This story went up as about six different posts in October 2005. I decided to just paste them all here for ease of reading, not that I expect anyone will.
I finally tell the story
This is a story that I told briefly when I first started this website. I have never actually elaborated on it. I am going to do that today. This is the story of how I killed my father.
Dad had been pulled over many times for driving drunk. I know of at least three. His lawyer was always able to get him off on a technicality of one sort or the other (one I remember was that he was pulled over for failure to signal when turning out of the bar’s parking lot. It turns out that, at least in the state of Oregon, it is not required to use a signal when turning from private property onto a main road.) but, dad would never submit to a breath test. Failure to submit to the test automatically suspends your license for six months (dad had good reason to not submit to the test: he was drunk. He knew the lawyer could get him off on a technicality, but if he actually had a breath or blood alcohol test on the papers that would have been a lot more difficult). I am not defending his actions, that is just what he did.
His license had been suspended for about a year by the time he died. In Oregon (all states?) if you are pulled over with a suspended or revoked license the officer will immediately cover the tags on your license plate with black and white striped stickers. The only way to get the car legal again is to either get your license back or sell the car. Neither of which my dad ever did. What he did was put the cars into my name so that they would be street legal again (when he died 4 of his 5 cars were in my name). This might be a long aside, I will tell you in a moment, once my train gets back on track.
The car wreck that eventually led to his death was on December 21, 1990. The reason he got into the car accident was that he was going to go out drinking for the night, therefore he took an insulin shot without eating anything. There was a foot of snow on the roads. He had to drive slower than normal, he never made it to the bar. He went into insulin shock on the way and rolled the van over on the highway. He was clinically dead when they found him. The ambulance that responded noted that he seemed to have alcohol on his breath, but it was really just an odor that smells like alcohol on the breath at those times when his blood sugar was really low (I just tried to google an explanation for it but can’t seem to find one. Hell, maybe it isn’t true at all. I just know that when I had seen him with low blood sugar -dangerously low- his breath did smell like he had been drinking. Yet, once a candy bar was inserted, the odor went away).
He was revived by the paramedics and admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter, where they did actually do a blood test which showed no alcohol in his system, and they found, from that same test, that it was just horribly low sugar. Should have all been well and good. They covered him in casts (the more I think about it I think it may have been both arms and one leg, but I know he had something on his chest as well; it could have been one of those ones that holds the arm out at an angle.), and were going to leave him in the hospital overnight for observation. Unfortunately, he had gotten a DUI not a week before that and was released on his own recognizance until the trial. The cop that had arrived at the scene of the accident happened to be one of the cops that had previously pulled him over for DUI, and insisted that he be released from the hospital to stay in jail until his trial. The doctor released him to the custody of the cop. Dad went to jail.
The people who were in charge of booking inmates, however, were not about to let him stay in their jail. With adult eyes it is pretty easy to see their logic (not the cop that demanded his release from the hospital though), which probably ran thusly, “If he dies in here we are going to get sued!” The next part I really don’t understand. Dad didn’t go back to the hospital, flat-out refused to. He had a girlfriend pick him up at the jail and spent the night at her house (here I must note that it was not a rare occasion when he would go out drinking and not come home until the next day. He was always a smooth talker). That the people in charge of booking at the jail allowed this to happen is something that I will never understand, and I place a portion of the blame for his death on them as well . When I got home from work at about 1 A.M. I wasn’t alarmed by his absence (also to note that the cut off for drinking was 2:30 A.M. in Oregon, so I wasn’t expecting to see him until the next day anyway).
Early the next morning the phone rang, this was also not uncommon. Sometimes dad would leave his car at the bar and ride home with his woman du jour, then call the next morning to get me to give him a ride back to his car. This was far too early in the day for that though. And it wasn’t my father on the other end of the line, it was one of his girlfriends. This was the first time I learned that he had been in a wreck at all. The first time that I heard that he had some broken bones. He wanted me to pick him up and bring him home. I had no idea of the shape he was in (though you do, thanks to horrible story order) until I arrived to pick him up.
It was hard to imagine that this was the same man. His iron fist, my way or the highway attitude, and stern, knowing look were all gone. This was a man, in a bunch of casts, that had to be helped to the car by a forty year old woman and a sixteen year old kid. He was in a bad way, in hindsight. He was also the man without whom I would not be here typing this, wouldn’t be doing much really, likely wouldn’t have ever been created. When it comes right down to it there is a fine line between being a child and being the glue that makes those old playboy centerfolds impossible to open. He made me the former, and lots of magazines the latter (there are ways that I know).
Simply getting dad into the car was a bit of a challenge. He had a full leg cast (as I write this the condition is really coming back) which is really not the easiest thing to try to fit comfortably into a 1976 Ford Courier. He had to sit sideways, damn near at the gear shift, with his cast pointing towards the passenger side. With every bump that we hit on the drive home, which was only about 35 miles but took well over an hour due to the snow, he moaned in such pain that I hurt for him. Several times I suggested that we get him back to the hospital, he would have none of it. Once I got him home, then had to break into his bedroom (the key was left at his girlfriend’s house), and onto his bed, he seemed to relax a bit. He just continually told me that he was fine.
Dad had a phone mounted to his swanky waterbed, so did I (which it took me a year of begging to get). So he actually called a few people during the days that he lay there dying. I didn’t actually pick up my phone and listen in on any of the conversations, but I did overhear a pretty telling remark one time when I went to check on him. Though I don’t remember the exact quote, I do remember the end of the quote with crystal clarity: “I don’t remember any pain until they woke me up.” When I heard that I was afraid that maybe he really didn’t want to live. I was now really worried.
I begged him to let me take him to the hospital, he flatly refused. I went to bed that day (December 22, 1990) crying. There was nothing that I could do.
The phone rang early on the morning of the 23rd, which I believe was a Saturday. It was my Grandmother (of all people), telling me that Dad had just called her to get her to call the house, so I would answer the phone (wake up) and go tend to his needs. Which I dutifully did. Again I begged him to let me take him to the hospital, or call an ambulance, hell anything. I needed to do something other than dump his shit out of a can and bring him peaches. He was not in very good shape. He would hear none of it. He said he was fine. (In my heart I knew that he wasn’t).
I resolved to actually sleep on the floor in the room with him from then on. I wanted to be right there when he needed something. I wanted to help him get better. For the life of me I can’t decide, even in my own mind, whether he wanted to get better or not. Yet, I do know that he never got any better. I kept asking, insisting, that he go back to the hospital. He told me, sternly not to call anyone. He was fine. Yet, as I watched him slowly die, I knew that there was something that I would, could, should do. Unfortunately, by the time I did it it was far too late.
On the morning of December 24, 1990, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I knew that he was dying, and that no one other than me could do anything to stop it. When I woke up, it was to him asking me if I could get him a bowl of peaches. I got him a bowl of peaches, blissfully unaware that he had not been taking his insulin shots. Then I ran upstairs to call the ambulance. I was too scared to go back into his room before the ambulance got there, he had told me, in no uncertain terms, not to call an ambulance.
When the paramedics arrived, some thirty minutes later, I motioned for them to go to the kitchen door. I didn’t want to tip dad off that I had called them. When I opened the door and explained the situation, mostly that they should expect him to be pretty ticked off that they were here at all, one of the medics said, “where is he. We just want to do a couple of tests”. I led them to the door to his room, then said, “sorry dad, I had to call them.” And the medics went in.
