Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

[This is a continuation of the first Sept. 5 journal. They’re going to be a little jumbled up, but bear with me…]

Sept. 5th, 2002

Well, I can tell you for sure why I’m not here—I’m not here to visit my Dad.  He’s living in Swan Lake, MT, in a cabin that my family used to spend summers in.  I call it a cabin, and people who later visit it tell me that it’s more than that.  Well, it’s got two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, a large living room with stone fireplace, a sun porch, a deck, a dock, a hammock, an untended flower garden, a teepee platform (the teepee is hanging in a bag in one of the sheds, a guest cabin (bedroom, bathroom and washer/dryer in a small space, very secluded and peaceful), and several storage shacks with this and that and that and another this and the other: a boat, some horse shoes, and an old badminton net and racquets.

So, that’s where I’m not.

I ...

... sorry, drifted there, I was gone about 15 minutes, looking at a branch but thinking about the inside of my life.  It’s not easy to piece this all together.

As you may know, Susie and I drove from California to Calgary in July for a wedding.  On our way North, we didn’t stop by the cabin because we were running behind by about 4 days.

On the way back South, we stopped for a day, but my Dad was up in Calgary at that time, so though we were there, I didn’t get a chance to see him in Montana.

I had heard from my sisters that the cabin wasn’t in good repair—that it was being left dirty, had problems with the mot water heater, that there were holes in all the rugs, that the dock was falling apart, etc.

But when I got there and looked around, it was better than I’d expected, and better than I’d remembered it from last time, and I was really sad that I wasn’t going to spend time with my Dad there.  Because when he’s in Montana, he’s usually at his best.

So, when Susie and I finished our trip and were getting back into the L.A. routine, I checked my vacation days and bank account, and found a completely nonrefundable ticket for $240 on Priceline, to go to Missoula on Labor Day weekend.

Time passed, with that scary background music that tells you something bad lurks beneath the surface of still water, even though the day is sunny and everything looks bright and sharply defined.

My Mom was on a month-long teaching trip to China (that’s another journal entry).  While she was out of the country, my sister Staci was living in her house and running my mom’s small Kumon math and reading learning center.  25-year-old Staci had been working as a waitress in Montana but mostly killing time waiting for the end of summer to come down to Los Angeles, and it was a good situation.  Staci could keep care of the house, the cat, the mail, the business, and make some decent money, while my mom could (there’s that music) feel better in China with her life’s affairs in good hands.

Did I mention my parents are getting a divorce?

The Monday before my Mom came home on a Wednesday, got that? my Dad comes to the house in Calgary in the morning with a truck—and I should say here that I didn’t see this happen or know about it for several days, so I’m piecing this together from different stories from different people, sometimes told differently from telling to telling—he comes Monday to the house with a truck and he and persons unknown load many things from the house into the truck.  Things like furniture and other objects, china, antiques—things that my Dad believes he had a claim of ownership to directly.

He went into the house while it was locked and my sister wasn’t there.  He uses a key that he had copied from my other sister’s key chain when he took her car in to get the oil changed.  (He didn’t have his own key because my mom had had the locks changed.)  He went through the whole house, top to bottom, papers, personal effects, taking what he thought he deserved when no one was there to stop him.

The truck is loaded.  Staci arrives home.  She says she couldn’t do anything to stop him.  So, she goes to dinner with him.  He stays in the house that night, with Staci’s tacit permission.  He also, apparently, had been staying there previously.  The next day, he drives down to Montana with the truck.  Staci stays that day and leaves the next (Wednesday morning), knowing that my Mom is due back that afternoon and that she wants to be no where near the scene.

My sister, who was responsible for Mom’s house and business, didn’t tell leave a note for Mom, didn’t call the mediator, Mom’s lawyer, me, any family friend, any other sister, or the police.

When my Mom got home, she was faced with a semi-purged house, and was left with a sense of being invaded, of feeling unsafe, and was also presented with the desertion of her daughter., who was far more than neutral when she had dinner with my Dad after he emptied my Mom’s house.

And, just so my Mom and the world could not mistake the intent behind his actions, my Dad left behind a venomous note saying that mediation was finished, and that he was going to blah blah, not a penny, blah blah, could have been even worse, etc. ad nauseam.

OK, back up a few weeks.  My Mom and Dad are in mediation.  Mediation is going OK, not great, but better than, frankly, I think they or anyone else expected.  But my Mom gets a chance to go to China.  She takes it.  Just before she’s set to leave, my Dad makes some “final offers,” which my Mom declines to decide on (regardless of their merit). 

Well, anyway, I had a plane ticket to Montana to visit my Dad, but I had absolutely no desire to see him, and I had nothing more to say to him (I had been talking to him by phone in an attempt to see his side, to make him understand how he’d hurt me, how he was hurting my sisters and himself, and so forth).  I told my Dad that I was ashamed and hurt by what he’d done, and that, the very fact that I found it difficult to tell people about what happened, and the fact that he didn’t want me to either, was an indication that it was a malicious act.  If he thinks other rational people, and I think other rational people, who judge him poorly for what he’d done, even if they were given all the facts, as I’ve tried to do here, well, then isn’t that pretty clear proof that it was not a justifiable thing to do?

Anyway, I told him that my respect for him was at a low ebb, and that though I would talk to him, and I did keep calling him, I said I wouldn’t come visit him until he had taken active steps to repair his actions, either directly, or by doing something that was an indication of reformation.

He said that anyone would have done the same in his position (because people often don’t get back their valuable heirlooms in a divorce), and that he would do it again if given another chance.

Well, that sounded less than contrite, and not a promising sign of redemption, leading to forgiveness and trust.

But, I still had this ticket to Montana, and September is the most beautiful time of the year there.

So I did get on the plane, and go to Missoula.  I rented a car, I took camping gear, I got a place to stay with a friend for a day or two, and here I am on the shores of Glacier Lake.

It’s peaceful and quiet and it gives me time to think and put my thoughts in order.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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