Honor Thy Mother

Can Ciaran Redmond ever rob enough banks to avenge his mother's death?

And what if you weren't?
"People might sit there and think that I'm nuts or something," Ciaran Redmond says. "But I'm not. To me, it made perfect sense. It literally became a simple equation.

"I had thought about it so many times and gone over it so many times in my head that, to me, there was an exact reason why I was doing this, and I had no problem with what I was doing. But I didn't want to hurt anybody, either, so I wanted to stay as calm as possible. And the weird thing about it was, when I actually started, I was a hell of a lot more calm than all the nights I stayed awake thinking about doing it, you know?"

"Now people in prison see me and say, 'There he is--the guy who robbed the banks.' Then they'll call out, 'Hey! Why didn't you stop at three?' Because I wanted to stop at five. Because I didn't want to have to do this again two weeks later.

"I just wanted to be the good guy for once. I wanted to be the good guy for my kids, I wanted to be the good guy for my girl, and I wanted to be the good guy for my mom."

"Ciaran's always wanted to romanticize his life," says his ex-wife. "He spins stories--glamorous, tragic tales. But then he believes them. He romanticizes things; he's always wanted to be the hero. The big, misunderstood hero."

When Ciaran Redmond thinks back about his family, this is what he remembers: his father, a big Irishman, a quiet, patient man with an inclination toward whiskey, an aircraft mechanic who died before anyone was ready for it. Ciaran says he died under mysterious and brutal circumstances--perhaps the Irish Republican Army was a factor? His sister and ex-wife wonder where he got that idea and say it was cancer. Patrick Redmond was 48 when he passed away; Ciaran, his favorite child, was eight years old.

That left his mother to raise the family--three boys and three girls (Ciaran is the youngest, the only one not born in Ireland). Elsie Redmond was a tall, prematurely gray, sharp-tongued woman around whom the entire family revolved, sucked in close in one moment, shot out reeling the next. She was big on generosity and guilt and love and, at the sound of an ill-chosen word or a simple miscommunication--or at times without even any warning--had a temper that could send a pot whizzing at someone's head.

"My mom was a really strong woman," says Ciaran. "She never let anything back her up. She would make things happen, make sure the family stuck together--she was really big on the family sticking together. All the family members being there at Christmas, all the family members at birthdays. We had our good Irish rows, where sometimes we'd exchange some fists and the next day we'd call each other up and say, 'I'm coming over to do laundry.' And we'd forget about it. It was just the way things were."

"The family always lived close to each other and often got together for holidays and dinners," recalls Ciaran's ex-wife (she asked that her name not be used). "They were a very volatile, stereotypical Irish family. You were always walking on eggshells, and the gatherings often turned into big Irish brawls."

For entertainment and at times for inspiration, the Redmonds, like many Irish immigrants, turned to the biggest and loudest American Irishman of them all. "My mom and dad considered John Wayne to symbolize all the things you believe in in America," Ciaran says. "He was their symbolic America, and he just became more and more of a legend in our family. My mom even met him once, at the Balboa Bay Club, where she went to a party once. She danced with him. 'I danced with the Duke,' she'd say."

After moving from Ireland through Canada to Detroit--where Ciaran was born in November 1968--the Redmonds returned to Ireland for a time before settling in California after Patrick's death. While he was alive, the family lived comfortably, even well. Ciaran remembers a house with a swimming pool, a camper--"all the things an American family should have." Afterward Elsie was forced to go to work as a home health-care worker, and life changed.

"After he died, it was really a struggle," Ciaran recalls. "But still she put me and my sister through private school." At age twelve, though, Ciaran began getting into trouble at school and committing his first crimes, mostly stealing. The following year he agreed to enter a Catholic boarding school that prepared students for the priesthood. He didn't last long there, however, and by eleventh grade he was finished with school for good.

Ciaran bounced from family member to family member, hitting the occasional drug and alcohol rehab program in between. By the time he was fifteen, he was already spending more time away from home than he was there; at sixteen, while living in a juvenile detention facility, he tried to kill himself, slashing his wrists. Just before his eighteenth birthday, he moved to Denver to be with a girl who, in a short ceremony in Las Vegas in early 1987, became his wife. Five months later his first son was born.

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