There are days when the sunlight just seems too bright, surreal, and the colors brought out by the sunlight painful and exaggerated. The bright sunlight felt that way to me the day after I came out from under the darkness of my relationship with my ex. I had survived. I was in a state of disbelief … I could not believe that I was alive … I could not believe that he had tried to kill me … I could not believe that I was driving to the downtown courthouse to meet someone called a Victim’s Advocate and, I thought, to see my ex stand before a judge for what he did to me the night before.
The sunlight felt wrong that day. I was elated to be alive, but weighed down by the heaviness of this new reality, one which makes so much sense to me now but one which I was only beginning to understand. Perhaps it was reality, then, that made my eyes hurt. I was seeing too much, perhaps.
Today the sunlight feels similarly. Over five years have passed since that morning, but still there are days when I want to turn down the sun, I want to curl up in darkness, I want to lose myself in fiction, in easy exaggerated stories steeped in unreality, because some days my reality is just so fucking unreal, so deeply wrong, that fiction becomes my drug, my shots, my comforting darkness.
Today I watched three episodes of “Tru Blood,” a favorite escape of mine. But in the third of the three episodes, likable, vulnerable, loving veteran Terry Bellefleur gets shot and killed; and much of the episode is devoted to characters remembering moments with Terry, like his first day on the job as those around him try to draw him out of his post-war PTSD by giving him direction and purpose. At one point, shifter, bar owner Sam Merlotte and sometimes alcoholic, weak willed, fairy father Andy Bellefleur take Terry fishing. Terry catches a sizable catfish but, looking into the catfish’s eyes, watching its lips gasp for breath, Terry tells his cousin/brother (yes, this is the stereotypical South) Andy to throw it back, “Every life matters,” Terry says.
Ok, on this painfully sunny day I sought refuge in a favorite dark bloodsucking fictional fantasy world and Terry had to go and fuck it up for me, reminding me that “every life matters.”
Today my two children, my two sons, have their last “monitored” visitation with their father who – if you have read my earlier blogs, you know – tried to kill me in my sleep. This sad, twisted, broken, dangerous man will now be allowed to be alone with our two sons, only 7 and 10 years old. He will be alone with them because he has performed commendably for the Court, which means only that he has not physically harmed them during monitored visitation. So, since he has not done them physical harm while being watched over, the Court Evaluator and the Judge (who basically rubber stamped the evaluator’s recommendations) decided to remove the monitor and take steps to help the boys (because the evaluator claimed this recommendation was for the benefit of the boys) move toward having a “normal” relationship with their father, something not possible with a monitor present, according to the evaluator.
This is the same Court that determined that my ex committed “Attempted Murder” and “Assault with a Deadly Weapon,” and that found that my ex is a perpetrator of “domestic violence” and “child abuse.”
But, this evaluator sat in the witness chair and said that it is hard to tell what really happened “that night,” the night my ex tried to kill me. The evaluator said there are two sides to the story. And though, legally, there were not supposed to be “two sides” to the story in that courtroom, new evaluators and new judges can make decisions while rejecting previous “findings” based on extensive hearings. They have that kind of power.
The story of the hearing, of the evaluator, of all of that, is a story for another time, one that brings forth in me such deep fury that I cannot now address it as I am sure that only expletives will escape my fingers…
Family Court exists, so we are told, in great part to protect children because “every life matters,” especially young and innocent lives. This decision, though, seems very powerfully to reflect the desires of these two children’s father, the desires of my ex, than the needs of their psychological, emotional, and physical safety (Family Court instructions direct judges to make those categories paramount in all decisions).
Yet, it seems to me that this decision made by the Court to allow two small children, granted bigger, smarter, stronger, and more articulate than they were five years ago, but still small and vulnerable, this decision to let two small children be alone with an attempted murderer and an admitted child abuser, this decision is not one that respects the value of life, it is not a decision that “gets” what fictional PTSD suffering Terry Bellefleur “got,” that “every life matters.”
Terry’s pain led him to hire someone to take his life because he could no longer live with the burden of his memories of war. My older son told me yesterday that I made a bad choice, that I should have had children with someone else, not with “Daddy.” “But then I would not have you,” I said, as I have before, “and I can’t imagine life without you.” “Yes you can and you would love your other kids just as much as you love me,” he told me, as he has before, “I’m a realist, Mommy,” he said.
He had written in an email to himself, “Fuck Mommy. Fuck Daddy. Fuck my life.” But, he accidentally (so he said) sent it to me. He said he does not hate me, but he does hate his life. Ok, 10-year-old, almost teenager drama aside, he explained that he hates that his father “hurt” his mom, that his mom fled with his brother and him leaving behind a beautiful home with a huge back yard, that we left our dog and cat behind, that he has a dad who says hurtful things to him sometimes, that he was fine with a monitor but the Court took the monitor away anyhow, that he didn’t ask for more time with his dad, but the Court gave them more time together anyhow, that he has parents whose ability to parent is mediated by mental illness (his dad’s), fear (mine), and the Court.
I really can’t blame him for that. He told the evaluator the “mean” things his daddy said to him, and the Court did not take action or make decisions that made his words feel heard and honored. He feels he was powerless. He feels that the courage it took for him to “tell on” his dad was ignored, that it was a pointless act.
Both children have been diagnosed with PTSD, as have I. Younger son says that he does not want to go to sleep lately because he is having nightmares. He had nightmares several years ago, right after we fled. He called the monster in his nightmares, “The Grinch,” and he was terrified of the Grinch. But, eventually, his nightmares went away. Tomorrow is their first non-monitored visitation and younger son has been having nightmares again.
Older son has struggled with short term memory and focus issues. Since finding out about the Court’s decision and the loss of the monitor, he has “checked out” on occasion, perhaps dissociating. He got a warm vanilla milk at Starbucks, picked it up from the counter, and held it sideways, dumping it all over the floor slowly through the hole in the lid without even noticing what was happening.
Where we take our dog for a wash, a self wash dog wash, they give us fresh, homemade chicken jerky as a treat for the dog after the bath. While I recently gave our dog a bath, older son sat and shredded the chicken jerky into little tiny pieces so small even our little dog couldn’t really eat them. When I asked him about it, he didn’t even seem to realize that he had done it. He looked at the shredded pieces in surprise, like he did with the spilt milk.
Older son also used to have horrible constipation when I still lived with my ex. I now know things were happening in that home that I didn’t see … perhaps that I didn’t want to see … perhaps that I couldn’t see. I don’t know how hurt my older son was from his exposure to his twisted father, but the constipation, painful debilitating constipation, I now believe, was a side effect of the shadows, darkness, and pain hidden in that home.
Older son is suffering terrible constipation again, body in knots, red-faced, resisting letting go.
It is … painful is not enough … excruciating doesn’t reflect it … heartbreaking is too pat … there are no words for the feelings and thoughts that arise from witnessing damage and pain in children and being powerless to fix it, to really really get at the core and fix it.
So, when Terry Bellefleur said that “every life matters,” I sobbed, because it fucking should.