Dear Michael and Caroline,
I was a repeat offender, returning to the scene of the crime – hard to quantify here – maybe five times, or ten, or 15.
My father never said anything about the missing money, neither to me, nor, so far as I knew, to my mother. Whether he ever even noticed the money missing I had no idea.
I liked to believe that he knew about my midnight mischief all along, and decided to let it go, sure I would lose interest in committing larceny and stop. It’s better than believing I had simply put one over on him.
Eventually I stopped of course, and that was that. It was never about the money anyway. I had an allowance, maybe $5 a week, quite generous and upper-middle-class an allocation for a 10-year-old in 1962. My grandfather Sheft might slip me some money now and then, and besides, I never wanted for anything. I could get a soda at the soda fountain and bubble gum and a comic book if I wanted. I could afford pretty much anything.
But in stealing money, I must have wanted something from my father.
A piece of him.
Day after day, night after night, he would be here and gone, here and gone, always out working and, even when home, remote and all but incommunicado. I needed to connect with him somehow, maybe to draw his attention, maybe to hurt him, maybe to fool him.
So I stole his money.
Years later, still living at home, I felt bad about my sin. However out to lunch my father might be – and make no mistake: out to lunch he most certainly was – my thefts were altogether unjustifiable.
I considered setting the record straight with him. I had probably taken all of $200 from him during my crime spree. For a while I contemplated gradually giving it all back. But then I realized my conscience needed no easing. Doing what I had done, I was well within my rights. My father owed me something, and I took it. He had cheated me – of his presence, of his participation – and so I cheated him right back.