Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Louisiana's SB 461 will protect families who are abused by the family court system

Sen. Troy Carter has proposed SB 461 this session.  This bill, if it becomes law, will change EVERYTHING that caused my son's father to abuse us via the court system for 16 years, and eventually steal him away from me for three years.

The bill eliminates a well-hidden aspect of the overt corruption in our family courts: the ability of wealthy, well-connected people to pick and choose
custody "evaluators" and "mental health professionals" who will do whatever is required to secure custody for the parent who had them hired by the judge. 

The bill is currently in committee.  You can email the committee members and encourage them to approve the bill.  After they approve it, they will forward it to the legislature for a full vote.  If approved by the full House and Senate, the bill will then go to the governor's desk to be signed into law. 

PLEASE contact your state legislators and tell them to vote FOR this bill.

Children and parents experiencing painful family separation deserve this protection from Louisiana's corrupt, vile, one-sided court system!

Following is the email I sent to my legislators and the committee.  You are welcome to use/modify it as you wish:


First, thank you for your service to our state. This has been an especially difficult year for Louisiana, and I appreciate your tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile for your constituents.

Second, I would like to encourage you to support Sen. Troy Carter's SB 461.

As the mother of a son who endured 16 years of family court abuse in Louisiana, I am hopeful that this legislation will eventually reverse the widespread corruption and overt graft in our state's district courts.  This bill represents the only glimmer of hope for systemic improvement and progress in an otherwise notoriously corrupt family court system.

My son's father is an attorney here in Shreveport, and I cannot begin to tell you how harshly he abused my son, me, and the system by using his unfettered access to personal friends who are also court officials.  You are welcome to read a sample of our horrific court transcripts here:

Over the years, countless parents across the region have contacted me about their similar painful experiences with custody/divorce trials, and several of us have started a support group for people who have lost children via the courts and their faulty use of unqualified, prejudiced mediators and court-appointed "experts." NOTE: Parents in our group were never reported to or investigated by the Department of Children & Family Services.  Our experiences are all the result of intentional abuse by and through the court system via a circle of attorneys/mediators/judges who have a well-documented history of working together to manipulate the 1st Judicial District court to their financial and personal advantage. In addition, each parent in our group was found 100% fit to rear our children upon being evaluated by independent licensed psychological professionals, despite the findings of court-appointed mediators and judges during the course of our trials.

This type of abuse is rampant and unchecked here in the 1st Judicial District; there is no evidence that other districts in our state operate any differently.

This bill, as I understand it, eliminates a portion of the overt corruption in our family courts: the ability of wealthy, well-connected people to pick and choose custody evaluators and mental health "professionals" who will do whatever is required to secure custody for the parent who (literally) had them hired by the judge.

It also forbids ex parte communication between the court and the mediators, as well as eliminating many other prejudicial practices I have personally witnessed in the courtroom while fighting to rightfully maintain custody of my own son for 16 years.

I encourage you to approve this bill as it is written, and send it for a full vote of the legislature.

Children and parents experiencing painful family separation deserve this legal protection from Louisiana's corrupt, one-sided family court system. 

I trust that you will do what is best for our state's children and families.

Many thanks,
Debbie Hollis
(Address, Phone)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Popular Austin singer/songwriter Julieann Banks returns home to North Louisiana to release new album!

Julieann Banks is coming home to Shreveport after scoring big in Austin -
and YOU can help her launch her new album!

A well-known musician among musicians, Julieann Banks has worked professionally as a bassist and vocalist for popular Austin bands including The Austin Lounge Lizards, The Cosmic Americans (with Earl Poole Ball and Casper Rawls), and with notable performers like Leeann Atherton, Patterson Barrett and more.  She has toured nationally with show bands Rotel & the Hot Tomatoes and The Big Time, and performed with her own award-winning bands, Apaches of Paris and The Activates.