The rest was just a flurry of action. I could see medics talking into boxes, saying things like “no breathing. No pulse. Starting CPR (CPR being something that I had actually learned that year at school. Might have been helpful had I used it on him somewhere near the time he actually died, eh?)”. It went on, “Not responding to visual stimuli, blackened residue emitted with chest compression.” It was at roughly that point that I thought to scream “He’s Diabetic!” (might as well have screamed “he’s Mormon” for all the help that was). I really, really wish that this story had a happy ending. Unfortunately it doesn’t.
I had sat there for two entire days watching my father die. I didn’t call the ambulance because he told me not to. Once I decided to defy his order it was too late. Had I stayed in the room with him, I probably would have seen him slip into the coma, and if I had administered an insulin shot it may have kept him alive (although I didn’t really know how to mix the 2 bottles properly, so who knows). Or had I used my newly discovered CPR skills I might have kept him alive until help came, but I was too scared of how mad he would be that I called the ambulance and was too afraid to even check in on him before the medics were there. Turns out I should have checked in on him.
The coroner’s report (there was an autopsy since the death was not supervised, whatever the hell that means) said that the cause of death was ketoacidosis. It is also known as diabetic coma. His blood sugar was damn near double the level that they consider fatal. Yes, he died. At my hand, no less.
I am pretty sure that dad knew that not taking his insulin shots, then eating really sugary foods, was not a good thing. I figured that the reason he asked for a can of peaches shortly before he died was because he hadn’t been eating anything and needed to level his blood sugar out, since the insulin shots lower it so much. I kept taking the canned fruit to dad because I thought he had been taking his insulin. Had I known that he wasn’t taking his insulin I would never have done that. Hindsight, I guess. It may be 20/20 but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
It would be wonderful to blame the police, or the doctors, or, hell, anyone but me. The fact is that it was me, and only me, that could have saved his life. The doctors and the police made some really bad decisions that led to that final situation, but I was the only one with any power at the end. I could have driven him to the hospital when I first picked him up, I could have called the ambulance at any time the two days he was at home. Instead I waited until he was already dead (I didn’t know he was already dead), based on some irrational fear that he would…what?…yell at me? I had always been taught to resepct and obey my elders, and I guess I just wasn’t quite old enough to blatantly disregard that teaching. I should have read the situation and broken that rule on this occasion. If only I had known.
After the medics had been working on him for about a minute I knew that there was no use. They continued to work on him as I went to the phone in the dining room and started calling people. The first person that I called was my friend David, I was hoping he could come over to keep me company during the ordeal. It was his father that answered the phone. I asked for Dave and his dad told me that Dave was still asleep. Then, (odd that this is one of the things that I will never forget) I said, “Sam, my dad is dead. Can you wake Dave up?” A moment of silence, then, “Call 911!” came from the other end. Once I assured him that the ambulances were already there, the EMT’s working on dad, Sam finally did wake up Dave. Though I really don’t remember him being there for a while. Truth be told I don’t remember a lot of what happened for the next four hours.
I continued calling people. The next call went to Dad’s Mother. The only thing that I can remember about that phone call is that the first thing she said after I told her that dad was dead was, “Don’t let them take the furniture!” I don’t know who she thought ‘them’ was, nor why that would be the first thing that sprung into her mind, but that was what she said. I made calls to every relative I could find a number for, who in turn called every other relative, and soon the word was out.
I might try to convey myself as being calm and collected, it was a hell of a situation to be the only person involved in at my age, but the truth is I probably wasn’t. When the coroner backed his suburban down the snowy hill to the front door (the foot of snow made typical post death transport impossible. Even the ambulances were not able to make it down the hill to the house; The EMT’s had parked at the top of the driveway and walked the thousand yards or so down) I jumped up, ran to the door, and screamed “Don’t take the furniture!” I thought I was making a joke based on what my Grandmother said, but no one around seemed to see any humor in it at all. Those around being only medics, the coroner, and some police, who were currently questioning me.
I don’t remember a word of what I said to the police. I don’t even remember a single question they asked. I was just sitting there, tears in my eyes, yet not willing to cry, shaking uncontrollably, wishing it would all be over soon. Then, and it seemed quite suddenly, everyone was gone. It was just me and Dave. How long Dave had been there is something I just don’t know. Oddly, once I realized he was there, I realized that I really wanted to be alone. Not away from Dave, mind you, just alone with my thoughts for a bit. Before he left, Dave opened up the garage door, pointed at dad’s corvette, and said something like “It really is yours now.” Which was true, it had been in my name for quite a while…
Another aside, and just one of those things that I will never forget, is clock on the stove in the kitchen. The clock had mysteriously quit working at 8:17am. Coincidentally, that was nearly the exact time that the ambulance had arrived on scene. That was something that was so symbolic -that the clock had stopped at the time of dad’s death- that it was probably magnifying the emotions I was already feeling. Of course there did prove to be a much more rational reason for the clock stopping: That morning the water in our pipes had frozen (we left the water trickling overnight whenever it was to freeze, I think I may have forgotten it the previous night), causing the pump on the well to overload. For unknown reasons, the oven and the pump for the well shared a breaker. I probably tried to use the water for the first time when the paramedics arrived (although I don’t remember doing it, but I don’t remember a lot of that morning), causing the pump to then overload at almost exactly the time Dad died. But that doesn’t make for a story nearly as interesting as the supernatural and symbolic “stopped when he died” explanation.
I was sixteen. My father had just died. I had a corvette at my disposal. There were exactly two things that I really needed to do (well three). First, I really wanted to go see my girlfriend, she had such a soft shoulder and I really needed it at the time. She was only fifteen at the time and, as ill-prepared for dealing with me in that state as I was with dealing with Dad’s death in the first place. She was very young (not that I was much older), and had never really had anyone that close to her die. We were both so very young, but we had been together for almost threee years -which seemed like forever at 16- and just being with her was probably the most comfort I could have gotten from anyone. There was no way that she could have known what I was going through, she did the best she could though. For that I must thank her.
The second thing that I had to do was not because I wanted to. The police didn’t want me, the minor child, to be staying unattended at home (how attended I had been over the previous couple of days didn’t figure into that logic), so I told them that I would go to my Aunt’s house (the one who is my dad’s twin). I actually did go to her house. Not because I was planning on staying there at all though, no, no, this was all a part of my mission to get to the last thing that I really needed to do.
The third thing that I needed to do was get that corvette out and see what it could do. Which was a pretty stupid thing to be doing on extremely icy roads, but I was sixteen and for some reason even beyond age, I just didn’t give a fuck. I had to drive from my house to Myrtle Point, where the aunt lived, it was about 50 miles I would guess, over one of the most winding roads I have ever seen. There were a couple of straight stretches on that road though, which is how I can tell you, from first hand experience, that the ’70s era corvette is completely capable of going fast enough that the needle passes max on the speedometer (which went to 160mph). Though at that speed the scenery looks like you are going into warp speed on the Enterprise.
