Jackson is the father of my children. He was not, to his surprise, a family man. I admit, I am pretty high maintenance and I want to talk about everything. I loved having children. I loved owning my own home (my first home was purchased in 1974 and I would fix them up, flip them and move on to something a eeny bit nicer). Jack didn’t care for me, my job, my kids or owning a house. Of course, this was not something he realized until he was in the great big middle of it.
I have to admit, he was a decent absent father. He was good about child support and visitation…at least until the last five years, when he went missing and I discovered that his entire family was pretty nuts. One brother told me that Jackson was so smart that his body would never be found. Another brother told me he never liked me. One brother told me that he always felt that I was ready to attack him any chance I got. Just for the record, I don’t think managing to never have your body found is any kind of smart. The brother who never liked me was the only brother I liked and I bet we had spoken maybe 100 words in ten years. The brother who thought I was ready to attack him? I probably spoke less than 50 words to HIM in ten years and most of that was arranging to babysit his daughter. So go figure.
Jackson’s mother also hated me. In fact, Jackson wasn’t really missing….he was working off one of his brothers SS cards and living at home with his mother. I had my children call her weekly, just because she was, after all, their grandmother and I didn’t want her cut out of their lives completely. However, when I found that Jack had been living there for five years, I did call her…WHY had she tortured my children when she could have said she had gotten a postcard? The bitch had a heart attack the next day. Now we have no contact with that family at all and it makes me sad. Oh, her heart attack wasn’t my fault. I’ve been told that it was but I got that information from the same people who told me jackson was so smart/they’d never liked me/I was always ready to attack, so I don;t put a lot of veracity to that blame. They could probably blame me for the Depression and the San Francisco Earthquake, too.
I chose Jackson to father my children and if all was right with the world, we would still be married. I had caught him on the upswing of his brand of schizophrenia and he was funny and dear and sweet. A year later, he was just schizophrenic and got worse. There were moments….the moment when my son was born and he was beyond delighted. And…well, that was pretty much it.
But you can’t fault a man who JOINED the Army at the height of the Vietnam war, so one of his brothers would be able to stay home. It didn’t work…all four of them were in Nam at the height of the war, the one we saw on television, night after night. He was a door gunner for two tours of duty, then he was a DI. He was good at both.
He had problems….what 18 year old wouldn’t…and there were lots of drugs available. Lots. All kinds. This wasn’t Hogan’s Hero’s and it wasn’t M*A*S*H. In the last 40 years, I’ve talked to a lot of Vietnam vets and I would say I have a really good idea of the horrors of war. Most of the officers I worked with at the prison were vets and they would often just come into my office and unburden themselves. My father in law was shot down over Germany and spent the remainder of the war in Stalag 13. He has told me things he has kept from his family because they were so horrid. And horrid all the stories are. I’m just glad that each one of these men found at least one person they could share their stories with. It takes a toll on me, so I can imagine the toll it takes on them, knowing every detail and carrying that shame deep inside of their hearts. Jackson told me everything. Everything. Some of what he told me I could barely believe. But after working at the prison, it no longer amazes me the things humans do to one another. It amazes me that we do good at all.
I think his father had a goodly piece of mental illness coupled with alcoholism and a penchant for beating his wife. I think Jack’s mother was agoraphobic and a little schizoid, too. Jack didn’t have much of a chance in the first place and then he married me, had two children and bought a house. It was all too much for him.
He showered and dressed one morning in April, got into his clean car and overdosed. His brother saw his body in the car and waited to call from a pay phone. None of his family went down to ID his body or to pick up the note he had left. I didn’t even find out he was dead for two years. One day Lisi and I drove to LA and picked up his personal effects at the coroner’s office. He had left a letter to his brothers and sister but no word to Ben or Lisi. He had left so little of himself behind but what he did leave has changed my life. . He wasn’t a bad man and he wasn’t a bad father. Flawed? Definitely. But he did his best. I wish I had been the kind of wife he needed instead of the kind of wife I was. But if I had been what he needed, I wouldn’t have Ben or Lisi. Especially Lisi.
But if I had it all to do over again, I would because I love my children. They have made a profound difference in my life and I think I am a better person because of them. I might have accidentally wandered in to better person-hood on my own, but I doubt it. Sort of like Princess Diana. Even if she had known all of it before hand, she would have trundled down that aisle, just to have her children. I think a lot of women make that choice, instead of running for dear life in veil, heels and the big white dress.