"Julieann Banks’ alternative country musical stylings include songwriting, singing and guitar-playing in a blend of Texas Americana, folk, rock and country, with a streak of blues and gospel for good measure. The edgy, electric emotion of her songs and singing are probably what earns her awards such as Austin Music Magazine’s “Best Female Vocalist Rock,” one of the Top Ten in South by Southwest Austin Chronicle Music Awards’ “Best Songwriter,” and Austin’s Local Flavor Music Magazine’s “Best Pipes,” among many others."

Her new album is the next step in Julieann's career.

She writes:

"I’d like to start playing more nationally, with an eye toward international touring to promote the new (album).  So many people have expressed interest in my new songs when I perform them, but I have no product to sell.  I want to let new and old fans know I’m still at it and I want them to hear my new works.

So much of what we hear and are exposed to (in) media, on television, and radio – is multi-track trickery.  It’s impersonal and digitally “created” and enhanced to the point where it has no human connection. 

I’d like to return to an acoustic “warts and all” method of live recording, like the way Neil Young recordings sound.  Like the Cowboy Junkies recording where they are all gathered at certain distances around one, or very few, mics in a large church.  I’m very excited about staying true to a minimalist approach on this recording..."

How much does Julieann need to complete her project?

Studio rental, engineering, mixing - $2250.00
Musicians' fees - $1500.00
Album artwork + reproduction costs - $1464.00

Works In Progress Louisiana investment - $4000.00
Presales of album + artist's contribution- $1214.00

Total cost of project - $5214.00
How can I help?

Julieann submitted a written request for $4000.00 to Works In Progress Louisiana for this project.  Our Board of Directors met with her, performed our due diligence, and approved her request for funding.

Artists, musicians, designers and writers can't visit the local bank to apply for a loan for a creative concept.  This can be a career-ending problem for creative professionals.

A recent article in The Times featured Julieann, and pointed out the many challenges faced by North Louisiana musicians - including finding funding for new projects, and sustaining a creative career in a region that doesn't understand that musicians are also serious businesspeople.

Now, thanks to Works In Progress Louisiana, YOU have the opportunity to engage with creative workers like Julieann at the onset of new projects - supporting work that is fresh and experimental in nature, and for which other funding is not available.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Disposable People - A Poem

We are the disposable people.

We hold no elected office – we can’t afford the filing fees.

We are not the wealthy elite – we do not stand behind the curtain, pulling the strings.

We don’t belong to the club.

Our children don’t attend exclusive schools.

We can’t afford to make a donation, and we don’t serve on your board.

Our families are middle class, or lower-middle class, or lower-lower class, based on your system of democracy. 

Every four years, you seek us out.
You clamor for the common man to serve on your campaign committee. You know, to reach the masses. 

You tell us we are influential.

You buy us lunch.

You answer our questions in a manner that is palatable to our sort.

We believe that you care about our lot, if only for a moment. Long enough to champion your cause.

Then you disappear – win or lose.  You disappear.  We were never meant to associate, after all. It’s understood. It’s called ‘strategy.’

We wake up and punch in at 8AM.

You vacation in Cabo to detox from the campaign. 

Your wife returns to her book club and the PTA.

Our spouses return to being the receptionist at the clinic or the retired professor or the equal rights activist facing taunts and editorials from your campaign donors.

Our shoes will cushion our tired feet as we canvas for another candidate during the next cycle.

We will create art that protests your votes in the legislature, and we will sit uncomfortably in the teachers’ lounge while we discuss our disappointment with your latest vote.

Then comes the call – “How are you? How’s the family? Election season is upon us – can I count on your support again?”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New ‘Creative Marketplace’ aims at stimulating economic development

Aug 28, 2015

Shreveport-based nonprofits Works In Progress Louisiana and North Louisiana Art Gallery have partnered to create an online Creative Marketplace.!creative-marketplace/c244t

The Creative Marketplace is a free to the public, and provides three beneficial services designed to stimulate the cultural economy in North Louisiana:
  • an extensive directory of creative professionals for hire throughout North Louisiana,
  • sample contract templates for use by employers and creative professionals, and
  • an easy-to-use application process for creative people seeking employment in the fields of design, performing arts, music, film, entertainment, literary arts and humanities, visual and culinary arts.