I stayed up there only for a few minutes, it seems. The aunt thought that I should go ahead and live with her while completing school. I thought I would rather have died on the way. I think I really did hit warp speed on the way out of Myrtle Point. That night I slept at a friend’s house, I think it was in Roseburg, but it could have been near where I lived. Hell I might have even spent it at my house, I really don’t know. Then, then it all started to get really crazy…
Then it all went to hell
The story of my father’s death has always ended with the actual death, followed by my feeling responsible for it. Mostly because that was how it happened. Now I am going to talk about what happened after that, the names will not be changed, no one was innocent.
If there is one thing that I learned from my father’s death (aside from the obvious; a sick person is not the best judge of how sick they are) it is certainly that you only know who your friends are when you die. To be a bit more specific, you don’t know what your friends are really like until you die. Of course you are already dead at that point so it is not like you can really make any changes to your friends list. So I was the one that got to see just what kind of friends dad really had.
The day after his death (you know, Christmas day) people were already calling and showing up at the house saying things like, “he told me that if he died he wanted me to have “x”. I didn’t let anyone take anything, I was still holding out hope that he had a will stashed away somewhere. As the coming weeks would show, no such document existed. Events that would soon transpire would make that a moot point anyway.
The most pressing issue now was what was going to happen to me (I thought it was the most pressing issue anyway). I had been dating a girl for years, we had plans to get married. We really didn’t understand that we were as young as we were, and couldn’t understand why everyone wanted me to move out of the county to live with dad’s relatives, or out of the state to live with my mom. I wanted to be emancipated, since I was 16 it should have been possible. I don’t remember exactly why that couldn’t work, it might have been opposition from my mother or possibly the Social Security payments wouldn’t come to me if I was emancipated. I don’t know. What I did know was that I was not going to move away. I had been dating this girl for like three years, which may not seem all that long but at the time it was almost 20% of my life.
That was when I made the second worst decision of my entire life (the first being that I didn’t take dad directly to the hospital. And the third came only two years later. Glad I got those horrible life changing mistakes taken care of at a young age.), I agreed to let my oldest brother become my legal guardian. This would allow me to finish my High School years in Oregon, with basically no adult supervision. My brother was four years older than me, but he was not an authorative figure. He told me to jump, I told him to go fuck himself. This was the worst decision I could have ever made.
It is funny as I think back on it. Everyone was trying to do what was best for me. Best for me always seemed to include being ripped away from all of my friends and transplanted somewhere else. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to see what life would be like for me now had I agreed to do what was best for me, I simply assume that it really would have been what was best for me. But children can’t seem to distinguish the difference between what is best for them and what they want. Since I really was just a child I was thinking only of what I wanted.
As I think about it, I bet the only reason that it all went the way it did was because of how hard I was being on myself. I was totally convinced that I had killed dad. That was something that I was trying to deal with this whole time, and I often couldn’t hold back my emotions. Throw out a few comments about how you are going to have to tell kids in your new school that you are only there because you killed your dad and the grown-ups kind of give you some leeway. I was not trying to use that as leverage in any negotiations, that was how I truly felt. So it was decided; I was going to live with my brother in Oregon.
I will go into more detail about the time spent with my brother, as well as give you some idea of the measures people went to to get ahold of dad’s stuff at a later time. Right now I want to go a bit more into the mind and actions of, well, me in the days/weeks following dad’s death.
First off I just have to mention that I had always had a dream that dad would die in a car accident. Though he was always in the Corvette in the dreams. It always happened at the same spot on the road to our house, where he would miss a corner and go careening over a cliff, not a particulary big cliff, to be found dead the next day. The death was always from drowning though. The car would end up upside down in the little creek and he couldn’t get out. Since the car had power locks and windows I have always assumed that the windows simply wouldn’t roll down and that the lock had somehow jammed (I had been having this dream for a long time before he actually died too). I believed this dream so much that I would often stop to look over the ledge, where he wrecked in the dream, on my way home from work. Sometimes I would actually get up and drive to that corner at about 3:00 in the morning just to make sure that he wasn’t laying in that little stream (I think I did that two or three times).
There were times that I would get really worried that he might not make it home. Since this was before pagers or cell phones I had no way to make sure he was alright, but I had a system. You know how it seems like the second you are doing something that you shouldn’t be doing your parents happen to show up? That was my system, and it worked like a charm. I only really ever worried about him when he was driving the Corvette, and it would usually keep me awake until I saw his headlights come down the driveway. When I got really worried, around 3:30 or so, I would do something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing, like, say, handling one of his many guns. I wouldn’t take it out an shoot it or anything like that, hell wouldn’t even load it. I would just sit on the couch with the gun across my lap polishing it, buffing the finish on the wood, oiling the mechanisms, anything, just so I had the gun in my hands. Then, like clockwork, I would see the headlights coming down the driveway, rush to put the gun and oils away, and make it into bed just before he popped his head in to make sure I was there. Irrational behavior to be sure, but it worked for me.
It was with a similar attitude that I faced the reality of his death. I would alternate between times where I thought there would be no punishment for whatever I did, to times where I did something wrong on purpose, in the hopes that he would appear there and scold me for being such a bad son. I had always been so intelligent that it seems odd to me that I would have done such a thing, but it turns out that I might just have been in denial; as long as I wasn’t willing to admit that he was dead that meant that he wasn’t.
I did a lot of really stupid shit over the first few weeks. I mean insanely, near suicidally stupid. One thing I did was play a game of quarters with a guy twice my age. We weren’t playing it with beer though, it was Bacardi 151. I was so wasted afterwards that, I shit you not, I got into the passenger seat of my car and tried to start the glove box. He laughed at me and told me I was on the wrong side, then let me drive home. Even at .8 MPH I was hardly able to hold the road and hit the gravel shoulder many times on the two mile quest. I thought for certain Dad was going to be at the door to give me the lashing of a lifetime, he wasn’t there at all. I went to bed wondering how I had made it home at all, and where the hell was my punishment. It never came.
I never did anything quite that stupid again, but I did a lot of other crazy stuff. Once I realized that I was not getting any punishment for my actions I felt bulletproof, not a good thing for a teen. The reason that it took me so long to get around to actually mourning the loss of my father was that I had spent that entire time either at school, at work, or at a huge kegger down the street. Not thinking about it made it seem not real, at least not my reality.
The most unfortunate thing is that when it finally hit me, the very second I knew that he was never coming back, I happened to be at work. I caught a glimpse of his beard and Roseburg Lumber jacket through a window in the back room. My heart jumped. I ran like hell towards the front (where he was headed) turned the corner to see him and yelled “Da……What can I do for you, Sir?” Everyone in town had one of those jackets, it was only a matter of time before someone with that jacket and a beard would walk past that window, yet, it was at exactly that moment that I realized he was really dead. I made up some sort of an illness to get me away from work for the remainder of the night and drove away.
Away was the only destination I had in mind when I got in the car, alone might actually be more accurate. By this time we had long since been forced to move out of the house where dad died, but that was the direction that I was heading. I went past the turn to the Byron Creek Estates and kept going as the road turned to gravel. Twenty minutes later I stopped, jumped out of the car, and ran blindly down the hill. I had been here many times, but never in the dead of night. I walked the trail carefully during the day, that night I just ran blindly. I ended up in what I will call the amphitheatre (a beautiful rock formation near where I lived with my dad. It was an outcropping that had about a fifty foot vertical drop with a very small stream falling off the edge. If you took the time to walk down behind the waterfall it was even more beautiful; There was enough room that hundreds of people could have pulled up lawn chairs and watched the little waterfall, with nothing but unspoiled Oregon wilderness in the distance. -maybe I should be writing tourist guides-) stood there for a moment. Sat there for a couple more. Then I completely lost my mind.
