Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

The Pappa Files: “That’s A Dollar.” 

Oct 18, 2023

Pappa Date: September 23, 2023. Somewhere in Winchester, Virginia.


I am Pappa. There are many pappas. But I am unique. Trust me. I am an anti-terrorism consultant by profession. An author of numerous novels by devotion. A Harley Davidson pilot, a man about dogs (and now cats), and an adventurer. I am a father to five and Pappa to eight and counting.

Harley Davidson pilot

It all began some 18 years ago, February 2005, when I left behind my mere mortal fatherdom and became Pappa. Over the next 18 years, my realm would grow from one granddaughter to five and three grandsons. And, it is not over yet. Not even close.

As a dad, I encountered many adventures that could generate stories to raise your blood pressure and still your breath. Given my kids are all professionals on their own now, and that one day they may have to shuttle me around in my advanced years, I’ll keep those stories to myself. Instead, I shall endeavor to regale you with stories of my take on life as a grandfather.

There are a few points I should make up front. Like, as a younger man, I lived on the road for work. First, I was a military federal agent and spent sometimes months travelling with few days home between. Afterwards, while gluing two families together between my wife and I, I was again a road warrior as I built a career as an executive in an international security consulting firm and later as an independent consultant. I spent the better part of my younger life working and travelling. I tell you this for one reason—I missed so much of my kids’ lives. Too much.

Now, I can reclaim some of that loss as a pappa—with my kids’ kids. I love every moment I am reliving. I hope that in some way, it makes up for my absence with my kids.

Let’s review some of the battlefield . . . my grands to date:

These amazing kids range in age from two through eighteen. They are as diverse as they are a collective family.

I have to start somewhere in my tales of woe, so I’ll start with ten-year-old Railyn. Over the next few blogs, I’ll introduce my other grands and pass along some tidbits of them, too.

Rail is two-year-old Kat’s big sister and big cousin to both 3-year-old Connor and seven-year-old Jack. She thrives on being a big sister and cousin. She also thrives on screwing with me.

Rail spends a lot of time with me. More than the others by far. First, she and her mom lived with my wife and me for a few years. Since, she’s here with me a lot as I try to help mom with school transport and soccer and other things the best I can. Despite my grousing from time to time, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Rail’s a beautiful Tomboy with more adventure and spirit than many kids her age. Her mission in life is to torment me, get me to do crazy things with her (like ghost hunting), and to teach her sister and cousins to do the same. Oye.

You may be a little familiar with her from my other blog—The Great Ghost Hunt. That will explain the depths of my Pappa-ness. At least, a little.

Let me warn you soon-to-be grandfathers. Be careful with your “fun games and promises.” Fun gestures like the ever-popular swear jar. Or in my case, the swear vault. Many years ago, when my daughter, Lindsay, and Railyn were living in our home, I began the playful “a quarter for a swear from me.” Silly man. For a man with a business degree and years running a company, I failed to do the math on the compounding value of money. Especially cash.

Now, in full disclosure, I curse a lot. Too much. Way, way too much. It’s the product of a military lifestyle of yesteryear and that my book characters make me—they aren’t real so they have to live vicariously through me. My favorite is the grand F-bomb. Why? I have no idea—I’m an addict. Is there a 12-step program for vulgarity?

After but a few days of minor infractions—you know, the four-letter shit, hell, damn, etc.— I realized that at 25 cents a pop would bankrupt me. I renegotiated my contract. In exchange for ONLY charging me for the infamous F-stop, I’d pay a dollar.

What a fool was I? In my sleep, I hear, “Pappa, a dollar!” And the dollar bill goes into the safe.

As I’ve said, young miss Railyn’s favorite pastime, other than tormenting me, is to be a big cousin to Connor and a big sister to Kat. Now, of course, they have adopted the money laundering scheme, too. It’s a crime family—racketeering. I know these things; I’m Pappa.

With barely a foot inside our front door, Kat now proclaims, “Pappa, a dollar!” Hell, I didn’t say a word yet! Connor, too, seems to believe that if he simply yells it out—even if he’s at home and I’m 40 miles away—he gets paid. Oh, no sir. No, no, no.

But the funniest episode of my bankruptcy in progress was a few months back when I picked up Railyn from school. She loves to listen to my last novel, The Consultant, on Audible. Yes, the main character is rather like me. And yes, he is adventurous and somewhat outrageous. And, why yes, he occasionally curses—but there are only four f-bombs in the entire story (my agent made me take the rest out.) I know this for two reasons. First, I wrote it. Second, it cost me eight bucks while Rail listened to that damn book.

You see, while we were listening to The Consultant, she heard the main character, and one other, use the bomb. Instantly, she gleefully yelled from the backseat, “Pappa, a dollar!”

Me: “No, no. That was Hunter. Not me. It’s in the book.”

Railyn: “You wrote the book. He’s really you. A dollar.”

Me: “No, no. It doesn’t work that way.”

Railyn. “Then, you didn’t write the book?”

Me—trapped: “Ah, yeah but . . .”

Railyn: “A dollar.”

After listening to the book a few times, and by an act of my vast luck she was in the Jeep for all four times the bomb was dropped, she made eight bucks. Since then, she can be in the next room and if I slip and F-bomb something (like burning my hand cooking dinner), she yells, “Pappa, a dollar! The other weekend, as I prepared a huge meal for my two daughters and families, I nearly cut my hand and dropped the bomb as I tried to curtain the blood flow. There was a chorus from the back deck and the living room, “Pappa, a dollar!” That was Rail, Kat, and Conner. Three bucks a pop . . .

The deal has changed yet again. After that, the F-bomb must be uttered in their presence, aloud, by me, with no other media involved like no books on tape. Hearing it second-hand or as part of a story does not count. Finally, if I utter the nasty bomb during injury, accident, or dire frustration such as the nightly news, I receive a pardon.

I hope Harvard tuition can be paid in $1.00 bills.


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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