Developers, investors, hospitals, schools, universities, and government agencies often purchase goods and services in Dallas, Austin, and New Orleans because they are unfamiliar with local professionals who are qualified to meet their creative needs. The Creative Marketplace solves this problem by providing direct access to regional graphic designers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, painters, performers, and chefs.

Debbie Hollis, Director at Works In Progress Louisiana, said, “Buying from local creative workers is more than an investment in the economy and community—it demonstrates the buyer’s commitment to his community, and his dedication to local artisans and craftspeople.” Incorporated in May 2014, Works In Progress Louisiana provides financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in North Louisiana.
Creative Marketplace co-founder Michael G.
Moore curates the Northwest Louisiana Art Gallery – the region’s oldest online arts directory. Moore changed the directory’s name to North Louisiana Art Gallery to reflect the recent expansion of the gallery’s geographical reach.

A widely-collected painter and arts activist, Moore says, “We are thrilled to expand the scope of our website to include creative people from 26 parishes!  We are also adding links to regional arts publications, creative resources, and other tools for arts consumers to browse and enjoy.”

The Creative Marketplace is available online at

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Finding guidance online through artworld jungle

The Times
Neil Johnson 11:08 p.m. CDT September 2, 2015

There are your artists and there are your arts patrons.

Different kinds of people. But don’t they, when you really think about it, need each other, depend on each other?

Getting these people together is a job. Sometimes it seems like these two kinds of people wander around in the dark and, every once in a while, bump into each other. These encounters can become good and healthy relationships, but there’s got to be a better way.

To use another metaphor, it’s a jungle out there in the art-world. I’ve been in it for a few decades, but sometimes even I need a hand to hold in both my wanderings and my more definite journeys. I hit dead-ends and get lost sometimes and have to backtrack to find another path to where I would like to go.

In this jungle, artists and arts patrons both need navigation guidance. The GoogleNet is a good place to start. There is a solid veteran place of assistance in the intertubes of northwest Louisiana and I have also found a new source of guidance, or at least a good place to find advice and support in this sometimes-confusing world.

Today, we are so spoiled by the Internet. No, that’s not the right word. We have been both freed and enslaved.

The Internet is even more revolutionary than the printing press. But I digress. Let’s get back to the arts in northwest Louisiana and the artists and arts patrons wandering around bumping into each other. There are helpers who can lend us a compass and a map to guide us through the jungle.

First, there are the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and the Bossier Arts Council and their tools for arts hand-holding and guidance. Go. Visit their websites. If you never have, you may be surprised, even astounded, about how much information you can find there.

The names of their two sites are easy to remember: and Shreve. Bossier. Arts. Organizations. Shrevearts and Bossierarts have founts of information from and about these two organizations.

The SRAC website used to have a listing of a wide array of area artists and samples of their work. I thought it was gone, but found that it is only gone from the SRAC site. SRAC has given it its own address: So. Many. Artists. Note that it has a page where artists can apply to be included.

If that is not enough, there is another source of information for both artists and arts patrons on line. It’s called “Works In Progress” and its website is This is largely the year-old child and an ambitious venture of artist and community activist, Debbie Lynn Hollis. It’s stated mission is to provide financial, educational and business resources directly to creative professionals who live/work in north Louisiana

Hollis said, “This site is the ultimate culmination of business, economic development and the cultural economy in north Louisiana.”

One of the really cool things residing within the above website is something called the “Creative Marketplace.” It is a pilot program co-sponsored by Works In Progress Louisiana and the North Louisiana Art Gallery. Its stated purpose is “to encourage greater collaboration between the creative industries and the wider business community in north Louisiana.” Whoa! That’s what I’m talking about!

