in their Sunday best. Each wore ties, as did he. He came to Sacramento to testify on behalf of legislation that might have helped him avoid his foreclosure odyssey.
Once here, he saw firsthand what insiders know. Banks and their allies don't often lose before the banking committee.
As Davis and his sons arrived, Assemblyman Mike Eng, the banking committee chairman, announced he was postponing consideration of the legislation. The Senate banking committee was supposed to take up identical bills today, but it too delayed its hearing.
"I just want to make sure we have the best bill possible," Eng told me later.
Davis and various activists engaged in the housing issue, most of them from the Bay Area, had come to the Assembly committee in support of Attorney General Kamala Harris, who had proposed the legislation.
"Am I surprised? No. There is very little that surprises me," Harris said after the postponement.
One of Harris' bills seeks to prevent banks from foreclosing on homeowners when they are trying to modify terms of their loan. The other would require lenders to provide a single officer who would be the contact for homeowners in distress.
Davis' story is an all-too-common story. He would talk by phone to one loan officer on one day, and couldn't find that same person the next day. He would fax papers that bankers requested, and papers would get lost.
Last year, as he was trying to get a reduced payment, the bank sent him a notice, on a Friday, that his house was about to be sold at auction. He tried to stop it but the sale went through.
Davis later got the sale rescinded, thanks to help from a nonprofit, Mission Economic Development Association. The mortgage payment, with taxes and insurance, had been $2,900. Now the payment is $1,900. He scrapes up enough by using his disability check and his sons' Social Security benefits.
The numbers are staggering, though familiar. The number of foreclosures in California could hit 2 million by the end of the year.
Here are other numbers that also are staggering, though less familiar. Altogether, the named opponents of the main legislation pushed by Harris spent $33.3 million on lobbying in the five years between 2007 and 2011.
Big banks aren't formally opposed to the bills. They're operating through the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Bankers Association. But four of the large banks BofA, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup spent an additional $5.6 million to lobby California lawmakers during that five-year period, their public lobby reports show.
The main opponents of the legislation, plus the banks, have spent no less than $52.8 million on legislative and statewide races, and political parties since 2000, not including additional millions spent on ballot measures, campaign finance reports show. Most telling, opponents have spent $1.2 million to help elect current members of the Senate and Assembly banking committees since 2008.
Certainly, supporters of the legislation of Harris' bills have clout, particularly organized labor. But Harris' bills directly challenge lenders on their turf.
"I'm not going to believe what I've been told, which is that you want to fix rules around banking and there is a powerful banking lobby that is going to kill it," said Harris, the first-term attorney general who is in her first serious legislative fight.
Eng, a Democrat from the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, said he delayed the hearing in part because he wants the process to be "as inclusive as possible," and hasn't had time to meet with all the groups and individuals who are interested in the bills.
He wouldn't identify those groups and individuals. My guess is Darryl Davis is not among them. If Eng had wanted to hear from Davis, he could have held the hearing on Monday.