11. The Empty Drawer

October 25, 1996

I had barely drifted off to sleep when Mom and Shannon burst into my room.  Mom turned on the light and perched on the side of my bed.  Shannon stood in the doorway, glaring at me with her arms folded and wearing an extremely pissed-off expression.

“Tommy, were you in Shannon’s room tonight?”

“No,” I said.   That was the truth.  Unbeknownst to me, Dad took advantage of the opportunity to snoop around while they were out. Shannon is very organized and knew immediately that somebody had been in her desk.  Things were missing.

“Did you take anything?”

“No!” I said, louder than before.  I was getting really angry.  I had already told her that I wasn’t in Shannon’s room.  What part of that didn’t she understand?

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!” I said, my voice constricting around the lump building in my throat.  Why was she treating me like this?  My mother looked at me suspiciously.  “Because she’s missing something now.”  I just stared at her.  “Are you sure you didn’t take anything?  Because now’s the time to tell me.  If you wait until tomorrow to tell me, it’ll be too late…”  I could tell from the tone of her voice that she didn’t believe me.

I didn’t answer.  I turned my back on her and faced the wall to hide the tears rolling down my face.  My mother was essentially calling me a liar and that really hurt.  I felt her get up from the bed and heard her walk out of the room and close the door  behind her.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned the rest of the story.  I was the top student in the school when I graduated from fifth grade.  I earned the love and admiration of my teachers and the lasting enmity of my peers.  I also earned a $50 savings bond along with various other prizes and awards.  However I wasn’t permitted to keep it.  Mom took it from me after a few days and gave it to my very organized sister for “safekeeping.”  The injustice of it rankled.  I was insulted that they didn’t trust me to look after it.  I was allowed to visit it occasionally, though.  Shannon would take it out of her desk drawer so I could look at it, and then she would return it to its place.  I appealed to my mother and she said I’d be allowed to have it when I was older.

However, Dad came across it that night during his search and confiscated it.  He never told me he had it, and Mom and Shannon never told me it was missing.  All I knew was that it sounded like it was no longer safe in her room.  So a few days after the midnight inquisition, I started insisting that I was old enough to finally take possession of it.  I was eleven, after all.  But every time I asked, Mom and Shannon demurred.

At first they thought I had taken it and was testing them to see if they would lie to me.  Then they thought I was being manipulated by Dad to do so.  They already thought he gave me orders to watch everyone and report back to him, and now they thought I was taking things out of people’s rooms for him too.   I didn’t understand any of that at the time, though.  Instead I ended up sympathizing more and more with Dad.  He said everyone treated him like shit and I was starting to feel the same way.

In retrospect, and knowing what I know now, they were right to try and hide my savings bond for safekeeping.  They were afraid of Dad getting his hands on it and that’s precisely what happened.  When my oldest brother Johnny was in his teens, he spent summers and weekends working with Dad on his construction jobs.  He earned a lot of money and Dad opened up a savings account for him.  Then one day Dad cleaned out Johnny’s bank account to pay a bill.  When Johnny protested, Dad said it was actually his money.  That’s right.  The couple of thousand Johnny had was somehow Dad’s.  Dad never apologized or paid him back, he just wiped out his life’s savings in the blink of an eye.

The question now was, what would happen to my money…?

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