Here’s a crucial factor in this whole thing. Artist Michael Moore has been patiently building a website for artists for years. He called it the Northwest Louisiana Artist Gallery. He has now done two things with it. He has put it under the umbrella of the Works In Progress/Creative Marketplace and he has also decided to broaden the range to all of north Louisiana, the step-sibling of south Louisiana that south Louisiana avoids learning about or even talking about most of the time. So we must toot our own horn. Louder.

Dig into the Creative Marketplace site and click on the link to the “North Louisiana Art Gallery.” There, you will find a way-cool presentation to learn about north Louisiana (mostly northwest Louisiana, but heading east) artists along with samples of their work. It’s actually fun to explore. There is also a sign-up page for artists wanting to be included.

Websites are complex things, especially these sites. Building sites like these are not for the faint-of-heart. They are very difficult and extremely time-consuming to make them effective. But the hardest part is maintaining them so they stay relevant. It is far too easy to let a website go for too long to where visitors wonder why they are still up. But these sites are so important because they put artists and patrons a click or two away from each other.

Another difficult factor with websites is driving visitors to them. That, dear readers, is what I am trying to do with this column. So you now have an assignment:

Go. Log on. Visit them. The addresses are right there in the paragraphs above.

Arts patrons, these sites are extremely brief introductions to the many fine visual artists working hard in the piney woods of Louisiana. If you are looking for visual art and something punches your buttons, by all means, I strongly encourage you to follow up. Contact the artist and arrange a portfolio viewing or studio tour.

Artists, note who does their artist page right and who does not. If your portfolio is years out of date, update it. If you want to be in the artist site, contact the web master. And artists, be polite to your visiting patrons. Offer them a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They may have brought a checkbook.

Neil Johnson is a photographer and host at Booth #62/64 at the upcoming Red River Revel. He can be reached at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wire Road Studios recording session - August 2015

Shreveport-based singer/songwriter Alan Dyson records songs for a new collaborative music project - Stray Dogs by the Highway - at Wire Road Studios in Houston, Texas.  

Stray Dogs is scheduled for release in September 2015.

Engineer Andy Bradley
Dyson at Wire Road Studios
Click on image to view entire session
 Artistic collaborators include:
Thank you to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation for their assistance in funding this project.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Crisis Pregnancy Center lies debunked by medical professionals

"In 2003, the National Cancer Institute concluded after extensive research that having an abortion or a miscarriage in no way increases one’s breast cancer risk. Despite this, more than 15 states have considered laws that would require doctors to give this inaccurate information to women seeking abortions.

The American Psychological Association also released a statement saying there is no credible evidence that abortion causes mental illness, but that the stigma and lack of social support surrounding abortion can have a negative effect on mental health.

These lies are exposed time and again, but continue to influence legislation and public opinion."

Read more:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Two Suicides - Part II of II

“Uuum – just read on FB that Elizabeth is dead???”

That was the entirety of the text message sent from my not-so-tactful sister at 6:57 PM on Sunday, October 12.

Elizabeth was my best friend in high school. We graduated from Minden High School in 1988.

I sent messages to a few mutual friends, and learned that she’d just committed suicide that day…30 days after marrying a 28-year-old ex-con. It had been her fourth or fifth marriage. All I could think was, shit
On a hot August morning in 1983, my mother unceremoniously delivered me to Webster Junior High School in Minden, Louisiana for the very first time. Having dropped off my siblings at their respective new schools, she drove our green 1973 Ford Grand Torino station wagon into the parking lot and mumbled “have a good day” as she puffed her cigarette and blew smoke out the window. I fumbled out of the car as she looked away, her parental duties fulfilled until 3PM when we arrived home on the school bus.

I grew up in rural Joyce, Louisiana where my awesome hunting, fishing and arm-wrestling skills made me one of the most popular girls in school. As I stood under the old aluminum canopy in this new parking lot, I realized that the girls in Minden were definitely not like the girls in Winn Parish. They wore hair bows and fingernail polish. I sported a cropped haircut, no makeup, and cheap but well-worn tennis shoes. It was 8th grade, and I was the new kid in a small town junior high school. This was not going to be fun.

