I lost my job recently, and for the first time in my life I had to file for governmental help for unemployment. I had to do a phone survey because of my age…so they could determine if I was an “at risk youth” (or something like that). And as the operator went through the questions I found myself responding like a robot…”Are you a runaway…” “No” “Are you a high school dropout…” “No” “Are you a child of an incarcerated parent…” “No…wait. Yes…actually I am.” Talk about a shock to the system…
But let’s backtrack…to the morning of January 23rd, 2011. A day I will never forget, no matter how hard I try.
I woke up with my phone going off over and over again. I had just gotten out of the hospital and had been sleeping on the couch. It was early on a Sunday morning and I didn’t have to be up for anything, so I continually rolled over, silenced my phone, and pulled the covers back over my head. After the third or fourth time I gave up and finally looked at the screen. 727. I knew that area code. That area code almost always meant bad news for me. It was where my father lived…and after the last encounter we’d had…the last person I wanted to talk to was him. Granted…it was only a few days after my birthday so how shocked could I really be that he wanted to talk to me. I unlocked the screen on my phone and went to browse through the messages.
I read through the first text. What the hell? I was still half asleep and clearly someone had the wrong number. The texts made no sense, and quite frankly I was still too groggy and impatient to sit there and decipher whatever this crazy person was talking about. I responded asking who it was…half of me thinking that one of my father’s drug buddies had gotten a hold of my phone number and was enjoying their early morning harassment. I rolled over to attempt sleep again, and my phone chirped almost instantly. Damn it. I looked at it again, and all the person had sent back was a website. Curiosity got the best of me, so I stumbled and found my computer, and pulled up the address that they’d sent. It wasn’t until the page fully loaded that I realized my life had just been permanently changed.
It was the main news site from down in Pinellas County, Florida…where my dad lived. And the front page of their website was my dad’s mugshot. There were pictures of a burning house, police, firefighters, crime scene tape…and his mugshot right there. Big and in my face. I swear my heart stopped beating while I processed what I was seeing. The text message that morning had been from his ex girlfriend. And she hadn’t been on drugs…she was telling the truth. I read through the story and felt my stomach twist into knots. “Arrested,” “arson,” “investigation.” I didn’t know what to do first…call my mom, cry…or pinch myself to wake up from this nightmare. I clung to my husband and cried…this couldn’t possibly be happening. My father had burnt this woman’s house down.
Unfortunately that morning was just the start of the hell that has been the last 9 months. Almost to the day. It started with phone calls, facebook messages, and texts from people I went to high school with. Lucky me…my father’s family was relatively well known in my community…so the news of his “ventures” in Florida made it up here quick as wildfire. It hit the local news for a quick second broadcasting his last name (which of course was my last name in high school). People I hadn’t heard from in years (if ever) wanted to talk and wanted to know what I had to say. Newspapers called for comment. How they got my phone number I guess I’ll never know. It would have been flattering had it not been for such horrible circumstances. No child should ever have to respond to reporters about their parent’s problems.
So there’s your first story. Thought I’d go for the big bang on the first shot. This is just a little glimpse into the insanity that I somehow call my life. My father is still in jail, awaiting trial for the 9 counts they eventually ended up tallying up against him. Between the arson, burglary, DUI, and possession…it’s probably safe to assume that he won’t be getting out any time soon.