MINNETONKA, MN—After nearly 30 years of subterfuge, Michael Henderson's parents Doug and Pam broke down and revealed their painful family secret, which turned out to be unbelievably boring, their son reported Monday.
"Ever since I was a kid, Mom and Dad have avoided talking about their first couple years of marriage," said the 28-year-old Henderson, who visited his parents last weekend. "My sisters and I knew they lived in Indiana for two years, but we never knew why they moved back to Minnesota. Eventually, we started wondering if it was something too horrible to talk about. Who would've imagined it was such a non-story after all that drama?"
According to Henderson, whenever he asked his parents about Indiana, they responded in a "vague, noncommittal way, then changed the subject."
"Once, I asked Dad what his first job was, and he refused to answer," Henderson said. "He basically acted like he had been a spy or a drug dealer or something."
When Henderson's parents finally revealed the mysterious truth during a teary, post-dinner confession Saturday, Henderson said he was shocked not by the revelation, but by its mundanity.
"Last Thanksgiving, I asked Aunt Janet what the deal was, and even she got all agitated," Henderson said. "The real story is so mild and silly that I'm almost embarrassed to say what it was."
After a pause, Henderson continued: "Okay, ready? Here it is: Dad got kicked out of the Air Force for stealing a motorcycle."
According to Henderson, the years of secrecy had fueled intense speculation, with him and his sisters Joyce and Randi dreaming up scenarios ranging from the tragic to the truly horrific.
"I was imagining all this crazy stuff," Hendeson said. "Was he involved in an anti-establishment bombing of a campus building that resulted in an accidental death? Did it have something to do with the scar on his stomach? Does he have a whole different family somewhere? Was there an uncle who died in a mysterious hunting accident after Dad caught him making out with Mom? That kind of thing."
None of the hypotheses turned out to be even remotely close to the mundane story of motorcycle theft, which did not even result in any jail time.
"Well, it turns out the scar is from an appendectomy, Mom and Dad never even dated anyone else before they got married, and Dad's been an actuary ever since leaving the Air Force," Henderson said. "In fact, I'm pretty sure the motorcycle incident is the most exciting thing that ever happened to either of them."
Henderson said the truth came out during a late-night conversation that "took place over a few too many brandy eggnogs." Basking in the glow of the fireplace, the parents broke down and told their son the burning secret they had kept hidden for so long.
"It was really emotionally trying for them to finally come clean," Henderson said. "That's why I feel so bad that I still couldn't keep from laughing."
In the confession, Doug explained that he and Pam were 19, married, and living together in military housing. One night, Doug got drunk and accepted a dare to race five circles around the base on a motorcycle that had been left running outside the PX. Unfortunately, he was apprehended by military police on his second lap.
"The funniest part is, he didn't even steal it, really," Henderson said. "He and some buddies got drunk, and he went for a joyride. It was a run-of-the-mill story of kids blowing off steam. I kept waiting for Dad to get to the good part, but it never came."
Continued Henderson: "I mean, who didn't get drunk and do something stupid at 19? I totaled Dad's car when I was a senior in high school and even broke my collarbone. You don't see me hiding it."
According to Henderson, his parents had tears in their eyes when they related the boring tale. In spite of his disappointment, he said there was a bright side: Both of his parents appeared "as if a weight had been lifted from their shoulders" after the confession.
"For the rest of the weekend, they were a lot more relaxed," Henderson said. "To me, it was such a non-event that, when we went to the mall the next day and passed a parked motorcycle, I almost said, 'Dad, is that thing safe around you?' But I thought better of it, thank God. I don't think he would've forgiven me."
Henderson said his parents made him promise never to tell his sisters.
"Of course, I went right out to the garage with my cell phone and called Joyce and Randi," Henderson said. "I mean, come on! Maybe somewhere in the mists of time, something interesting has happened in this family, but I can guarantee that it didn't have anything to do with Mom and Dad and Indiana."