2020-03-11 Happy Birthdays

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

Lucia, I’m sorry I didn’t write a letter on your birthday, but allow me to say here: Happy 19th birthday (a little late).  Joseph, happy 21st birthday to you today.  You are both growing up and leaving your childhoods behind.

I haven’t been writing nearly as frequently as I have in the past. For that, I apologize.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s painful, so I put it off. But I want you both to know that I think of you guys every day.  I wonder how you are doing.  Are classes going well?  Are you both still making A’s in everything now you’re in college? Have you made friends?  Are you dating anyone? What do you tell your friends about yourselves?

I also play scenarios of having conversations with you guys.  But this is a dangerous line of thought and I try not to indulge in it for any length of time.  To remain sober and productive, I have to live in the present.  Fantasies about future events or dwelling on the past are hazardous activities I should not indulge.  Instead, I focus on what’s immediately in front of me in the here and now.  And that happens to be wishing you both happy birthdays and bringing you up on events that have been happening in our lives.

I still work at SpaceX’s rocket engine test facility in McGregor.  It’s going on three years next month.  In that time, I’ve learned an incredible amount and continue to do so on a daily basis.  We are doing some really cool things in engineering.  You can read about all the stuff we’ve been up to in the news.  It’s never a dull moment.  I go home every weekend to Richardson to Michele.  It’s like a mini-vacation every week.  But every few weeks, I’m on-call and have to stay in Waco over the weekend.  Michele comes down for those weekends.  It’s really fun. She’s met all my teammates and loves them all.  I think that is where I’m luckiest of all.  I’ve made really good friends with the guys I work with.  They are more like family than peers.

As for Michele, she’s continuing to plow along with her job at the hotel.  It’s fun to see all the different events she organizes.  These are real big events that usually have thousands of attendees.  On the weekends when she has to work, I like to go with her and poke my nose around.  There have been pinball collectors, vintage cars, tons of big weddings, fund raising galas, and my favorite… a flat earth conference.  Oh… that was SOOOO much fun.  Michele wore her SpaceX polo I got for her and I made sure to have discrete company logos on my clothing too.  It was just fascinating.

Both girls are doing ok.  Rachael is living with a roommate in downtown Dallas.  She’s studying to become a mortician and really enjoying it.  She is already interning and frequently has to handle weekend “pick-ups” so she’s always driving the company hearse.  Mel is living back home with us for a while until she can get settled with her company on where they need her.  In the meantime, she’s working from the house.  Michele loves having her around.

I miss you both and would love to be able to talk to you. I would love nothing more than to just jump in my car and show up on your doorstep and surprise you, but I doubt that would end well.  Instead, I’ll keep writing these letters.  If you do want to talk, but not sure, we can always just exchange emails or letters.  You can reach me at markus.randel@gmail.com.  Or if you want to talk, call me at 214-317-2461.  I won’t answer the call, but just leave a message and I’ll call right back.  Or heck, just text me.  The same offer goes to your friends that might be worried about you.  I will patiently answer any and all questions you might have.  I leave this in your hands and won’t force myself onto you.  And I’ll wait.  Even if you don’t see any new letters for a while, know that I’m always thinking of you both and want nothing but the best for you two.

Love,
Dad

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2019-08-28 Summer Travels

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I’ve delayed writing to you since my last post.  The disappointment of not seeing you graduate was pretty deep.  No matter how much I was prepared for it, it still hurt.  I’ve read some other stories of adults who were victims of parental alienation in their youth who have since come to know their fathers.  They are hard to read, but I wanted to find what finally broke the boundary.  It seems that just continuing to reach out is my only hope.  So, I’ll keep writing to you guys.  I’ll keep telling you what’s happening in my life.  So on with the stories of my adventures…

Since the trip down to Woodville and Beaumont, I’ve had quite a few other travels.  Just prior to that trip, I spent a week in Austin at a conference. It was National Instrument’s NI Week 2019.  I’ve been once before several years ago, but then I was just another guy.  This time was completely different.  I have my Architect’s certification and employed by SpaceX.  These two items pretty much put me at the front of my industry.  There is no higher level of certification and SpaceX arguably has the most advanced LabVIEW platform in the industry.  It was extremely gratifying to see the fruits of years of work actually amount to something.

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In July, work sent me out to our headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.  It’s in the LA area.  I got to see where we actually make all the rockets and engines we test out in McGregor every day.  It was incredible. It was so fast paced and busy all the time.  The campus was so large, I had to use a bicycle to get around.  I got to meet all the people I work with over the phone and internet.  I spent the week teaching their people how to use the software we write in Texas.

