Chapter 22

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My family and the Chandlers sat around the table eating the delicious breakfast that Chef had prepared for us. He made whatever everyone desired. My family already knew the drill when it came to Chef, but when it came to the Chandlers, I had to convince them to make their request known with no regrets, unless June objected to what her children requested. Jordie helped himself to ten pancakes, eggs with cheese and one of Shayla's Krispy Kreme donuts. Lily requested waffles with sprinkles shaped like Unicorns. I don't know how in the heck Chef did that, but he mastered it. And modest June just requested an omelet with spinach and peppers. Of course, Chef had to have someone find edible sprinkles in so little time, but he made it happen for our guests. Lily made a friend in Jaimy and Jourdynn. Jordie was talking cars and other stuff that preteen boys talk about with Marlon. And June couldn't stop telling me how grateful she was to be here.


"Michael, you have no idea how comfortable that bed was last night. Lily and I felt like we were sleeping on clouds! You have to give me the type of bed that was, so I can ask Dave to get one."


"You can have the one from the house," I shrugged.


"Wait, what?!" she looked at me in shock.


"Yeah. I mean, I needed to put in a new mattress anyway. You should have it by this evening."


"You're kidding me, right? You're just going to give me that mattress?"


"Why not? You like it, don't you?"


"I mean, yeah, but-"


"Then, I'm giving it to you. Think nothing of it."


"Oh my gosh, Michael... You are so kind. I- We- Thank you..." she smiled to herself after stumbling over her words. Seeing her so happy about getting a new mattress tickled me. It's just a mattress, but to her, I guess it felt like heaven. I could always get a new mattress. She began to talk again about how well she and Lily slept. What was it about this woman that made Shayla dislike her so much? The Chandlers helped us in a time of need, so why is it so wrong to give back to this family? I guess it's something for only Shayla to know and to explain to me. For now, I guess I have to just heed the warnings my wife is giving me. I didn't in the past and it's only right that I begin to now when she senses something wrong.


"Michael! Hey, Michael!" Jordie called across the table, causing everyone else to quiet down.


"Yeah, Jordie. What's up?" I asked him.


"Um," he cleared his throat. "I just want to say, thank you so much for inviting me and my family here. It really, really means a lot to us. I can't believe that I'm here having breakfast with Michael Jackson!" June laughed nervously at her son's comment.


I smiled, "you and your family are always welcome here. You all helped me and my wife at our time of need. I just want to give back."


"No, really. Thank you, Michael. This really means a lot," June gave me a small smile as she placed her hand on mine. I awkwardly smiled back, as I slid my hand from underneath hers. Was this her way of flirting although she was a married woman? June inhaled, turning a bright red, "well, I guess it's time for us to hit the road."


"Already, mom?" Jordie whined.


"Yep. It's a two-hour drive back. I told your father we'd be back by ten."


"My step-father," Jordie reminded her. "We can't stay a little bit longer?"


"No, Jordie. Come on. Help me clean up."


"Don't worry about it, June," I told her. "We'll get it."


"Oh, no. I'd feel bad if I didn't help," she insisted.


"No, really. We've got it. You all can go ahead. I'm sure Dave misses his family."


She looked between Jordie and Lily and sighed, "alright. Thank you again, Michael. You really don't know how much this means to us. I guess the old saying is right, huh? Don't pass up an opportunity. Had I not given you our number, I doubt we'd ever be able to experience this," she laughed nervously.


"Actually, my wife and I host something every weekend for local kids and their families to visit the ranch. If you ever want to visit again with a ton of other families, we're open every Saturday," I gave her a pamphlet.


"You are too kind, Michael Jackson," she shook her head in disbelief. "You're far from how the media portrays you to be. You'd think celebrities would be these stuck up people, but nope... Not you. You're the most down to earth, most giving person I've ever met in my life."


"You can thank my mother for that," I smiled at her.


"Wow. Well," she sighed. "I think we're going to get going now," she pulled me in for a hug. Jordie and Lily got up too to express their goodbyes.


"Can I come back, Michael?" Lily asked me.


"Of course! You're always welcome here. You and your family," I bent down to hug her.


"Bye, Michael," Jordie reached his hand out to give me a handshake.


"Ahh, come on now, Jordie. You're family now," I pulled him in for a hug. "You guys met my family, now you're family."


He smiled to himself and whispered, "family."


"You guys be safe driving down there," my family and I followed them to the front door. The kids couldn't wait to say their goodbyes to the family that helped me and my wife out a month ago. I'm sure if Dave were here, he would have had just as much fun as June did. If I can convince Shayla, maybe I could invite the entire family over. The family piled into their car waving goodbye and drove off.

Saddened that they had left, Genevieve looked up at me, "can they come over again, Uncle Mike?"


"I'd have to ask Aunt Shayla. You know this is her house," I told her.


"But it's your house too!" she begged to differ.


"Well, we have to be in agreement."


"But you told them they could come back whenever!"


I sighed, "I know. Come on," I led everyone back into the house. It saddened me to tell the family that they were welcome whenever knowing that my wife didn't want them on the property anymore. But it's what I had to do to save face. Maybe, eventually, I could convince my wife otherwise.


