Scrolling the pictures in my phone’s camera roll, he stopped. Caught short by the one that was clearly out of place. Between the laughing faces and the loaded dining tables there was one, small, still shot: an empty high chair at an empty dining table. Ours.
“Why do you take sad pictures?” his voice trailed off, muffled and choked by emotion.
After cleaning the kitchen, I had just shut off most of the lights on the main floor and the only light remaining was a small luminary on the kitchen table. The late morning light gently cradled the stillness, the emptiness. The tiny high chair in the corner, still missing its tray from the last time he lifted his baby boy.
I put my head in my hands and cried. Helpless. Grief-stricken. And I took the picture.
I refuse to whitewash the grief, the heartbreak, the silence, the emptiness, the Loss. I refuse to be silenced.
On the night before Thanksgiving, with a giant crockpot of homemade (Dad-made) fifteen-bean soup simmering at home, with our barely-operable van warmed up and ready to go, with two working adults folding up their jobs and switching gears to parent-mode… my Sweetheart got a call from the state troopers. A call that changed everything. For more than an hour, he was interrogated. Questioned. Accused. Yeah, that’s right. After eight long months under the duress of restraining orders filed under false pretenses, he’s still subject to the whim of a mentally ill woman who at any moment can have a complete break with reality and completely obstruct visitation between him and his children.
The children are the ones being violated with every passing day, with every week and month that slips by without ability to maintain a relationship with their own father.
Even though he did absolutely nothing wrong, even though he has never done a single thing to deserve ANY of the accusations heaped on him, there is a ‘presumption’ that exists- an assumption that no woman in her right mind would lie so extensively, would place her own children in harm’s way, would debase herself to such an extent as to vilify the father of her children and falsely accuse him.
Mental illness has no such parameters. Psychopathic behavior, paranoid breaks with reality- these things have no such limitations. All is fair game, it seems.
The crockpot, all seven quarts of soup, sits in the fridge untouched. None of us had an appetite that night.
Unlike the woman who is utilizing every possible welfare resource to fund her vendetta, we can’t afford an attorney (let alone multiple attorneys). We aren’t living off food stamps and welfare dollars. We aren’t perennially unemployed and scrapping for government handouts. We don’t have adequate transportation for our children because the court awarded her $8,000 (their permanent fund dividends) so she could purchase a vehicle (because ironically, she sold off the 15 passenger 4-wheel drive van that was ALSO awarded to her).
We’re caught in limbo-land. We’ve been waiting nearly three months for her attorneys to finalize her rendition of a “settlement agreement” and have heard nothing whatsoever. We have opted to simply give her everything. The house. The vehicles. Every single thing that she could possible want to squabble over- in the hope that it will lessen the conflict, lessen the burden on the children.
No such luck.
The more we pull back, the more we refuse to put the kids in the middle of her fight- the more theatrical and ridiculous she becomes. It’s almost as though she’s a narcissist who has lost her source of “supply”. (insert sarcasm emoji here)
Any reasonable, intelligent human with normal psychology would be physically ill at the thought of putting children in fear, in putting them in harm’s way to further their own agenda.
This one? Thrives on causing suffering. On instigating fear. On creating drama and difficulty where none exists. This one? Committed her oldest son to a mental hospital when he was twelve years old. Because he called her out on her lies, her false statements about his father, her mental illness and her damaging behavior. She threatened him for months. Told him that she would do it if he didn’t knuckle under. And she did. She committed him to a mental hospital because he stood up for what is right, because he took a stand for the truth.
That boy? Is stronger, healthier, wiser and better than ever. For the first time in his life, he’s actually receiving an education. Going to school. Interacting with peers. For the first time in thirteen years, he is no longer isolated by his mother’s choices. He’s better off in foster care than he EVER was in the months he was held captive by his mother.
But there are seven other children. Isolated in a house fully funded by taxpayers, denied schooling and education, racked with fear and anxiety, told every day that all men are evil and abusive and damaging- these kids are living under the cloud that is a mentally ill parent. Oh, she puts on a good front. She’s got the help of her welfare-funded, unemployed sister and her narcissistic father (a corrupt former magistrate), and a whole host of nodding heads at the local women’s shelter.
This is why I take sad pictures. I capture the reality of a situation as it is and I refuse to whitewash it, I refuse to silence it.
We made room for grief at our Thanksgiving table, this year. We made room for heartbreak and loss and unanswerable questions. There is grave injustice that exists in this world. There is Loss. A father’s arms are empty tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow.
What have we (as a society) done? What untruths have we perpetuated to create a world where a loving, involved, supporting, beautiful man who delivered three of his eight children into this world with his own hands can be treated with such absolute disrespect by this community? Yes. I said it. Community. All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men and women to stand by silently and do nothing.
This is not a cry for help. The time for crying for help has long since come and gone. This is Violence UnSilenced. This is one woman’s voice, speaking out against injustice. Against untruth in all its many forms.
Whether or not the DA decides to press criminal charges, whether or not these latest accusations go before a grand jury, is out of my hands. I believe that the stench of gangrene, the rot of moldy thought and hateful actions grows best in dark closets. Oxygen and sunlight are the only cure, the only remedy for this sick, wounding, injurious situation.
Perhaps, then, for the first time, he will have a jury of his peers. Perhaps he will then be permitted more than ten minutes to tell his side of the story. Perhaps the courtroom will resound (if only for short while) with the gentle baritone voice of a man who loves his children more than life itself.
Whichever occurs (arrest, wrongful incarceration or complete vindication), I will not be silenced. Many a good man, many a game-changer, powerful leader, change-maker has been falsely accused. Arrested. Held without bond or fair trial. Many a good human being has been deeply wronged by those who cannot stand in light and truth. That does not make these leaders any less effective. Right does not become wrong, truth does not become untruth simply because of false accusations, lies and harassment. Truth stands alone. We either align with it or we do not.
There will come a day when these clouds roll back, when light will shine in every dark corner, when the truth will have its day.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said so profoundly, “No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”