I was pissed off. At myself, at my dad, at the earth, the universe in general. This was the first time that I was able to express that anger. I screamed my lungs out (maybe I knew where I was going after all; the amphitheatre made it sound a lot louder when you screamed, but no one was within 30 miles of the location), I told my dad how much I hated him for dying, I told myself how much I hated myself for killing him, I told God that I was going to try to sneak past St. Peter just so I could kick him in the nuts (no shit). I yelled at the universe in general. I was mad, damn it! I took my aggression out on the only thing I could find, which was, quite unfortunately, the beautiful outcropping that I previously described. Score that God/Universe:1 My knuckles:0
How long I stood there screaming, trying to beat the shit out of a rock, I will likely never know. It seems that I had exhausted all of my energy in the endeavor, which was probably for the best. I woke up the next morning laying in the softer portion of the gravel/sand mix. My knuckles were crusted with dried blood, my voice was all but gone (something I wouldn’t learn until much later. When it come right down to it you don’t audibly talk to yourself very much), and I just wanted to get home. I was freaking freezing. The standard uniform in the food service industry may be 1)Uniform. 2)Suited to the job. 3)Forgiving of imperfections. They are also 4) Very, very thin. But, I still had to get back to my car before I would be able to get on the road home.
I have to tell you that I found it extremely odd that I couldn’t find a single footprint in the mud on the way back up the hill. So odd, in fact, that I went back down the hill and up the other side to try to find one. I couldn’t find a single footprint on either side. It had rained the night before, as I found once I got into my car, the seat was sopping wet. Yet the mud on the way down the hill was inches deep. Could the rain really have washed away inch deep footprints? Well, the hill was also very steep, I have seen rain do worse. I just thought it was odd, in a strange sort of cleansing way. Whoever went down that hill the night before was left at the bottom, the man coming up the hill was brand new. But still on the universe’s shit list…
The fucking car wouldn’t start, it had a dead battery. Some jackass must have left the lights on. No big deal, it was mostly downhill on the way back, I could just pop-start it. After 10 or so tries at the pop-start I was beginning to wonder why it wouldn’t work. Turns out that some jackass left the car running when he bailed down the hill. Once it was out of gas (I was 16, the gauge rarely ever made it much above the “E” in the best of times) it sucked the battery dry as well. Just fucking perfect. I was able to roll a lot of the distance, since it really was a lot of downhill, probably could have gone a bit further but I was a bit afraid of trying to cross that narrow bridge (it had only 12 inch wide tracks) at the speed I was coasting. There was only one uphill stretch between where I was and the paved road, but there was no way I could push the car up the hill alone. I resolved to push it off to the side and walk down to the nearest house (probably only six miles or so) to see if I could buy a gallon of gas (and this being rural Oregon, nearly everyone had a reserve of gas on their property either for their farm equipment, back-up generators, or nuclear fallout).
The walk wasn’t all that bad. In fact I didn’t have to walk nearly as far as I thought I would. It seems that when you are wearing a uniform from a fast food joint, walking the edge of a deserted road, and it is pretty early in the morning, the passing truckers (logger in this case) get kind of curious, particularly if you are also carrying a gas can and a length of hose. The first truck that came up behind me pretty much locked up his brakes (he would likely have backed up to me had he not been hauling a trailer full of timber). “What happened to you?” he asked.
Shouldn’t this be precisely the point that I realize I am still in my work clothes, it is like 7AM, and I am walking down a deserted road with a gas can and a length of hose? “Ran out of gas.” I said.
“What happened to your hands?”
I looked down at my knuckles, having completely forgotten about the severe ass-whooping I dealt to that rock the night before, “I, uh, tripped over the hose on the way up here.”
The guy just laughed. He did offer to drive me down to the main road though, you know, the one that is actually paved. Beyond that, he offered to drop me off at the nearest house, which was what I was hoping for anyway. He made no further mention of my knuckles, my attire, or the fact that I was walking around with a length of hose and a gas can in the middle of nowhere. (I bet that trucker has a version of this same story that is way different than mine).
The up side is that the place I was eventually dropped off was the home to a man who had 1)a gasoline reserve for his tractor, 2)a set of jumper cables, 3)enough good sense to just do what the man with a hose and bloody knuckles asked him to. He took me back to my car, put the gas in, and jump-started it. I did give him 5 bucks for his trouble (at the time gas was only about a dollar a gallon) and thanked him.
This was, thankfully, the last time I would have to wrestle with the guilt I felt for having killed my father.
Until the next day.
…And then the man started holding me back
This one will also skip past the details about everyone else’s reaction to my father’s death. It is all about me dammit!
It turns out that my knuckles weren’t really hurt all that bad, just horribly bloody. Also the problem with my car turned out to be that the alternator worked while the car was running, but it didn’t do anything towards charging the battery (some diode was bad), so I may not have left the lights on that night…Although I did leave the engine running, so odds are I probably didn’t have the presence of mind to turn the lights off. I was also barely on the upside of the E mark on the gas gauge when I jumped out of the car and ran down to the bottom of the amphitheatre. Lucky the car didn’t roll away, I rarely ever set the emergency brake, but in this case I think I may have used it to power-slide to a stop on the edge of that overhang. That was all in the past though.
I was now a man. I had come to terms with everything, or so I thought, and I was ready to move on. What better way to prove that you are now a responsible adult than to buy a motorcycle? I started off slow, I got one of those “enduro” bikes that are both street legal and capable of mountain climbing. Problem was that it was only a 250cc thing, and I was riding it on the I-5 on my way to work. If a Big Rig passed me it would nearly knock me over. I needed an upgrade. I settled on something that looked much like this. Mine was more beat up, and orange, but other than that it looks just like I remember.
I don’t remember the precise amount that I paid for that little bike, I do know that it was somewhere between $400 and $600. I didn’t buy it because I really liked it, I bought it because it was what was in my price range and it got a hell of a lot better gas mileage than the car I was driving. That thing ran like a champ.
Have you ever been a boy in his late teens burdened by the fact that you recently killed your father? Add to that a shiny new (quite used) motorcycle and see what zaniness ensues. Good times.
It was probably about the fourth day that I had the motorcycle when I decided to see how fast I could get it passed max speed on the dial. I was actually wearing a helmet (possibly the wisest choice I had made in months). I hit the straight stretch right in front of my school and gunned the engine. The straight stretch ran only about a half a mile, and the speedometer only went to 85 I think (I can’t really remember), so I flew past max speed, only to have to slow for the upcoming corner. I had it down to only 80 or so as I flew around the corner, noticing that there was a cop car pulling out of the disused weigh station to follow me. Just fucking great.
