It’s taken more than 6 months, but finally my request for a copy of my father’s FBI file has been approved. And though duplication costs may break the bank, the Feds claim to have nearly 1700 pages on my dad, 1687 to be exact. (I exaggerate only a little about the cost.)
I have no idea what I might find there, but, minimally, I hope to learn what the FBI had against my father—because, clearly, my childhood was, at least by one measure, a history of his being pursued by them.
I hope to understand, in legal terms, why events like this took place in the late 1970s.
In that instance, my family was headed to Sweet Williams for two scoops on a sugar cone, when the raid occurred. It happened on a frigid February evening as we descended the steep steps from our house above to the street below. At fifteen, I was wearing a navy pea coat with the collar turned up—bundled against the chill.
It was dark outside, except for a single street light that brightened the cement steps, when a brown, unmarked sedan pulled up and federal agents jumped out, one slipping on the icy street and nearly falling, another grabbing Daddy and shoving him against the wall that separated our stairs from the road below.
As it became clear a raid was underway, my mother, two sisters, brother and I raced back toward the house. The first inside the front door, my mom covered Daddy’s incriminating book-making papers with her purse, as we rushed in behind her, over-coated FBI agents on our heels.
My mother had reminded Daddy to hide them before we left the house—the sheets on which he recorded, in careful columns, the bets his clients called in—who placed how much on which games. We had a door whose top was hollowed out and lined with tin—the same size needed to hold the folded papers. Daddy should have hidden the evidence there, as he usually did.
“Oh, Judy, don’t get your underwear in a bundle!” Daddy had dismissed my mother’s suggestion, and added, clapping his hands to hurry us along, “Let’s get this show on the road.”
With that he’d snatched his keys from the landing table, set his papers on the carpeted steps just inside the front door, and we were on our way, Daddy in the lead, my mother bringing up the rear.
I don’t recall exactly what the agent said who saw my mother’s futile effort to literally conceal evidence beneath a burgundy Gucci bag. I suppose the charge could have been cover-up by pocketbook or some other crime of the coutured-handbag kind.
“Don’t you dare try to take my mother,” I heard someone screaming—recognizing, in insanely surreal, five-second-delay, that the screamer had been me.
Now–decades later, my mind goes blank. I remember nothing more, except that it had been my sister Susan’s thirteenth birthday. (Revised excerpt from my memoir’s first chapter)
You see, when we were growing up, Daddy, though Irish and not officially a “made” member of the mob himself, was very much a member in the unofficial sense, since, for many years, he was the right hand man of the person who is now the underboss of the Pittsburgh crime family. That gentleman, known to us as Uncle Bobby, was even in my parents’ wedding.
The stories are endless.
The FBI raided our house a number of times while we were kids. Daddy was indicted by several grand juries. He was convicted of conspiracy shortly before he died in 1981.
So stay tuned. I don’t know how long the duplication process will take, but I hope, in the coming months, to understand more. And I hope to understand in very concrete and specific terms.
How might you feel if potential family and legal secrets were about to be revealed? Is there anything that happened in your past, you’d like to have documented in clear and explicit terms?
Note: If you haven’t already, please read my first publication as an official Huffington Post blogger. It’s called “Celebrating Thanksgiving from Haiti: A Comedy of American Error.” I’d love you to leave a comment on the Huffington Post site and “fan,” if you can.
Also–Sara and I invite you to do your CyberMonday/Christmas shopping at idiomART, our Etsy site.