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And as long as I’m talking about work, we just launched our test prototype down in Boca Chica 150 meters up in the air and landed it back down on an adjacent pad.  This thing is the size of a large water tower and had a single Raptor engine under it.  It was almost surreal to watch.  This is the first step to us building our Starship and SuperHeavy which will eventually take mankind to Mars.  It sounds insane, but every day it gets closer to a reality.  And I have the honor to be in the middle of this incredible adventure.  You guys just don’t realize how exciting it is.  Oh, and I actually got a promotion last month. It was a bit of hurdle since I don’t have a degree, but they made a consideration for my experience and created a new title so I can be on par with the rest of the team.

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So, back to the travels… In August, Michele and I went on vacation back to California.  This time it was to the Bay Area for a week.  Melynda (Michele’s daughter) recently moved out there with her boyfriend.  He was drafted by the 49ers and we timed the vacation to see him play his first professional game.  It was exhilarating watching him score two touchdowns.

Michele and I spent a few days before the game by ourselves in a rented room in the hills near Santa Cruz.  We rented a convertible and drove ALL OVER.  We drove through the wine country, down the beach, over mountains, and through San Francisco.  We flew Rachael out (Michele’s youngest daughter) the day of the game and we all went together.  Afterwards, we stayed in an old house right off of downtown Campbell, a suburb of San Jose.  Sunday morning, they close off the downtown street and turn it into a farmer’s market.  There were fresh fruits, vegetables, pastries, oils, and food from all around the area. The smells alone were intoxicating. We loaded up and made a home cooked meal Sunday night and had everyone over.  In summary, by the end of our stay, Michele and I had: seen humpback whales, climbed a mountain, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, went to a professional football game, ate at historic restaurants, drove highway One down the coast, ate fresh strawberries and cherries, and spent a few hours laying on the grass in a rose garden reading used books we found at an old bookstore.  I couldn’t have asked for a better time.

Now summer is winding down. I’m sure you two will be heading back to classes soon.  Just two years of college left for you two.  That’s pretty cool. Be sure to enjoy it. Before you know it, you’ll graduate and have to start adulting.  And always be open to new concepts and ideas.  A wise man once said “Once you’ve decided that something’s absolutely true, you’ve closed your mind on it, and a closed mind doesn’t go anywhere. Question everything. That’s what education’s all about.”  And as always, I’ll be waiting for you.

Love,
Dad

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2019-06-01 Graduation

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

This will likely be the most edited letter I’ve ever sent to you.  I’m going through quite a few emotions after coming down to Woodville for the graduation ceremony.  After the events of two years ago at Joseph’s graduation, I was extremely skeptical Lucia would even attend her graduation.  I was only partially correct.  Lucia, you didn’t attend the graduation at Woodville, but you did attend yours at the school you moved to.  So here I sit, attempting to gather my thoughts and feelings, trying to write this letter. You can probably guess I’m having a difficult time of it.

Frustrated.  I’m extremely frustrated.  It seems no matter how hard I try to reach out with either logic or compassion, your mother is able to turn that into further evidence of why you should fear me.  Let me just let you two know how far from the truth that really is.  Lucia, I knew when you were competing in cross country running.  I knew the events you competed in.  Joseph, I knew every game you marched at.  If I were “out to get you”, I’ve had every opportunity over the past several years to do that.  But I haven’t.  Any overt action on my part would only have validated the stories your mother tells you.  Instead, I’ve resorted to the only method of contact available to me… these letters.

But it looks like even this action is being used against me by your mother.  I’ve mentioned it before, and now I would really need to express the importance of understanding Parental Alienation Syndrome.  Just do a simple Google Search.  You’ll be reading for days and days.  It’s real. This is going to have a lasting impact on your lives.

Now, I would like to directly address the friends of either Joseph or Lucia who are reading this out of curiosity.  You found this page because you either were told not to read it (cheers for your bravery!) or just wanted to try to see if their stories are really real.  Joseph and Lucia are victims of a very tragic situation where there mother has indoctrinated them for their entire lives in a web of fear.  They believe me to be a horrible monster out to get them or ruin their lives. I can only guess at what they’ve been told would happen if they ever talked to me.  In the end, their biggest fear is likely they will lose their mother.  That’s simply not the truth.  I’ve never wanted to take them away from her.  I only want to be a part of their lives as any father does.  What can you do to help?  Confront them with the truth.  Be prepared to have a fight on your hands.  Let them know they have a whole family outside of their mother that wants to know them and share in their lives.