I could have run, probably should have, but I didn’t want this whole thing to end in tragedy, so I just slowed down to the 55MPH speed limit and hoped beyond hope that he wasn’t going to pull me over. The cop’s lights came on and all I could think was “fuck”, seemed such a fitting word at the time. In addition to not having any insurance on the motorcycle, I also didn’t have a license to be on it in the first place. This was certainly not going to go well. Again, in hindsight I think the fact that I slowed down might have been the most tangible proof so far that I was coming to terms with Dad’s death; Prior to this I had been very depressed and suicidal, this decision was clearly that of someone looking to the future.
The first words that came out of the cop’s mouth were, “do you know how fast you were going?” I may be stupid, but I was not about to let on, I wanted to know how fast he thought I was going, I just stared at him blankly. “I clocked you at 79 coming out of that corner!” He screamed.
My first thought was, Sweet, he didn’t catch me on the straight stretch. My first words were, “I’m sorry.”
I don’t know what I was trying to accomplish when I said it, but it doesn’t really matter. He took my license, expired insurance card (which didn’t cover motorcycles anyway), and went back to his car. The tickets that he issued me were: Operating a vehicle without a license, Operating a vehicle without insurance, speeding, and reckless endangerment ( the last one was not actually heard by the court since there were no other cars on the road for me to be recklessly endangering). Those tickets were a hefty fine, but I never stopped riding the motorcycle and never got the motorcycle license either. Yes, I was a bit stubborn.
From bad to, well, more bad.
Then I was driving the corvette along one day, getting more and more nervous about why the cop behind me hadn’t pulled off onto one of the side roads. Of course the lights came on, of course I got pulled over. What was the offense this time? It had nothing to do with my driving, it did, however, feature the same cop that questioned me after my father’s death. For reasons that I don’t even want to know, the cop knew that I was only sixteen years old, yet the registration for the corvette said that I was 18 (why did he remember me so clearly?). He just wanted me to straighten it all out with the DMV, so he said, yet he gave me another ticket for not having insurance (it would have cost me $277 a month to insure that corvette in 1990, of course I was only 16).
When you are a teen, if you happen to live 15 miles or so out of town, you don’t really follow all of the rules. I got insurance only long enough to show the paper to the court, then quickly cancelled it. Got me out of the ticket, kept my license from being suspended. Yet, that cop seemed to have an eye out for me, and not in a good way.
All I wanted to do was go to school, then to work, then back home. I didn’t need any of the crap that mr. uniform was throwing at me. Mr. uniform was pretty good at finding me though. A couple of weeks later I was dropping off my middle brother at the bus station, in a car that no cop had ever seen. It was on a deserted street, it was the middle of the night, I got pulled over for having a dim license plate light. The light wasn’t burnt out, it was just “dim”. Guess who tapped on the window.
If you guessed it was that same cop you would be wrong. It was a totally different cop, though I think they shared the same brain. Result: driving without insurance ticket. If I would have had even a dollar to my name I would have fought that charge. A “dim license plate light” is not enough to warrant pulling someone over. Had I mowed down a street full of children that would have been something, but, seriously, a dim license plate light? That was when my driver’s license was suspended.
Not surprisingly, that is also about the point that I started to really hate cops (what a bizarre coincidence).
Shortly after that point my life picked up the handbasket, then started looking for things to ad to it on my trip to hell.
…And then it got worse…
To start, I just want to make sure and mention that my driver’s license was actually suspended while I was still sixteen years old, as alluded to in the last entry. I was not able to get my driver’s license back until I was twenty-seven years old (long story). I do hate “the man”.
I am going to skip, yet again, the story of the behavior of friends and family after dad’s death. I will touch on a couple of things that happened while my brother was my legal guardian, but basically this is going to be the part where I made horrible decisions that forced me to flee the state.
After the last ticket that I got I was no longer able to get insurance at all; the insurance companies all told me that I had too many tickets on my record. The thing is that the majority of the tickets were for not having insurance. It is one of those circles, like when I wanted to get a car. I needed a job to get the money to buy a car, but a needed a car to get a job to get the money to buy a car. Some problems really just can’t be solved. So I was now, quite knowingly, driving around with no insurance, and on a suspended license.
My brother and I had moved into a small house in Winston, OR, it was much closer to work and school, and, frankly, it was all that we could afford, and just barely at that. I managed to finish off my Junior year in High School while we were living there. I think I failed a class, but that was fine since I only needed four classes in my Senior year to graduate, so just one extra class. Unfortunately my two best friends graduated the year before I was supposed to, and they might have had a negative influence on me over the next couple of years.
During the summer break, after my Junior year, I was working pretty much full time. It may have only been 32 or 34 hours a week, but full time. There were bills that needed to be paid and I had to contribute to the paying of said bills. The unfortunate side effect of that was that now that my “full time” paycheck was rolling in (that 600 dollars a month or so) it was being consumed by the household. We actually needed that money just to get by. I continued working full time when Senior year started up. I was only taking five classes, I figured I could just work the 3-11 shift, get to bed by midnight, then be back to school all bright and chipper at 7a.m. Let’s just say it didn’t work as well as planned and leave it at that.
Since my planned graduation, the one that would have happened before my 18th birthday, didn’t work out as planned (there is a wonderful story about that, one that is too long to get into right now), I was no longer getting Social security checks. Once you are 18 they are done, much like child support does if you don’t continue your education. Now I really had to work full time, there was no money coming in other than the wages that my brother and I made. There was, however, a small insurance policy of some sort that paid out when I turned 18. My brother convinced me to use it as a down payment on the dumpiest little trailer I have ever seen. But the price was right, so that is what we did.
I had to actually saw part of the frame off of my swanky waterbed off to fit it into my little room in that trailer (no shit). It was only the part that supported the headboard though, so no big loss. At some point though, while living in that little trailer, myself and my brother just really began to hate each other. Not the sort of hatred where you actually hate each other, this was the hatred that can only come from not having any money to pay the rent, and eating little other than potatoes (in many delicious ways: mashed, fried, baked) for weeks. We didn’t even have such luxuries as a phone at the time (that is an even longer story, yet not the fault of myself or brother), we were barely surviving at all. It was about this point that my brother and I parted ways, and on the worst of terms. Each of us blaming the other for everything bad that has ever happened in the history of mankind.
It was at about this point that the girl I had been dating all of those years decided it wasn’t going to work out between us. It was death to me at the time, damn near literally (committing to suicide is far different than trying it; turns out you have to really, really mean it if your goal is to die). So, without a house, without my girl, all that was left was my friend Dave (and not that type of friend, thank you). So… We became gold prospectors (it would be so funny if it wasn’t true). Cow Creek, in Oregon, has some pretty rich placer deposits and we figured we could cash in on it. We had a dredge, a sluice box, and a lot of free time.
I would be lying if I said that it was a horrible experience. It was pretty disappointing, to be sure, but not horrible. We would just wake up in the morning, throw all the gear into the van (though they call those old Volkswagen vans buses for some reason) and roll to the next place. We did find a lot of gold flakes, even several small nuggets, but hardly enough to endure the toil of it all. Yet, the sleeping in the middle of nowhere, waking up whenever you felt like it, cooking everything over an open fire, that was great. Just being alone in the wilderness, using only your hands and a few simple tools to survive, man, I would love it if everyone had to do that. Even if they only had to do it for a week or so.
