I can remember my grandfather’s funeral, just like I was there right now.
Two FBI agents are standing across the room from me. They believe he was behind the President’s murder, and they’ve been asking what he said before he died. They had called every day he was in his funeral home. I had seen him a few months before; he was old and weak from disease, but he was still a huge man, and he still knew how to use a knife.
Aunt Janice is standing by his casket, with my other aunts and uncles and cousins. The two agents are watching them, and one notices me staring at them. He leans over to the other agent and says something I can’t hear. That one nods, but they don’t ask me anything. They continue watching the six huge pallbearers standing beside Big Daddy’s casket.
The mayor finishes speaking and few camera flashes go off. A few reporters try to ask questions, but he tells them that now’s not the time.
Everyone stands up and starts moving around the room. Some of them extend their hand to us and say nice things as they pass the casket. I move to stand by my dad. He’s sobbing and doesn’t say anything, and he places his hand on my shoulder without looking up. We haven’t spoken since he got out of prison. I have a lot to tell him, but now’s not the time.
Uncle Doug is standing near Big Daddy’s casket with the other pall bearers, and Uncle Keith is one of them. I don’t know the two other Teamsters, or the two LSU football players. I overhear a reporter say that one of the football players won the Heisman Trophy. Everyone near him seems impressed.
I scan the faces of a hundred people in the room. I realize how much smaller I am than everyone else. I’m 5’6″, and I only weigh 149 pounds. Doug is 6’2″, and Keith is 6’4,” and both probably weigh over 240 pounds.
They’re standing with the pall bearers and the casket. Both have Big Daddy’s light blue eyes, like Grandma Foster, but I can’t see her eyes because she’s burying her face in Doug’s chest and crying. She looks up, and her tears pool in the wrinkles around her eyes.
She says, “You ain’t suposs’d t’ out live ye’r chil’ren,” and she buries her face in his chest again. A few seconds later, she wipes her eyes and looks towards the casket. She tells anyone who overhears that “Edward was a good boy. He couldn’t help the way he was.”
Doug says something I can’t hear, and Grandma smiles. He notices my dad, excuses himself, and walks towards us. One of my cousins steps forward and hugs Grandma, and I wait beside my dad.
Uncle Doug’s cheeks are puffy and his blue eyes are bloodshot with red veins from crying, but he smiles when he offers his hand to my dad. He says, “I’m sorry for your loss, Ed. Your daddy was a good man. We’re all gonna miss him.”
My dad knocks Doug’s hand away and yells, “Fuck you, Doug!” and shoves him. I hear a thud! as both of my dad’s hands hit Doug’s chest and send him flying backwards. His arms flail as he stumbles, and he plows into one of the flower arrangements by Big Daddy’s casket; it looks like an 18 wheeler truck, and it has red flowers that spell “From Teamsters Local #5.”
My dad moves forward. He clenches his right fist and reaches for Doug with his left hand, but three Teamsters and two LSU football players pile on my dad and drag him away. I didn’t notice if the two FBI agents did anything.
I look around the room and wonder if anyone understood what had just happened. No one says anything, and the funeral continues. Our family was used to things like that, and they always kept talking about the source of their anger.
Keith and Doug and Aunt Janice are talking about Hoffa and Kennedy, and the football players keep talking about the football they signed for Big Daddy. I stop listening because I’m unconcerned about football or Jimmy Hoffa. I leave the room without saying goodbye to anyone.
I was 17 and my grandfather’s funeral, but I was a legal adult, because I had been emancipated from the state’s child foster care system. I had taken into the foster system when I was a baby, and for the next 16 years I was a part in a few families.
I almost forgot about my Partin family. But, 30 years later, I read the John F Kennedy Assassination report about my grandfather, Edward Grady Partin. It wasn’t released until two years after his 1990 funeral.
President Bill Clinton released 60% of the report in 1992, and since then every U.S. President has released a bit more. As of 2020, 99.4% is public knowledge. I do not know what President Donald Trump saw in the remaining 0.6%.
Those facts were probably the most interesting thing about me. The rest of this project is a book about my hope for the future of global healthcare, and the equity of education in America.
30 years after my grandfather’s funeral, I was faculty at the University of San Diego, a prestigious private university on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s Heaven on Earth, and I’m glad to be here.
You may not know this, but there are 400,000 foster youths in America. Of emancipated foster youths, kids declared legal adults for a range of reasons, 80% go to prison. Fewer than 15% will go to college, and fewer than 3% will go to graduate school. They can join the army; I joined the army at age 16.
Of the 80% who go to jail, 40% will do so before they’re 21 years old. In prison, they will face a cycle of recitivism, and society will bear their cost. Today, 1 out of 110 people in America are incarcerated. We are all paying for their misfortune.
I was emancipated at age 16. My father, Ed Partin Junior, had gone to prison for selling drugs, and his father, Edward Grady Partin, had gone to prison for a range of charges: rape, manslaughter, rackateering, embezlement, etc. He had been released, famously, to testify against Jimmy Hoffa. In exchange for a lifetime of silence, he received immunity for his crimes. He went to prison again, shortly after I was born, and after Hoffa disappeared.
My grandfather’s father, Grady Partin, was a drunkard who left Grandma Foster during the depression. She remarried, and after Big Daddy’s funeral, she told me how proud she was that I’d be the first of our family to graduate high school.
I’m the first of my male family not to go to prison, the first to graduate high school, and would have been the first to graduate college if my dad hadn’t gotten out of prison and became a lawyer before I got out of the army; so, I’m the second Partin to get a college degree, and the first to get a graduate degree, etc.
I was fortunate to have mentors in life, and I was financially able to retire 15 years after Big Daddy’s funeral, when I was 32 years old. I retired for the second time at age 32; I invented medical devices, started companies, and consulted for executives in international healthcare companies until I retired again to teach.
I had retired early because I had invented medical devices, and started companies. I was fortunate to have free healthcare, because I was a disabled combat veteran. I had mentors that helped me through the army, college, and my first medical device start-up company.
In 2017, I stood on a deck of the University of San Diego, on the bluff overlooking the ocean I love so much, and I smiled. I felt like the luckiest human alive.
That’s a remarkable story. Unfortunately, I’m, only sharing it because my mother passed away in 2019. I think my part in history is the best way for me to have a bigger conversation. I would like to share a future possibility of helping more kids receive the same education and healthcare benefits that allowed me to change my situation.
And, I’d like to do it in a way that’s fun; after I tell you about my mother.
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