I stumbled around campus until I heard voices coming from the track and field bleachers. There, sitting on that tiered metaphor for pre-teen popularity, were a bunch of kids I did not know. I didn’t know the school building. I didn’t know the schedule. I didn’t know any teachers. And I definitely DID NOT look like these girls.

Elizabeth spoke up. “Hey, why don’t you come sit with us?” I joined a group of overly-thin, studious-looking girls who sat, appropriately, halfway up the bleachers. “Who are you?” they asked.
I mumbled, “Debbie. I’m new.”

They sized me up, and continued the conversation they had started earlier. I sat there, quietly listening, trying to look interested, and wishing for this day to end. Fast.

Now Elizabeth is dead. That day on the bleachers in 1983 plays in my mind like a VHS tape of E.T. There is lots of static, and the VCR has a tricky rewind button.

Elizabeth’s dad was an American History teacher at Minden High School – a clear kiss of death for any junior high student. But she got my nerdiness, and I got hers. She made straight A’s, and she didn’t have boobs yet. Her parents were super-religious and didn’t allow her to wear make-up. We were practically twins. But she was confident. She was the epicenter of the school’s pre-pubescent geek gang. Any promise of long-term, school-wide popularity with this clique was non-existent but, at that point, I just didn’t want to stand out as the new, backwoods country kid with the butch haircut, flannel shirt, and cleats. I stuck with Elizabeth and her friends, and they tolerated me as long as I didn’t say too much.

Fast forward to 1988. Elizabeth and I were seniors. We were soul-sisters. We were inseparable. Her parents adored me, and provided a safe refuge from my Dickensian home life. Elizabeth found an out-of-town guy who was nice enough to take me to the prom. Her mom made my dress because my parents were too poor to buy one. We both had to be home at 10:30 PM.

After graduation, she and I went parking with some good ol’ Minden boys. It was horrible. She was in love with her date; I barely knew his friend, who slobbered when he spoke and told me he loved me 15 minutes after we pulled into the woods. It was one of the longest, most miserable nights of my young life.

Around 1990, Elizabeth married her date from that night. I was a bridesmaid, and gladly wore the most ghastly pale blue, puffy-sleeved bridesmaid’s dress for my dear friend. As a good Sibley Missionary Baptist Church girl, she had “saved herself” for marriage. She called me after the honeymoon to say that her new husband had laughed at the way she walked after they had sex. Of course he was a crude backwoods ass, and I’d always hated him for that. I should have punched him in the face when I had the chance at prom. But Elizabeth was determined to marry him. Her taste in unruly, ill-behaved men never left her.

Two husbands and two kids later, Elizabeth was having a hot affair with the accounting guy at the Shreveport law firm where she worked as a bookkeeper. Her husband at the time (#2, if I remember correctly) was a saint. She was also sleeping with some guy we went to school with; he managed the local video rental store there in Minden. She and I would have lunch, and I’d listen to her escapades.

“Your husband is an angel,” I’d tell her.

“He’s boring,” she’d reply.

In her mind, her obligatory Sunday-morning church habit absolved her compulsive sex binges. I gave her an ultimatum tinged with judgment: quit destroying your family, or forfeit our friendship.

Of course, she chose the guy in accounting over her husband, so I walked away. I mean, I’d been no saint. Who was I to judge her? But nevertheless I walked away from her. She needed help, and I didn’t possess the tools to help her. I was trapped in a miserable marriage myself – I was a young woman from a horrible family trying to navigate the complexities of a marriage. Elizabeth would be fine. She didn’t need me. Elizabeth always bounced back.

Except when she didn’t.

Around 2005, Facebook happened and Elizabeth and I became “friends” again. Not REAL friends, but whatever you call reconnecting online with a person you don’t know anymore, but share a common, ancient history. First thing I noticed: her hair was exactly the same as it was in high school. We were 40 years old, and she still had 1980’s Square Pegs bangs. Geez, I thought, how pitiful. And she’d never left Minden. From what I could tell, she was still working as a bookkeeper somewhere, still living in a trailer, and she was a grandmother.

