We laid there, my brother and I, underneath a bed upstairs. We were being as quiet as we possibly could, not just because we skipped school and didn’t want to get caught, but because there was a mutual understanding of the impact this day would have on our lives.
Our father would be sentenced to prison today.
Adults downstairs were talking and we were listening in on their conversation. The voices were of our mother, father, an uncle and my pastor. The conversation ended with a prayer. I had never heard my parents pray before.
After the adults left, we slowly rose from under the bed, went to our rooms and spent the day mindlessly watching TV and listening to music, separately. I can’t speak for my younger brother but I just sat and wondered what the hell was going to happen to my family and our lives.
I was 14 years old, him 12. A rough start to our teenage years.
About 18 months before this day, on the way home from a movie theater, our dad told us about a phone conversation he’d had late at night with my half-sister. She was crying.
“You touched me.” She said to him.
“What are you talking about? Go back to sleep,” he told her.
Our dad explained that our half-sister and her mother, his ex-wife, were up to no good. He claimed he could hear her next to their daughter, coaching her on what to say. It was a plot to get him in trouble for not paying child support, he said.
He thought we should know this in case something happened.
Months passed by and I hadn’t thought twice about that moment. It seemed like such a ridiculous story. A plot imagined up by an attention seeking teenager and a mom who had an axe to grind. At least that’s what I was made to believe.
On the morning of Christmas eve, I was forced to think of that conversation again.
I woke up that morning to the sound of my parents yelling for me to come downstairs. I threw on a shirt and expected to have to do some chores, take out the dog or watch my two younger brothers while my parents went out.
You know, oldest kid stuff.
By the time I got downstairs the cops were putting my dad, who was handcuffed, into the back of a police car.
My mom told me to stay home and watch my brothers until she returned. She got into the back of the cruiser, willingly, and didn’t bother to explain what the hell was happening.
I was left there in shock while my parents were hauled off as criminals.
I found out by calling the police station that my dad was the one being arrested. They didn’t tell me why. But, I already knew. Turns out my mom went along because we didn’t own a car and she wanted to find out what was happening.
My half-sister’s lies got my father arrested… on Christmas eve. I was pissed.
I have no recollection of Christmas Day that year. Truth be told, I don’t remember a lot of Christmases with my family. They seemed to always be met with some type of turmoil and very few decent memories exist around the holidays for me.
I do remember that soon after he was arrested we visited my dad at the city Workhouse — a medium security jail in St. Louis. Bail was set too high and money was never something my family had enough of. He’d be there for months.
Eventually, we were able to free him on bail and he came back home for almost a year. Life went back to normal. I started high school and made the football team. I was able to just be a teenager for awhile.
We never talked about the incident and we assumed the truth would come out in court and all would be fine.
So, here we were the day of the court hearing. The day my brother and I hid under a bed to listen in on an adult conversation. My mom came back home and went to her room to cry, alone. At some point, my two younger brothers and I joined her.
She told us that our dad had confessed. He would spend the next five to seven years in prison. The claims my half-sister made were true.
Our father was a child molester.
Life had changed again. This time, it would never go back to normal.
This happened 20 years ago.
I’m not sure why I‘m choosing to tell this story now and in such a public manner. As I get older it’s become more clear that it might be a story worth telling. I haven’t led a “normal” life compared to most people I know.
I know this because any person I’ve ever told even a part of my story to, which is only about a half dozen non-family members, they always respond the same; with mouth agape they say,
“How the hell did you end up so normal?”
An interesting response, but I know what they mean. I function well. I’m educated. I’m not a drug addict, alcoholic and I didn’t go down the path that most people with my background go down and end up in prison myself. I’m a happy person and I hold no resentment.
It’s the life I’ve been dealt.
Maybe that’s why it’s time to tell it. I’ve never fully addressed my life story and I want to. I want to move on from it and as a writer, maybe this is how I’m able to move on.
Maybe it’s a mistake to head down this rabbit hole but, there are parts of my story that I think could inspire or identify with others. Maybe, if I had read this growing up, it might’ve helped me.
So, I hope this and more stories to come will help someone out there.
Update: This is part of a larger story, that I hope is okay to tell. If you’d like to read part two, click — It’s the Life I’ve Been Dealt, pt 2: In the beginning was abuse.