I want to tell you why I murdered my father. But … I’m constrained. This document is going into a time capsule sponsored by the university I’m affiliated with, to be dug up in 100 years. I’ll be dead when you—whoever you are—read this, so I won’t be available for any follow-up questions.
I am not just a doctor, I am an administrator, and I’ve begged a lot of people for money: foundations, wealthy individual philanthropists, once even a group of middle-aged rock stars. I know that in order for your audience to follow you to the preordained conclusion—the one that opens their wallets—you need to stick to a very narrow version of the truth.
So I want to tell you how awful my father was, and how he really, truly deserved it.
But if I go overboard and present him as a caricature, you might say that no one could be that bad, that I’m making it up, that I’m a spoiled (aging) brat.
This will require finesse.
I’ll list some good attributes first, because I want you to see first of all that I’m not tunnel-visioned; that I’m not the guy in the Edgar Allan Poe story who murders an old man just because he has a cataract on one eye; that I gave my father a lifetime of fair shakes until the day when I was 51 and he was 79, and I murdered him.
Dad really was a hero, by the publicly-measurable standards we all go by. He was born in some village in the north of England, lied about his age and joined “His Majesty’s Army” at age 16 in 1939. He fought in Greece, North Africa and Italy.
The British rifle was a bolt action Lee-Enfield. If you were good, you could fire 30 well-placed shots in 60 seconds: he could. His older sister married an American serviceman after the war; she sponsored his immigration, and he was happy to go since, as he said, the “Reds had buggered Blimey.”
(By, “Reds had buggered Blimey,” he meant that the new Labour government (Reds) had harmed (buggered) England (Blimey) irreparably. No points for guessing he was a Republican.)
My mother was a Polish refugee. She came to America separately from Dad. Her family had been part of the aristocracy, and she told me of three uncles who had died in Stalin’s Katyn Forest Massacre.
So you might say that being murdered was a family tradition.
In America, she had nothing left but her haughty manner. It was enough to entice Dad; he must have had enough of the British class system pounded into him to desire a wife who knew which fork to use with the salad.
Dad, with the inner drive that had led him to jump into World War Two with both feet, confident that there was something on the other end better than the bucolic village life, had made a quick fortune in real estate by the time I was born in 1950. My brother Stan came along a few years later. A family photo from 1960 shows a confident, smiling man with a slight pot belly, a woman of dark Slavic beauty (for whatever else Mother was, she was beautiful) and two grinning, adorable, crew-cut boys. On the outside, it was iconic Americana.
Hmm. I wondered if I should scrap this confession now and replace my contribution to the time capsule with what the cover page claims it is—a memoir of my work in an RV-based traveling medical clinic. Because the story I want to tell is certainly meaningful and painful to me, but I know you—whoever you are—didn’t live it.
At the end of this, you might say: “No, his father didn’t deserve it. Anton Platt is an ungrateful piece of human scum!”
Oh, screw it. I’m dust now. You’re wearing a silver jumpsuit and a white cape, like all those people in old science fiction movies, and you’ve got a flying car in your garage. What do I care about your opinion?
First off, there was no sexual abuse. The old man didn’t come into our room at night with a jar of Vaseline and go “eenie meenie minie mo.” None of that.
He was quick to spank; he used his belt on us even when we were little (though many fathers used such methods in those days).
What I don’t forgive is that he tried to set me and Stanley against each other.
Understand this: I loved Stan from the moment he came home. I became a six-year-old adult in a way, because I took responsibility for him. I vowed, with the fullness of heart that only a six-year-old can muster, that I would always protect this wrinkly, bald, crying, swaddled little thing.