The windfall of gold that we were expecting was pretty slow in coming. In fact it never came. We cashed in a few vials of gold at the local gun shop (of all places) but it was pretty obvious that we needed to think bigger. Like The lost Dutchman’s mine. We were obviously smarter than anyone that had ever tried to search out this mythological wealth. We were going to go to Arizona to find it.
The story took a completely different turn late one night. That was precisely when some jackass (all signs point to me) decided to drive all the way to Roseburg for some supplies. Roseburg was about thirty miles away, over some of the most winding roads I have ever seen, at least until Winston when it straightened back out. I had imbibed a bit of the nectar (a bit is quite the understatement), but wanted to acquire food and supplies for the trip. I was horribly drunk (there is no use in lying), yet I was able to drive the car over all of the winding backroads to end up at a particular intersection (if you have ever lived in the area, it is where the road from Green intersects with the road that leads to Roseburg. There is a huge building on the other side, it is a trading post called “Libby’s”.) I stopped, looked both ways, then got rear-ended by a big black truck.
The hit was solid enough that I slid through the intersection, just in time to see the big black truck speed away. Just fucking great. My car is in a ditch, the guy who hit me just sped away (ain’t no one gonna buy that story, especially since I was a bit, um, happy). What could my excuse possibly be? I started walking down the road. Once I saw another car I flagged him down and asked him if he could help me pull my car out of the ditch. He, it turns out, radioed both the police and the local tow truck, then just drove off. Bad, to worse, to hell.
Now, as drunk as I was, I realized that I was in a pretty good position. No one actually saw me behind the wheel of the car, unfortunately I was the only witness to the guy actually rear-ending me and sending me into the opposite ditch. That might not have been good. Bring on the consequences.
No one ever saw me in the driver’s seat of the car. No one ever came forward to say that they were driving the big, black truck on the night of the accident. It was concluded, though not factually accurate, that I just missed the brakes and crashed into that wall. My lawyer (court appointed) said that I should just do a little thing called “diversion” (whereby you can strike the first DUI from your record completely if you finish a simple class). I figured that since the truth was something that no one was going to listen to, that might be my best option. What I didn’t realize was that you had to pay for the class.
I would soon be living in my friend’s garage, but not before a couple weeks spent living under a bridge. Although that isn’t quite accurate, since I had seen the weirdos that lived under the bridges and I was quite afraid of them, so I really slept in a sleeping bag on the shore of the South Umpqua River. I chose a place that was difficult to get to, being past some very thick berry vines, so as not to be disturbed. I called that home for a few weeks. I got a job as quickly as I could, and once I was albe to pay a miniscule amount of rent I moved into my friend’s garage. Then I started going to my “diversion” classes. I continued to work that job for only about six months before I was fired for defending the actions of my coworkers, who were required to sell alcohol to the owner’s minor son, but were fired for selling alcohol to each other. That really pissed me off, since these guys were close friends. I kind of told off the owner and got canned. After that, I simply gave up. I could no longer pay for my “diversion” classes. I couldn’t even pay to put a fairly warm meal on my table, truth be told, I didn’t even have a table.
So I moved to Arizona. I arrived in Arizona with only two changes of clothes and a bunch of cassette tapes. That was quite literally all I owned. Then, it got worse.
My arrival in Arizona was not what I had expected. First of all, the people at Greyhound had neglected to take the difference of time zones into account when they made my bus ticket. That meant that I had arrived in Phoenix just about a half an hour after the bus to Casa Grande had departed, no problem, I could just catch the next one. Problem was that the next one wasn’t until the same time the following day. Call me crazy, I didn’t want to spend the next twenty-four hours in a bus station in Metro Phoenix. I called my mommy.
It took them a while to get there to pick me up. While the drive is only about sixty miles, it is over some of the busiest streets I have ever seen. When they did arrive, and I saw the chariot that was supposed to carry me from the depths of hell to my brand new life, I was really, really scared. The thing could only be called a “car” since it had the requisite number of wheels. Nothing else about it seemed to be car like, at least not in my eyes. Dune buggy perhaps, car, no. I figured I had ridden in worse (where that might have been I really don’t know) so I just threw all of my belongings (being a small duffel bag holding a bunch of cassette tapes and an overnight bag holding what clothing I owned) into the back seat. Then I got in, sat down, and prayed. I am not one that is normally into prayer, mind you.
Now imagine playing some old Atari game, Night Driver for instance. Further imagine that you are actually in the car, feeling all of the bumps along the way. But there has been an old dirt road substituted for the track. The car’s exhaust system isn’t working properly, thus pumping the fumes into the car. The car is traveling way faster than it should be (I mean that car in specific; some cars can do eighty or ninety with no ill effects, this car shouldn’t have crested twenty-five, ever.), like probably about fifty or so. I thought to cry out for my mommy, but she was in the car as well. That ride was one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me, more frightening than many of the car wrecks I have been in.
Now a quick aside about said car wrecks. The first (that I remember) happened in southern Arizona somewhere around 1982. Mom, was driving an old Ford LTD that completely lost control for some reason or another. I don’t really know exactly what happened to make us spin out and careen off of the road, but I do know that as Mom was sitting there, completely white-knuckled, and breathing really heavy, I said something very close to “that makes it really hard to read.” Which, oddly, wasn’t meant as sarcasm, I was honestly trying to read a book in the back seat. Hard to do when your Mom is throwing the car into a horrible spin and flying off of the road (if you are reading this, Mom, and if my recollection isn’t completely accurate, just click that little thing at the bottom that says “comments”. It will give you a place where you can write a message and post it, that way you will straighten me, and the rest of the internet out at the same time).
The next wreck I was involved in was in about, 1996 or so. Mom and her friend Angie had decided to move to back Arizona, which required a car trip. We had a lot of crap to haul, but only two very small cars to haul it in. I ended up in a 70’s era Honda civic with Angie, a couple of cats, and about three metric tons of our belongings. Now the 70’s era Honda Civic was noted for many things, gas mileage, being ugly, gas mileage, cheap maintenance, and most of all gas mileage. What it was not noted for was its hauling ability. Thus, piling tons of books, clothing and other various stuff into the back of it had a noted effect on the handling. Meaning that the ass end of the car was touching the ground while the front end almost wasn’t. A corner was subsequently missed. We smacked into a huge dirt embankment. I, being ever so mindful of others needs, not to mention a huge fan of the Dukes of Hazzard, had the wind knocked out of me, but was not about to stay in that car until it blew up. I screamed “we have to get out before it blows!” and ran like hell. Nothing actually blew up. I did eventually get my wind back, and a small sense of how stupid I was for running from the burning wreckage minor accident.
The next wreck that I was in was self induced. I have mentioned it here previously, thus I am not going to write it again. If you care to read about it, yet can’t find it, let me know. I can’t seem to find it myself right now, once I do it will be at your disposal.
The next one was not actually a wreck, it was a near wreck. Were it not for my ability to think on my feet, act on a fraction of a second’s warning and basically just save the world in general, it would have been a wreck. Thanks to my heroic actions it was only a near wreck, that is something that you should all be proud of me for. Unfortunately it didn’t shake down quite like that, hough it was ultimately me that averted the disaster. Here’s how that one went down…
Dad and me were going to go to some yard sales that morning. It was a nice day for it. Clear skies, moderate temperature, we could spend hours at it. We wanted to eat a bit of breakfast first though. Dad was a bit of a Breakfast snob, he would really only eat breakfast if it was at “the Owl” which was a restaurant that he was buddies with the owner of. This restaurant was also a good forty miles from the house, it took an hour to get there on a good day. Today would not be a good day.
