Please Don’t Tell My Father

     When I was 13 years old, I was arrested for shoplifting.

      I realize this may sound implausible to you, gentle reader, but it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.  

      
      When I about 11 years old, I was at a local convenience store with my father.  

       Outside, a little kid–a year or two younger than me–tried to run across the street.  No crosswalk, no lamp.  He was jaywalking.  Or jayrunning.  We saw it through the window. 

        The boy was hit by a car.  It only side-swiped him, thank God, but he was knocked spang off his feet and fell to the blacktop as if he’d been hit by a lightening bolt.  

        A few of the adults around me screamed.  Another said, Oh my God. 

         My father ran outside and into the road. Traffic just kept going by.  

      Then he picked the boy up and carried him back inside the store.  He laid him on the floor in front of the cash register, by all the candy and chewing gum.  

       The shop owner was calling an ambulance. 

        The boy was sobbing hysterically.  His arm was fucked up.  There was no blood, but it was bent funny and he couldn’t move it right.  

       The rest of him seemed to be okay, thank God. 

        My father was crouched on the floor next to him, looking into his eyes.  He told the boy that he was going to be all right.  He told the boy to try to stop moving.  He told the boy that an ambulance was coming to help.  He asked the boy for his parents’ phone number. 

        Do you know what the boy said?  The first words out of his mouth, after all the crying and screaming in pain and fear…?

       I’ve never forgotten it.  I was standing right there.  I was so scared that my face was numb.  He was a blond boy in jeans. Skinny.  Hair was wispy and unkept.

       “Please don’t tell my Dad!  Don’t tell my Dad!  He’ll be mad at me!  I don’t want him to hit me!  I’m sorry!  He’s going to be so mad!”

        There you have it.  Little boy gets hit by a car, suffers pain of broken arm, and his first thought is: My father is going to be angry with me.

        I’ve never seen my father cry–I’ve never seen any of the men in my family cry, come to think of it, and my mother only three or four times–but he looked close to tears then.

         He put his hand on the crown of the boy’s head and looked into his eyes and said: “Your father will not be mad at you.  It’s not your fault.”

         “But I broke the ruuuuuuuuules!” cried the boy.  

          I assume he meant the rules for crossing the street, but I have no idea. 

          Two years later, I was arrested for shoplifting.  

          I stole a sandwich, a can of Dr. Pepper, a Snickers candy bar, and a lip gloss (hey, in for a penny, in for a pound).  

          The first words out of my mouth were: “Please don’t tell my father.”

        The cop who detained me looked confused.  She asked me why I stole a sandwich.  A sandwich?

         I thought fast: “My friends dared me to do it.”

         She wrote that down in her report and lectured me to not be a sheep.  The moron. 

         I stole the food because I was staying with my father and he’d forgotten to feed me for a day and a half and I was losing my mind. 

         But when I was caught, all I could think was: Please don’t tell my father.

       

       


3 thoughts on “Please Don’t Tell My Father”

  1. I can sort of relate – I never had to deal with the extreme situation you did but my mother became very depressed during my high school years due to a combination of medical issues, and became verbally and emotionally abusive. I remember after I got my license, I was driving a POS van when the brakes failed and I rolled gently into the back of a dump truck. It wasn’t my fault, and there wasn’t much damage to our van (no damage to the dump truck, the driver didn’t realize at first that I’d even hit him) but I remember being absolutely TERRIFIED about telling my mom. I called a friend who came to be with me before I called my mom. I knew it wouldn’t be as bad if I had a friend with me.
    Sort of a change of subject, but this is why laws that require underage girls to get parental approval before they get an abortion are so wrong. Parents who are emotionally stable and love their kids probably have a good enough relationship that the girl will want to confide in her parents anyway, and enlist their help and support. But for girls whose parents are abusive, rigid, unforgiving – not to mention guilty of incest – it just puts them in an impossible situation.
    Anne

  2. “My father is going to be angry with me.”

    Yep, and then some of us take these dysfunctional fathers, stick them up in heaven, and spend the rest of their lives praying to them, making horrible sacrifices to placate them, or being terrified of their vengeance, and trying to ensure, by fair means or foul, that others share in this collective folly.

    Homo sapiens? Sometimes I wonder.

  3. This story really hit me in the gut. For so many reasons–it’s like it activated layers of memory, of guilt for not playing by the rules and getting smacked for it–of getting hit by a car “because” I was riding my bike in a place that was off-limits–of being hungry, walking the streets, cringing to think of what my father would think if he saw what I was doing….good writing, write on.

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