Edward Grady Partin Jr
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”Exodus 20:12
Even if you choose not to choose, you still have made a choiceRush, Freewill
“But,” I said, hoping to change topics away from Big Daddy and back to my dad. “His drug arrests were already on file. I learned that today. Here.
I showed Carleton and Cristi the file on my phone; she hadn’t seen what I had found that day at the cafe around the corner, where I walked to work on my blog. Hope was spending the night at a friend’s house, and it was an adult night on our balcony.
Carelton asked if he could see my phone, and he scrolled through much faster than I had. Because of his profession, he reads blogs faster than I do, especially now that I need to find my reading glasses first. And, because he grew up with social media, he’s good at summarizing long blurbs into distilled, smaller Twitter-llike bites that are easier to swallow, compared to the long blogs I was writing.
“Hmmm,” he began, handing me my phone back. “That’s fascinating. It’s like your dad is the bigger story.”
Not only were my dad’s old records available, but so were his lawsuits against the states of Arkansas and Louisiana. After he went to prison in 1985 for drug dealing, he returned to college and earned saledictorian of Arkansas State University with degrees in political science and history in 1990, the year I left Louisiana, and then he graduated with honors from law school in 1994. In law school, he made a bit of national news in 1991 when he won a national law student essay contest and was flown to Washington DC to speak in front of congress; I was in Desert Storm by then, and he sent me copies of the press about his speech and a copy of his essay on the right to burn an American flag and why the Gulf War was such bullshit – his words. Interestingly, by then no one remembered the whole story of Hoffa, and even though my dad’s name is Edward Grady Partin, Jr., no one commented on the connection between my dad and Hoffa and Kennedy, not even all the congressmen and senators and president who, by then, had access to the still classified JFK Assassination Report. I’ve always thought that was remarkable.
My dad returned to Arkansas and easily passed the bar his first time, which is rare, because many must take some sections more than once. He moved back to Louisiana, and passed Louisiana’s bar under their unique Napoleonic law system, which is even more rare to do without going to law school in Loiusiana, because Louisiana state law is unique in America; it’s more related to King Louis and Queen Anna’s French codes than the common law in every other state. Most Loiusiana lawyers get a degree from LSU or Tulane, and those universities are packed with aspiring international lawyers seeking to learn European laws.
But, my dad hadn’t done his homework, and eight years later and with almost $80,000 in student loans he learned that both Arkansas and Louisiana, and probably most states, had laws that prevented former convicted felons from voting, owning guns, or practicing law. In other words, he couldn’t vote to change a system that, in his words, was bullshit. He sued the system and represented himself as his own, unlicensed lawyer, and beat both states in their versions of a supreme court. He then soon won one of his first public defense cases, even taking cases all the way up to the supreme court, something fewer than 0.01% of lawyers do.
Like my grandfather, my dad had been in the news quite a bit when I was younger; though rarely on the front page, and often only a blurb in court proceedings printed once a week.
In the state’s arguement against him, in Partin vs The State of Arkansas, they used his drug dealing convictions from when he was 18 and had abandoned my mom and me to go off somewhere and buy wholesale drugs, American prescription opiods. That was a big deal back then, when even marijuana was a felony. The state of Arkansas went on to say that he had been arrested three times for possession of marijuana in his 20’s and convicted of intent to sell, and had served in an Arkansas federal penatentary from 1985-1986.
“Coincidentally,” I chimed in, “that was the same year my grandfather was released from prison. They never saw each other again.”
Wikipedia says that Big Daddy was released from a Texas federal penitentiary because of declining health, that he had diabetes and an undisclosed heart condition, and that he died under Janice’s care in 1990.
“That must have sucked,” someone said succinctly, and no one disagreed.