We were actually on I-5 when dad started to lose it. It was, once again, a result of his taking an insulin shot without eating anything (that is why I always assumed that he did them like clockwork). Pretty suddenly, the van bounced off of the meridian (and thank the forces it was there), dad said, “stay in your own lane, buddy.” That was just about the point that I knew that he was not coherent. I had a hunch that he might have horribly low blood sugar, unfortunately the only thing in the van that could possibly have any sugar in it was a single cinnamon flavored tooth-pick. That was SO not going to work. I yelled “dad, pull off of the road” several times. Each time I did that he would dutifully pull off of the road, only to realize that he was no longer on the road, then he would steer back into traffic. I was only 15 at this time, and I really thought I was going to die that day. The thing is I really didn’t want to.
I continued to scream at him to pull off of the road, and he would, only to pull back on once he realized he was no longer in the lane. Sometimes pulling way too hard and causing us to hit the meridian again. I finally jumped into action: I sat in the passenger seat and buckled the safety belt. It was really only grassy fields that were were rolling past, we were only going forty or so by now, every car behind us was afraid to pass, it could work out on its own. Then I remembered the bridges. If dad decided to pull off the road just before one of the bridges that would have led to a lengthy fall, it would certainly have been most unpleasant. Then I really jumped into action.
The van was a 78 Chevy, it had those two “captain’s seats” with a void between them. Dad had built a small seat out of wood that he had placed between them (it was all padded and upholstered to match the van, the term “swanky” comes to mind again, as it so often does when I think of Dad’s possessions), why, I don’t know. I threw that mess out of the way. Now came the hard part. I had to somehow wrestle him out of the driver’s seat while maintaining control of the van. It is certainly true that his mind was not working at this point, his muscles however, never seemed to show any ill effect from low blood sugar. He outweighed me by quite a bit, I was extremely uneasy about how I was going to try to handle it. Suddenly it hit me. I stood right next to his seat and screamed “Dad, pull over!”. Once the van was off of the freeway I made my move.
The van had power steering and an automatic transmission, two facts that I was going to use to my advantage. The second the car was on the paved shoulder of the road I reached forward and turned off the ignition, then I pushed the shifter from drive to neutral, to my dad’s plea, which seems funny to me now, “don’t do that, you’ll ruin the transmission!” If you have ever tried to steer a car that had power steering while the engine was off, you would know that it takes a lot of upper body strength, my hope was that me trying to keep the car on the shoulder, combined with the inherent difficulty of steering it anyway, would let us roll to a stop before he was able to steer us back out into traffic. It took, and I am not kidding in any way, every ounce of strength in me to hold the van on the shoulder as dad was trying to get back on the road. Since he couldn’t understand what was going on, he just kept saying “what are you doing”, over and over again, each time trying to yank it back on the road. I tried to reach the brake pedal but dad’s legs were in the way, one of his legs was actively pressing down on the gas pedal. This went on for about two minutes I would guess, yet they seemed to each last a good hour or so. When the van was finally traveling less than five miles an hour I decided it was time, grabbed the shifter, pulled it back and pulled it up with all my might.
It was a delayed reaction of sorts. It took a couple of seconds, well probably only fractions of a single second but my reference to time was pretty suspect at this point, of holding the shift near park before it actually went into park. The van was going less than five miles an hour, but it still threw me forward a bit when it finally engaged, dad actually bumped the steering wheel during the process, but his body was sort of acting like a bowl of jello at this point. Needless to say, no one was hurt. I swiftly pulled the keys from the ignition and threw them towards the back of the van. It was at about this point that dad said “Why did we stop?” I reminded him that he had promised to let me drive into town, which seemed to answer his question well enough. “Let me help you into the other seat” I suggested. He did let me help him into the other seat, where I promptly fastened him in with the safety belt. There was no way he could figure that device out in his condition. Then there were a couple of things that I had to take care of before we continued.
I needed to retrieve the keys from the back of the van, but that would have to wait for a moment. It seems that a couple of motorists, those who had been behind us as we had been playing bumper cars with the guard rails, were concerned and had stopped behind us. I jumped out of the van, ran to the concerned people, explained the situation, and asked if any of them happened to have a candy bar, of course none of them did. One mentioned that he was going to get to town and phone the police if I left the scene, now, I really didn’t know if low blood sugar could be fatal, but I wasn’t about to wait here until the police arrived. I offered to give him my dad’s information, which was housed in the van, if he really wanted to call the police. I even told him what restaurant we were going to be at. This seemed to sate the man, so we walked back to the van (where I figure I would just take a check out of his checkbook, write VOID across it, then add any other information the guy wanted).
When I opened the door of the van, there was dad, sitting proudly in the driver’s seat. He was merrily driving along, foot on the gas, hands on the wheel, all despite the fact that there were no keys in the ignition. I looked to the guy that wanted the information for a second, then back to dad. “Dad, you said you were going to let me drive us to the restaurant.” Dad didn’t say anything, just got back into the passenger seat. I jumped in, went to the back and grabbed the keys. I got back out again only long enough to tell the man who wanted all of the information to just follow me to the restaurant if he really didn’t believe my story. It was at that point that dad popped his head out the door and said “are you coming to breakfast with us too?” (wonderful timing, that.) The guy agreed to follow me to the restaurant, but took down the license plate just in case.
The guy really did follow me all the way to the restaurant. When I finally parked and got out of the car, the guy ran up to me asking if he (dad) was okay. “He will be as soon as I get a little sugar into him.” was my response. The guy helped me help dad into the restaurant. I didn’t wait for a waitress, I ran behind the counter and got him a cup of Coke, no ice. “Here’s a cup of coffee, Dad.” I said, as I gave it to him. The results were almost instant. Dad looked at me, then looked at the other guy at the table and said, to me, “Who is he?” A question that, thankfully, I didn’t have to answer.
“I’m just an acquaintance of your son’s,” Mystery man said, “He just wanted me to make sure the two of you got here alright.”
Dad looked at him for a second, then looked at me for a second, then said, in a vast understatement, “We got here just fine.”
Thankfully, just then, Jerry, the owner of the restaurant and a good friend of my dad happened to pop around the corner. While dad was talking to Jerry, I asked the guy if he really needed the information, turns out he didn’t. He just thought I was lying about everything the whole damn time.
Funny thing though, as mystery man got up to leave, Jerry yelled, “sure you don’t want breakfast? We have some great specials today.” Mystery man looked at his watch and said, “I am a half an hour late for work as it is, but thanks.” Dad looked at me and said, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t know who that guy was, but I don’t want you hanging out with people that can’t get work on time.”
After a shot of warm coke and a bit of breakfast, Dad was just fine. Until he actually left the restaurant, that is.
“What in the fuck happened to the van?!” You see all of the bouncing off of concrete dividers has a way to leave a mark on a vehicle. The van now had those marks in droves.
I tried to tell dad the whole story, much as it is written here. He stopped me short, “Well, we made it. That is all that matters.”
