My Dad’s Piano
Saturday morning and my doorbell rings. I peek through the window and see my cousin standing outside of my door. My cousin has only been to my house once in the last few years. He asks me if I had seen my father because he did not show up at church and he is not answering his phone. My father not answering his phone was not something that normally had me worried but the fact that he was the choir director and did not show up got my attention. My cousin also mentioned that his car was not parked at his home. I jumped in my car and had my cousin follow me to my father’s house. I had just visited my father at his home the night before and we chatted for a few minutes before I left.
On my way to my father’s house I thought maybe he was in a car accident on his way to church or maybe he left the house after I left last night. I called two local hospitals to see if maybe my father was there but both hospitals confirmed that there was no one listed there with my father’s name.
When I arrived at his house I quickly unlocked the door. For years my father had preached to me about security and making sure I locked the top and bottom lock at the front door of my house. The weird thing is that only his bottom lock was locked. I remember having a feeling that something was off. After walking into the foyer I noticed a faint smell. My father loved to garden and he kept maybe 30 different flowers inside his home so at first I thought maybe the smell was coming from them or maybe he forget to dispose of the garbage. I walked upstairs and the smell got worse and it was when I got to the top of the stairs and looked into his bedroom that I felt something was wrong. I saw clothes strewn across the place, and his drawers emptied out onto the floor. Funny enough when I stopped by the night before my father was packing for a trip to Jamaica he had coming up in a few days. I kept thinking what the hell, what the hell is going on and then it hit me that something was very wrong. I ran out of the house to discover my cousin talking to the neighbor and I remember telling him call the police now….
When the police arrived we explained everything that occurred up to the point of them being called. They went inside the house and then they came out and one of the officers told me that my father was still inside the house. Apparently his body was found in the closet of the guest room wrapped up in a Persian rug. Death by what appeared to be strangulation. It was at that point that I completely lost it. My father, my best friend and closest confidant was gone forever. To this day I am so thankful that I did not venture into the guests bedroom and discover… It’s one thing to know that a loved one was taken away from you violently but to actually be the one to discover…. I just can’t image the nightmares that I would probably trail me for the rest of my life. That maybe the only thing that I can be thankful about. Well that and the detectives who worked the case. When I started writing this post I thought I could tell the story from the beginning to the end. I can’t.
Actually maybe I can. You can’t imagine the different emotions running through me when I realized that I was never going to see my father again. I remember crawling on the ground, screaming and punching the concrete beneath me. I was the last person to see my dad alive. Well apparently not the last one, but I saw my father around 8:30pm the night he died. The coroner estimated that his time of death was around 10pm. It was a surreal feeling having to go down to the police station a few hours later and be questioned by the detectives that took the case. I don’t blame them at all for questioning me I was just in shock and frankly I wanted justice to be served. I always wondered what would have happened if I had come over an hour later. Would I have been able to prevent this from happening? Or…..
Well it took just a few weeks for the police to find the people who took my father’s life. Turns out that the people involved took my drove my father’s car down to GA and committed another murder within 13 days after they took my father’s life. The idiots then tried to sell my fathers 30K Acura to someone for $500. It was due to the failed sale of the vehicle why they got caught. What saddens me is that they went there not only of the intention of robbing my father but to make sure he would not live talk about it. And to think that they went through all of this trouble for a few hundred dollars? What human kills someone for a few hundred dollars and takes a vehicle that is worth a decent amount of change and tries to sell it for a few hundred dollars. Drug addicts maybe? I wish that were the case. Turns out that the people involved were a 17 year old boy, his 19-year-old sister and her boyfriend. The sister and her boyfriend were not tried in Maryland due to the fact that GA had them for the murder. They did extradite the 17-year-old to Maryland and my family spent a week going to the trial. DNA evidence found the 17 year old’s skin under my dad’s fingernails.
It was also very weird being approached by the boy’s family. They offered their condolences and throughout the trial I would watch the tears stream down his mothers face. I could not imagine raising not one but two children that committed murders. I kept looking at the boy who was 17 years old, about 160 lbs with dirty blonde hair and I found it hard imagining that he was such a monster. He spoke like a regular teenaged boy and was very polite during the trial but yet he had helped to kill two people over the course of two weeks. Sadly I could not drum up too much sympathy for the boy’s family.
This Piano was a staple in our home as a child. For a few hours almost every evening my father could be found playing it. Music was to my father what photography is to me. I remember from kindergarten through second grade he was the music teacher at the christian academy I attended. Even later when he started his company he still taught music in the evenings. I was amazed to see how many of his students showed up for his funeral. It was nice to see how many lives he touched through music throughout the years. His Piano now sits in my basement. Although I have not played for many years and I may never play again but I don’t think I will ever be able to let it go. As I am writing this I can’t help glancing over my shoulder now and then to look at the Piano.
Writing this post has been harder than I thought it would ever be. I thought about sharing links to the many news articles surrounding this story.. I decided not to. I don’t want those criminals to be the subject of this post. Everyone copes differently. I admit I have only been to visit his grave site twice since he has passed 5+ years ago. I drive by the cemetery a few times a year thinking that today is the day I will face the fact that his body is in the ground but I have real problem with that. I rather look over my shoulder and envision him playing his favorite song, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on his piano.
The one thing I will say is that my father loved people. He was the type of person that literally would talk to just about anyone. I can’t count the numerous people who were down on their luck or needed financial assistance and he would try and help in any way he could. In some ways he was naïve and way too trusting of people. A year before he passed he received a letter from the son of a friend of his in Jamaica. The gentleman was attending medical school and needed money for books. The guy did not ask for anything but my father knew him when he was a child and his father had recently passed from cancer. He sent down a few thousand dollars to help pay for some books and tuition fees. I cannot tell you how many relatives or friends of friends he allowed to stay in his house over the years to allow them to get back on their feet. People just don’t do things like that and to be honest I sure wouldn’t. I really wish I could say I was made of the same cloth but I can’t. Over years it would never come as a surprise to see someone I never met over at his house having dinner. It was no wonder that when he passed people from all over the country flew in for his funeral. The church was so filled with people paying respects that all the overflow rooms had to be utilized for the service.
Maybe a part of him is within me. It could be the reason I love photographing weddings and portraits. People interest me. I love hearing about other peoples upbringing and life experiences. I truly enjoy meeting new people and photography gives me that opportunity. I also know how precious memories are. Just last night while having dinner with my wife I realize how many wonderful memories I had and places I had visited due to having such a wonderful and adventurous father.
My daughter was only three when he passed and my son had just turned one. He absolutely loved watching them all by himself and would show up almost twice a week to take them to the park. Even though my wife and I were nervous sometimes because of the way he drove we knew they were in good hands. Sadly my children will never remember him…. His birthday would have been celebrated tomorrow and he would have been 67 years old. I only hope he knew how much I loved him and I wish I would have told him so the last night that I saw him. Of all of his possessions this piano is something that I will never be able to part with. It sits on the other side of the room in my basement just behind my little office. It may sound a little weird but sometimes when I am editing photographs I leave the T.V. off and start humming tunes that he played on this piano.