Wow. Glad I got out of that godforsaken town, I thought to myself. That could have been me. Poor Elizabeth.

I sent her a message, suggesting we get together for margaritas or dinner or something. She confessed that she was now “a drunk” and couldn’t possibly accommodate my request. I replied, “Ok,” and referred her to a great therapist I knew. She never responded.

Every six months or so, I’d think about Elizabeth and check her Facebook page to see what was going on in her life. She loved her grandchildren, she loved or hated her job depending on the day, she posted glowing selfies while driving her car, and she REALLY loved Jesus. She had also fallen madly in love with a 28-year-old musician who was about to be released from jail. I had no response to her posts. I couldn’t relate to her life. She never reached out to me, and I quit reaching out to her after the rejected therapist recommendation.

It seemed as though the 17-year-old girl I had known just never grew up. 25 years later, she lived in the same town, went to the same church, had the same kind of job, still obsessed over boys, and still hairsprayed the hell out of her curly bangs. I couldn’t stomach it, but I also couldn’t reach her.

Several years passed, and I got the text: “Uuum – just read on FB that Elizabeth is dead???”

Her funeral was at the same funeral home where we’d held my dad’s visitation 4 ½ months earlier. He committed suicide too. Like Elizabeth, he never left Minden, never left his old church, and never accepted help from people who loved him.

“Brother Jeff” of the Sibley Missionary Baptist Church preached Elizabeth’s funeral. I sat there, elbow propped on the arm of the pew, remembering how this guy had warned me that John Lennon was the devil and that rock music was a tool of Satan. He had called me out to the congregation during a long prayer session, admonishing me to bow my head out of respect and stop looking around the sanctuary like a heathen. And here he was, preaching over the dead body of a woman he’d “saved” 30 years earlier. That piece of shit preacher….I wanted to walk out, but was content to serve as a witness to the small-minded religiosity in the room – the same mentality that had convinced Elizabeth to self-loathe her own sexual being, and spend her short life trying to make-over men who only wanted to fuck her.

I anticipated the snake-handling to commence at any minute.

I felt superior to everyone in that room in that moment. I’d gotten out. I’d educated myself. I was fucking ALIVE! I could have easily been the woman in that coffin, but I wasn’t. Poor Elizabeth – if only she’d moved away and found herself – her true self. Damn her for not trying.

A few girlfriends from our high school visited in the funeral home parking lot after her service. Of course, they all still lived in Minden. That’s when I realized I’d probably never think of Elizabeth again. She represented the person I could have become had I not listened to wise people and learned from life’s hard lessons. I couldn’t bear to imagine the agony she must have suffered, knowing that there is a whole world out there, but she chose to be trapped by her own poorly-informed choices.

Before the funeral, her mother confessed to one of her friends that “all Elizabeth ever wanted was a man to love her, and no one ever did.”

That is Elizabeth’s sad legacy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Suicides - Part I of II

“Dial 911. Lay the phone receiver down on the counter. Don’t come to the back room. Thanks for being my friend. Get yourself some cable.”

That was the note – and there was $1000 in cash on the dining room table beside it.

The house looked like normal when Debra got there. She had knocked, but there was no answer. The door was open, which was unusual. He never left the front door unlocked. Never.

She called out, “Robert,” several times with no answer, then she saw the torn envelope on the table and the cash. She did as instructed, and left the old green phone receiver on the countertop in the kitchen. It was the only phone in the house, and had been since 1982.

She walked to the back bedroom – not to her designated room where he had installed a padlock on the outside of the door to lock her inside when she misbehaved, but to his bedroom. She knew it well. It was quiet, the dog wasn’t barking, and his blood was covering the walls and bed from the corner of the floor all the way up to the ceiling. His body was beside the bed, knees propped apart with a fake gold picture frame shaped like a V which had cradled the butt of the gun. He was frozen on his side on the floor. His left hand was still on the barrel of the .303 rifle. Bits of jaw and brain were sprayed across the room. His head was mostly missing, but she recognized his 336-pound body lying there on the floor. Those were his socks and his pants and his shirt.