Despite my dad’s rough childhood and criminal history, he won suits in both states and they changed their laws because of his tenacity, forever benefiting posterity, and he became a Louisiana public criminal defendant. He fought just as hard for anyone who needed a free lawyer; even the Miranda Rights tell us that. It was all online, and I was only repeating what had been in the court records. He had precided over controversial cases, still angry and intense, but adamenently adhering to the constitution and the Miranda Rights that reminded everyone that they had the right to remain silent, and to have access to a free public defendant. He is a good man.
Carleton shared his thoughts and I listened and answered a lot more questions than I would have liked. He was just a kid. Only thirty two years old; and, though his family history had it’s own traumas and drug and alcohol problems, he felt he had a good childhood, especially skating with his friends and filming early skate videos, and those experiences allowed him to be a small film and advertising consultant, a job he adores, especially when he and his wife, Lysandra, can enjoy sunny days in Balboa Park because of Cranky Ken’s relatively inexpensive rent and month to month lease. But, he’s still just a kid, chronologically and relatively, and he kept asking clarrification questions when I skipped by an explanation of who a character in the story was; but, in fairness, those names were common knowledge to me when I was his age. I speak as if everyone knows who Hoffa was, which may still be true, but sometimes I also assume they know about Bobby Kennedy, Carlos Marcello, Chucky O’Brien, Frank Fitzgerald, etc. just as Carleton and Lysandra some times mention Jay Z, Beyonce, The Chemical Brothers, and a host of other names that I don’t recall as well as Chuck D, Madona, and Van Halen.
As Frank said in The Irishman, much more succinctly than I have:
“Nowadays, young people, they don’t know who Jimmy Hoffa was. They don’t have a clue. I mean, maybe they know that he disappeared or something, but that’s about it. But back then, there wasn’t nobody in this country who didn’t know who Jimmy Hoffa was.”
Carleton knew the name Hoffa about as well as he knew Amelia Earheart, and he made a joke about seeing their names together in a Far Side comic that implied both had gone missing and we never found their bodies or knew what had happened. He wasn’t sure what a Teamster was, and he was close because he knew that a teamster was a horse wagon driver, and that let him see why the Teamsters logo on many of the books he borrowed was a steering wheel and two horse heads, like the one Ken always talked about in the Godfather. Even though Carleton and Lysandra have the internet, it’s hard for them to imagine growing up in the south before the internet; probably like I can’t really imagine how Grandma Foster felt when Grady Partin left her, and she was a single mom trying to raise three kids in a shotgun shack during the depression; sometimes, you just have to empathize that one situation was just as good or bad as another situation in a different time.
Carleton had no idea, he said. He agreed with Ken said, that he viewed Hoffa as Al Pacio or Robert Blake or a character in a video game, not as a real person, and that’s fair. But, he trusted Ken’s perception of reality from his time period, and understands that Hoffa was important to him; and, by default, my grandfather was interesting to Ken. Similarly, my dad is interesting to Carleton.
“He’s the real story, to me.” Lysandra said. Carleton and Cristi nodded in agreement, and I began to see things differently.
Carleton asked if anyone wanted to get high, and of course no one said no. He told his phone to order some, and I ordered some food, and we placed bets on which would arrive first and laughed about how we could have cannabis delivered to our door. I agreed, and briefly mentioned that the VA Healthcare recently reviewed the FDA’s long winded double blinded randomized clinical trials that CBD from cannibis is non addictive, unlike opioids, nicotine, and alcohol; and it’s as effective as expensive anti-inflamatory medications that helps people suffering from arthritis in joints and fibromalaysis, like the vets with Desert Storm Syndrome; and it’s been shown to reduce anxiety and stress; and the only negative consequences seems to be that THC, a psychoactive canaboid in cannabis, may aggrivate the symptoms of scziphrenia if consumed by youths without supervision. We all laughed at the irony of me getting a 25% disabled veterans discount from cannabis dispensaries, but that my dad went to federal prison for a year and a half because of some shitty shag stuck in the cracks between floorboards in a barn on his private property; and that it took 20 armed deputies to drag us out of the house, and that they were paid for by Reagan’s War on Drugs, funded partially and probably unconstitutionally by selling weapons to Iraq that I would then fight against in the first Gulf War. I laughed and exageratted what it was like to be a 12 year old boy drug out of his father’s house by 20 armed deputies – just for a bunch of shitty shag! ha! – and that how that would never happen to me again.
