Guilty!

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to feel guilty for my dad’s crime.

I felt paranoid. I worried that the police were going to come to my house and confiscate my computers. Maybe they were going to investigate me. I knew the fear was irrational since I’ve never done anything the police would take an interest in. All other family members that I talked to about it felt the same way. It was like his dirt rubbed off on the rest of us. We all felt familial guilt for a crime only one of us committed.

The bar was set low. It didn’t take much to step over it. I wanted more for my children, for my brothers and I. I wanted a family name they could strive to live up to. Would we be looked down upon for the sins of our father?

Would they take our foreign exchange students away? I would feel a moral obligation to report a conviction to our coordinator like she told us to if the case should arise. She did have an exchange student that wrote letters to an exchange uncle in prison who was removed from the home she was placed in. Maybe they would get removed since they saw my dad once or twice before I knew of his crime. I was not planning on having them around my dad again. My brother Luke was also not planning on having his pre-teen daughters around their grandpa ever again. Do you know how difficult that was especially around Christmas time? I hope not.

I didn’t want to see my dad again either. The children were what I was living for. Otherwise I might not have bothered getting out of bed. I had to have them up and ready for school in the morning. I had to force myself to be excited, to give them a memorable Christmas. The kids are really what kept me going. I had to be alive for them. What if they were taken away? How would I explain things to their parents? Was I going to be punished for his crime? Does the trauma never end?

I felt like I received a life sentence for a crime I didn’t commit. All happiness and joy were striped away. I was guilty for a crime I didn’t commit. Guilty until I could prove to be innocent.

Panic Sunday

That is how I ended up almost having a panic attack singing on the worship team in front of church on a joyous December morning.

I received a phone call from my daughter minutes before the service began. Grandma knows…the police didn’t arrest grandpa…guns in the house…a felon with nothing left to lose…depressed before…we need to get grandma and Matt out of the house…homicide?…suicide?

I received the two minute warning that I needed to go up and sing. I quickly said my good-bye as I threw my phone in my coat pocket and ran onstage. Maybe I should’ve taken some time off. When life goes to crap I tend to carry on with my plans. Maybe that was a mistake.

It was almost impossible to sing praises to God as I imagined my dad with a gun to my mom’s head. Singing may have calmed me in the past, but with each word my panic built to the point I almost ran off the stage mid song. I had a hard time keeping it together as the what ifs clanged in discord through my mind. It was agony to feel this way yet having to pretend that everything was fine. The service was being recorded and was live online. The whole world could watch me freak out.

I called my mom as soon as I could afterwards. She had tickets to see a show with Matt. She was going to pack her bags and come over after she took Matt back to his group home. With four teenagers in the house, I didn’t have an extra bedroom for my mom but she was welcome to stay here as long as she needed to.

I was still afraid of what my dad might do when she left. Should I go over there and try to talk with him? Was he angry with me because my daughter turned him in to the police? I called my brother Luke. He said if there was any chance that I could be in danger I shouldn’t go. It wasn’t like I had a car to drive anyway. The girls were in a matinee performance at the theater and needed to use my car since Paul’s truck broke down the day before.

Luke said he was going to give our dad a call and talk to him about Jesus just in case it was their last conversation. He said he could never forgive himself if he didn’t reach out. He also said it was time to tell our brother Mark and he would make that call as well. I decided it was time to tell my adult son Alex. Alex was very upset about the news and said he never wanted to see his grandpa again.

I decided we needed to keep the doors locked day and night just in case grandpa tried to come over and retaliate. I didn’t feel safe. We were on high alert. Later that evening my mom came over. I was relieved that she was safe. There was a lot of crying and whispered conversations behind closed doors. It was obvious that something was wrong. I told the children and people somewhat close that my parents were thinking about getting a divorce. It wasn’t an outright lie because it was possible, but it was far from the truth of what was really going on…

The day the police came

The day the police came was a day like today, a Friday afternoon in early December. It was the opening night for the local community theater show that my daughter Arabella and our foreign exchange student Clara were performing in. The following day was the extended family Christmas party.

The original plan was that my brother Luke was going to be coming home to visit my parents with his family. They were going to see the show and go to the Christmas party. But thankfully my brother cancelled those plans after he was diagnosed with kidney disease a couple weeks before. The doctor told him he needed to try to take it easy and cut back on some of the stress in his life. He decided to stay home instead. Otherwise he might have showed up as the police arrived.

