I was in the eighth grade the first time I answered one of the calls.
It was a cop calling my parents’ house in Yakima from the neighboring town of Ellensburg. Someone with my father’s exact name had filled up his car with gas and neglected to pay for it. They were trying to track the guilty man down.
“Well it doesn’t sound like something my dad would do,” I said, which was true. To put it very mildly, my father is very much against stealing. “Besides, he’s out of town for work this week. It couldn’t have been him.”
The officer was very nice, and I wished him luck in finding The Man Who Was Not My Father. When my mom got home from work, I told her what had happened excitedly.
“Oh great,” my mom said, not nearly as excited. “You never know what that man is going to do. Do you know how many calls we’ve received over the years from bill collectors and cops?”
I had. I’d grown up hearing stories about The Man Who Was Not My Father. Shortly after my parents were married, my mom had opened a card addressed to a man who shared her husband’s name, thanking him for the romantic weekend away. The weekend in question just happened to be a weekend when my dad was out of town on a hunting trip. You can imagine the fun my young parents had sorting that one out.
There was the time my mom got the angry call from a collection agency about their water bill past due to the city of Yakima, which my mom patiently explained they didn’t have because of the well in their yard and them living well outside the city limits. There were angry calls from people who had lent him money. There were other calls from confused cops.The Man Who Was Not My Father did not seem to have many friends.
It wasn’t funny, but in a way it was, because my dad is the ultimate law abiding citizen. Sure, he’ll be the first to tell you that plenty of laws are bullshit and he made plenty of tequila-induced poor choices in his drinking days. But he follows the rules to the point of annoyance. I highly doubt he’s ever even paid a bill late. He is the opposite of The Man Who Was Not My Father… or so I thought.
Last week, I got a text message from my mom telling me that The Man Who Was Not My Father had died in an apartment fire. His apartment was the only one that burned, but the damage was severe. His body was found in the living room. They weren’t sure was that cause of the fire was. It had caused quite the ruckus at my dad’s company, as half the employees thought he was dead. When he went in to get his flu shot, the onsite nurse almost passed out.
I’m not sure what the appropriate reaction was, but I was shocked and a little sad. I looked up the article online immediately. And while the man’s life was different than my dad’s (he was four years older and lived alone in an apartment instead of a house with a wife and three excitable dogs), the name was the same. I cannot tell you how disturbing it was to see my dad’s name next to all those horrible details. But, thank God, it wasn’t him. It was The Man Who Was Not My Father, whose reign of terror has come to an end at last.
I got curious then. I Facebook stalked him. Since my dad is also very anti-Facebook, I knew The Man Who Was Not My Father would be easy to find. And I did find him. He had one picture, a solo shot of him grimacing at the camera and holding a fish in each hand.
“Well see, he couldn’t have been all bad,” my dad said when I sent him the picture. “He liked to fish.” Apparently the two men weren't total opposites after all.
I never thought about the day when the calls from the police would stop and there would be no more stories about The Man Who Was Not My Father. I certainly never imagined it would end this way. And while I do wish he’d behaved himself a little better in this lifetime, I’d like to think he’s getting another shot somewhere and maybe he’ll get it right next time. At the very least, he could pay for his tanks of gas.
RIP, Man Who Was Not My Father. Thanks for all the crazy stories.