When I woke up that morning to get ready to go to school it felt like just another day in the 4th grade.
Little did I know, it was going to be the day I would be kidnapped.
It was a spring morning in the late 70’s in Belmont, CA. My sister and I, along with our neighborhood friends, were walking to school. It was the same path we always took and we had many of the same conversations as we usually did.
But when we began to walk across the parking lot of the shopping center, behind the gas station, we saw my Dad’s truck. He had just cashed his check at the liquor in that shopping center and was walking back to the truck.
He saw us and asked, “Do you two want a ride to school?” We said, “Yeah,” told our friends we’d see them at school and got into my Dad’s truck.
An Early Summer Vacation?
When we got into the truck we were surprised to hear my Dad say, “How would you guys like to go on summer vacation EARLY?” Now what would YOU have said to that offer when you were in 4th grade?
We said the same thing, “Yeah!…” and then added the question, “…what about Mom?” My Dad said, “She’ll meet us later.” My Mom was working, but something still didn’t sound right about that. But it was too late. My Dad was already driving. He maneuvered his truck onto HWY 101 from the Ralston Ave entrance and that day he kidnapped us for around a year and a half.
But let me back the story up for a second.
The Abuse We Regularly Witnessed
You see my Mom and Dad’s marriage was already pretty bad at this point. My Dad was an atheist and an alcoholic. My Mom was a Christian and didn’t really drink at all.
My sister and I became Christians at a really young age – even though my Dad constantly told us that God didn’t exist and that my Mom was just a “religious fanatic.” It was a regular experience to have my Dad come home drunk at night and hear him stumbling and banging into the walls as he wandered down the hall to use the restroom.
There were many times we’d hear him and my Mom getting into an argument about something that would get so heated that we’d eventually hear my Dad hit my mother. I remember my sister and I lying in bed crying and yelling from our room, “Please don’t hit Mommy!”
But I was only 9 years old. What else could I do? I wasn’t strong enough, or brave enough, to stop him. That was the kind of life we were living before the kidnapping. And just to be sure you don’t misunderstand…
My Loving Father
My Dad was not a bad father. He treated us really well. He loved us and showed us affection. He would give us his last piece of steak (his favorite food) if we were still hungry and wanted it.
He never abused or beat us. He did give us spankings. But never to an extreme and only when we would not listen and were really misbehaving. He REALLY loved us. But he was NOT a good husband to my Mom.
I think my Dad’s reasoning for kidnapping us that day was to pre-empt the inevitable divorce. He knew, based on how things were back then, that my Mom would, by default, be given full custody.
The Call To The Police
When my Mom got home that day from work and realized what happened she called the police, but was surprised by their response, “I’m sorry, ma’am. But it’s their father. There’s nothing we can do about it.” (Nowadays we would’ve been all over CNN & Fox!)
From Belmont, CA my Dad drove us in his white, Ford pick-up truck, with a camper shell, all the way to where his parents lived: Red Level, AL. (Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. It’s a little small town that’s only about 2 miles in radius. Most people from Alabama that I’ve met haven’t even heard of it!)
It’s a really strange experience to be kidnapped by your father.
It’s not in anyway as bad as if a stranger took us. But it was still scary because we didn’t know if we’d ever see our Mom again. It was also a weird mix of emotions, because we got to meet relatives we’d never met before, go hunting, swim in lakes, and jump off rope swings into rivers – but we’d still want to cry at night, because our Mom wasn’t there.
We bounced around from Red Level to New Jersey and back, because my Dad didn’t like Alabama or the winter in New Jersey. (He was from Niagara Falls, NY and told me just seeing snow on TV made him cold!)
The Way My Mom Discovered Where We Were
My Mom had no clue where we were during a large portion of that time. We hadn’t gotten a chance to talk to her and hear her voice that whole time. It wasn’t until one day when she called and my grandfather answered the phone that things changed.
My grandfather answered the phone that day and said, “I’m not going to lie for him. They’re here!”
My grandpa was bigger than my Dad, so there wasn’t anything my Dad could do to stop him. But I do remember my Dad grabbing the phone and saying to my Mom, “I’ll let you talk to them, BUT if you try and come and get them I’ll leave again.”
My Mom knew he wasn’t lying. He WOULD leave again. She figured that at least she finally knew where we were and could talk to us. It was sort of strange hearing her voice after all that time. But I was so excited to talk to her. It made me feel safer and have a least a LITTLE hope I’d see her again.
I don’t remember how long it took after that first call for it to all happen. All I know is that that phone call set into motion a conversation between my parents where they could work out the divorce so that they both had equal custody and figure out a way for my Dad and us to come back.
Seeing my Mom again finally became a reality some where in late September or early October.
Our Strange Reunion With Our Mom
I don’t remember the exact date when we first saw my Mom again, but I know this… I left at the end of 4th grade and I came back when I was just starting 6th grade. I was SO glad to see her, but two things about it make it a little strange and less satisfying than I had imagined:
1) My Mom had moved since we were kidnapped. She moved from Belmont to a city one exit north on Hwy 101 called Foster City. That meant that I never got the full closure of going home and that felt a little weird.
2) I hadn’t seen my Mom in almost 2 years, so when I finally saw her for the first time she looked just a LITTLE different. That meant that not only was my new home different, but my Mom was too.
Don’t get my wrong. I was so relieved to be back and see her. It just that those two things made the whole experience different than I imagined it’d be.
Lessons From This Experience
Am I glad that my Dad was an alcoholic? No. Am I glad that he used to hit my Mom? No. Am I glad that I was kidnapped? No. But would I change ANY of it if I could? NO!
Why do I say this?
The Life Lesson: I’ve learned that ANYTHING – even the most bleak situation – can be used for good in our lives IF we allow it to be.
How could any of this be used for good?
I believe that God can use anything in our lives for good, but you don’t have to believe in God to believe that too. Napoleon Hill in “Think And Grow Rich” said it like this, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.”
I learned to view obstacles as opportunities!
How was being kidnapped and having an alcoholic father used for good in my life?
One way it was used for good is that I never got involved with alcohol or drugs in Jr. High & High School, because I saw the end result in my Dad. It was never even a temptation. I had other friends who messed around with drugs during that time and made some really bad choices – choices which held some back temporarily and choices that some never were able to pull out of it.
But because of the “bad” experiences in my life, I was protected from making some bad decisions that could have set me back in life. I could have continued the struggle with addiction that was in my Dad (and in some others on his side of the family).
But growing up the way I did instead led me to choose differently and that changed a tragedy to a triumph.
That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life and business! I know that no matter how bleak things get that it can all be used for good. That’s how I view the down economy, struggles a business may be having, etc.
Let me leave you with these questions to help you:
- What past obstacle have you gone through and seen used to produce good in your life?
- What can you learn from that to face the current obstacles in your life and/or business and discover the doorway to an opportunity for you?
- What can you do to prepare yourself to, by default, look for opportunity in the obstacles you’ll face in the future?
My whole life purpose is to help people and businesses who feel stuck and at a dead end, go to the next level. That’s why the name I chose for my business is simply “Ramp.”
Still To Come
I’m going to continue to tell you my story here (with no hype but with all the crazy, true details) that will include:
A childhood kidnapping An alcoholic father
- A martial artist
- A wanna-be cartoonist
- How my biggest fear became my biggest strength
- A rapper
- A pastor
I know it sounds like a list of random things, but you’ll see how this all goes together and makes sense when you read the rest of my story in my upcoming posts.
NOTE: These posts about my life will be spread out among my regular posts and will show you my application/example for you of the lessons I shared about the power of story & personality, being yourself, in branding and business.
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