VII


I followed my siblings out through the gate so that I could make the trip down to LA myself. The security guard handed me my mail through the window just before we began to drive off the property. Bills, bills, bills, and... A letter from Joseph? Why a letter? He couldn't call? I opened the envelope to be greeted with two folded pieces of college ruled paper. Whatever he felt the need to say, he just had to write it, I guess.


Michael,


You are my son. And I am your father. Something, I don't EVER want you to forget. I love you, but in no way am I afraid to let you know when I feel disrespected.


The interview you did with Ms. Oprah Winfrey two days ago couldn't have made me any prouder of you. You finally showed those shmucks who you really were. You answered every question with dignity, respect, class, and honesty. Just like I taught you. I would have loved to meet Ms. Oprah too if I had been given the chance, but alas, that did not happen. As proud of you as I am, I am greatly disappointed in you as well. You're my son, so I don't expect you to understand, but being a working man in Gary, Indiana was extremely tough. You had no idea the length of hard work and tireless hours I had to put in to make sure your mother, you, and your siblings had a roof over your head, clothes on your backs and food in your stomachs. Your mother and I saved our money and bought that small house on Jackson Street with our own money and raised all nine of you in there for the short amount of time that we did.


You don't know the tears I shed raising nine children even losing one in the process. You don't know the back-breaking hours I spent in the steel mill. You don't know because you've never had to work the way I did. You know why? Because I made sure you and your siblings didn't have to.


In the interview, you told Oprah how I beat you and your siblings and made you work countless hours to perfect a simple dance move and how you weren't happy. You weren't HAPPY?! Boy, you were privileged! Don't ever forget it! You say how you'd cry at the sight of seeing kids playing and you were working, but do you know that while you were crying they were LAUGHING at you? Laughing at you. Laughing at ME! Laughing at US! They said we would never make it. So, while, you were busy crying, I put up with the bullshit of being told that while I made y'all practice as much as you did, that you'd never make it.

And look at you now. Doing an interview nationwide with Ms. Oprah Winfrey. I made you. I made your siblings. I made us who we are today. If it weren't for me, the world wouldn't know Michael Jackson. And here you are telling Oprah and the whole world that you were sad, I beat you and this and that. No. I worked y'all to get my family out of the hood. I worked y'all to give you all a better life. I WORKED y'all so you never had to work as I did. And you're here telling the world nonsense.


You hurt me, son. You really did. Don't you ever forget where you come from and WHO you come from. The world would never know Michael Jackson from Gary, Indiana if it weren't for ME.


Joseph


I am appalled. Heartbroken even that out of that entire interview, Joseph only thought I was criticizing his parenting when it was so far from that. I am more than appreciative of what my father has done of us. More than appreciative. There isn't a day, an hour, a minute, a second, where I don't think about how blessed I am to have him as my father and that he worked tirelessly for us in many ways than one. Did he get the part when I said that I felt like I don't know him? I'm sure he didn't. I sighed and pulled my mobile phone out of my pocket to call him. I don't ever want him to think I'm ungrateful. How did he make my interview about him though? I don't understand that.


"Joseph," he answered the phone.


"Joseph, it's Michael," I looked out the window. "I got your letter."


"Okay."


I sighed, "I don't want you to feel unappreciated or disrespected, Joseph. That wasn't my intention."


"But I felt disrespected, Michael. You told the whole world that I abused you and basically that you were forced to perform."


"Joseph, I was just telling Oprah the truth. My truth. I told her how I felt and what I went through. You didn't abuse me. You whooped us. I get it. You wanted us to work, I get that too, but I was telling my side of the story. As a kid, all I wanted to do was play and... I never got what the other kids got."


"And now those kids who are grown just like you are nowhere near our level," he retorted. "Now they're buying your music. They're putting money in your pocket and you're on national television telling the world you wish you could have been like the other kids."


I sighed. He's not listening. And he's not going to listen.  Why did I think I could even try? "I'm sorry, Joseph."


"That's all I wanted, son. An apology. You made me look like a monster to the world."


"I'm sorry. That was far from my intention." It bothered me that while I poured out my heart about how I felt on my interview, he somehow made it all about him. And he's not going to listen to how I feel about what he wrote me. He feels that just because he's my father that he could do no wrong and that's not right. It's far from the truth. If there's one thing I'm not bringing into raising my children, it's guilt tripping and making my child feel like they're in the wrong for something that I know I was in the wrong for. Just because I'm the parent, doesn't mean I'm right. I just wish my father understood that. "I'm on my way to LA. Do you want to meet for lunch or something?"


"What time? I have an appointment at two."


"It can be after that. Say... three thirty?"


"That's alright."


"We can take a trip to the car dealership too."


"The car dealership?" he perked up, which only made me laugh at how absurd my father could be. Talk about feelings and the man was mum. Talk about money, material things, or clothes and the man was all over it. It's something I'd never understand my father. I don't know my father at all like I wish I could. But if anything could make up for this issue that apparently bothered him so much, it'd be a new car. "Count me in!"

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