My father was an unbiased newspaper reporter. He won awards for his investigative journalism. He was respected amongst his colleagues and admired by his readers. But to me, he was someone who could never tell the truth.
At an early age, I figured out that a newspaperman’s salary was quite meager. To put it bluntly, my father was not a good provider. A few times it got to the point, we went without electricity, heat or telephone service for extended periods.
I grew up mad and upset. Not because I used candles to light my room or walked three blocks to the payphone whenever I needed to call someone. I was angry because my father could not tell me the truth about WHY we were in these situations, or WHEN it would end.
I knew things would not get better. I wanted to leave home and never look back. After all, if he couldn’t tell me the truth, then maybe he just didn’t believe in me.
I worked my way through college with a lot of financial aid, got a job and began earning an income – a better one than my father. But I could not fully escape. All too often, he would need help.
I would ask myself how long I’d have to carry this burden. Yes, a burden, because that’s all I saw. I was estranged all those years. Life had come between us. And when he passed, I felt a final relief.
And then I felt the guilt.
Upon cleaning out his belongings, I found some old articles and editorials that he wrote. I began to see another side of him. From stories on local merchants to coverage of Ted Kennedy on Chappaquiddick, even an article on my birth, I could see he loved his profession and was good at it.
Then I found the manuscript. A story he wrote about his involvement with one of the most sensational and longest murder trials in the State of New Jersey during the late sixties – a story of corruption, frame-ups, mobsters and crooked politicians. A real New Jersey tale, and one that directly affected my family. There was fear and intimidation through personal death threats. Even the brake lines of our car were cut in one incident.
Undeterred and being a man of ethics, my father pressed on to write about the truth that so many others wanted to cover up. Something I never knew until then.
I have children now. And I have begun to make sense of that strange balance of truth. Perhaps, it was his generation, but I believe he did what every father was hardwired to do – protect his child. I know how difficult it is tell my children that I cannot do something for them. I know how easy it could be not to tell them the truth. But I know the consequences, and I now I believe I know my father.