I went to my father’s court appearance.

I was both surprised and pleased at the amount of family support he had.  In addition to me and my Aunt Wanda, my oldest daughter, Michelle, showed up, as well as my brother and his wife, and my nephew and his wife.

My father cried when he saw me, and just held my hand like a small child.  It broke my heart to see how frail he looked.  His suicide attempt and the subsequent dialysis took a huge toll on him, and I’d wager that he doesn’t weigh more than 120 pounds or so, if that much.  His eyes were dull and bleary, his skin very pasty looking, and his face was drawn and haggard.

We found out that he’d taken a large amount of codeine and codeine based products (Tylenol with Codeine, Percocet, etc.).  He apparently took the codeine on Sunday night and, on Monday morning woke up on the floor of the motel room, unable to move.  He did a lot of damage to his kidneys, and spent 10 days on dialysis.  He also had fluid in his lungs.

Basically, it was just an appearance, and they assigned him a lawyer from the public defender’s office.  I spoke to him afterward and told him to make sure that the public defender didn’t just try to get hold of him by leaving a message at the front desk of the nursing home and calling it good.  My nephew Bobby, who was standing by, got a bit pissy with me, telling me that HE would take care of the public defender, yadda, yadda.  I chose not to fight that battle for the time being.  I told my father that I love him, and my brother wheeled him away.

The Crime Victims Advocate was there – and I said hello and shook his hand and introduced myself.  He and I had spoken on the phone several times prior to the court appearance, and it was good to put a face to his name.

We went to see Le and Vanessa after that, and I was home by 7:40.  I had a hard time getting to sleep, unable to shut down my thoughts.

My first priority this morning was to call the public defender’s office, because I wanted to give his lawyer some information that might help in his defense.  Maybe I’m grasping at straws, and I’m unable to clearly define what my motivations are, but all I can think is that it’s the right thing to do – just like being supportive of Le and Vanessa is the right thing, so is providing any information in my father’s defense.

All of the incidents with Vanessa happened over the summer.  My father readily admitted to me that he did, in fact, act inappropriately with Vanessa, so that’s not in question.  What’s in question (in my mind) is why he acted in this manner.

My father doesn’t like kids at all.  He fathered 5, and was a father to none.  He picks on his grandkids and great-grandkids if they engage him in any way, but I’ve never seen him with a child in his arms or on his lap, and I’ve never seen him play with a kid, unless it’s a specific card game that he plays – and that game is too complicated for little kids.  He doesn’t engage children, they have to engage him or he seems oblivious to their presence.  This just doesn’t fit the normal profile and behavior of a true pedophile.  Pedophiles typically work with children, go out of their way to be with children, engage them readily and easily, and interact with them very well.  This just isn’t my father.  Not now, not ever.

I was talking to a friend of my father’s – a very close friend.  Steve B. owns a tow truck and was a “partner” of sorts in my father’s repossession duties.  They’ve shared a lot together over the years and have always been very close.  It was Steve B. who first called me with the news of my father’s suicide attempt.  Steve recounted an incident to me that occurred the third week in January last year.  

They had been to a horse ranch where Steve goes riding a lot, and then went to Salamanca to the Indian Reservation for cigarettes.  My father told Steve that, the last time he’d been there, he’d gotten out of his car and the next thing he remembered was laying in the parking lot feeling “weird.”  It troubled him enough to tell Steve that he thought he should have someone with him at night when he took cars – someone who could drive for him.

This past summer, while visiting my aunt and uncle, my father just fell down.  He didn’t trip or pass out, he just sort of fell over.  Bob got him up and into a chair, and my father complained that his left side felt a bit numb.  My aunt told my father that he should inform his doctor about what was happening – so my father called the VA and they told him that the next time it happened, to come right in.  My father told my aunt and uncle that day that this had happened to him several times – one minute he’d be fine, the next minute he’d find himself on the floor or the ground.  My aunt worried that he was having “TIAs” at that point.  (A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a transient stroke that lasts only a few minutes. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted. TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to those of stroke but do not last as long. Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may persist for up to 24 hours. Symptoms can include: numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; and difficulty with walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.) ** sourceNINDS  This is the same time that things were happening between him and Vanessa.

At this same time, his treatment of Le became really nasty (more so than what is normal for him).  He’d call her a “…dumb, fucking bitch,” tell her “I ought to punch you in the fucking mouth,” and he began to accuse her of wanting to leave him as soon as she got her green card.

At Christmas time, when he was with me, he became furious with Le because she’d missed the exit on the expressway to get to our house.  She had never driven to my house by herself before, and he was absolutely furious with her.  Furious to the point where even *I* was shocked by his reaction.  “Stupid fucking bitch, I should punch her in the fucking mouth!”  It was unreasonable, given the situation.  Completely unreasonable and uncomprehendable.  

Lisa went to get Le, and my father sat and shook his head and said “I get too upset with her, and treat her badly, and I need to stop doing that.”  I think his behavior surprised him, too.  It seemed, at that point, that he didn’t understand his own behavior.  Later that night, he noticed that Vanessa’s new knitting kit that I’d given her for Christmas was open.  He became enraged, saying that he’d told her not to open it until she was ready to learn from me, and said he “…ought to beat her ass right into the ground.”  Again, completely over the top for such a small thing.  I chalked it up to stress and after-effects of the stroke.  

