Saturday, May 12, 2012

My mother.

"Carrie" my father began innocently enough, "I need your help."

I admit I was excited. I was ten years old and my father was asking - no imploring - me to help him with some important and secret mission. Maybe I was a warrior princess - responsible for the rescue of earth from the evil intentions of the Alien fleet headed our way!

"As you know, your mom and I have been battling each other in court for custody of you kids"

I nodded my head.

"I am going to lose, unless you tell the truth"

"The truth?" I asked. I wanted to help of course. I wanted to tell the truth, but I was also alarmed. What would I have to do to help my dad win? And if he won would they all stop fighting?

"Yes. That's it. All I need you to do is tell the truth to my lawyer"

I immediately got nervous. Talk to a stranger? To a lawyer? I was a shy kid, an awkward and quiet child and authority figures terrified me. What if I disappointed them somehow? I hesitated and he could see it on my face. He pulled out the big guns - my Achilles heal if you will.

"Carrie. If I don't win then you and your brothers will have to go live with your mom and your step dad, Murray. Do you want to put your brothers in danger?"

The way my dad spat the name Murray off his tongue as though the very taste of it was revolting made me cringe. My dad hated my step father, almost as much as he hated my mother. And I can't say he didn't have good reason to. My step dad had proven that he was a little unstable. The truth of it was I feared Murray - at least a bit. He had a short fuse that sometimes made the house so still I thought I'd be frozen forever - breath trapped within my chest - every limb quivering from the strain of staying so perfectly rigid. Of course my father had a short fuse too, so I was confused. I didn't know who was right in this whole mess.

"I don't know..." I hesitated again, my mind a swirl. The last thing I wanted to do was to make my dad disappointed in me. He shook his head slowly - sadness etched across his face.

"Carrie" he pleaded again, "think of your brothers".

There was a lot more words - my father has this talent for lecturing that allowed no chance for escape. He begged, cajoled and manipulated, but he'd already won. In my mind I had to protect my siblings. From the time I was a little girl I'd taken care of them. Friends and family alike had nicknamed me "Little Mama". And so it was no surprise that I agreed. In my ten year old mind I was doing the righteous thing. I was going to save my two baby brothers. I may not be a princess taking on an evil alien army, but nevertheless, I was going to be a hero.

Perhaps my father will contest my memory of this conversation, but it was traumatic for me. I remember feeling that if I didn't help my dad - didn't write an affidavit against my mother - that my brothers would be in grave danger. So I went with my dad to the lawyers, I spoke with a "psychiatrist" who took notes. I was oblivious to the position I had been put in, and I was completely oblivious to the effect it would have on my relationship with my mother...

When the affidavit had being typed up I was called into the lawyers office - alone - and asked to sign the document. Before I could put pen to paper the lawyer looked me in the eye and said, "Carrie. Is everything you said truthful?"

I nodded.

"I just want you to be aware that if any of this turns out to be false - do you know what false means?"

I nodded again.

"If any of this turns out to be false then you can be sent to jail"

I immediately panicked. I can go to jail? What if something I said was wrong? What if it was a lie and I didn't know it? What if they think its a lie when its not? I felt close to tears but shook my head.

"It's not a lie" I whispered. My dad's lawyer smiled reassuringly and I signed the document.

I told my father what the lawyer had said - about lies and jail - and I began to sob. My father was livid with his lawyer, but the last ditch attempt to win worked out - so anger was soon forgotten. My mother lost custody...

Before the verdict had been rendered, however, my mom received the affidavit through her lawyer. She was cutting chicken in the kitchen when she mentioned it to me.

"Carrie" my mother voice wavered and nearly broke - its what caught my attention and held me in place, "I got the affidavit you wrote, today."

"Oh" I choked out. I couldn't look her in the eye. I was ashamed. She stared down at the chicken. Her butcher knife cutting through bone as she sliced the usable pieces for dinner. She brought the knife down, over and over; crack, crack, crack. I trembled a little.

"Its okay. I'm not mad" I looked up then, surprised.

"Your not?" tears filled my eyes.

"No baby, I'm not"

That was all that was said. We never spoke of it again for many years.

It has remained a source of discomfort in our relationship though - mostly on my part. The guilt I hold for not only tearing apart my mothers world, but also my brothers, will haunt me until the day I die.

 But in that moment - I got to see her as my mother - not as the woman my father despised. She revealed herself - revealed her love for me in that simple grace. She wasn't mad. She didn't hate me. Only later I would learn how far my mother went to protect me. Her own lawyer wanted to put me on the stand, wanted to tear my testimony apart, wanted to make me look like a liar.

My mother refused. Win or lose she wasn't going to do that to her daughter.

I wish there were words to thank her for that.

Instead I will only say, I love you mom so very much; and I know what you gave up for me. You gave up the biggest pieces of yourself - your kids - in order to salvage whatever was left inside of me.



So thank you and please know, if I could take it back - I would.