She thought, “Don’t touch him. They’ll think you did it.”

So she walked back to the living room and sat down quietly in the old yellow chair. The police would be there soon. She’d left the phone off the hook like he said.

She didn’t dare touch the $1000 on the table.

She waited.

It was May 29, or maybe May 30. She wasn’t sure. They asked her, but she just wasn’t sure. Yes, it was definitely 2014, and she had been his friend for 20 years. And she found him this morning. She had left last night around 10 PM, and he was fine. That’s all she knew.

The police officer asked if she knew who shot the dog. She started crying because she knew he loved that dog.

“I don’t know,” she whimpered.

So many questions…they asked her so many questions. The slow Southern drawl of the officer was soft, and it comforted her. She knew what they were thinking though: she’s black and he was white. In this backwoods Louisiana town, she was guilty until proven innocent. She focused on keeping her composure.

Convinced that she didn’t have the mental capacity or physical ability to kill a man as large as Robert, the police drove Debra home. She left behind the money he’d given her. She stayed in her tiny upstairs apartment and cried alone about her lover’s death. The neighbors heard her and, one by one, knocked on her door. She simply told them, “Robert’s dead,” and closed the door. “I’m sorry for your loss,” each one would say. She didn’t deserve this — not after the way he had treated her all those years.

His youngest daughter got the call.

“This is the Minden Police Department. I’m sorry to inform you that your father has died.”

She relied on her husband to work out the details. She didn’t call her siblings until later. She had to fall apart first. He was HER daddy; the others had ignored him all these years. And she wanted to get in that house…that house held so many secrets, and she wanted first dibs. She was the only one who cared about him, after all. They had been so cruel, so unforgiving…she was sure they would be sorry now.

She submitted a prayer request at church so everyone in her congregation knew that she was going through a difficult test sent from Satan himself. She coveted their sympathy now more than ever.

Her siblings were relieved to hear the news. Finally, the nightmare was over. Should they feel sad? Or angry? Should they feel guilty for being happy that he was finally dead?

They were not close, the four of them. When they were younger, they would have died for each other. They almost did on several occasions. They would have died for their mother, the long-suffering martyr of the family. That was a long time ago, though. Things were very different now. Life was safer.

The youngest daughter made all the arrangements. She wanted flowers and a military funeral. Her three siblings went along with her plans out of compassion for her loss. She took things from his house, and tried to donate his belongings to a local crisis pregnancy center. One brother stopped her, and she never told the others of her plans. She was blunt with her siblings about her desire for a full reimbursement of her expenses from the funeral.

$18,000.00. That’s how much the gun-blast cleanup cost. The company was appropriately-named “Aftermath.” All but one sibling saw the humor in it. Laughing helped as they cleaned out his hoard of cigarettes, broken televisions, AA batteries, razor blades, and lawn mowers.

Having removed all bank account records and valuables from the house, the youngest daughter was content to let the others clean out Robert’s belongings and prepare for his “estate sale.” Each of the four siblings split the proceeds equally at about $250 each…hardly worth their effort, as predicted.

The lawyer completed the paperwork. There was no will. What was left of Robert’s substantial inheritance from his wealthy parents had been whittled away to $150,000 and change. The house was falling apart. The junked cars were scattered around his property like shipwrecks. His loyal dog, a rescue from the local pound, had been carted off the day of the suicide – found dead from a bullet wound from his .38 pistol. The flies still circled the bloody spot where the mutt had been shot in the head.

The whole mess could be sold as soon as the succession was complete. All that misery, sold to the highest bidder. It seemed too good to be true.

“If he did that to himself, I can only imagine what he did to you,” said one friend. She had no idea what he had done to us behind those walls.

That’s how my daddy died.

I keep that V-shaped picture frame on my bedside table. It’s the last thing I see each night before falling asleep, and thinking about its ultimate purpose always makes me smile.