Confronting a father who drinks, drives and could kill
“I’ve never seen my father cry,” Amy says. “I’ve seen him make my mother, my sister and myself cry, but now the tables were turned.”
Amy is a Seattle-area woman who shared her struggle with a 63-year-old father who she believes drinks and drives.
After Mark Mullan was arrested and charged with driving into a family crossing a north Seattle street while he was intoxicated, Amelia said, “There but for the grace of God goes my family with a father who could be the next careless killer.”
Mullan has pleaded not guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and other charges.
The 50-year-old man, who has multiple arrests for driving under the influence, is also charged with two counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving after plowing into the Schulte family in March.
Judy and Dennis Schulte were killed. Karina and her infant son Elias are recovering.
Mullan is being held in the King County Jail on $2.5 million bail.
Amy asked for advice in this letter I published with her permission about a month ago.
She says a lot has happened since then. She read all the comments and several emails I forwarded to her and she wanted to provide this update:
I couldn’t have my father become the next Mark Mullan.
Until now it has been easy to ignore his alcoholism because we don’t live in the same city. He’s miles and miles from me and my children.
He’s been out of sight and out of mind for at least the past four years. He’s not out of my mind now, because I wake up in the middle of the night praying that he’s not driving drunk.
The next day after I wrote to you I attended my first Al-Anon meeting (A fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems).
I should have gone years ago. I always felt alone with my father’s problem because it was a huge family secret. At Al-Anon I was just one of a dozen people who all had the same burden. All were women, but the ages ranged from a young lady who looked to be in her 20s to a woman who was easily in her 60s.
I decided a few weeks after that first meeting to meet with my father. My sister didn’t want to go with me. I took pictures of my kids and hoped he would be moved to want to see them again. Maybe I was too idealistic. Nothing ever moved him before, why would this be different?
He welcomed me inside his house and asked, “What brings you here?”
Bolstered by a new Al-Anon friend, and with nothing to lose, I blurted out, “Your drinking brings me here.”
He immediately turned his back and settled into his old brown recliner. He didn’t look to see if I was following him.
I’d already crossed the doorway of his house, and crossed the threshold of a difficult discussion. I was all in.
In addition to the pictures of my kids, I brought several articles I printed out about Mark Mullan slamming into the Schulte family. I told him I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything possible to make sure he doesn’t do the same to some other family.
He didn’t want to look at the articles. I set them on the table next to his chair. He didn’t say anything for what seemed like forever. The silence was awkward. I was planning my exit when he asked to see the pictures of “the boys.”
I told him I want them to see their grandfather, but I can’t have him driving drunk to visit us or stopping off to drink on his way home from seeing us. Any time I made any reference to alcohol he tuned me out.
I pleaded with him one more time. Telling him the boys ask about him, and that I would love it if he would teach them to fish sometime.
“I suppose I could do that.” He said that and started to cry.
I’ve never seen my father cry. I’ve seen him make my mother, my sister and myself cry, but now the tables were turned.
I’m not sure what was going through his mind, but it was my opportunity to ask him to get help for his alcoholism.
“I suppose I could do that.” He said again. For a long time, neither of us said much after that.
This was not the reaction I expected from my father. I could tell it wasn’t the reaction he expected to have. We eventually had a discussion I would have never imagined possible with him, talking about how lonely he has been.
With the “lure” of fishing with my boys, he agreed to go through an alcohol-rehab program. He’s doing that in the Seattle area, and I’m picking him up at the end of this week.
We have a long way to go. But after decades of despising him, I am hopeful.
I’ll continue to follow Amy’s story. She’s thankful for the support she’s received from my readers.
She also says if the treatment is successful, she’ll invite me to record part of her father’s fishing lesson with “the boys.”
By LINDA THOMAS