The police knocked on the door asking for my dad. My mom said he couldn’t come to the door because he had a hard time getting around. Several officers came in to talk to my dad, several more to talk to my mom, and another to search my parents house.

I thought my dad was going to be arrested when the police came. Instead they took all the computers in the house. They also went through my mom’s ipad and phone which were as expected clean.

My brother Matt was home for the weekend too. He wondered why the police were at their house. My mom told him that they were checking to make sure the computers were safe. Surprisingly, the answer seemed to placate Matt. He didn’t seem to notice that our mom was crying. He wasn’t shocked or angry. He somehow believed that several squad cars can show up at someone’s house just to make sure everything was safe. Life went on as normal for him.

That night my mom attended the show. My best friend Cindy and her family took my brother Luke’s tickets. My mom carried on as usual. I acted like everything was fine as well. We rivaled the community theater performance.

I didn’t know that the police arrived at their house until a couple days later.

What? A crime

After a sleepless night, I decided to call my therapist’s office first thing Monday morning. What could it hurt? Surprisingly, she answered the phone. She was able to fit me into her schedule later on that day.

I was a mess. I was worried that all the healing work I had done would be undone with one swift traumatic blow. I had been in therapy alone for a couple months. I just started seeing a wellness nurse for my health issues. Would I fall back into a sick game of trauma Tetris?

My daughter was going to report my dad’s crime that night. I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t settle down. I couldn’t believe what had happened and was trying to process everything.

I did feel a little better after seeing the therapist. It’s totally crazy, but the only people I feel that can understand me are the people highly trained in dealing with trauma or have been there themselves. Those people are hard to find and are so terribly broken.

The following evening my husband and I met with our pastor and his wife. Our pastor said my ultimate goal was forgiveness. But I was not even at step one, acknowledging the fact that my dad is a pedophile. Anger burned inside my heart for my pastor. I felt jealous because he had the type of parents I wanted. I wanted more than anything to belong to a healthy loving family. He had no clue what it was like to deal with trauma. It wasn’t his fault, but I resented him for it. Although, in his defense, he had no idea what he was getting himself into and wasn’t trained for this.

No one really knows what to say. I don’t either. When your good godly father dies, I don’t know what to say to you. It seems insensitive to say that I wish I had a father like yours. It doesn’t matter if he is dead. Many times I wished my dad was dead. Then, perhaps, this hell will end. But will it if it is stuck inside of me? Maybe I will always carry this baggage long after the train has left. I suppose I will have the answer someday, but it doesn’t make me feel like a good person right now.

Later that evening I received a phone call from the police. By then my nerves were shot. The officer asked me a lot of questions. What are the birth dates of your parents? Do your parents own guns? Did anyone else live in the house and have access to the computer besides your mom and dad? I told the officer that my disabled brother lives at home on the weekends. But I also told him that he cannot read or write which crossed him off the suspect list. I nervously answered all the questions asked of me.

The officer asked me to not have any contact with my parents until they talked to them. I thought I would be getting a call from my mom after my dad got arrested. But that is not what happened.

Dangerous addresses, part 4

I found myself asking how much my life was worth.

Sometimes when feeling down I found myself teetering on the fence between life and death. Will I choose hope or despair? There is a reckless courage when you find yourself in that place.

But when pressed, when my life was in danger, it showed me how much I wanted to live. I had to continue on the path to hope, healing, and growth even during the moments I wanted to say screw it all.

As my time with the census came to an end, they were looking for people willing to travel. I said I would be willing to go to the furthest north woods of Wisconsin. Yes, it could be very dangerous. It was very remote with limited cell phone coverage. Heroin is a big problem in some dead end towns. Wandering into a property illegally growing marijuana. Dangerous. Wild animals. Finding bathrooms. It was an adventure I was up for.

I awaited my instructions to travel, but they never came. Instead, I got a call about travelling to Milwaukee. Now that is a different kind of dangerous. This year alone Milwaukee surpassed the highest annual homicide rate ever recorded. Unfortunately, this year isn’t even over yet.

I turned it down.

My supervisor said that another employee went, an African American woman. She was sent to such a horrible neighborhood that she was utterly terrified and asked if she could come back home. I think I made the right call.