Unfortunately, from what I’ve read recently about strokes, all of his bizarre behaviors and thinking over the past year could well have stemmed from damage to his brain suffered from these “TIAs,” depending on what part of the brain the “TIA” occurred in.  The frontal lobe controls our social behavior, judgment, mood, and personality.  It controls how we know what we are doing within our environment, how we initiate activity in response to our environment, judgments we make about what occurs in our daily activities, emotional response, expressive language, assigns meaning to the words we choose, and stores memory for habits and motor activities.  Damage to the frontal lobe has caused loss of simple movement of various body parts, loss of spontaneity interacting with others, loss of flexibility in thinking, persistence of a single thought, inability to focus on task, mood changes, changes in social behavior, changes in personality, difficulty with problem solving, and sometimes an inability to find the word for a common, everyday object or occurrence.

Perhaps I’m grasping at straws, but I think this may merit consideration by the public defender, as well as the district attorney.  It certainly doesn’t excuse what my father did in any way, and I’m not looking for excuses, but it may well explain it.  That is, of course, if these “TIAs” affected that part of his brain at all.  And, if these “TIAs” caused some behavioral changes, then I think they should be considered as mitigating circumstances.

I’m not looking to get the charges dismissed, because I think my father still understands the difference between right and wrong, but I question his ability to make sound judgments now, and I question whether his judgment was impaired then.

I believe his suicide attempt was not just a gesture designed to get sympathy, because he took enough codeine to do the job right.  It was sheer luck (call it good or bad) that the codeine didn’t do what he intended it to do.  However, the night of his suicide attempt, he bought coffee for the following morning.  He withdrew $700 out of his checking account ($500 of which he didn’t have in there).  I’m convinced that his suicide attempt was purely impulse-based.  Call it a knee-jerk reaction.

At the least, I believe my father’s mental capacity was diminished at the time the crimes against Vanessa occurred.  To what extent, I have no clue, and we may never know.  As I said earlier, I don’t even know what part of his brain was affected by the stroke and by the “TIAs.”  

I spoke to my nephew this morning, as I was more in the mood for it today than yesterday at the courthouse.  I told him that I need his help, and that my goal is the same as his, and that he has to tear down the walls he’s put around his grandfather so that other people can help.  I laid out to him completely what my strategy is, and he seemed receptive and willing to go along with me.  I told him that I need him to keep his grandfather’s spirits up, not an easy task.  I also told him that I’d contacted the Public Defender’s office and would be talking to my father later today.  Hopefully, he’ll stop being pissy long enough to realize that I’m not going to turn my back on my father, nor will I let him get prosecuted without every consideration being made.  After that, the legal process will take over, and I’ll accept whatever it dishes out to him.

As far as the Public Defender’s office goes, the receptionist told me that their “usual procedure” is not to talk to family members, but to have family members put their information or questions in writing.  “So, they’re not really interested in defending their clients, they just put everything on paper for eyewash, to make it LOOK like they defended someone, right?”  I then threatened to file a complaint with the state bar – all of a sudden I had a telephone appointment with my father’s lawyer, for next Thursday.

Now, I’ve often described my father as a “bastard” and a “son-of-a-bitch,” but you must know that, this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, either.

Some years back, I had a family case that I needed legal representation on.  Given that I live in “the big city” and the case was down in the “cow town,” I knew that local representation would be better than a big city lawyer.  As luck would have it, there was a lawyer in town that once was my English teacher in high school.  I hired him for the work, and was very pleased with his efforts – I won the case.

I called his office this morning, and spoke with a woman who told me that a criminal case costs thousands and thousands of dollars.  She asked me if I was willing to pay that for my father, and I said “Willing, yes.  Able, no.”  She then told me that my father has the right to ask for a specific attorney and that “Gary” did public defender work, but I didn’t hear that from her.  I left my name and phone number, and hung up feeling for the first time like I was getting somewhere for my father.

I’m now waiting for my father to call so I can tell him to request “Gary” instead of the putz he was assigned.

On a lighter, brighter note:

I started a new baby blanket (in addition to the one I’m doing for my grandson) for Linda’s new baby.  Rather, I started a block.  I decided that I’d knit up blocks with motifs on them – apple, dog, cat, duck, bear paw, baby footprints, fish, stuff like that.  I’ll do them in different colors and, once we’re able to determine what gender the baby is, I can assemble them into a blanket in a manner which would be gender appropriate.  So far, I’m having a great time doing it, and I’m enjoying working with the baby yarns.  The smaller needles hurt my hands a little (I have a touch of arthritis in both of my hands), but once I get into a rhythm, I seem to be able to relax my hands better and they’re not so bad.

Joe has been on a “bulk up” program – lifting weights, taking protein shakes, etc.  He’s put on about 15 lbs. since he started, and is now up to a whopping 155 lbs.  As a 5’10” senior in high school, he weighed only 135 lbs.  He’s really filled out and is looking good.  He works out religiously and is just as solid as they come.  He’ll never be like Schwarzenegger, but as physiques go, he’s got a really good one.  Let’s not forget that he’s devastatingly handsome as well.  

Lisa has finally gotten over that nasty bug she had.  Yesterday morning was the first time she got up and didn’t sound like she was going to hack up a lung.  I miss her.  We’ve not had much time together, with me running back and forth to the southern tier at least once a week.  When I’m home, it’s long enough to eat dinner, and go to bed.  We always, always, always chat a little when we go to bed, but I still miss her.  I miss being comfortable with her in the evenings.  I miss flipping through the channels trying to find something other than CSI re-runs on Spike TV to watch.  I miss normal.

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