16 April, 2011

Guilty

She made eye contact with me through her tears as she walked from the jury room into the courtroom.

When my mother saw it, I heard her say to my grandmother next to her, "The juror is crying.  They've found him guilty."

My father stood and the verdict was read.  Guilty.

To Amie and me, all we understood was that Daddy wouldn't be flying back on the plane with us to Ohio.  We had no idea the impact that one little word would have on the rest of our lives.

I remember an incredibly compassionate federal marshal allowing Amie and me to see our father in the holding cell that day after the verdict.  In retrospect, I realize that the cell was dark and dingy, and it smelled of prisoners.  The smell of prisoners is one that I can't describe exactly, but it's a stench of body odor, sweat, and backed-up toilets, mixed with the scent of utter despair.  If you ever smell it, you'll know what I mean.

When Amie and I walked into the holding cell, my father, still dressed in his suit, was sitting on a chair.  He balanced us on each of his knees.  He explained that we should not be upset or sad because everything would be alright and he would be coming home soon.  He told us how much he loved us, and for us to be good little girls for our mother.

My father was sentenced to twenty years in prison, and he spent almost all of his time (just over eight years) in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.  His inmate number was 30826-138, and as long as I live, or until Alzheimer's robs the crevices of my brain, I'll never forget the address for the prison:  Box 1000, Leavenworth, Kansas 66048.

I could never forget that address because I wrote it on a seemingly endless stream of envelopes of letters that all started out, "Dear Daddy, When are you coming home?"

My father kept all the letters and I still have them today.  I cherish them.  They are the memoirs of a little girl dealing with her traumatic childhood that she had yet to realize was traumatic. 

My five year-old hand penned letters expressing my hatred for the FBI. In one of my favorite letters, I tell my father, "We don't want no more stinky F.B.I.s!"  (Do I need to include [sic] when quoting from a five year-old's letters?)  Another of my favorite letters says, "They say you and Uncle Chuck and Uncle James robbed a bank but they lie." 

Was I a little girl who was totally and unabashedly in love with her father and who believed he could do no wrong? 

I have to plead guilty.