Friday, January 7, 2011

It's 1986 all over again

Me in college
There aren't a lot of regrets in my life. I'm actually very proud and happy to say that. Sure, I've made mistakes but that happened mostly when I was young and clueless.

I do, however, have a couple of major regrets that haunt me. I was reminded of one of them tonight when I read the local paper. It snuck up on me five years ago as it did tonight. I hate it but can't escape it.

This article in the Lowell Sun details a horrible crime. No, I wasn't a party to the crime, but I feel that I could have prevented it and always will. If I had only been wiser.

I was dating a guy named Michael in 1980 and we were headed out with our friends Mike and Judy for a Friday night date. When Michael picked me up that night, he said plans had changed. We were meeting our friends to help them look for Mike's nephew Patrick who had run away from home.

We all met at Patrick's house - the home of Mike's brother Richie. A plan was devised and we split up to look in places that Patrick's parents thought he might be. We spent quite a bit of time roaming around Tewksbury but found nothing.

The next day Mike called me and told me that a neighbor reported finding Patrick hiding behind their wood shed and he was now home safely. I asked Mike if Patrick had run away before and he said he ran away a lot and caused his parents a lot of worry.

Fast forward to 1986. I'm 27 and flipping through the Boston Globe before heading to work. I see a familiar name and realize it's my old college friend Mike's brother. I had lost touch with Mike a few years after our search for his nephew.

The article in the Globe reports that Richie is accused of murdering his son Patrick while drinking and snorting coke. It was a gruesome scene, according to the Globe. Richie also tried to stab his wife and daughter when they walked in and found Patrick's body.

I held my breath and I could swear my heart stopped cold in my chest. This was Patrick. The young kid who ran away from home. The kid I tried to get back home. Home, if you can call it that, ended up being a nicer name for "hell." The article claimed that Richie had been abusive to the entire family and they were all scared to death of him. Just as they are now as he tries again for parole.

My thoughts then and now, and every five years when I read that Richie is trying again for parole, are ones filled with guilt. How stupid I was not to see the signs. How trusting I was that my friend's brother had the only side to the story. I never even questioned why Patrick had run away so much. I was in love and playing "responsible adult" with my boyfriend by bringing a child home where he would be safe. I felt closer to Michael because we were working together during a friend's crisis. How Pollyanna.

I look at the Kathy I was back in 1980 and know I was naive. I was a very young 20-year old. Though, to be truthful, 20-year olds back then were a lot "younger" than they are today. But still, I was only about a year older then than my oldest nephew is today. Would I expect him to recognize the evil in that household? Could he possibly know to even question the situation? No. But that's him. I hold my own street smarts to a higher standard.

There is no undoing the "miss" on my part. I will always feel like I could have at least asked some questions. The hardest thing for me to let go of in all of this is that if I had just had a couple of more years under my belt, I could have maybe been that outsider who pulled the alarm.

I look at Patrick's picture in the paper every five years and think, if only.

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