True Crime, Freesias and a Happy Easter

My conversations with my dad are not what most daughters have with their fathers.  For one thing, they are held over the telephone most Sundays when he calls me from home prison.  For another, our conversations aren’t exactly run-of-the-mill. Our most recent one went something like this:

“Just to let you know Dad I’ll be away for a couple of weeks.  I’ll drop you a line with the dates so that you’ll know when I’ll be back and we can chat then!”

“No problem darling, where are you going, somewhere nice?”

“Lewes.”

“Oh yes, Lewes!  I remember Lewes.  Long time ago now, but a very nice town, from what I saw of it!”

“When did you go to Lewes then Dad? You’re not getting confused with Arundel are you?”

“Oh no.  I’ve been to both!  I was in nic for a spell in Lewes as well as Ford. I’ve been everywhere man!”

That’s the gist of it anyway. I’ve honestly lost track of all the prisons my dad has done time in and even joked with him once that he should star-rate them according to how good or bad the food, accommodation and location is.  A sort of Trip Advisor for cons.

During these roller-coaster decades my thoughts towards my dad have ranged from acceptance but with sadness, to great concern and fear for his life and then veering to anger and rage, times even when I thought I downright hated him and wanted nothing more to do with him such was my hurt and disappointment, putting it mildly.

The most recent photo I have of me with my dad, taken in 2006 outside Kingston Lacy House, Dorset.  Dad was 'out', living at a half-way house but not long after this he started drinking again, attempted to rob a bank and was arrested.   Photographs aren't allowed in prison. (c ) Sherri Matthews 2014

The most recent photo I have of me with my dad, taken in 2006 outside Kingston Lacy House, Dorset. Dad was ‘out’, living in a half-way house but not long after this he started drinking again, attempted to rob a bank and was arrested.
Photographs aren’t allowed in prison.
(c ) Sherri Matthews 2014

But I could never leave him, this lost-soul of a man who is my father, who is now eighty-one and still in prison.

Love can walk hand-in-hand with hate,  ready to pull away when life doesn’t match up to what is so often expected.

My ‘hate’ was never what it seemed.  I always loved my dad and always will.

Easter brings back a memory of a time when I was a teenager catching the train to spend the Easter weekend with my dad.

I remember waking up that sunny Easter morning and dad pacing up and down, desperate for the pub to open.  While I got ready, he popped out to the off-licence to buy cigarettes and booze – what else? – but when he returned, he stunned and thrilled me when he handed me a small bunch of freesias. The only other gift I remember from my dad was a bottle of Charlie perfume which I kept forever and a lifetime.

My dad was the first man who ever gave me flowers and the delicate beauty and scent of freesias make me stop in my tracks even today.

Beautiful Freesias

Beautiful Freesias

I wasn’t to know then that after this visit I wouldn’t have another sober conversation with him for many years.  His drinking escalated, he disappeared under the radar but somehow we managed to keep in touch by letter when he was sober (meaning, in prison).

Easter time with my own children growing up in California was always a happy, fun-filled family time. My mum would often visit us from England at this time of year, her suitcases crammed full with British-style chocolate Easter Eggs.

It meant a great deal to me to be able to share them with my kids alongside their traditional American Easter baskets, which were not something I grew up with.

Granny’s visit was always something to be eagerly anticipated with great excitement!

You can always talk to me... (Eldest son & Bonnie 1984) (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

You can always talk to me…
(Eldest son & Bonnie 1984)
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Although we had our share of adventures even then. One Easter, our darling dog Bonnie, a cross Lab/Collie, managed to get to Granny’s Easter Eggs (hidden out of sight but not from a dog’s powerful sense of smell) while we were out one afternoon and ate the lot, foil and all.

I was convinced she had been poisoned and was going to die.  Oh no, my poor Bonnie! Dogs aren’t supposed to eat chocolate, right?  But that dog was cast iron.

She never got ill.  She lived a long, healthy life until she ran out of steam and left us peacefully, many years later in her old age.

Easter holds some powerful memories for me. It was during the long Easter weekend back in 1980  that my life was thrown into immediate turmoil.

That Easter Sunday I took a phone call bearing devastating news that would send me on a flight to the East Coast of America not a few days later. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Many years later at Easter in 2003, a For Sale sign went up in front of our home in California and with every thud of the Realtor’s hammer pounding that wooden sign deeper into the ground, my marriage of twenty-one years shattered and splintered into the broken dirt surrounding it

That same Easter in California, the winds had howled and the seas had raged, black and fierce, churning up its dark secrets. A woman’s torso washed up on a beach in Northern California and not one mile away, the body of a baby, her baby.

Married and pregnant, a beautiful young woman called Laci Peterson had been missing since the previous Christmas and I, along with millions of others in America, was glued to the reports coming in of the search for her.

The news that she and her baby had been found meant a bittersweet closure for her grieving family that Easter, but the ensuing trial ripped apart Laci’s so-called grieving husband’s lies and today Scott Peterson sits on Death Row in San Quentin Prison in California.

Yet, in the mix of these memories, and let’s face it, we were never promised a rose garden,  the strength of all that is good and right takes hold of my heart and reminds me to be ever thankful for the simple and sure message of Easter and the blessings in my life.

Californian Poppies in the Spring - Cambria, CA (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Californian Poppies in the Spring – Cambria, CA
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

For me, there is no better way to do this than to remember the words spoken by one  certain little four-year old boy one Easter Sunday many years ago.

Let loose when Sunday School came to an end and bursting out of the classroom (very excited to get home to his Easter treats) he was not only desperate to show me pictures he had drawn but also to tell me something he had memorised that morning.  Something about a man called Jesus and what somebody had said when they couldn’t find him in the tomb.

The words came tumbling out from the mouth of my youngest son, his face beaming with pride, so pleased with himself that he had remembered what to say:

“He is not here, He is risen, just as He said!”  (Matthew 28:6)

That’s the Easter I remember and I smile because of it.

 ……………………………………………………………………..

This will be my last post until next week.  Family time (guess who gets to hear all about a certain someone’s trip to California?!) coming up, although I will be keeping tabs on you all and catching up with your blogs, so please bear with me! (Is it me, or am I always playing catch-up these days?)  Until then, I wish you all a very Happy Easter, filled with joy and blessings for you and your families. And, as I always say, watch this space 🙂

Love Sherri x

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Childhood Memories, Family Life, My California, My Dad's Alcoholic Prison and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

118 Responses to True Crime, Freesias and a Happy Easter

  1. Sorry to hear about some of the sad memories you had in the past especially the ones that resurface when Easter comes. It is both a sad and joyful time for me as well. It made me remember my parents and sisters I long left behind when I moved to America but on one end, it’s a time to make happy memories with my 8-year old. Life is a constant cycle of laughter and tears but what matters is that we have someone to share them with. Family and faith help us go through the best and the worst. Wishing you all the happiness, love and peace.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Well, I wanted to show that despite all that has gone on before, I came to a place of acceptance of my dad and the way he is (and that he could never be the father I wanted and needed) long ago for my own peace of mind and so that I could forgive him and love him unconditionally. Any other way would only lead to resentment and bitterness and that only destroys in the end…
      I’m so sorry that for you too Easter brings back some sad memories, and I do understand so much what it’s like to leave your precious family behind as you did when you moved away. It tears you apart doesn’t it? But then, and as you are so right, you now get to make new family memories with your darling boy, which is just what I did with my children. Life’s rich pattern as I like to call it 😉 Having someone by our side to share the journey, rain or shine, is God’s gift to us. Bless you IT, thank you so much, and likewise, I wish for you every happiness, all love and peace too…always… 🙂

      Like

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