My Father (2)

Early in my college years, I got a bank account so I could write checks for tuition and other expenses. One day, I noticed that several checks were missing from my check book. When my bank statement arrived, I found one of the missing checks. It was made out to cash and signed with my name. I recognized the handwriting. It was my father’s.

When several more checks showed up, I changed my payroll signature from Thomas L. Glenn to Thomas L. Glenn III. That stopped the forgeries.

At age twenty-one, I graduated from college and enlisted in the army to go to language school. I asked my mother not to let my father know where I was or how to get in touch with me. After I graduated from language school, the army assigned me to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. When I finished my enlistment, NSA hired me. By then I was married. I settled my family in Maryland. For the next ten years, I saw to it that my father didn’t know how to reach me.

When my mother collapsed with stage three alcoholism, I flew to Oakland, closed down her apartment, and took her to West Virginia to live with her family while she recovered. I saw no sign of my father.

A year or two later—I don’t remember how long—she was diagnosed with lung cancer from her heavy smoking. Not long after, she died with me close by.

Two months after her death, I got a phone call from the Oakland police. They had somehow tracked me down. They told me that my father had been killed in a bar brawl and asked what to do with his body. If I didn’t claim it, he would be buried in a pauper’s grave. I told them to go ahead. To this day, I don’t know where his grave is.

As I look back on my father’s life, I’m forced to conclude that he was mentally unbalanced. I know that he was dependent on impressing others with his importance and success. But I still can’t imagine what motivated him to do the things he did.

I learned from him. I swore that if I ever had children, I’d take good care of them so they’d never have to go through what I did as a child. My three daughters and my son are all now healthy adults.

I kept my promise.

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