How We Tracked Down My Son’s Stalker

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On September 10 my son turned 19.
We celebrated as best we could, considering that we all had work schedules to keep.
That night, at 2:00 AM, we were awakened by a knock at the door.
I looked out and saw that there was a small fire on our steps.
I picked up my sword (yes I keep a sword by the door) and then thought better of it.
I went to my gun cabinet and took out a Glock 19.
I was in full fight or flight mode, so as I held the gun I centered myself and thought about everything I knew about gun safety.
After making sure that the fire was under control, I cautiously checked the area around the
house.
Down the block I saw two figures walking away and took note of their silhouettes (height, weight, etc).
I knew that if I did not pursue them that my chances of catching the perpetrators were slim.
I also knew that chasing people with a gun was a recipe for disaster, so I opted to let it go.
My son and I put out the fire, before it could spread to the bushes.
I was relieved to see that it was a bag of shit, which lead me to believe that it was just a teenage prank.
After the fire was out, we found that they had left a birthday card.
It was a fairly scary card.
The handwriting was unstable and in it they had made a reference to hurting one of our dogs and had drawn a picture of an airplane flying up our dog’s ass and made a 9/11 reference (my son’s birthday is on 9/10, not 9/11).
The card said “9/11 Always Remember”.
I told my son..
“These idiots got the phrase wrong. It’s not ‘Always Remember’. It’s ‘Never Forget'”.
My son was actually kind of afraid and I have to admit that I was as well, simply because it was clear that someone had spent close to an hour crafting the card and anyone who does something so premeditated is possibly dangerous.
I told my son that we would have our suspect within 24 hours.
We went back to bed.
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The following day I met with the neighborhood watch and asked them if we should file this under teenage prank or if it was something more serious.
As I have PTSD, I have a tendency to be paranoid, so when making any important decision, I seek guidance of those calmer than myself.
All the neighbors agreed that this was serious and that a police report needed to be filed, so that future actions could be documented and a stalking report could be filed if need be.
I agreed to make the report, but first I wanted to do the detective work and give the perpetrator an opportunity to explain themselves.
We made a list of people who had been to our home and then crossed off all the people that did not know that it was my son’s birthday (we knew that this was not 100% fail-proof, because someone could have been informed through the grapevine about his birthday.).
This somewhat eliminated his Facebook friends, as the perp clearly knew that he had a recent birthday, but probably did not have him as a Facebook friend, because they had the date wrong.
Also we knew that it was someone who had met our dog, Butch, because their drawing of him was pretty accurate.
Furthermore we concluded that the two figures who were walking away, were probably the ones who had started the fire.
All this told us was that our suspects were between 5’0 and 5’5 and were slender.
The first thing we did was contact our close friends and we told them all that if this was a joke then we would laugh it off, but that they needed to tell us NOW if they did it, because the fire had spread to the bushes and once we filed the police report that it would be considered arson and we did not want any of our friends going to prison (the bushes actually had not caught on fire, but for sake of the sleuthing I had went out and chopped away a good portion of the bushes to make it look as if they had…yes I know I am crazy…which is precisely why people should not be vandalizing my property at 2:00 AM.).
Our close friends all denied it, but of course became very concerned for our son’s safety.
We sent pictures of the card to all of them and asked them if the art style looked familiar.
A few of my son’s friends said that they recognized the style and informed us of who they felt it was.
As this person had been to our home, I asked my son if they had any reason to dislike him.
He said that he had went on a few dates with the female suspect, but tried to distance himself from her, as her and her friend seemed “pretty crazy and had a lot of red flags.”
I asked if they fit the physical description and he verified that they did.
I told him that we could reasonably conclude that the perpetrators lived east of us, because the figures I saw were heading east when I came out of the house.
We also agreed that the perps probably lived within walking distance of our house and probably did not own a car.
We inquired about the address of the suspects and sure enough, they lived about eight blocks east of us and did not own a car.
I put on my most professional looking clothes and went to the house.
When I arrived, I could hear people talking, but no one answered.
I left a note saying that we had security footage of who had set the fire and that the fire had spread and we would prefer to handle it with an apology than with arson charges.
My son also texted a mutual friend and asked the friend if he knew the whereabouts of the two girls at 2:00 AM the previous night.
The mutual friend stated that both girls were in his house with him at the time.
We agreed to wait two hours before responding to the text, knowing that if they had done it, that they would spend the time arguing over what to do and hopefully crack.
Two hours later, my son texted back..
“Okay, well we are going to make a police report in the morning. The police will come and question you. Just tell them the truth and everything should be okay.”
Then an hour later he messaged the mutual friend again and said
“We just pulled the security footage. I thought you said that they were at your house at 2:00 AM!?!?”
A text came back several minutes later with the words…
“THEY WERE!!”
I should probably point out to you that we DO have a security camera pointed at the exact spot where the fire was started, but the camera was not turned on at the time, due to an issue we had been having with our system.
We did not feel that this information was relevant to our suspects.
We knew that if we were wrong about the suspects that we could simply say..
“We weren’t saying that it was you, but it sure looked like you on the footage. I guess lots of people look like that when it’s dark.”
We had already decided to make this one push to flush them out and if it was unsuccessful, that we would make our police report and forget about it as best we could.
About an hour after the mutual friend had assured us that the suspects were with him, at his home, during the fire, one of the girls texted my son saying that she had purchased a birthday present for him and wanted to drop it off.
I told him to reply
“Oh you remembered that today was my birthday!!” (in actuality his birthday was the day before).
She replied that she would never forget his birthday and wanted to bring the gift over.
She added that she wanted him to meet her outside.
We all agreed that we were not comfortable with that.
My son told her to come on over.
She replied that it would take her about 20 minutes because she was on foot.
I asked my son how he felt and he said that he was scared.
My son’s friend said
“Dude, she’s crazy. She’s going to kill you!!”
When she arrived I answered the door.
I pointed up at the security camera and said
“Just for legal purposes I want you to know that we film everyone that comes onto our premises.”
I could tell by her clothing that she was not concealing a gun.
You could tell she was nervous.
We treated her with kindness, like we do everyone and for just a moment I was thinking..
“She can’t be one of the perpetrators. No one is crazy enough to come in here after doing that.”
I could tell that the security camera had her shaken so I just turned to her and said
“So you are sticking to your story? You honestly are going to force this to become a police issue?”
The eyes of our entire family were on her.
At this point the girl broke down and started confessing, but mainly blaming her friend.
She told us how she was hurt by my son breaking it off with her.
She told us that it was immature and that she was sorry and never meant to scare anyone.
I told her that it was great that she had confessed and that we would not be calling the police.
I then placed my unloaded gun on the coffee table and it made an audible thud on the table.
Even though the gun was not loaded, I still made sure that the safety lock was secured and that I placed it facing away from all people who were present.
I told her about my PTSD and how I thought we were being attacked and how I was outside with my gun, trying to defend my family.
I explained to her that I understood that it was just a joke for her, but that I was concerned for her safety going forward.
I explained to her that waking someone up in the middle of the night with a fire is a good way to have something awful happen.
I explained to her that I was a teenager once and also did stupid things, but that I really wanted her to know how at a different house, maybe the person would have pursued them and maybe things would have gone south from there.
She seemed to be genuinely sorry and we were all relieved.
My son, who had previously feared for his life, was so happy that it was all resolved.
I didn’t want to victim-blame, but I had to take this opportunity to remind him that we have to be careful who we date and even more careful about who we bring back to our home.
My son is an outstanding young man and I know that he will take what he needs to from this experience.
Hopefully the girls learned something too.
chloebrokenarmlaugh

