Don’t forget the Dean trauma

On April 19, 1978, Brian and Vriana Dean were brutally murdered when they surprised a burglar ransacking their house. Prior to murdering the Dean kids, John Zimmerman, an unemployed heroin addict, ransacked the Mickey’s house. Had Lloyd not seen a white van in the alley behind the Dean’s house, Zimmerman likely would never have been caught, and the trauma would remain a mystery.

The Dean’s lived two houses up from us, and the Mickey’s were our next-door neighbors. Lloyd was a causal friend. My brother, sister, and I were home sick that day, so I’ve definitely had the what would’ve, could’ve, should’ve story running through my head. Now, to be fair, Zimmerman would have had quite a surprise had he ventured into our house. Imagine coming upon a house full of PTA moms, armed with mace, whistles, and who knows what else. Still, the thoughts of a potential trauma remain terrifying.

But looking back to 1978, I don’t have tons of memories of what the trauma was like for me. Maybe it was due to being in the middle of the city championships with my Little League team. Or maybe it was due to having a mad crush on this girl in my class. Or maybe I was just caught up being 10 and having fun with my friend group.

Or, maybe it was because my parents took concrete steps to help our family feel safe. We immediately got a burglar alarm and a dead bolt on the back fence. My family started a ritual in which we drove up and down the alleys in our neighbor yelling “ALLEY WATCH!” at the top of our lungs.  My mother helped form a neighborhood watch group called SMAC (Santa Monicans Against CRIME) that helped unite the neighborhood. I know my parents were deeply traumatized, but I think they hid it relatively well. I’ve also been told that my older siblings consistently shielded me from the crappy stuff life brought. Who knows…

Regardless, deep down, the murders had to have affected me. I’m sure I felt less secure, more anxious, and who knows what else. But I just pushed them all down and kept moving forward. I just had too much kid stuff to do…


This is the third of three stories I’ve shared about the traumas I’ve struggled through. If you missed the first two, they’re on my website. One is titled “Damn, kids get really sick,” which looks at the trauma my wife and I have experienced from KD’s long-term health problems. The other is titled “Yep, I was only 17,” and it looks at the impacts of me being in a near-fatal car accident as a teenager. I carry nicks, cuts and scars, but overall, I’m on the other side of all this crap and feel pretty good.

And I need all this to move forward and be the parent I strive to be for KD. I’m incredibly worried about the long-term emotional/physical challenges he’ll have due to all the trauma he has experienced. All the hospitalizations. All the procedures. All the doctor appointments. Believe me, for years I’ve thought about who the best therapist will be for him, once the emotional traumas catch-up with him. I also hold close that he’s an incredibly resilient child, probably even more so than I am. Still, I’ve got mad anxiety and I’ve got to continue to work to deal with my issues. Because that’s what we parents do…

For now, I need to move forward to be the most resilient person, therapist, spouse, and, most importantly, parent I can be.

Until next time…

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