If you have any doubts, read the rest of my letters.  I’ve been writing them for a while.  Look me up on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Ask my wife if you would like.  Here’s Michele’s Facebook page. My story is genuine.  Feel free to troll what ever you like. I keep everything public in case Joseph or Lucia ever want to find me.  Then after going through it all, ask yourself which story seems more credible: the one where no one can be trusted and everything must remain secret or hidden; or the one that is publicly shared and open to anyone to read, challenge, or refute. I welcome any discourse in the matter.

Lastly, Joseph and Lucia, I’ve always said it, and I will continue to say that I’ll wait for you.  But don’t be surprised if I pop up one day.  You guys are both adults now.  You are off to school and on your own.  It’s time to start taking responsibility for your own decisions now.  Please, take the time to become as informed as you can before casting judgement.  The truth might very well surprise you.

Love,
Dad

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2019-04-18 How to know the truth

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

There’s been a subject on my mind for quite a while now that I want to try to address. How can you change someone’s mind on a subject when they believe whole-heartedly against it?

Let me start with what brought this to mind. There’s been a growing movement in the past several years of people that believe the world is flat. The members of this movement make lots of videos and publish them on YouTube. Their argument is the “establishment” has been lying to us all these years about living on a globe earth and the world is actually flat. They claim NASA is responsible for a huge media campaign that fakes rocket launches, moon landings, and the space station. They believe all the pictures taken from space are CGI and there is no definable proof that we actually live on a globe. Instead, they tell people to use their own senses to make up their minds. They say to look at the horizon and see that it’s flat and that should be enough to know we live on a flat earth.

I have watched several of these videos showing all kinds of “experiments” that are completely out of scale and totally unscientific. Now given that I work in the aerospace industry and have seen first-hand both the science and the reality of a globe-earth, I felt myself more than prepared to debate them. That is until I met one. A clerk at the local gas station noticed I was wearing a SpaceX t-shirt and asked me if I worked there. He then proceeded to start to tell me it’s all fake. I listened to him patiently and then proceeded to tell him the truth: we design and build rockets that go into space and orbit the globe. It’s a fact. He flat out didn’t believe me. Even more, he discounted anything I had to say since I must be “on the take” and perpetuating the lie. Instead of making him believe in reality, my arguments only further concreted his belief. I was flummoxed.

Then I remembered another incident that occurred several years ago when your mom and I lived in Dobbin on the farm where you guys were born. A neighbor that goes to our church had fallen in with a group called the Pope Pius X Society. This group preached that the Catholic Church had become a false church since Vatican II back in the 60’s. Any mass celebrated in the vernacular (not Latin) was false and invalid. The “true” church still only lived on through the Pope Pius X Society. They argued that the bishops were not to be trusted and only the Pope knew the truth and had their blessing. So it was the perfect setup… since we couldn’t actually ask the pope himself, we had only their word that everyone else was lying and couldn’t be trusted. Their pamphlets were full of bold type in red and black that all centered on fear.

So how do you protect yourself against a movement, group or some sort of manipulation that is false, dangerous or flat out wrong? It’s very simple: look for some basic indicators that are always present:

  1. Is the primary argument fear-based? In the case of the Pope Pius X Society, they capitalized on the fear of your eternal soul. Using reds and blacks only exacerbated the fear.
  2. Is it based on a conspiracy? “You can’t trust anyone.” According to the PPX, you couldn’t trust your priest, bishop or local church. They were all in on the conspiracy or believed the lie. In the case of flat-earthers, you can’t believe NASA, the government, Universities, or anyone perpetuating “the lie”. Conspiracy theories can be very dangerous and believers end up setting themselves apart and disassociating from society. The temptation is that true-believers are set apart and are “special”. This plays on a natural human tendency to want to be special.

I would like you to use these two simple tests and look at how your lives have been shaped by your mother. How often have you been told I’m a bad person or I’m evil? How much do you fear me as a result? Who told you to fear me? Now ask yourselves exactly what have I done over the years to deserve this. I’ve already addressed the original “crime” against Lucia that your mother has likely told you about over and over. This is simply not true. I have medical records and investigation results that show it never happened. Lucia, she’s told you this enough when you were young and later as you grew up that you might believe it actually happened. It’s nothing more than using fear to win an argument. Since then, I’ve been to Woodville exactly twice. Neither of those times did I try to take you away. I’ve never done anything that should cause such fear. The only contact I had was when I shook your hand, Joseph, and congratulated you at your graduation. What is there to fear in getting congratulated?

Then there’s the conspiracy aspect. How often have you been told you can’t trust others? Were you told to not read my letters or trust anyone that has? What other aspects of your lives can’t you tell people about? Do you have to hide or lie to people about how you are really living? Just ask yourselves honestly. What argument or persuasion can I put forward that could make you open your minds and reach out to me? In the end, there are no words that will work. Only actions and results.

