I was on my knees in the family room of our home. It was about 5:00 am and I was reflecting on some journaling that I had been doing for the past few months. It was suggested that I think through everything that I had written down about my past memories to be sure that I had everything.
I had been through a detox facility three months earlier to get off of pain pills a few months after having major back surgery. I had been off of the pills for three months now. I had become addicted to them and now I was “cleaning house” so that it wouldn’t happen again.
Suddenly, it hit me like a freight train. My initial thought, as fear began to grip my entire being, was “Oh My God”. I said this to myself over and over again. I began to tremble as the memories returned. There were so many emotions that the feeling is almost indescribable. This moment that I was remembering was so powerful that it led me to dismiss the existence of a God, at the time. This was my darkest secret and I had buried it deep. I spent years burying this secret so it would never see the light of day. Now here it was, and I was trembling, alone in my living room. On my knees, before God. The very God that I had dismissed all those years ago, shaking with fear…and full of shame.
The memory was from 1987. My father and I were sitting at a table in a bar at Applebee’s restaurant drinking a couple of beers. He had some “good news” and was excited to see me. He was overflowing with excitement and pride. He had some money for me.
My father liked to surprise people with “good news” so he smiled and handed me what I remember to be about $3,000.00. I really needed money at the time so I was extremely happy to get this money. Until I found out how he got it.
I asked him how he got it. This is the question that would change the course of my life. He asked if “I really wanted to know”. And I said yes. He asked if “I was sure” as though this was something extremely sensitive and I said yes again. I think we repeated this a couple of more times. After the second time he asked if “I was really sure I wanted to know” I didn’t want to hear the answer, but couldn’t say it. That thought was frozen and I couldn’t get the words out. Part of me wanted to know (out of curiosity), but part of me already knew that this was going to be bad. Very bad. I was already feeling sick, but couldn’t show my Dad that I was beginning to panic inside. I steadied myself, focused on my beer and listened. He said he stole the money from a “couple of dirty n***** drug dealers”. Here is how he described it to me:
He said that he set them up to believe that he had a large amount of cocaine buried out in the woods. He told them it came into his possession by some sort of fluke accident and he had no idea what it was worth. He told them he didn’t know anything about drugs and just wanted to get rid of it. The price he gave them was about one quarter of what it was worth. He said they fell all over themselves trying to take advantage of him. Said they thought he was a stupid old fart, white guy that didn’t know “what he had”. This was the con. They couldn’t resist it. Of course, there was no cocaine, and my father knew exactly what they would think it was worth. This was easy, he said. He absolutely loved to play the old fart role and use their greed as motivation. He was going to pay them back for “trying” to take advantage of an old fart like him. They were the bad guys, according to him.
He said he picked them up at the airport. They were wearing a sports jump suit and wearing a lot of jewelry. Typical “N******” he said. He played up the dumb white guy role as they drove out to the woods where he told them it was buried. They walked to a spot by a pond where he said it was located and began to dig. They were all three together. As they were digging my father told them that he needed to go back to the car to get another shovel to speed things up. He casually walked back to the car and opened the trunk as they continued to dig. He said he was very calm.
He wasn’t getting a shovel. No, he had a shotgun in the trunk. He said he leaned in the trunk, pulled out his shotgun, took aim and fired killing one of the black guys. He said he dropped immediately. He then pumped and shot the other guy in the shoulder and neck area, but he said it didn’t kill the son of a bitch and he ran. The level of excitement in my father’s voice increased dramatically as he told the rest of the story. He said “shit, I didn’t kill that bastard and I thought he was going to get away”. He laughed at his inability to hit his target.
The next part was described with great pride. He brimmed with satisfaction and delight of his own intelligence at how he improvised.
He figured the other guy had nowhere to go, so he went to the car, started it and backed it out of the woods. He made sure the other guy, if he was watching, thought he fled the scene. He parked the car and began to “slip” back into the woods towards the spot that he murdered the first guy. He explained how proud he was because he used his turkey hunting experience to slip back up on the wounded number two guy. As he quietly settled in with his shotgun pointed directly at the spot where the hole was, sure enough the second guy came sneaking back to see his friend. My father patiently waiting until he returned to the spot and dropped him. This time he didn’t miss. “That dumb n***** came right back to the same spot just like I knew he would”. He was giddy and excited.
Normally he would be watching my reaction to see if I was accepting of his behavior, but not this time. He was too full of himself to worry about what I thought. He also thought it would be totally acceptable to “kill two drug dealing n****** like these two pieces of shit”. How dare they think they could take advantage of an old fart like him? He had made them pay for that and he felt good about it.
Me, I stared at my beer and desperately tried to rationalize what was happening. It wasn’t computing and I was stuck. I stared at my beer and couldn’t wait to get away from him. But for now, I had to act happy for him. He would later say that he “remembered celebrating that moment with me”. I wasn’t celebrating. I was drifting, drinking and looking for relief from this pain. I was alone on this one and couldn’t tell a soul. I didn’t know who these guys were, where they were from or exactly where this had happened. No bodies, no crime scene? No, I was in deep with no where to go. What I didn’t know was there was more to come.
After we left the bar he took me out in the parking lot to show me the cash. He opened his trunk and showed me a black bag that contained about $25,000 to $30,000 (I don’t remember the amount). I looked and mustered a smile. “Neat Dad, nice job”. I wanted to throw up, cry, call for help, and yell. No where to turn. It was me and Dad.
Looking back, I did exactly the opposite of what I should’ve done. I turned away from God instead of towards him. I’ll never forget driving home on I-4 with my mind racing. So many questions, so many thoughts. Could I stop him, who do I call, what do I do now? Then I came back to the bigger question that was on my mind. How on God’s earth could something like this happen. How could this be? I was not a faithful person, but surely this couldn’t be a planet with a God? So right there, I decided that there was no God. Couldn’t possibly be. This, I tried to rationalize was a “nature thing”. The result of evolution and us being animals. My father was simply a predator and they were his prey. For the moment, that is how I accepted it. I rationalized this over and over. No God, just nature at work and I had a weird seat that most people don’t have. He was a predator, that’s it.
Later, this experience would add to the new “character behaviors” I was developing from being around my father. This one was interesting. Somehow, I would later bury and completely delete this memory from my record. Apparently though, like a computer, it was still on my “hard drive”, I just needed to look hard for it.
Now back to the morning that I was flooded with these memories. I again felt sick, but this was a different kind of sick. The kind of sick that comes from shame and wondering if somehow you could have protected people from being hurt, but did nothing. I didn’t understand the timeline of what I knew, when and if this knowledge could have stopped him along the way.
For now, I had to put these feelings aside and just do the right thing. What happened in the past had nothing to do with what I needed to do today. I went in the bedroom and sat down with my wife. I began to tell her the story. She had always suspected that something was bothering me deep down. We had been married for 13 years and she had seen me battle countless physical illnesses including back pain, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep apnea and random nose bleeds. She always thought these were caused by something “mental”. I think she found relief in this memory. It explained so many things about me that she had suspected.
We talked and I knew what I had to do. Sure it had been 17 years and my father was already on death row, but the right thing to do was to call the police and tell them my story. No choice here. I didn’t need time to think about it, only to consider who I would call.
This would be the beginning of a trip down memory lane. One that covered years of living with a sociopath. Lost memories, most buried deep inside me from as far back as I could remember. Suddenly I began to understand everything. As I began to recount my father’s behavior and crimes I also began to learn about sociopaths. It was frightening and liberating at the same time. If you have crossed paths with a sociopath or have one in your family I hope my experiences help you see that there is hope and you are not alone.