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To Infinity and Beyond: A Story of Incredibly Bad Parenting

DravinAtTheAbbey2

When Dravin was a toddler all he wanted to do was play with his action figures.

I indulged him.

As a first time father, who was so poor as a child that I didn’t even have toys, I OVERindulged him.

I didn’t really have a childhood so I wanted to make sure his was amazing.

We didn’t have much money, but every spare penny went to buy him the little plastic beings he loved so much.

Once out of their boxes, they would find themselves in a world they could never have imagined.

They would have to adapt to insane circumstances or be blasted to imaginary smithereens.

Gene Simmons may have looked cool in his box, but his bass was no match for the laser power of Buzz Lightyear.

The T9 from Terminator was pretty powerful with his grenade launcher, but was no match for an entire village of vintage Smurfs, who would devastate Arnold due to sheer strength in numbers.

Lego people were created on the fly to do battle with viking ships sailing the beige carpet sea of his bedroom.

The adventure never ended…

But my patience did.

As much as I loved my son, my attention span for colliding tiny men into each other was about 15 minutes.

I would try to lure him with the promise of video games and fast food, but his dejected expression would cause me to plop back down on the carpet and pick up one of his Buzz Lightyears and say for the trillionth time, “To Infinity and Beyond” and then the wild rumpus would start again.

His beautiful smile would give me fuel for another 5 minutes of these childish antics, but my attention span quickly departed as my feet fell to sleep and my back began to ache.