I’ve been sure to pay all child support payments. Those are done. You are both over 18. I’m still covering your medical insurance. Just ask if you want the information. I’ve prayed for you two every day. I have nothing but concern, care and love for the both of you. I come to you with an open and honest heart. I have never wanted to take you away from your mother. I know how important she is to you both.

I live a peaceful and serene life. I’m honest with everyone (sometimes brutally so). The only thing missing in my life is a relationship with you two. That is a hole that is very wide and deep. I’ve stopped trying to fill it with alcohol or lies a long time ago. Instead, I hold on to that sadness and sorrow and turn it into hope for you two. It’s not easy and I don’t always succeed. There are days I just want to scream at the top of my lungs, get in my car and come find you. But, that wouldn’t make anything better. On the contrary, it would only prove your mother right. Instead, I channel those feelings into productive actions. I work hard. I treasure and love those around me.

This is the person I’ve become. I’m your father, not your enemy. I’ve published my whole life on the internet in this blog and on Facebook. If you want to know who I am and what I do, just read it for yourself. Read what others reply to my comments. If you are still not using the internet (another conspiracy btw), then trust your friends that have brought you this.

I’m waiting.

Love,
Dad

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2019-04-11 It’s Spring!!

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

It’s an exciting time for me recently.  This time of year is always fun.  The trees dumped a ton of blooms all over the front lawn and the pool. As a result, the pool vaguely resembles a swamp since I’m not home during the week to keep it up.  That will soon be remedied and I hope to open it up in the next few weeks.  It’ll be cold swimming, but fun none the less.  I can hang up my hoodie and jackets for the year and transition back into my ugly Hawaiian shirts. I even picked up a few especially ugly ones over the winter I’m eager to sport.

It must be really exciting for you, Lucia.  You’re about to graduate from high school!!!  I’m sure with your grades, you have your pick of colleges to choose from.  Hopefully, a scholarship or two should help with that.  I’m glad you’ll have Joseph’s guidance to help you through the awkward transition.  After all, your big brother is about to become an upper-classman next year.  I wonder if you are going to go to the same college as him.  I hope so.  You won’t be a stranger starting out and that will be a big help.

Life at work is full of exciting things.  My job at SpaceX is never a dull moment.  We are on the verge of our first Falcon Heavy commercial flight.  Our flight last year was just a proof of concept demonstration using some of our older rocket designs.  This time, we have a paying customer and our latest designs for rockets and engines.  There are a lot of eyes on this mission.  If successful it opens the door to a lot of business.  We’re also getting near launching real live astronauts into space.  We’ll be the first commercial company to ever do that.  We are in a race with Boeing, but right now we are slightly in the lead.  We still have one more test flight (in-flight abort) before we get the green light from NASA to send two astronauts up to the International Space Station.  And did I mention we’re building a brand new rocket down on the beach in Boca Chica?  It’ll be the biggest rocket ever made.  We’ve already tested with a small version we call the Hopper.  Last week we fired the engines and lifted it off the ground a bit.  We’re going to keep doing that getting progressively higher.  All the while, I’m sitting at my cubicle desk pumping out code, learning new techniques, and watching engines test fire right outside my window every day.  I think about you guys frequently and really wish I could show you what I do for a living.

I’m trying to come up with ideas for a summer vacation.  It will likely only be me and Michele.  I was liking the idea of going to New Orleans.  Maybe take the scenic route and stay in New Iberia for a few nights.  You guys have family from that area and your mother and I went there several times.  I would like to see it again. Or we might go to Big Bend National Park.  If we do that, I’d want to make it an “Analog Week”.  Nothing digital.  No phone. No computer. No internet.  Just a handful of books and lots of scenery and fresh air.  That would be really nice.  As you can probably guess, I spend almost all my waking hours looking at a screen of one size or another.  It would be nice to turn them off for a while.

Lastly, here are some interesting numbers… In the years I’ve been writing to you, this will be the 240thletter.  Those letters have been read by 4,506 people for a total of over 16,000 views.  Ironically, I’m only interested in two of those views.  I hope and pray that you guys will eventually find these and reach out to me.  I’m not the big bad monster you’ve been raised to believe.  You have family that cares for you and wants to be part of your lives.  You have sisters that love you without having ever met you. You have a step-mom that is eager to meet you (and hug you and dote over you given the chance).  You guys aren’t alone.  We’re all here, waiting.

Love,
Dad

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2019-02-16 And so life goes on

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had every intention of writing you another letter just to put it off for some reason or another.  I tell myself that there’s really nothing of interest to tell you about.  And yet, I still have conversations with you guys in my head every day.  Silly, I know.

