Losing a father at a young age is hard enough, but to lose a father in such a violent and mysterious way is nothing short of horrific. To have your sweet innocence and childhood torn away from you with the knowledge that your loving father, the man whom you thought the world of, was murdered and never coming home. And to be inhumanely deprived of what every person deserves, a grave to cry on, a place to visit, closure. I don’t know which crime was more monstrous, the actual murder or the concealment of his body. In Judaism there are laws of mourning which include sitting Shiva. Shiva allows the family of the deceased to sit for seven days while friends visit and cry and laugh and share tales. We were deprived of this basic tradition that so wisely helps you move on psychologically. It was only 19 years later, after his body was found and finally put to rest, that we had our Shiva, 19 years too late for all the emotional damage caused.
As a child, I never felt normal. While others were being raised by single parents for reasons such as divorce or death, I was unique in that I had no clear answer as to what happened to my father. There were times when I would pretend he died of cancer or a freak accident. I had to hide my story for fear of shocking the probing inquirer.
You ask about how it affected relationships with family? I blamed it all on my mother, for who else was there to take the brunt of my anger and pain. Watching my Mother go off and struggle to pay the bills made me feel as if she too abandoned me. Not having the basic necessities that a child needs such as proper clothes, a clean home, a happy home, made me resent her. Although as an adult I can now understand somewhat the terror she went through having to suddenly support a family with no help, as a child I did not understand at all. It is a testament to the unhappiness of our home life when you look through old albums and notice not one picture taken of us from his murder until we were teens and old enough to take our own pictures. Not one happy family outing, not one random smiling shot. You can say that my father’s murder destroyed my relationship with my own Mother during my most crucial growing stages. You ask about counseling. We should have had counseling, but who was going to pay for that? The community that abandoned us? The Social Security or life insurance that we could not collect without a body? My Mother was struggling to keep the electricity on and to hold onto our beautiful home. She lost that battle and at 16 I had to say good bye to the only thing I had left that linked to my Father. When we took our last walk out of our home I remember fearing that if my Father would somehow come back, how would he find us. This crime completely altered our lives and robbed my sister and I of a normal childhood and security. I still have nightmares today as an adult about my past and the events that took place then.
This murder affected our entire lives on all levels. Because my mother had to suddenly become the breadwinner and was working from early morning until late evening, my sister and I had to raise ourselves. This affected my grades in school, which took a nosedive and never recovered until college. This affected our livelihood which resulted in our moving at least 4 times, the most traumatic leaving our hometown that we grew up in. This affected our dignity and self esteem as we went from being the donors to being the charity case. This affected our emotional and psychological well being as we cried for our father and ourselves but yet had no grave to turn too. I envied everyone who had a grave, a luxury, in my mind, that we lacked. I had to take loans to go to school and start working at a very young age to support myself. While this builds character, it was still incredibly difficult and would not have been like this if my father was alive. We had not one penny to pay for our own weddings and was at the mercy of charity for those events that should only bring joy. Every part of our lives, the good and the bad, was coupled with pain and hardship. My mother never recovered, never remarried and because of that we had to bare her incredible pain as well.
I always wonder about what my life would have been like if he was allowed to live. I fantasize about what it would be like to have a Dad hold you and tell you that he will always protect and care for you. I imagined him proudly watching me graduate from college with honors, a great feat for someone who failed out of high school. I dreamt of him walking me down the aisle, proud of his little girl who was now starting her own family. And of course I think about what kind of grandfather he would have been like and how he would no doubt spoil my kids as he spoiled me with love, affection and lots of gifts.
This “crime” affected everything in our lives. From our nightmarish past to our present situation of not having him in our lives.