_keithnorm
People Will Believe What They Want To Believe

"Here, wear this to bed", he said as he handed me an oversized T-Shirt. I must have been 4 or 5 years old. We were coming home from the coliseum. We were at a monster truck show and got caught in a bad storm so we stopped at his place to stay the night. This was one of my last memories of my dad. I don’t know why it sticks out in my mind. It could be the awkwardly sized T-Shirt, or it could be the last good memory I had of him. I felt safe, warm and protected. 

I never questioned it much growing up. Why did he stop coming around? Why did we stop visiting? Why didn’t my dad live with us? Aside from that, I grew up well and I grew up right. I have no qualms about my childhood despite being raised by my mom and grandmother only. My grandmother is sick now, dying of old age, and I will miss her.

But that’s not what this story is about.

I grew up to be smart, independent and compassionate. After meeting my girlfriend, Allison, who then became my wife, I actually learned to enjoy and love the person I became. Life took its turns and I struggled to find my place in it, but eventually things started to come together. Everything seemed pretty good.

It was my senior year of college. Allison, who naturally takes a deep interest in the lives of everyone she is connected to, planted a thought in my mind. Let’s find my father. We did what anyone would do in this modern age of technology and found him online. We learned that he was currently working at a Mercedes dealership in Akron, as a mechanic. I thought I remembered this being the case, but I also knew he worked at the Coliseum. We used to see him during basketball and soccer games

and sometimes he would be able to move us down into empty seats closer to the floor. 

That Christmas, in 2005, we were at a Cavs game and decided to see if he still worked there. He didn’t, but his sister did. My last memory of my Aunt Cindy was when she microwaved a corn dog for me, that she pulled from a giant freezer chest, after I had stubbed my toe while riding a miniature motorcycle. These are, as they say, the obscure memories of a child. We talked to Cindy who was overjoyed to see me again. We got taken backstage at the game where we got free food and drinks and got 

drunk on beer.

My dad, Barry, and I exchanged a few shallow emails over the next couple of months and I think may have talked on the phone once or twice, but I don’t remember. It must have been March or April when we finally reunited. We met in Columbus, where I was still in school at the time. We went out for burgers and beer. We talked about how great it was to reconnect, and how its been long overdue. It was awkward, but good. 

That summer, I graduated, and my dad and his whole side of the family was in attendance. It felt like a grand reconnection. A piece of me that I had never known. A whole side of my family that I had only distant memories of, are now all back in my life, and they are all thrilled about it, as am I. My mom and dad also reunited that day. It had been 20 years for them as well. How would they handle it? We were all anticipating how things would play out. I felt my phone buzz in my pocket underneath my graduation gown as I sat in the bleachers at Ohio State stadium. 

"OMG your mom and dad are holding hands", Allison emphatically relayed to me.

"Wow, really? Well, that went better than anyone would have imagined"

We later went out to dinner with the whole crew, drank wine, smoked cigarettes and talked about our lives and celebrated everything that had culminated to that moment. I was finishing college and starting my real life, others were starting college, or just starting high school, others still were finding new jobs or new relationships. It felt pure, revitalizing and happy. 

Life simmered over that summer and my mom and dad continued to rekindle their old flame. They were like high schoolers when they were together. He would tease her and she would either giggle and write it off or she would get mad until he said something else, then she would giggle and write it off. They didn’t talk about the past. They didn’t want to. Their goal was to deny to each other that they had ever split up. Why did he leave us and move to California? What has he been doing for the

past 20 years? Who cares, just start fresh and see where it goes. This was fun at first and had a certain cuteness to it, but frankly, between you and I, it got annoying. It got annoying because these were 2 adults living in denial, unable to express themselves to each other, but mutually agreeing to just go with it so long as neither of them break the trust and bring up any hard issues.

It was for this reason, a mutual unwillingness to actually discuss the why’s and how’s of the breakup some 20 years ago, that their relationship never matured. He continued to live an hour and a half away. They continued to have “his life” and “her life”, and would only visit on weekends when there wasn’t a local hillbilly dirt race to attend or anything of equal or lesser importance. Things went on this way for nearly 6 years. 

