Learning my father’s tale & growing up

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She doesn’t go into crime details, but the new book out, “A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming,” does portray the horrors of a young woman learning her father isn’t at all who she thought he was. The man who treated her lovingly, who she looked up to, had committed incomprehensible acts. The author of this true story saw her life disintegrate in an instant. It was a long, arduous climb toward reclaiming the keepable.

I got to thinking about my own dad. Many things I didn’t learn until after he died — which happened at about the same age Kerri Rawson was when she got the knock on her door from the FBI about her father. For instance, I never knew he had a “first love” before he met my mother. Her name was Beth and she was a tennis champion. She was also his big sister’s husband’s little sister. I learned all this from Beth herself, whom I met years later — who told me she had to tell him he was like family to her.

I found my dad’s passion for horses came from summer visits on the train to his maternal grandparents in Missouri — they always kept a good horse, having come from Kentucky. I heard about the influenza epidemic of 1918 from that big sister of his — how the whole family of six kids and their mom was deathly ill. My father was two at the time. Whoever had the energy crawled to the door for food the neighbor left on their doorstep.

My grandfather was absent in that health crisis — gone to Russia in the Great War. He returned with “shell shock” — today’s PTSD. He raised his kids strict — being a Methodist minister required to move every year to a new congregation. My father said he’d been to 16 different schools by the time he graduated.

My dad’s parents ended up separated. His mother flatout refused to move anymore. He left California for south Idaho with his father. Lived with his paternal grandparents and finished high school early. Decided himself to become a preacher, like his dad, but a different denomination. Worked his way through college — partly through giving equestrian lessons. Never had much money. Raised my brother and me less strict than he had been — but more than we liked.

There is so much I didn’t understand about my father. Things he didn’t talk about and I didn’t know — or care enough — to ask. No question we had good times. Yet I held resentments. I even wrote in my diary in my bratty teen years that I “hated” my dad. I cringe to read it now.

He was a man who made it through tough times. Who had a personal history and faith I wish I’d explored more with him. Who had wisdom and know-how I never tapped in to. Who did right by his family — countless thoughtful things. He was real. No big lies.

How I would love a conversation with him. Just to thank him for being my dad. To say now that I have 40 more years of living in me — older than he was when I last knew him — I’ve finally grown up.

I’d tell him it was a cherished life he gave me.

I’d tell him I’d choose him again.

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