I would stare off into space and imagine how fun it would be play my guitar or to read a book without pictures, then I would chastise myself for missing out on these precious moments.

“Be here now.” I would remind myself and then would have his over-sized Jessie the cowgirl doll lasso a My Lil Pony to the ground and yell “Ima tame that critter!!”

The adventure continued…

I used to hang out on my porch a lot in those days.

I would just go out there to take a break and play a few chords to get myself centered before going back inside to be Dad again.

My neighbor would always be sitting on his porch and we would do the whole “Hey..how you been?” routine while he sat there and smoked pot.

He would always offer me a hit.

I would always decline and play my guitar.

My father was a junkie, so being a dad, made me even more determined to keep clean.

I needed a clear head to be a parent.

Nothing was more important than that.

I mean I can’t be stoned when I have important daily activities like Action Figure Theater, Scooby Doo Marathon and staying up all night playing The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time w/my 4 year old.

All of these activities required…”HOLY COW!!” I realized. “ALL OF THESE ACTIVITIES WOULD BE SO MUCH BETTER IF I WERE HIGH!!!”

So the next time I became bored with the action figure game I stepped out on the porch, said “Hey..how you been?” and waited for my neighbor’s offer.

After toking for a few minutes I returned back to the bedroom floor with renewed vigor and all new story-lines.

No longer was I dreading The Neverending Story being written in my son’s bedroom, but I was actually looking forward to it!!!

How had I been so preoccupied before?

There were countless stories waiting to be told here.

Murder, romance, espionage, deception.

I began to compose complex Shakespearian plots where no toy was safe and at any moment good could triumph or everyone could just as easily die.

For all of 10 seconds Dravin stared at me wondering “Where is my dad and why has he been replaced by a giant toddler who looks like my dad?” but then he just dove in and playtime would last for hours and wouldn’t stop until we were both doing the pee-pee dance on the floor.

No longer was I fantasizing about my next break.

Instead it would be Dravin who would be worn out and yawning.

“Can we eat ice cream and watch Scooby Doo?”

My reply was always the same “Sure thing little buddy!”

Scooby Doo made so much more sense now!!

We would pause frequently to have in depth discussions about  who the villain was and what their motivations were.

I felt the kind of true terror and fascination that only a child can experience simultaneously.

I saw through the eyes of my toddler.

Our minds melded.

We were the same.

Thanks to my neighbor’s wonderdrug I was now completely engrossed in the show, whereas previously I was only half-watching, thinking about bills I had to pay or some news story.

My little boy would fall asleep curled up in my arms and I would lie there exhausted but sober and think about what a horrible father I was and how I was no better than my own father, the junkie who stole my birthday money to score; the man who snorted our rent money and made us have to sleep in the car, homeless, on so many nights.

I lie there with tears in my eyes thinking about how I was a horrible person because I had to smoke pot to be a more attentive father.

I failed to see how I was any different than my own dad who would be so intoxicated that he would take a strap to me for something as trivial as breaking a saucer or dropping a fork.

All I wanted to do was be a good father and yet I was so much like my own.

But the next day I would get bored of playing action figures and I would visit my neighbor again.

A vicious cycle of marijuana, lassos and laser beams.

And it went on like this for a while, until I realized that I could create the same excitement without the pot, just by being completely attentive.

But I cannot fully dismiss the experiment.

This is the part where some would like me to say that I learned a valuable lesson about sobriety and that smoking pot and spending 12 hours a day playing with my toddler, while stoned much of the time was a horrible thing to do.

But I can’t really say that.

It opened me up to the idea that I could be a better dad if I just forgot all the adult stuff I carried around on my shoulders and just let myself be completely absorbed in what I was doing.

And because of that I am at peace with my decision.

Dravin recently asked me, almost as if he couldn’t believe it had really happened, “Do you remember how you used to just sit and play with my action figures with me all day?”

He looked befuddled.

I told him that I remembered.

“Didn’t you get bored?” he said.

I told him that because my parents never spent any time with me that I knew it was important to soak up all the time I could with he and his sister while they were still young enough to actually still want to hang around with me.

I told him that I always knew that those toddler years were fleeting and that even though it was hard to sit and play like that for hours that I knew it wouldn’t last very long and if I didn’t take advantage of it while I could that one day I would regret it and wish I had that time back.

I also told him about smoking pot with the neighbor and how that allowed me to be so into playing with the figures and forget about being an adult.

He laughed so hard he nearly cried.

