Be Thankful For Family
You don’t get to choose your family like you do with your friends. I know some folks who wish their families were different yet I would not change one thing about mine. This is Tom Peterson who is 86 years old. He retired from law practice 23 years ago and since that time has created 3 CDs and played piano for thousands of people. The past few years he has played piano at various nursing homes to entertain the residents. His real passion has been music all his life but when he met and married my mother back in 1956, he chose to study law and go into practice. It was not an easy road yet he was successful in providing for his wife and 3 children.
A Beautiful Beginning
Tom & Teddy met at the University of Texas in Austin. Both came from small towns in central Texas, Marlin and Waxahachie. They were only 90 miles apart yet it took a University to bring them together. Tom was a Kappa Alpha and Teddy was a Tri Delta. My father first saw my mother when the Tri Delts serenaded the KA house and mom was doing the Charleston while singing. A week later, one of my father’s fraternity brothers told him he needed help with a situation. He had a date with 2 girls for the upcoming football game and my father told him “If one of those girls is the cute one who was doing the Charleston, I’ll take her off your hands.” And that is how my parents met and fell in love.
A Family Affair
Yours truly, the narrator of this story is the youngest in the photo above taken in 1968. On either side of me is my older brother John and my sweet sister Carol along with my folks. We were all very close over the years growing up and when my father was not busy working for the firm, he spent his time loving mom and raising us as a father should. Being a parent is one of the greatest responsibilities we are given in life and I believe both of my parents did a wonderful job in every aspect.
The Later Years
After us kids were grown and dad retired, mom and dad enjoyed their time together on many trips and cruises. We celebrated their 50th Anniversary at the parish hall at St. Francis Episcopal church in 2006. They would only have 6 years together after that before mom passed away in 2012.
When mom passed we came together as a family does in support and love. Shortly thereafter we went back to our lives as we had our own children to look after. We checked in on dad now and then to make sure all was well. Shortly after mom passed my father was contacted by a female lawyer he knew who needed help. She needed a place to stay to get back on her feet and my dad decided to let her stay in his house in an extra room. She was only supposed to stay for a few weeks. A few weeks turned into months. We tried to help dad with his situation but he insisted that he had it under control. Months turned into years. At this time our fathers phone calls became shorter and he always had an excuse for us on why we could not come over to visit. I felt the need to push a little more to see what was going on.
Cause For Concern
Back in September I decided to go to his church to see him. He seemed startled to see me but we sat together and enjoyed each others company during the service. We kept the conversation light and I did not bring up his guest. I let my brother and sister know I would continue to show up at church to see how he was doing. The following week he did not show up. I called his friend Ed from church who usually picks him up (dad stopped driving two years ago) and he told me my father said he was not feeling well. The following week I took my son Christopher because he wants to see his grandfather. Once again, he did not show up for church. Ed told me he still was’not feeling well enough to attend church. He also had missed Tuesday’s bible study for the past three weeks. This was very unusual for my father who had attended church consistently all his life. My son asked if we could go by Papa’s house on the way home and I told him yes, I thought we should.
When we arrived at his home, I was a bit alarmed by the note on the door. My father had always been one to welcome folks into his home. This sign might as well had said “Go Away!”. Needless to say I ignored the sign and knocked. I continued to knock for about 5 minutes and got no response. I pulled out my cell phone and called him on speaker so Christopher could hear as well.
After 3 rings he answered his cell phone and I said “Hey dad, Christopher and I are here at your front door. We heard you were sick and wanted to come by and see you.”
His response back was very angry and irritated. “I am not feeling well. You need to respect my wishes and leave! I will contact you about getting together, goodbye!”
We headed home and I texted my brother and sister insisting on a conference call in regard to dad. That night we discussed that we would all start doing some homework on the situation and we started gathering information. Over the next few weeks there was still no sign of him at church or bible study. My brother and sister and I as well as our better halves had started a group text where we could share information we gathered online as well as strange texts from dad. I had had enough of this crap and texted “WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING!” to get everyone to agree some type of intervention was long overdue. It was the last weekend of October and we decided on a well check with the police on Saturday, October 27th.
Saturday morning, we gathered just down the street from dad’s house. My brother texted my dad letting him know he was in town and wanted to come by to see him. My brother received a text back stating ” I am not feeling well. I am going back to bed.” my brother texted that was the reason he wanted to see him. No response from our father’s phone. We called the police to do a well check and waited. We discussed what the plan was if we were able to get into our father’s house. At this point, if it did not go well, my family was willing to do whatever it would take to get our father back. My brother had Power Of Attorney which my father had prepared the year after my mother died in the event it was necessary and it was written to where my brother had full authority as my father.
The police arrived and we informed him of what led up to the need for a well check. We drove down to the house with the officer leading the way. We waited by the curb as Officer Chapa approached the door and knocked loudly and announced who he was and why he was there. No one answered the door although there was a 2014 Buick in the driveway that was registered to my father’s “homeless” guest. Officer Chapa circled the home tapping loudly on every window and stating who he was and why he was there. When he returned he let us know he was able to see in the kitchen window and stated the place was a mess. There was nothing more the officer could do for us without evidence of a crime. He suggested we go by the police substation and request a constable who may have more authority. We decided to go to lunch and regroup and discuss our next steps.