I talked to my mom about it. “I just call him my buddy. I would never be in a relationship with him because I don’t trust him, so he’s just my buddy.”, she would say, even though they would talk every night and he called her “honey” and introduced her as his girlfriend. I wrote it off as a Will & Grace syndrome and figured if that’s how she needs to be in order to be happy, so be it.

I learned about Barry’s other girlfriend, Julie, through Facebook. At first, through photos and wall posts saying things to the tune of “This is the man I’m going to marry. I love my Barry, Rambo and Shambo [the dogs]”, then ultimately via an email from a concerned friend of the both of them. The email read something like this:

    Subject: I’m sorry to tell you but you need

    I’m sorry to tell you but you need to know that your dad has a girlfriend and they have been together for over a year. She lives with him and they come to work together everyday

    I’m telling you this because I know that he and your mom are also together and I saw my mom get cheated on too and I just think she needs to know. I’ve never seen Barry happier than when he is with Julie so it’s hard because they really do love each other but it’s not right what he is doing to your mom. Also Julie is pregnant and I don’t know what he is going to do I mean my god she is having his baby. He tells Julie that he is just waiting to break up with your mom until after 

your grandmother dies. He says that she just can’t take anymore stress right now so that’s why he is staying with her. I don’t think that’s right I mean my god she is having a baby what is he going to do? I’m sorry to tell you but you and your mom need to know.

So, that morning, I emailed my mom and forwarded some key snippets from the eye-witness email. Not the whole thing, but just the relevant parts. The parts that proved it was legit. Things like knowing that my grandmother was sick and knowing that he was using that as an excuse to Julie. Those can’t be made up. I get a response 10 minutes later:

    Subject: Re: Barry

    Barry says that it’s all a lie. I just don’t know who to believe

5 minutes later, Barry calls me.

    “So, about this email, can you tell me who sent it?”

    “No, it was sent anonymously through Facebook.” 

    “Anonymously? I didn’t know you could do that.”

    “Yeah.”

    “Well can you forward it to me?”

    “No.”

    “This person is spreading lies about me and I need to track them down.”

    “Well, they don’t sound like lies to me.”

    “I have friends at the FBI and they will figure out who’s spreading these lies about me.”

    “Ok, whatever, I have no choice but to belive you over a random email I suppose.”

Over the next few days, my informant and I exchange probably 20 emails all with high levels of accuracy and stating things that no one would know except for Barry, Julie or my mom. Not only things like my grandmother being sick, but my mom’s dog having cancer, the names of my aunt and uncle, things Barry has said about me and missing me growing up, things about Julie and their relationship, things he has said to Julie about how he tells her that I don’t want to meet her because I don’t

accept him with anyone other than my mom, and how he is just waiting to break up with my mom until after my grandmother dies. Things that are undeniably real, not just hearsay, because there is no way anyone could have made up these things had they not come from Barry’s lips. 

Frankly at this point, Allison and I are pissed. Not only has he been living a double life with my mom and Julie, he has been using me as a pawn telling Julie I don’t want to meet her, using my grandma as a pawn for why he has to stay with my mom and then lying to my face about all of it when I told my mom what was going on. Who uses someone’s dying grandmother as a pawn in their fucking lie?

The next day my mom emails Allison and says that Barry wants to talk to her. He knows that I believe he has been cheating on my mom at this point, but thinks he may have a chance of convincing Allison that everything isn’t true. What he doesn’t know is that she is even sharper and more pissed than even I am. At any rate, we arrange a conference call and let him say his peace. To summarize, his peace is that he is hiring a lawyer to sue for defamation of character and slander because

these are obviously all lies. We continually interjected by urging him to just drop the act. Given the fact that we know things about the situation that are so factual that they could not possibly be made up by someone trying to frame another, but sick demented liars don’t give in easily. I urged him to just own up. Deny. Offered to wipe the slate clean if he’d just tell me the truth. Deny. Allison, in her infinite wisdom, then asks, “If what you say is really true then you would have no

problem with us calling Julie, right?”. “Sure. I have nothing to hide. Her number is ###-###-####.” 