Buckled over at the waist, he managed to say “Oh my god, I had the BEST childhood!!”

“Yeah, I did too.” I thought. “I finally had mine at the same time you were having yours.”

…….

Hey readers, I just want to thank you SO much for taking the time to read about these crazy adventures and I want to say that you can feel free to comment anything that you want here.

If you think that is horrible parenting go right ahead and speak your mind.

I certainly have battled with a lot of self-judgment because of it, so I totally understand anyone else who would judge me.

The point is that your comments are always welcome.

They help me to do this better.

How to Buy a Bra in Three Heartbreaking Steps

chloebrokenarmlaugh

 

The most common question I get asked is how I became a single father.

I usually don’t answer, simply because it is such a long answer.

I promise to cover it in a future blog.

On the rare occasion that I do answer it, I get the inevitable follow up question;

“Aren’t you angry with her?” meaning my kid’s biological mother.

Honestly I never had time to be angry about it.

I have been pretty busy the last 12 years, and also I am way too selfish of a person to harbor anger.

I just don’t like the way it feels.

But there is one question that I always ask myself.

And that is, “What the hell am I going to do when Chloe (insert major female right of passage here).”

It used to be “What the hell am I going to do when Chloe needs a bra?”

That turned into “What the hell am I going to do when Chloe has her period?!”

Now I am wrestling mind-bending  questions like “What the bloody hell am I going to do when Chloe starts dating???!!!”

Or “How will I stop from murdering a grown man when I catch him checking out my daughter?!!!”

It is not that I am your typical clueless man.

I am a musician and a writer.

I was raised by women.

When I was little I had long hair so people always said what a pretty little girl I was.

I have always been fascinated with the fairer sex, so I spent a good deal of my life studying them.

I have a very small measure of understanding of what it means to be a woman.

But there is still that crippling handicap.

 

I am a man.

So when a female friend told me Chloe needed a bra (and Chloe was only 10!!!!!) I was annoyed and in complete denial.

When a second female friend told me the same thing, I realized I must be missing something.

I looked at my little girl.

She was just a little girl.

She didn’t have curves.

She didn’t have breasts.

She was my little bacon bit ( her pet nickname from when she was a toddler).

Why were these women seeing breasts when she clearly was just a little girl.

So I asked Chloe…

“Yeah. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that…” she said.

An hour later we were bra shopping.

 

I felt bad for Chloe.

I felt like I had failed her.

I had tried to find a woman who would take this role, but I had picked the wrong women.

Or maybe I was just the wrong man and had sabotaged the right women.

I don’t know.

But standing under the harsh fluorescent glare of the department store lights I was exposed.

Exposed for the man I am.

Exposed for the fraud I will inevitably be, when trying to navigate seas I have no business in.

A stranger in a strange land of under-wire protection and push-up support.

An impostor.

Feeling inadequate simply because I AM inadequate and wishing beyond wishing that I had just dated women who loved Chloe and had put my own selfish needs aside.

Double D, C. B. A…drowning in a sea of bras, I thought of the jokes men would make about women’s breasts and I wanted to punch every man in the entire world right in their collective throats. I thought about men looking at my daughter’s chest and objectifying her and every callous, jagged locker-room comment I had ever overheard came swarming back to me 10,000-fold and then when I was right on the verge of panic I heard her tiny voice…

“I like this one” she said.

And she is holding it in front of her.

“I can’t cry. Not here. Cry later. This is about her. Not about you.” my inner monologue rolls on.

Practical dad speaks through me “Will it fit?”

“I think so.” she says.

And with that she slides it over her head and turns around.

I help her to fasten it and think of more callous male jokes about bra clasps.

But I am no longer angry…or panicked…

I am so choked up that my throat hurts.

She straightens it out a bit and I say “How does it feel?”

“Kinda weird.” she says and turns around.

I see now what the women were talking about.

My daughter has boobs.

No. “Boobs” sounds silly.

My daughter has…hmmmm…”breasts” sounds clinical and “tits”…no freaking way does my daughter have TITS!!!

My daughter has…beauty

My daughter IS…blossoming…

My daughter IS…beautiful..

My daughter IS…perfect.

It doesn’t matter what we call them.

They are HERS and SHE can call them whatever she wants.

They are hers and they are her and I have new-found respect for breasts and women in general.

All the books on feminism and college courses on gender did nothing to prepare me for this.

“Chloe.” I say “I’m sorry you don’t have a mom to do this with you. I’m sorry if this isn’t how you imagined it.”

“You ARE my mom.” she says.

And then something flew into my eye.