“You were protective.”
It wasn’t a thank you; it was an accusation. He was pissed.
Yes, my seventeen-year-old son can be a little shit. Fortunately, I have read the psychology on pubescent boys and needing to distance themselves from their mothers as they become men, so I let him live.
My son’s opinion pierced, though. I adored this kid most days, and his charge got me seriously questioning my parenting choices over the years—because I care what my child thinks.
Had I gone terribly wrong somewhere?
Thoughts raced through my mind from the last seventeen years of keeping my babies close: allowing no sleepovers when they were young, requiring trusted chaperones on late nights, asking the hard questions, being present and purposeful each moment I could summon the energy—and sometimes even hovering to the point of annoying the heck out of both my kids.
Had I been too protective of my son and his twin sister? Was piloting my own mommy helicopter on a daily basis a bad thing? Did shielding his eyes from every crappy part of the world hinder his growth? Had my intentional parenting hurt my children in some irreparable way?
Probably, yet I could not help but wonder if my son only knew what I knew, would he finally get his mother and her “smother-mother” approach to parenting?
Wish I could summon the courage to share all my stories with my twins right now. That might help. But my child(ren) have no frame of reference for my experiences. They know very little of my backstory. Shared a bit here and there, then one day, I chose not to tell them anymore, because, for me, life had been very different …
It was late, and I was shivering when I stepped out of my pickup truck and handed the man waiting for me a tightly wound thick roll of bills. My nerves shot. 16k was A LOT of money. My hand shook, and it almost dropped to the ground.
I hadn’t wanted to participate in this interaction to begin with. I immediately lost my patience and whispered in a visceral moment of frustration, “Take it!”
The man in charge acknowledged receipt of the package by simply nodding and then, he told me not to move.
His weary eyes darted past mine. He made contact with an arrogant looking thug, hanging out of the front passenger side of a dirty white van, coming up just behind me.
I didn’t understand what was about to happen, but my intuition told me to get out of there.
As I turned to leave, my ears began to hurt from the deep booming base echoing from a rap song, shaking the ground under my feet, as the music got closer. The loud music was coming from the van. Alarm bells went off in my head. I felt the man touch my arm, lean into my ear, and sternly instruct me, “Do NOT turn around.”
It was a warm night, but I froze.
The grimy van pulled, continued to cruise further down the parking lot of the Ramada Inn into a vacant spot. The engine went quiet.
It wasn’t a request. My hands were not bound, nor my feet, yet I was his captive.
I implored the man to release me, my eyes pooled with tears.
He shook his head, offering no sympathy; just a few words of cold, matter of fact advice,
“These guys are bad. If you run, they will hurt you.”
He glanced down at the wad of cash, clenched the bills and began to walk toward the van. The young Hispanic guy had jumped out, come around, and was now leaning against the back doors, watching our interaction with a focused interest. Waiting.
A few steps in, an afterthought prompted the man (who brought me there) to rub his brows in frustration. He turned back and warned, “These guys are dangerous baby girl. Don’t F*#* with them. They will kill us both.”
A tear ran down my cheek.
I was bewildered by his words, by my biological FATHER, and his unfathomable sociopathic ability to compartmentalize his mind to a frightening place of callous indifference, my composure withered, and the childhood endearment he used filled me with rage.
His baby girl?!
The man who had enlisted my help that night? The criminal? Yes, he was also the man I had called daddy for most of my younger years.
Now? That man was a GUN RUNNER for a violent gang that owned the back streets of Los Angeles.
Now, he owed them thousands and thousands of dollars for the sale of those guns–and he was using ME to pay them back.
Now, his flagrant disregard for my well being consumed my mind, body and soul with a debilitating hatred and regret.
Now, I found myself immobilized by terror, standing in a parking lot of a motel somewhere in East LA, in the middle of the night.
How did I get here? I don’t belong here. I AM A GOOD GIRL.
All I did was bring him the money he had asked me to hold onto. I had no idea where it came from, or where my father had intended it to go. I was simply returning what was his. How did I get here again?
It took me a moment, but a lifetime of having to think on my feet enabled me to push my feelings of defeat aside and gather my senses. Since I watched crime dramas on the telly, you’d imagine the answer for survival was obvious, but it was not. You can be calm, cool and collected most days and still find yourself paralyzed by an unexpected situation.
Finally, an instinctive fear of imminent danger took hold, and naively, urged me to run. But where?
It was late. After midnight. Nobody was coming or going. The front office of the motel was lit up. An employee was inside working just behind the counter. I contemplated screaming. Yet, I could not utter a word. In the end, somewhere instilled inside my core reminded me of what I already knew: my efforts would be futile.
This was daddy’s world. He was a gun runner. Laws were meaningless here. I was his daughter. The good girl. The rule follower. NO WAY OUT.
Voices rose above the sounds of traffic whizzing by on the I-5 freeway. I could tell my father and the teenage thug were wrapping things up. Backing out, the van drew closer once again. I averted my eyes and began to tremble. Quietly, this time, the van passed me by. Uneventfully.
The gang had let us live after obtaining the cash. Dad still owed them more; keeping him alive was a no brainer. Me? I’m not sure. Maybe I wasn’t relevant? Maybe it was the braids in my hair? Maybe it just wasn’t worth the effort.
My father, who appeared relieved, walked up and announced nonchalantly, “Alright. You can go now.”
I wanted to slap him. My entire body shuddered. I held back a floodgate of emotion. Got into my truck and slammed the door. “Don’t ever call me again. LEAVE ME ALONE.”
The pain of others never seemed to phase the man who gave me life.
“Keep an eye in your rear view mirror. These guys know you brought me the money tonight. They might follow you home for more.”
Fear induced blindness brought me to a halt.
There was no denying I was in the presence of a sociopath. No guilt. No remorse. No sorrow. Only a cruel glint of truth resonating from my father’s eyes revealed: this man was enjoying himself.
I drove home that night (praying nobody was following me). The pain of betrayal became too much. I wept for my father. I wept for the little girl that lives inside me that needed her daddy night and all the nights before. I felt overwhelmed with the loss of something vital; something I never had; something every child should be in possession of- parental concern.
How could someone go so wrong? How could a father risk his own child’s life like that? The real question I should have been asking myself was: how did I not see it coming?
Mental illness is real. It talks and walks and lives among us. It has a mind of its own; posing as a rational human being on a good day. On a bad day? It rises as a highjacker of the senses, of the most unforgiving kind. Tragically, we are all the victims of its insidious desire.
My biological father had been mentally ill all my life. I knew who he was. I wanted to be the gun runners good girl anyway. I loved him. I loved my father.
You can love someone, and not understand them.
Tonight, while writing this piece (and examining the genetic wiring in my own brain) that indignant seventeen-year-old that accused me of being protective? He walked into the room. I turned around in my chair and pounced on him without apology,
“Yes, I was protective. Yes, I loved you. Yes, I cared for you. I kept you safe! DEAL WITH IT.”
My precious child was clueless, self-absorbed, healthy teenager raised in a bubble of love. With that confirmation; his reality that he knew nothing of my reality, I was filled with peace. Helicopter moms are good girls.