The VA healthcare system even implies that CBD can be beneficial for patients suffering from pain, anxiety, depression, or PTSD! I said, quoting that month’s VA Healthcare magazine that I had tossed into the trash along with some business cards Ken had left on the balcony table that morning. Life can be funny, I said, if you look at it the right way.
The dispensary weed arrived within nine minutes, and the vegetarian pizza took twenty. By then, we were so snack hungry that no one said they remembered who won or lost the bet; Carleton held up a slice of pizza and said we’re all winners. No one was shooting at me or dragging me from my home for our weed, and I agreed with my neighbors. We had a good time for the rest of the evening.
By 1971, my dad was ruggedly handsome and admirably defiant against teachers and anyone in authority, and, as per many young people in 1971, adamantly against the war in Vietnam that had escalated so quickly after Kennedy died. And then his father was suspected of killing a famous actor from about 40 war films, Audie Murphy. My dad may have had a slight nervous breakdown, just like my mom had around the same time, when her boyfriend was shot and killed in Vietnam, and that’s when Edward Grady Partin, Jr., was living with his grandmother, my Grandma Foster.
She had remarried a kind, soft spoken man from Woodville, Mississippi, my Grandpa Foster, after Grady Partin ran out on her and their three children some time in the Great Depression, around 1936 or so. He had left her and her three children in their shotgun shack near the sawmill in Woodville, when Edward Grady Partin, Sr., was a young teenager and the oldest, biggest of three big boys. Big Daddy fought his way up and out of Woodville, and settled in Baton Rouge; and Grandma Foster always said he looked after his little brothers and momma, and that it was a miracle how he bought her her own house in Baton Rouge. She lived in a small, three bedroom home with a large back yard facing the train tracks, and only a few blocks away from where my mother lived in Granny’s home under the flight path.
From Grandma Foster’s perspective, Momma Jean had kidnapped her grandchildren and “run off wit’ ’em,” as she’d say in her Mississippi accent. By 1971, she was already in her 70’s, a tiny, frail little old woman with catteracts obscuring her once bright blue eyes. She was like a little Yoda in my little kid’s eyes – except she was not green – and, if you believe Luke when he spit out Yoda’s stew on Degobah, Grandma Foster was probably as good of a cook as Yoda was. And, like Yoda, she said quirky things and it was difficult to understand her accent. In the 25 years I knew her before she passed away in 199(verify), I never once heard her say anything negative about anyone, even Momma Jean.
“But Walter found ’em, and Bobby helped them have a home, too.” She said on more than one occassion; she was in her 90’s when I was a teenager, and she repeated her stories often.
“I don’t have nothin’ bad to say ’bout Norma Jean. She was a good woman,” she said, looking up me in the eyes by staring up when we were standing, or by staring straight ahead when she sat in her recliner and I kneeled by her side so that I could hear her.
“She did what she felt she had to, honey. We all did. Ed, too.” She patted my disproportionatly large and gangly hand with her tiny wrinkled one, like she usually did when I rested my hand on the arm of her recliner and listed to her stories. I never knew when she was talking about Ed, her son, or Ed, my dad, or Ed White, my PawPaw; or, Edwin Edwards, the governor of Louisiana who knew Big Daddy well and kept refusing to accept his endorsement. I never heard Grandma foster say anything but kind words for the many Eds she knew and loved.
“But he loves you, Jason. He really does. He just don’t know how to show it. He had a rough childhood. We all did. And he has some bad blood. We all do. We is all just flawed people, doin’ our best. But we all proud of you, hon. Ed, too. He had a rough childhood.”