10 minutes later Allison is on the phone with Julie. In short, she confirms everything in the emails. They live together, she was pregnant but lost the baby, they are planning on getting married someday and moving to Hickory, North Carolina. Furthermore, right after Barry gave us Julie’s number, he called her and prepped her with “You might get a call from Allison. You know what to do.” Apparently “you know what to do” was a common code phrase in their relationship. It meant that whenever 

anyone asks you about your relationship with me, you are  to deny it. Julie is aware of Barry’s relationship with my mom because he leaves every Friday and Saturday and comes to visit her, but she believes, as she’s been told, that they are just friends and that he is just helping her out through some rough times.

At this point, Barry stops answering my phone calls. That Saturday morning, I know that he is at my mom’s house, waiting for her to get home from work, pretending to himself that he is a good person. The thought nearly makes me choke. I need to do anything I can do to not let him continue to enjoy this sham of a life at the expense of my mom and I. I text him, and we have the following exchange:

"You’re a pathetic liar."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, son."

"Don’t try to guilt trip me asshole. You lied to my face. Own up."

"So I guess I shouldn’t expect a christmas card from you this year then."

"Drop the shit. It’s time to own up."

"Why fight battles you can’t win?"

"The battle being getting you to be honest? Are you really that hopeless?"

"Ask questions"

"No, just tell me the truth"

"Ask away"

He wants me to go one by one of things that I believe so that he can directly refute whatever I say. For a liar, it’s much easier to go point by point and tell someone why they are wrong, than it is to tackle the story as a whole, so I don’t respond. 

Later that week I got home late from an after-work bar outing to find Allison on the phone with Julie. I had not yet talked to her myself, only heard second hand from Allison. I still needed to tell her that I have nothing against her. I was used as a pawn in Barry’s game when he said I was the one that wouldn’t accept her that’s why she had to leave when I came around. Not that I didn’t even know she existed, which was the truth. So, I got on the phone with her around midnight or 1AM. We 

talked about everything. The whole story up until this point, the emails, my relationship with Barry, her relationship with Barry, his relationship with my mom. We both laughed and cried at different times. I drank wine and smoked cigarettes while sitting in the doorway of our balcony and talked to her until the sun came up. We pinnacled on stories of what we would like to do to Barry. Her’s was much more graphic than mine, and if I recall correctly, involved making him eat his own deep  

fried penis. Which is fair.  

A few more days go by and I get a call from Barry. I’m at Motel Bar at the time so I don’t answer. He leaves a message:

"If you want to talk, no speaker phone, no conference calls. If you can agree to that then we can talk."

Since when are you setting the terms here?

I call him back from a conference room in my office. It’s after 8PM and no one is around anymore.

Over the next hour or two I pace the conference room, drink Miller Lite’s and release a lifetime full of anger onto the person who has brought me into this world only to use me and lie to me. It goes like this:

"The way I see it is all that is left for you to do is to be honest. I don’t care what happened or what you did anymore, I just want you to come clean to me."

"What do you want to know?"

"When Julie told you she was pregnant, how did you react?"

"She never told me she was pregnant"

"Ok asshole, let’s not argue semantics here. I know you found out she was pregnant by the search history on the computer. How did you react?"

"She never TOLD ME she was pregnant"

"WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID?"

"DON’T FUCKING YELL AT"

"do NOT yell at me. I will yell at you all I want because you are a fucking pathetic liar."

At one point I caught him in a lie from one minute to the next.

"How often did Julie come stay with you?"

"Maybe once or twice a week"

"Oh, so she didn’t live with you?"

"No, just like maybe once a week she’d come over"

"Well you already told me she lived with you before because you were helping her out because she was living in a garage.."

"No that’s not what I said."

"Yes you did, see you can’t even keep your lies straight."

Once it was clear that he was going to continue to deny everything and lie to me, I controlled the conversation. I called him an emotional cripple, a sociopath, a demented fuckup that seeks pathetic little girls that he can take advantage of and explained to him that that’s all he’s done for his entire life. It felt good and bad at the same time. Sure, I get to have a deserving outlet for all the anger inside of me, but at the same time, I no longer have a father. Not that I ever did.

Two weeks later my mom and dad got married. They did it spontaneously on a trip to Florida to visit an uncle. He proposed in an I-HoP parking lot and then they did a ceremony on the beach. Strangers took a few photos. She doesn’t know why I can’t be happy for her. People will believe what they want to believe.