Last weekend was a fun time.  Michele got us tickets to see Fleetwood Mac playing in Austin as a birthday present.  Of course my birthday was last May and I’ve had to wait until last weekend, but it was worth it.  We got a room at a hotel downtown and made a little vacation of it. The concert was wonderful.  They played all the songs I know from my youth and we just sang along all evening.  The audience was quite the mix of generations and people.  It’s interesting to see how many people have been touched by their music.  And walking to and from the venue along the streets of Austin was a great throwback to my early days when I was young and just setting out on my own.

We also spent some time hanging out with some friends. I knew Andrea from high school in Caldwell.  She and her husband, Jim, had us over to their house and we all went out for Pho.  I love Vietnamese noodle.  On Sunday, I took them out to where I work for a personal tour. We got lucky with our timing and happened to watch a ground breaking engine test.  We’re testing our new engine (Raptor) and Sunday afternoon was the last test before shipping it down to South Texas to get put on the hopper for flying.  It’s really hard to describe how impressive it is to hear an engine test in person.  It’s like a solid wall of sound permeates every cell in your body.  I’m so glad Michele finally got to see one in person.  I take it for granted that just outside my office window an engine roars to life a couple times every day.

I’ve told you guys before that I watch the activity here and where people are reading this.  So, it goes without saying that I’m really hoping that whoever it is in the Tyler area, you are a friend of Joseph at college.  Perhaps you are wondering about some of the stories and wanted to know for yourself.  If you are reading this and are a friend of either Joseph or Lucia, please know I love them both dearly and never want to do anything that would hurt them.  I put these letters in public since it’s the only way that is left to me to reach out to them.  My goal is simple… I would very much like to talk to them and let them know the whole story.  It’s very difficult to know that my children hate me and fear me.  It’s even harder since I know there’s another side to the whole story that could spare them that fear and anger. The heart break isn’t necessary.

Until I hear from them, I will continue to wait.  I will continue to push myself to write these letters despite my own pain.  I will continue to work hard to be a father they can turn to eventually.  I will always seek for truth, beauty and love in all things.  Even in this waiting there is value.  If you know my children, love them. They are both special. I know.

Love,
Dad

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2018-12-24 Merry Christmas

Dear Joseph and Lucia,

It’s Christmas! I’m at home in my office here on Christmas Eve early in the morning.  I just got back from the airport.  Mel surprised us and flew in last week.  I just dropped her off for her flight back to California.  As a result we celebrated a little early.

Michele loves to fill stockings with a bunch of nick-nacks and this year was no different.  The girls got stockings full of comfy scarves and fuzzy colorful socks.  I even threw in a few things.  I found a pen that Rachael has been looking for but could never find. There were plenty of presents for everyone and it was fun watching everyone open theirs.  I already gave Michele hers (a phone) so I wanted her to have something to open.  I found a really soft blanket, but couldn’t be bothered to wrap it. So, instead I pulled a trick my mom used on me… a treasure hunt.  All she got was an envelope with a clue in the form of a poem.  From there she had to solve a series of riddles until she finally got to my keys. I had left it in the trunk of my car.  It might seem endearing, but really I’m just lazy and writing a bunch of poems and orchestrating the hunt was easier than wrapping a queen size blanket. But Michele and the girls all had fun and that’s what was important.

Both of your presents are still under the tree.  They get put there every year.  Honestly, I don’t remember what they are anymore.  I’ve kept them with me through all the years since the first Christmas I spent without you.  Even when I was homeless and living in the shelter, I found a safe place to keep them.  They will be there for you guys when you are ready.

This has traditionally been a hard time of the year for me because I miss you guys so much.  It really helps to have the girls in my life.  It takes the edge off that pain.  I really hope you guys are able to enjoy this season.

Lucia, your 18th birthday is right around the corner.  You’ll be on your own soon afterwards, off to college.  I remember how brave you always were.  Please be brave and confront me with your anger/fear/curiosity.  What ever your questions, I’ll take the time to answer honestly.  Even if you just want to yell at me, I’ll listen.  The silence is much harder to bear.

Joseph, you’re a man now.  You’ve been at college for over a year.  Hopefully, you are getting a wider perspective of life and meeting lots of people.  I’m sure you are getting confronted with lots of new ideals. This is an amazing time in your life where you can learn from different cultures and faiths and people.  Please remember to be open to all the varieties of life around you at school.

So, I’ll keep waiting for you two.  When you are ready, I’ll be here.  If you are a friend of Joseph or Lucia and reading this, give them a hug.  Love them. I know I do.

Love,
Dad

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