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December 23, 2007
That morning will always be etched into my mind. The nights that followed, though much more traumatic, didn’t come close to the vivid memories my steomother gave me that morning,
My dad was on his third wife, the only one after my mom. They were both unstable; Karen’s body was rife with disease (including multiple sclerosis and crone’s disease), while my dad suffered with a hormone imbalance, severe depression, and a marriage of mere convince.
My parents divorced in June, a week after my eighth birthday. That September, my dad remarried our old next door neighbor, Karen. By December, they were already fighting.
It was a relief when I got my first job during the summer when I turned 15. Although I missed my dad more then I’d ever imagined, not having to see my stepmother made me enjoy working those long weekend afternoons. I would still occasionally see my dad, mostly when he picked up my little brother of dropped him off for the weekend. After my summer job ended I went back to going to my dad’s house in Lake Villa on the weekends. At first it seemed like everything was and would be ok. But, like everything else, it eventually went back to normal within a few months.
My stepmom was on disability from her job as a dispatcher for the County Police Department permanently until retirement and had been for a few years. When my father hurt himself on the job as a Lineman for SBC, he had to have surgery and stay at home for 4 months to recover. During that time is when it was beyond tolerable. Hey were always around each other which made it impossible for them to be around each other. It was bittersweet though, because while the nights were spent covering our ears and hoping to fall asleep, the mornings and afternoons were spent “movie hopping” just us and none of my stepfamily allowed. We would spend all day at the movie theater, watching 3 or 4 movies in one afternoon, then go out to dinner. Other days we would spend all afternoon working in the garage with our father stripping copper and selling it, our reward being time to see our father and a trip to the drive in. But, like most of the good things at the household, it ended fairly quickly.
That Saturday is a day I’ll never forget. I was awoken by my cell phone ringing loudly on my bedside table. I sat up groggily, confused about why my stepmom was calling me at 8:30 in the morning on a weekend. I answered and was greeted with a calm tone.
“Steffi, you need to come over here quick if you want to see your father again,” my stepmom said over the phone. Naturally I freaked out.
“Karen, what’s wrong? Did something happen? Is everything ok?” I responded, instantly alert.
“You have to come over now if you want to see your father again,” She repeated. “I’m going to send him to jail for a long long time.” At this point, I stop panicking slightly. This was, unfortunately, a regular threat at the Lake Villa household. Though we had become desensitized to that threat, it was still very real since she used to work in the County Sheriff’s office as a dispatcher and still had connections.
“What happened Karen?” I asked a little more calmly.
“Your father is what happened. I’m tired of all his bull shit. And of you. You feel like you’re too good for all of us don’t you? Don’t you? That’s why you never come over because you think you’re better then all of us. Well you’re no better then the rest of us. You’re worse trailer trash then the rest of us!”
I held the phone away from my ear, looking at it incredulously. The women I had considered my second mother for nearly 10 years just said whatever she could to try and hurt me. The only thing I could do was hang up. I was numb for about two seconds before I started sobbing. When I collected myself enough to face my family that was staying with us for Christmas, I rushed down the long hallway of my house into the basement where my mom lived.
My mom did something then that no one else that I know can do. She looked at me and instantly knew something major had happened.
“Honey, come here. What’s wrong baby girl?” she asked in the soothing motherly tone that always opened the flood gates. Somehow, she managed to understand what I was trying to say through the mess of tears and coughs. For that she was my hero because I don’t know how or if I could have gotten the words out again.
That day was spent in a whirlwind. My mother wanted me to type up my account of what happened so she could file a police report, but every time I sat down to type it up I cried. Eventually she realized how much it affected me and stopped. The rest of the day was spent cooking and cleaning, trying to ready the house for Christmas. This continued all day, including after dinner. Until my father showed up at 7 o’clock.
When my dad walked through the door I didn’t know whether to run and hug him or to run away screaming. My biggest urge was probably to start throwing punches at him since I obviously couldn’t at my stepmother. Instead though my father did exactly what I did not want him to do: grabbed me in a big hug. Surprisingly however it was exactly what I needed. My father wanted to cheer me up by taking me shopping. That was a typical Rob move: when in doubt, resort to stereotypes.
My father spent over $100 on each my little brother and me that night. It wasn’t uncharacteristic of my father to go on reckless shopping sprees normally, but this time it was only a 3 days before Christmas. We had a long talk during out mall walk during which I begged him to leave my stepmom, but he refused to. It was then when he told me he just started seeing a psychologist, who had prescribed him medicine. I was happy that my father was finally going to be better and happy again. If only I knew how wrong I was.
December 23, 2007 will be forever be the worst day of my life. As soon as the phone started ringing that night I knew what had happened. The police said a gun that was not supposed to work went off accidently. The coroner said it looked like my dad had been prescribed two different medications that shouldn’t have been mixed which caused reckless behavior. My grandmother thinks my stepmom pulled the trigger, but she never forgave her for stealing my dad away from my mom and consequently from her.
I know a few things. I know is my Daddy refused to allow any bad words said against my stepmother because she had done a lot for us over the years. I know that they were never in love, and as soon as their tryst hit reality they realized it as well. I also know that my dad was extremely careful with all of the guns in the house and never left a single gun loaded. I know my stepsiblings loved my father more then their own.
The only thing I know for sure is that on December 23, 2007 my 10 year old brother and I were left without our Daddy.