I am not entirely sure if dad was even coherent enough to have seen the mystery man, whether the mystery man was actually concerned or just thought someone was driving drunk, there are a lot of things that I am not sure of. This story, however, is something that I am completely sure of.
Now, that extremely long digression aside, I had been talking about arriving in Arizona. I got to mom’s house with only one extremely scary car ride as a consequence.
By this point, Hell was looking to me for pointers…
No hand basket for you!
When I left off, after a very long aside about car wrecks, I made the statement that Hell was now looking to me for pointers. I still consider that to be true. The fact is that I am going to really have to sugar coat this next section to make it possible to post it at all. The people involved are all still alive, all have their livelihoods to think about, and probably wouldn’t want to recount the experience anyway. If I ever get around to writing a story about my life I might be able to recount this all factually, for now I am going to have to settle on vague details and no names.
I was on the lam at this point. I would have honestly been arrested if I happened across the path of any law enforcement officer. It is not that I am proud of the fact that I fled the state to avoid my just due, no, it was more about being young and stupid. Of course the last thing that I wanted in my new home was to come into contact with any sort of police officer. Much to my horror, I found that the little trailer park my mother lived in was basically ‘Crack Central’ in the town. Frequented by junkies and the cops alike. Just fucking perfect.
I have never been in law enforcement, but I can tell you that if it takes them months to identify and bring down drug dealers they simply aren’t trying. All you really have to do to find the dealer is find out which houses still have lights on at 3am, have cars coming and going every five minutes around that time, and a couple of guys deciding that this is the perfect time to paint the house. This is likely, at the very least, a distribution center of small amounts of the substance.
So I had gone from the hell I was in in Oregon, where it was easy to simply blend in and not be noticed, to being in the middle of ‘Crack Central’ in a brand new state. A place where the cops looked at everybody with a suspicious eye. I didn’t want to be any part of it, but the truth is I really didn’t have a choice.
A large chunk of this had to be removed at the threat of legal actions from someone I am not at liberty to name.
I got a job immediately upon arrival in Arizona. I had been working there for only a few months when the owner began to feel a bit of pity for me. Especially since my Mom was now planning on returning to Oregon, the state I really needed to avoid for a while. The owner gave me quite a deal on a little studio apartment, so good that I won’t even go into detail here. It was at exactly this point that my life started to suck just a bit less.
I was able to pay off all of my outstanding court fees in Oregon, as well as almost 10,000 dollars in debt in that state in only a couple of years. All, that is, except for one outstanding DUI conviction that I had agreed to go through a diversion course to strike from my record. I made many attempts to resolve that issue. The problem is that the judge in Oregon wanted me to actually appear in his courtroom to talk to him. I was in no position to make a jaunt across a few states to talk to the judge, I needed to be able to resolve this over the phone, which I eventually did. All but the charges for failing to appear in court.
It seems that when I fled the state I had not left a forwarding address (well, duh! That was why I fled the state.), therefore I had failed to appear in court a few times, since I had never received the summons. The judge thought that I might be a “flight risk”. Which I think is wonderful. I fled the state, lived in a different state for a couple of years, then I contacted the court to try to take care of the matter, then they thought that I might be a “flight risk”. They have no idea where I am and haven’t seen or heard from me in years, but when I go out of my way to try to make ammends they get to thinking I might be baiting them so that I can bolt at the last second. Dumbasses.
I had exactly two options. The first was to go back to Oregon to face my day in court. This option would only suck because they would likely add on failure to appear charges for every summons they sent, yet which I never received. The second option was just to wait for the statue of limitations to run out. It is only seven years, after all. That is what I did. I want to make it clear that the DUI itself was resolved when I paid all the fines associated with it. The only thing I was not able to resolve from Arizona was the Failure to Appear charge, which I really, really tried to take care of.
Over the years I befriended a woman who works at the local court (the small town that I live in is actually the county seat), she gave me a couple of ideas about how I could try to remedy the situation. One of them was that I could ask them if they would let a judge in the State and County I was in rule on it, still the judge would not allow it; he wanted to see me in his courtroom. I was never able to resolve that whole situation, well not in the way I would have liked to, but it eventually went beyond the number of years where they would have been able to prosecute. Biggest wimp out of all time.
Once the time frame for prosecution had expired, I called the courts in Oregon to see if I had any outstanding fines. I did, to the tune of only 700 dollars. It seems that once I had passed the point where I could be tried for the Failure to Appear, they put in a ruling with a monetary penalty. I wrote a check out and put it in the mail. A couple of weeks later I called back and asked the same question. No outstanding fines or warrants, sweet. I then called the DMV in Oregon to check on my driver’s license status. It was listed as expired. Not suspended (which it had been), not revoked (which it had been), simply expired. It would cost me 138 dollars to get it back since it had been expired for so long. Unfortunately they would not be able to send me a copy of the license, but they could send me a paper that stated that I had a valid driver’s license in that state, with no driving infractions in the past seven years. They did exactly that.
When I went to the DMV here in Arizona I was expecting to have to take a driving test. I had really only had my license for six months or so, over a decade ago, before it got taken away. I was really surprised when they simply looked at the documentation, checked it out on the computer, then asked me to pose for my license photo. I was trying to look stoic, but to anyone who knows me, that photo came out to look a bit mischievous, maybe more than a bit. When I look at the photo I think that I look like the guy that ate the dog, that ate the cat, that ate the canary.
The reason that I was trying to make sure everything was resolved at that point had little to do with me. I was to be married only a month and a few days after I finally got my driver’s license back. I wanted to make sure that my future wife wasn’t going to be marrying a criminal. I am quite happy that it worked out the way it did. Even happier to find that having paid off all of that debt (from Oregon) had actually improved my credit rating. To the point that the wife and I were living in our very own house (well the bank’s house for thirty years) only eight months after the wedding.
Suddenly, as sudden as it can be after years of toiling to make amends, my life was sucking less and less. I now have a wife who truly loves me, a home that is ours (outright in a mere 23 years). In lieu of the 2.7 children, we have 2 dogs, 7 cockatiels, tons of fish, & (the wife has) several horses.
I would have to say that I am pretty happy and content with my home life. I am living my own version of the American Dream and it is wonderful. I couldn’t rightly ask for anything more. Nor could I want anything more. Happiness is very subjective, I have found exactly the amount of happiness that I had always hoped for, but if that Powerball ticket ever hits I won’t bitch about that either.
Post Script: I really doubt that I will ever take the time to go over this portion of my life again (though I will probably try to lump the five or six stories together on a single page for ease of navigation. No promises). I do, however, feel an urgent need to answer a question that no one has ever asked of me. That question is: “If you had it all to do over again, knowing what you know now, would you have made the call to keep your father alive? Knowing that the decision would have made it so you never would meet your wife, as well as one of your best friends?”
That is a question that I ask myself A lot. If I had it all to do again I would certainly want my father to live, however, I am still unsure about dad’s desire to live or die. Yet, were it not for his death, I would not have met my wife, my friends would be different people, my Mother and Brother might not be who/where they are today (hell, they might not be at all)…
Just now the wife came into the “computer room” to give me a hug and tell me that she loves me.
While I would love to have both a wife and a father, I would not have this wife were it not for the death of my father. That pretty much seals it. Sorry dad.