They were looking for census employees to go to Detroit, Kenosha, and Atlanta as well. It takes a special (or should I say crazy) person to do the census especially in dangerous unfamiliar places.

If I had the chance, would I choose to do it all over again? Absolutely! Will I work the 2030 census? Probably not.

Fortune cookie wisdom #17

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Let’s talk about wheels a bit today…shall we?

You may remember a couple of months back when I told the story of my son’s new set of wheels…The very night, less than several hours after we got him the car, some small town criminals decided to chase him down because he was squealing his tires. They smashed the front end of his car and took a tire iron to the back of it.

Shortly thereafter, he hit a deer which smashed his headlight. The car was also leaking oil everywhere in big pools. We decided to make an appointment with someone that would fix foreign cars. It took a couple of weeks to get in.

Once the mechanic opened the hood, he took one look and said he wouldn’t work on it. He said that someone spent a whole lot of money to make the car completely worthless. In essence, we bought a lemon. It was their policy that they do not work on modified cars. So here we were stuck with a 17 year old foreign modified car that no one would fix. He did say that it would probably cost thousands to fix the oil leak.

Then we got the estimate for the damages incurred. The damage from the deer cost $2500 and the damage from the hoodlums was $3500. So, technically, the first few hours after my son got the car it was already totaled.

The two offenders are middle aged men. One man was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property. The other was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass to property when he chased my son and his friend into the friend’s house threatening to kill them. We are hoping to get restitution for the damage to the car.

Now apparently the nephew of one of those hoodlums goes to school with my son Alex. We have had problems with this kid before. In middle school, Alex and this kid wrestled in the same weight class. He was first, Alex was second. One year Alex decided he wanted to try harder. He went to summer wrestling camps and signed up for preseason lessons. He got to be really good at wrestling. He was so good at wrestling that he challenged this kid who was first and beat him several times.

This did not bode well with the other kid who was the son of a son of a son of a wrestler whose ancestors have been going to the school probably since the school first opened its doors. This kid got a group of other wrestlers together and started bullying Alex because he threatened his position. The coach did nothing and finally my husband took the situation into his own hands and contacted the parents directly. That was the year my son quit wrestling after doing it for 8 years, the year he wrestled his best.

Now this kid is talking bad about my son to my son’s girlfriend over what happened with the car. My son said that if this kid disrespects him to his face then he will fight him. He said that if he does that, he would probably get kicked out of school. Yeah, that will show them all! Fighting will surely fix the car and all of the other problems. NOT!

The strange thing is that I understand. When I heard about the hoodlums that damaged his car, I was so angry that I wanted to go over there and kick the crap out of those guys myself. I think I have so much pent up anger and rage that I have one good fight in me. Is that bad?? I would never act on it, but that is how I felt.

So, yeah, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.. I talk about my son a lot on this blog. I probably talk about him a lot more than my honor student daughters.

Bashed

I thought that I would finally be able to get some sleep last night…

It was 10 PM and my son wasn’t home. It didn’t seem right given the circumstances. My husband said that I worry too much and went off to bed.

Earlier in the evening, we bought our son a car. My husband made a bet with our kids when they were very little. If you beat me at chess, I’ll buy you a car. My son ate and breathed chess, even joined the chess club just to beat his dad. Paul is great at chess and I’ve never once since we were together saw anyone beat him in real life…until the day my son did. Immediately I went out and bought him a match box car and put a little bow on it.

That’s when the arguments started. My son wanted a souped up sports car and my husband wanted something practical for him. Finally they were able to find something they could agree on, a 2001 Audi with a stick shift and turbo boost. It is a beautiful car with a sporty look.

After we bought the car, he wanted to drive it over to his friends to show them. We really didn’t have a problem with this. But several hours passed and he still wasn’t home which seemed odd to me for swinging by and showing his friends.

I texted my son and he said he got into a bit of a mess with the car. WTH!!?! CALL ME!!

Alex said he picked up his friends and was driving through the old neighborhood. He was showing off his turbo boost and squealed the tires near several older guys that were outside partying. They were drunk and this pissed them off. (Yes, apparently some people get drunk and crazy on a Monday night in Wisconsin).

