My Heart Still Breaks

Jumping around a bit, the years between 1978 and 2005 pass with a few contacts between the police and my Dad.  He handled them on his own.  My Mom was mortally wounded when Tim was abducted and then murdered.  My Dad kept her out of the loop because that’s how she wanted it.  She really died in 1977, although she stuck around until 2004.  She gladly talked about her memories of Tim, but discussion of the investigation and any cop business was off-limits.  The only time I remember her talking about any of this was when she called me to warn me that she had given a blood sample to the cops right after MtDNA became an option.  This DNA sequence is passed only through the mother and can be detected in some cases where the more accurate nuclear DNA is not an option.  In other words, if your evidence is degraded to shit, it still may yield MtDNA evidence.  She called me, warned me and told me not to worry about it, that it “was nothing.”  It was one of the few times she was truly a mom to me after Tim died.  I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s the way it was.  I totally get it now that I am a parent. I think my first-born was a baby then.  She was worried I would freak.  At some point when my baby was still quite young, my Dad told me about a lead on a guy who was not that much older than me who had graduated from a nearby Catholic high school, Brother Rice.  Although I would not know it for almost a decade later, his name was John Hastings.  My Dad discussed filing a civil action against this man to get him to talk.  I told my Dad this guy sounded crazy and would simply take the 5th Amendment, making any civil proceeding worthless and a great cost to our family’s psyche.  I told my Mom the next day while walking downstairs with my baby that I had nightmares all night long after that discussion.

Unfortunately, this meant no one ever talked about this freak again.  When my kids were young, and especially when they were between 10 and 13, I was dialed into this horror completely.  At the same time I was dialed in, I fought like hell to keep it from adversely affecting my family.  I will never forget going to my son’s sixth grade conference and thinking “Jesus, if I could only tell you where I am right now.”  But I didn’t.  I figured I was long past all of this.  And the point of the conference was where he was—which was not the best place.  I could still weep when I think of that.  I couldn’t articulate it because I felt like it would be used against both of us.  Think the past isn’t a part of who we are and who are kids are?  Think again.

I still wish someone could have hugged me and said this kind of shit doesn’t happen everywhere and that what happened In Oakland County, and the reaction to it, is an aberration and you have no reason to be ashamed and you are supported.  But I am lucky because I did feel for many, many years after this that as bad as things had been, that’s how good they became (with props to the video Matilda, based on the book by R. Dahl, which I watched hundreds of times with my kids).  I felt like moving to Idaho in 1984 saved my life.  Literally.  Little did I know I would return to the Midwest in 2005 (something I had always feared at some level) and this would coincide with the lid being pried off the cesspool of an investigation of my brother’s murder.  It was time for a lot of loose ends to be tied up.  And it would hurt a lot.