Happy Mother's Day.



read to be read at yeahwrite.me

50 comments:

Crack You Whip said...

Wow. I am speechless. Very moving post...thank you for sharing.

carrie said...

Thas you for reading and commenting :)

Lynnjefferson said...

Thank you baby. I cried when I read this. There are a lot of things that haunt me in the middle of the night and that affidavit was one of them. Not because of the words it held but what it did to you. I may never make peace with what happened back then and I am also not sure I will ever forgive myself for the sins of the past but know that today I am very proud of you and your brothers. You are an amazing mother and wife Carrie and this day pays homage to that. So Happy Mother's Day to you as well and know that I will always love you.

carrie said...

Thanks Mom. :D

I love you! I'm sorry for our past too, but it is just that - our past. I'm just glad we have the present and the future together!

Love,

Carrie.

Erica M said...

Your writing beautifully outlines your grief and regret, and I'm sad you had to deal with all that as a 10-year-old. That your mom reads your blog and left such a lovely comment shows how far past it all you two have moved. Thanks for sharing.

carrie said...

Thanks Erica for the kind words. It took a while but we were finally able to talk about the past a few years ago, before I had my own children, and we were able to let some of our baggage go.

I will always have regrets about the time I lost with her but we have definitely moved past some of the most hurtful moments during that time - watching her with my kids now is really awesome and it makes the past less raw!

TriGirl said...

Oh my goodness, that was such a powerful post. But then your mom's comment was just so beautiful. It's so nice to see you have been able to move forward.

Jennifer Worrell said...

I'm crying. I'm a stepmom, and I can't imagine any of us putting our kids in this kind of position. I'm so glad your family has been able to put this behind you.

Vivian said...

I was fortunate that when I divorced there was no dispute regarding custody of my children. Carrie beautiful written and I had a tear in my eye reading your Mom's comment.

Robbie K said...

So honest and powerful. I am sorry for the little girl who was torn apart by this and glad you and your mom were able to work thru it.

NPRMommy said...

what an awful no-win position for a child to be out in...i can't imagine how you've replayed it in your mind over the years...your mom seems pretty incredible...still loving and protecting you to this day :)

MamaMash said...

I am relieved that you and your mother have a relationship after all that. This is a beautiful illustration of how hard it can be to be a mother.

Delilah Love said...

That was so powerful and heartwrenching to read. What an awful position for a child to be in and I'm so sorry you went through that. I held it together until I read your mom's comment and then I had to ugly cry. A mother's love is amazing.

carrie said...

Thank you all so much for the comments. I'm tearing up reading through them. What a wonderful community of writers I have stumbled upon. <3

momentsofexhilaration.com said...

Wow. What an intense position for you to be in. And so brave of you to write about it. There are many, many things from my childhood that I'm not comfortable writing about. But every time I read something like this I gain a little more courage. So thank you!

Lolo @ The Lyons Din said...

It's so hard when parents put their kids in the middle. I know. I was there too. And I swore my husband and I would NEVER do it to my stepkids. And we never did. Beautiful post.

Louise Ducote said...

Wow, this blew me away. I have a ten-year-old, and I just can't imagine him having to navigate such ugly adult waters. Like Delilah, I felt like crying through the whole post but sucked it up until I read your mom's comment. Happy Mother's Day to you both and a big hug to that ten-year-old girl of long ago.

carrie said...

@momentsofexhilaration - This is the first time I've ever really touched specifically on my past...my mother and father and step parents read my blog so it has to be done with some care lol. But that being said my last post about finding it hard to trust my husband - and alluding to my childhood - I felt deserved the backstory...at least a small part of it.

When you are ready you will write it and so I hope one day you can express your pain too...

@ Lolo - I made that promise with my husband too. In a round about way. We promised if things ever ended with us that we would never put our kids in the middle - no matter the desperation and anger we might feel.

carrie said...

@Louise - thanks so much for the lovely comment. I have three kids of own now too and I also can't imagine putting them into such a position. My mom will be happy to read all these comments. I think this post and all the kind words its gathering will be even more healing for her.

Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms said...

This was both the most distressing and the most uplifting thing I have ever read. I am floored by the unfairness, but I am breathless from the forgiveness. Wow. Ellen

Dawn Beronilla said...

Oh wow. This left me speechless. I think that you told the story beautifully. My heart aches for the 10 year old you, and I am again reminded why my husband and I vowed to never put my stepson through the court process.
You are very brave to post this, and I am so happy you did.

Jen at Kvetch Mom said...

So powerfully written. I just wanted to scoop you up and give your 10 year old self a big hug. Your mom's comment was very moving. I'm so glad you two have a relationship. Hopefully this will help free you of some of the burden you've been carrying with you.

Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool said...

What an awful position to be in at 10, an age when we all understand so little. What I find most uplifting is the communication btw you and your mom in the comments.

carrie said...

