And so, once again we prepare to celebrate another new year, each time hoping that the incoming will be better than the outgoing. 2018 was better than its predecessor. The loss of Patrick, though still impacting most of us in ways large and small, is less raw than the year before.
The amount of effort remaining is huge, but the treasure trove of Patrick’s writings, correspondence, files, and documents will be scanned and posted as time allows.
A couple or three days ago I re-read some of the letters, court filings, and telegrams relating to my sisters. For a time it looked as if Patrick and Lois would take custody. The social workers were pleading for him to complete the process.
Sadly, it was not to be. He told me that he didn’t want to endanger Allison’s inheritance from Lois’s parents, strict and conservative Catholics who wouldn’t abide her marrying a divorced man. Part of that story doesn’t ring true. Perhaps I’m conflating two different incidents from our conversation, or I may just be misunderstanding the time line. I need to look it up.
Also in this particular collection of documents were letters from my dad John, telling Patrick that he had seen the girls during a trip to North Carolina, and that he was glad to hear about Patrick taking custody. He also commented that he and Willie couldn’t adopt the girls but that they would continue to keep me in their care.
Several of my mom’s letters are in the file. In one she describes how Jennifer, just barely a teen, got sickeningly drunk to avoid leaving Florida, then kept running away and promised continuing to do so unless Mother let Jennifer dictate where and how they lived. Other letters ask that he write to them more often, and for financial help. But there’s also a telegram that begs him not to try and take the girls, and in exchange she won’t ask for child support. There are also court documents petitioning for support, so deeper analysis is required to resolve the contradictions. I’ve already shared one of Gretchen’s letters (You Coulda Been a Hero) about the whole affair, a sad state indeed.
Meanwhile, I continued to be a kid, not knowing or understanding all the back story and back stabbing going on, safe and warm and ignorant in Hawaii, riding my bike, playing with army men, reading vociferously, and learning cool stuff from my new older brothers.
It’s a painful story, one that left everyone involved–including Patrick–scarred in different ways. I wonder if my own experience is a manifestation of survivor’s guilt since I was spared the worst of the horrors. The impact on others was more profound and long-lasting.
Nonetheless it’s a story that needs to be told. As time and energy allow, these letters will be shared to help form a more complete image of who we are.
Patrick was an amazing man, living his life con gusto and on his own terms. He left everyone with stories to tell about his impact on them: a stronger appreciation for music, a kindness here and there, a crisp wit, an imperfect model of true love with Stephanie, an appetite for literature and les bon mots, and deep regrets for his misdeeds.
Patrick was an amazing man, but this web site shouldn’t devolve into a hagiography. He’s the kind of man that deserves a full portrait, not just the shiny bits.
Happy New Year, everyone, warts and all.
Thousand Oaks, 31 Dec ’18
I’m the son of Patrick of Meadows.