Now I'm dating myself. The year was 1994, when I graduated high school. I worked as a prep cook at Red Robin. Many of my friends worked so they could have the money for themselves… I worked because I had to. My mom made $4.75 an hour at a photography shop in town. I made $5.75… We both needed to work to have things like electricity and food, but not much else. We often didn't have heat. This is where I came from. So it goes.
During the early part of the year in 1994 my mom got a letter from a woman stating that she was recently married to my dad. The letter was nice and it stated that my dad was trying to turn his life around and that he wanted to connect with me. My mom asked me if this is what I wanted: to be reunited with my dad. I took some time to think about it. I told my mom that I did. Though all the shitty stories I'd heard about this man; all the shitty things he's been arrested for and committed against society… I still wanted to know who this person was. I wanted my dad to be a part of my life. All the times that I said “I didn't want to know him” just didn't matter. I wanted to be some dad's kid. That's it. That's all I wanted.
I sent a couple of letters back and forth to this lovely lady who would be my step mom. She spoke highly of my father; even proudly, of his battles with his addictions and to become a better person. She was gentle. I wanted to know her also, after even a letter or two, I felt drawn to this person. Then, my father wrote me. The very first time I'd ever had words with him and they were scrawled on paper. We both had shitty penmanship but I was surprised to see that he was an artist and drew, like myself. He sketched a self-portrait. He envisioned himself with angular features, a receding hairline and a beard. That sketch showed the years had been rough, but he was getting through it. After another letter we made plans to meet each other…
Then, one morning, I'm working, my mom calls me at work and says: “Son, don't read the front page of the Statesman Journal.” Through the years, my mom had calmed down and gotten treated for her depression, so our relationship had become stronger… However, that doesn't change the fact that my mom does a couple things that make me roll my eyes: She says the wrong thing at the wrong time. And she loses her common sense during moments of stress… So naturally when my mom tells me not to do something this mother fucker here goes and does just that. I hang up and walk over to the bar to grab the front page of the paper. The bartender says “Fucking shame, isn't it? What the fuck is wrong with people?” The headline had my father's name on it… He murdered his wife while she slept. My chest was pounding. No one knew that this connection existed with me and this person… Thankfully. I ended up working the rest of the day, that day. I was in disbelief the whole time.
My father killed someone in cold-blood. I was 17 and wondering what this meant for me. This was a part of me. This is where I came from, I thought. It's something I struggled with often and was one more thing heaped onto the other shit I tried to hideaway about myself. I didn't like who I was and I didn't think other people would either. Because of what had happened, my father died for me that day. The obvious damage and sorrow he wrought upon the family of the woman whose life he took will never go away and will be forever felt because of the void that is left behind. I would never meet this kind woman who believed this monster that is my father… I was so angry, so sad. This is was me.
Googling my father isn't necessarily an awesome task by any count. The first result is from the daughter of the woman he murdered. It's a blog post about how he was released from prison and people should exercise caution… And she's right. People should. I would love to reach out to her and apologize…but what good would that do? I still think of the lady that reached out to me and tried to give me my father back…
I spent a lot of time wondering what would make a person think like this and do these awful-atrocious things. I would stay awake wondering if this was my destiny… To be like this monster. Fortunately I came to my senses. No… Fortunately I was loved. Really loved by a good many people and they always reminded me of “why” they loved me. So I began to file this piece of my history away. I've spoken of this only a handful of times and only now do I feel comfortable enough to share it with a bunch of strangers and friends/family .
What he had done wouldn't define me, I said and I went on.
But… It kinda did.