One guy got on his 4-wheeler and chased Alex down. He cut Alex off on the road. Alex slammed on his breaks and hit the guy smashing up the 4-wheeler and the front end of his car. The guy climbed off the 4-wheeler onto the hood of the car and tried to smash the windshield with his arm. The whole time the guy was screaming that he was going to kill Alex and his friends.

To put things in perspective, there were around 4 very intoxicated middle aged men chasing 3 teenage boys that squealed their tires near where they were partying. What??!? Who does that?

Meanwhile, a couple other guys got into a pick up truck with a lead pipe. Alex and his friends got away from the 4-wheeler only to be followed to his friend’s house by the guys in a truck that were a part of this group.

One of the men in the truck hit Alex’s car with the lead pipe. He also threatened to kill the boys and chased them into his friend Jay’s house. Thankfully, Jay’s dad was home. He pushed the guy with the lead pipe out of his house while the other guy got in. Jay’s dad threatened to call the cops. The man in Jay’s house said that if he called the cops, Alex would get in trouble for hitting the 4-wheeler.

Jay’s dad called the police and the men fled. Thankfully, Alex knew where the guys lived. Apparently the guy with the lead pipe was a convicted felon. They are facing criminal charges. My son ended up with almost as much damage to his new car as what we paid for it.

Seriously, we just got him the car and in less than a few hours it is bashed in already!!!!! Thankfully, no one got hurt with the exception of the guy that tried to smash the windshield with his arm.

Needless to say, we didn’t end up going to bed until after midnight.

 

Thoughts on Making a Murderer

I feel extremely sad for the Halbach family this year. I am not sure why Netflix released the controversial “documentary” Making a Murderer a week before Christmas. It follows the story of Steven Avery. If you are not familiar with the story, google it. It is a very intriguing story that happened in our state of WI where an innocent man was exonerated for a rape in 1985 due to advances in DNA technology. That was after he spent 18 years in prison. After his wrongful conviction, he filed a civil suit for millions of dollars. But before he collected the money, he was convicted of raping and killing Teresa Halbach with the help of his 16 year old nephew Brendan Dassey. He is back in prison for life.

Back in 2005, during the time of the murder, the media portrayed Steven Avery as a monster. The public was outraged and there was even talk about instituting the death penalty in our state. But this documentary comes from another angle. It tends to portray Steven Avery as the victim. That he may have been set up for a murder he didn’t commit. What really is troubling to me is the media’s ability to sway public opinion in either direction. I have heard some people having the mindset on social media sites that Avery should be freed from prison after watching this documentary. A lot of people have very strong opinions about this without knowing the full picture. I have started to watch the documentary with an open mind.

Do I think that Steven Avery killed Teresa Halbach? I honestly don’t know. Was he capable of murder? I think so. Although Avery was innocent of the rape that he was convicted of in 1985, he wasn’t a model citizen. He was a convicted felon by the age of 18 for burglary. In fact, he was convicted of several felonies before his rape conviction that he was exonerated from. At age 20, he was convicted of animal cruelty for the merciless killing of his family cat. If that doesn’t show psychopath potential, I don’t know what does. He also ran a female relative off the road and pointed a gun at her. Her husband was a police deputy. That was not very smart on Avery’s part. Regardless, a 23 year old man spent 18 years of his life locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. At the time of his arrest, he was married with 5 kids. Kids that he never saw grow up.

Do I think that there were some major issues with corruption within the police departments handling this case? Without a doubt. Does it seem odd that there wasn’t blood found at the crime scene? Absolutely. Could Avery have been set up for another crime that he didn’t commit? Maybe. Isn’t is puzzling that the victim’s vehicle was found on his salvage yard property hidden under branches when he could have possibly crushed the car instead? This is where I am going to bring up the point that Avery is shown to have an I.Q. of 70 which would make him on the edge of being intellectually disabled. What really convinced me of Avery’s guilt 10 years ago was the confession from his nephew, Dassey. However, Dassey has a similar I.Q. and his confession seems to be very inconsistent. He didn’t even appear to understand what was going on.

Did Avery kill Teresa Halbach? If he didn’t, then who did?? I find that question to be even more disturbing. Did someone else kill her and the police noticed that she was last seen at Avery’s house which gave them an opportunity to frame him? Seems a little far fetched. Why does Avery’s blood appear to be tampered with?  Nothing about this case makes any sense. This documentary seems to bring up more questions than answers, with no new evidence.