All of my family said the same thing: Big Daddy had been “rough” on my dad, and that a lot had been happening around the time I was born.
“You a good boy. You’ll do fine. Your momma and Joyce raised you good.” She smiled and looked like she’d shed a tear of joy.
“You a good boy,” she repeated, smiling and the tear having pooled in the wrinkles around her old eyes. She was old, and said the same things often. And her eyesight was fading; she often wasn’t sure who she was speaking to, and sometimes she used names I didn’t recall. But, of all names I remember, I most appreciated her talking about the nice young actor she had met, Audie Murphy.
After my grandfather was suspected of killing Audie Murphy, my dad met my mother, Wendy Anne Rothdram, at Glen Oaks high school. He was a senior, and she was a junior, and he thought she was fine. He liked that she rode bikes and climbed trees and didn’t seem interested in school, either. She lost her virginity to him in January of 1972, and that’s when I was conceived and my story begins in Partin vs Partin, which sort of began the day I was conceived; in a way, I was a small part in their story beginning at that moment.
Ed Partin Junior proposed marriage to Wendy Anne Rothdram when he learned about me. He said he didn’t want to be like his father; not in a bad way, as in talking badly about Big Daddy, but by then most people knew that Big Daddy had several wives and mistrisses and many children spread out across the south and probably around Flagstaff and San Diego, too. My dad wanted to be a better man than his father, and that’s a respectable way to view things, and probably influenced me to feel the same way; like father, like son.
My dad and Wendy dropped out of Glen Oaks High School and drove an hour away to Mississippi, where state laws didn’t require parental consent for a 17 year old boy and a 16 year old girl to be married, and my dad still had family with room to spare. States recognize each other’s marriage certificates, and they returned to Baton Rouge and lived in one of Big Daddy’s many houses near forested swamps and tree lined murky rivers, where they could hunt with privacy. Big Daddy was known to have houses around the bayous near Baton Rouge and cabins throughout the forests near Flagstaff; and, Big Daddy took care of his family as best he could.
In 1972, around the time of my birth, Big Daddy was arrested again, charged with stealing $450,000 from the Local #5 safe, and the only two witnesses were found beaten and bloody. The safe was recovered in a river near where my my was living, and his arrest made front page headlines. And that was around that time my dad left us and rode to Miami with his friends on motorcyles to travel to some island and buy drugs in bulk, and my mom was left alone with me, without a car or job. As she said and Lottingger documented, she felt emotionally upset, alone, scared, and confused; and she felt she had no where to turn.
I can’t imagine anyone feeling any less in her situation and with the Partin family. It probably left her feeling warped, and she fled Baton Rouge to straighten her self out. For the rest of her life, she’d joke that she had been born Wendy Anne Rothdram, WAR, and that marrying Ed Partin WARP’ed her; I probably inherited her sense of humor, centered around puns and coincidences, and I quipped that I had JiP’ed her of her youth. She never denied it.
The day my mom abandoned me in 1972, the daycare center was closing and I was the last baby there and they didn’t know what to do. They called her emergency contacts, but Auntie Lo and Uncle Bob were too drunk to answer the phone and my mom hadn’t left Granny’s number because they were still estranged. She had given the center Linda White’s name, and when she answered she told her father and he dropped what he was doing and rushed to the daycare center and picked me up, and a man named, coincidentally, Ed White, became my first foster father. And, though I was born in 1972 to my dad and Wendy, my first memories are with Ed White, my PawPaw. For me, when I’ve pondered how to honor my mother and father, I had to first ponder what being a mother or father meant; that’s probably why I never asked Grandma Foster to clarify which Ed she was talking about when she said that Ed loved me, and was just a flawed person doing the best he could in the situation at hand.being shot at or drug away for having a little bit of weed in the privacy of our homes. We all agreed and raised our glasses and wished everyone could have a night like that at least once a week, if not more.