At lunch, my brother started receiving weird texts from my dad’s phone, talking a bunch of legalese and threatening to disown him. This is something our father certainly would never do. We decided it was time to contact Adult Protective Services. My sister also realized she still had a key to dad’s house on her key chain. After we finished eating we piled into my brother’s car and made the call to APS. Then we drove to the nearest police substation to request to speak to a Constable. Karen, who worked the lobby and incoming phone calls took down some information about our situation and my brother’s name and cell number. She informed us that there was not a Constable available at the time and that we should do a well check. We thanked her for her time and left. We called in the 2nd well check. While waiting for the police to arrive we waited just up the street again and a dark 4 door sedan went to my father’s house. Our father came out of the house and got in the car and drove away. I told my brother and sister to follow them and I would wait for the police. My father returned in the sedan who was driven by the father of the homeless female attorney living in my fathers house. His name is Don and he had become my fathers “friend” over past few years. They had gone to gas up Don’s car with my fathers money. Once back they both entered the home. This time 2 officers arrived and we explained the situation and that we had a key to the house we wanted to try. We went back to the house, the police knocked and announced the reason for the visit and again, there was no reply. I stepped up to the door with my sisters key in hand and stuck it in the lock. It would not turn so it would seem the locks had been changed. At that point there was not much else that could be done so we agreed upon a conference call the next day. My brother had consulted a lawyer and had worked on getting some legal things in motion. We had to wait on the courts a few days so we decided we would meet again at our dad’s house on Thursday, November 1st.
We had a month to prepare for this day and we were more than ready for whatever we were about to discover. At this point more than anything else we just wanted to know our father was OK. This time we had a number of us, eight in total between family and friends. Along with our presence we also had a locksmith for the door and Destinee from Adult Protective Services as well as the police. My brother and me were leading the charge at my father’s door with the locksmith, police and APS. The rest of the family and friends waited up the street. I was given the honor of serving verbal and written notice for the eviction of Dena (the homeless attorney) and her father Don, who we had found out over the last few days through obtaining bank records of my father’s through my brother’s Power Of Attorney, that thousands of dollars had been spent of our father’s retirement savings.
The police knocked and we got no response. Now it was time for the locksmith to go to work. We had also instructed him once the door was open to change out the locks. He had the door open in about five minutes. When the door opened the house alarm sounded. The police stepped into the home first to access the environment while my brother & I waited on the front porch with APS. After a few minutes the house alarm was turned off. At that time one of the officers came out to inform my brother and I that our father was not there! The first thought through my mind was I would never see my father alive again.
My father then called Dena on her cell phone while the police were speaking to her. Officer Chapa asked “Is that Mr. Peterson?” Dena said yes and he took the phone and told my father “Mr. Peterson, this is Officer Chapa and I am here with Adult Protective Services and your adult children. We are concerned for your well-being sir, where are you?”
My father replied “I am fine. I am staying at my friend Don’s house.”
The police let us know he said he was at Don’s house. Fortunately, we had been doing our homework and had discovered the address of Don’s home, so after reading the eviction notice to Don and Dena, we drove over there with Adult Protective Services.
My sister called the police on the way over so we could have them present in case we needed their help. We arrived at Don’s house and dad was out front with the police and he was really mad at us. He was explaining to them all of this was a big mistake. While he was talking to the police we walked up by the house but a few yards away. There was an elderly lady out front pretending to trim her hedges. She hollered over to the police “He’s an attorney! He’s doesn’t need to stay here! He’s got money!” She came over to where we were standing and asked “Who are you?” We told her we were Tom’s children. It turns out she was Don’s wife.
One of the police joined us. She said “I don’t want any part of this. I woke up in the middle of the night and he was in my home. I don’t know what any of this is about. My husband beats me.”
At that point the policeman confirmed who she was and stated “I am going to check on this, I will be right back.” We explained to the police the situation and felt it was important that our father left with us. Don’s wife had stated that he could not stay and the police confirmed there had been domestic violence calls previously to the residence. When our father told the police he was calling Don to come pick him up the police told him “Sir, we cannot let you go with that man, he has a record of domestic violence. You need to leave here with one of your children.”
My father decided that he would go with my sister. Matt, my sister’s boyfriend, grabbed dad’s bag and loaded it into the back of my sister’s vehicle. “Good to see you Captain.” Matt told my father as he shook his hand. My father had graduated from the Citadel and served four years in the Air Force. Before finishing his service to country he gained the rank of captain, so Matt always referred to him this way and treated him like an officer and a gentleman out of respect.
My sister was a little freaked out and did not expect to be transporting my father. I told her “We got him, just let him sit up front with Matt and you can text us and we will figure it out as we go. Love you.” I hugged her before she got in the back seat.
A little over an hour before I had prayed to God because he was not in his home and I did not know if I would see him again and now we had him with us.
He was still very angry and even more so when he found out my sister was not taking him to his house but her home in Pflugerville.
He angrily made the statement “This is the worst day of my life!”
My sister with tears in her eyes replied “Really dad? The worst day of my life was when mom died.”
He was silent for a moment and stated with more care and love in his voice “You’re right.”
After a few moments he said “Listen, I have to play piano tomorrow at Oakwell Farms nursing home, if possible I would prefer to stay at Chris’s house.”
Carol told him that would be fine.
So we set up a bedroom for dad at my house and my brothers house. Over the next 2 months we worked weekends to clean up and remove any valuables from dads house as we assessed the damage done by some water leaks. We decided it would be in our fathers best interest to sell his home to help pay down some debts that he incurred and we are in the process of doing that. We were able to return over $10,000 worth of merchandise that was purchased with my fathers retirement money but presently there is over $100,000 that was spent over the last 2 years. His short term memory has become a problem and that is how this occurred.
REUNITED AND REBUILDING
As I sit here and finish writing this on Christmas day, I have to say we are doing well as a family. My father is getting back to his old self, the father we knew before all this began. If you care to share his go fund me link or make a donation to help please see my bio page.
As a family we missed our father dearly these last few years that he distanced himself from us (one of the signs of dementia) but now we know why it happened and hopefully the state will pursue charges against the people who took advantage of our father.
Now he is safe and well taken care of by his family who love him dearly.
I give thanks every day to have him back in my life and treasure the time we have left together.