Two Fathers, One Death: Malcolm Astley and Tomo Fujita

Everyone’s talking about Malcolm Astley, father of Lauren Astley, the Wayland teen whose bright-eyed, apple-cheeked face has been splashed across newspapers and TV screens since she was murdered two weeks ago, allegedly by her former boyfriend, Wayland High School football player Nathaniel Fujita.

Somehow, despite the gruesome killing of his only child, Malcolm Astley has kept his heart wide open, talking to the media in thoughtful soliloquies that manage to take into account how the Fujita family is doing, and even worrying about Nathaniel Fujita himself, who police say strangled Lauren with a bungee cord, slashed her neck, and threw her body into a marsh.

But the father I can’t stop thinking about is Nathaniel Fujita’s dad, Tomo, a Berklee music professor whose life has also taken an incomprehensibly tragic turn. Fujita’s website shows him hanging out with fellow musicians and playing his beloved guitar, always in a well-worn concert T-shirt and bearing an easy smile. From all accounts, he is a much loved professor and all-around good guy.

In a news clip at the courthouse where the charges were brought up, Nathaniel Fujita stood expressionless in his orange Wayland Football T-shirt as the camera cuts to his parents, his father’s face stunned and still, his mother’s hidden behind a cascade of long black hair as she looks down at the floor.

I have no idea what the family knew of their son’s inner rage. If he is a true psychopath, he was probably good at hiding it. Over the weekend, reports came out that Nate, as he’s known, had a history of “violent outbursts.” Maybe the family tried to quell the escalating violence. Whatever was going on in that home, I’m sure Tomo Fujita could never have imagined this outcome for his child. Who could foresee “the mess we find ourselves in,” as Malcolm Astley put it at the memorial service for Lauren on Saturday?

There’s no mathematical equation for parenting. All-around good guys don’t necessarily end up with the kids they deserve. And good kids can come from terrible parents. The more I try to instill morals and ethics and good behavior into my kids, the more aware I am of the role of randomness in how our kids turn out. Sometimes all you can do is try the best that you can, cross your fingers, and hope the kids will be all right. I’m not a religious person, but often when I read these tragic stories in the news, I think, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”