Thanks again to all of you who are commenting! I am very moved by every one of your words! My mother is an amazing woman and I have learned so much from her over the years. None of you know of course but after my father won custody he moved us away from our hometown so that we were only permitted visitation with my mom a few times a year. Her strength astounds me as I know I would not be able to lose my children in such a way. It would rip me into pieces. So it is even more amazing to me that she forgave me instantly.

Vanessa said...

Your mom has some serious class.

carrie said...

Yes lol, yes she does!

Michelle Longo said...

Wow - that must have been such an ordeal for you! What a difficult position to be in. I'm glad you and your mom were able to work through it.

Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy said...

Thank you for sharing this story. Both you and your mother have incredible strength...that's very apparent. So sorry you had to go through this as a child, but glad you have a mother who obviously loves you very much.

Beautifully written!

Karine said...

I'm sorry you were put in such an awful position. Sometimes, for some people, being a kid is the hardest thing in the world. I wish for you that you had had it easier. Beautiful post, heart wrenching and inspirational mixed together to create such a moving text.

Gia said...

Ugh, so upsetting. It wasn't your fault! You were just a kid! Don't feel so bad.

carrie said...

Aww thanks guys! I really do appreciate all of your comments. Its nice to get positive feedback!

@Gia- Thanks for the comment. I can forgive myself logically but my heart is a little more stubborn. Becoming a mother myself though was helpful. As my kids get closer to the age I was at and I realize how innocent they still are, it puts things in perspective.

Susanna Hickman Bartee said...

That came across in the voice of a broken-hearted 10-year-old. Well written. Hoping you have years and years of peace ahead. :)

carrie said...

I have years and years with the most wonderful husband and kids. My life couldn't be happier! :)

Kathy Kramer said...

Oh my goodness, this is so sad. As I read, I found myself wondering where the guardian ad litem was in all of this. My son had one when I had to take my ex to court and I was so glad we did, because my ex tried pulling something similar this on my son against me and because of having one, my ex didn't get away with it. I'm sorry that you had to go through all of this.

As I read this, I found myself very angry at your father and his lawyer for putting you through this.

I'm so glad that you and your mother were able to move forward.

Jade said...

Wow. This is the post of the round for me. So understated and discomfiting. And then to read your mother's comment! Emotional stuff. Thank you for sharing.

christina said...

wow. reading that, then reading your mom's comment? WOW. chokes me up. thank you for sharing.

carrie said...

@Kathy - That is a good question and I really don't know. I do know my fathers lawyer was known for his lack of scruples - which is why my father hired him. The custody case was also 19 years ago so perhaps the timing of the case was a factor?

@Jade - Thank you so much. I'm glad I was able to evoke emotions from the reader that I have felt over the years. It shows I managed to convey the situation I was placed in accurately. :)

@Christina - thanks for commenting and reading!

Kristin said...

Such a powerful memory. Thank you for sharing it. I think that as adults, we often forget what it's like to be a child.

Susan said...

so strong and so moving. i hurt for you that you were put in such a position. it's terrible when the kids are the ones who get hurt!

Mondays with Mac said...

Very moving. This reminds of that bible story (you'll have to forgive my lack of knowledge to name the characters). Basically two women are fighting over a baby and then eventually someone suggests that they cut the baby in half. The woman who says that no, the baby belongs to the other woman is actually the mother because she refused to hurt the baby even though it hurt her. I probably didn't explain that well. But I think you know what I mean.

Lady Goo Goo Gaga said...

Omg, I could cry!!! Beautiful and devastating.....

Shiftless Mommie said...

This is such a unique and heartbreaking story. It reveals a part of divorce and the legal system we don't hear about enough. The toll on children is spoken about passively or in the abstract, but there are real moments that children carry with them forever. Thank you for posting this.

carrie said...

Thank you all for commenting. I know this is a competition but seriously just hearing from all of you is the exciting part for me.

So again. Thank you all so much for the comments and the support!

Dude of The House said...

Sounds like that lawyer was a real piece of work. manipulating a kid? That's bush league.

You must've been a very strong kid. Kudos for successfully navigating a difficult path through adolescence.

Jill: Tales of a Failed Crunchy Mom said...

Oh my gosh, what an awful thing for a child to have go through. I'm so sorry. But what a powerful post and such a lovely tribute to your mom.

Trisha said...

That is amazing I have tears in my eyes ! I come from a broken home as well and know all to well about guilt and should have could haves ! It's what makes who we are today and I think it has made you an amazing mom and wife !!! Love ya girl

Julia said...

What a powerful post. I'm so sorry you were put in that position.

carrie said...

Thank you all so much for your comments. They help to affirm my belief that what my dad did was wrong. Sometimes its hard to know for sure - when you're that close to the situation.

:)

Stephanie B. @B4Steph said...

Amazing post. I can't top what everyone else said, just echo it all. Beautifully written. I wonder about your relationship with your dad, how you felt when you had to leave town, how you felt when you realized how terribly manipulative he and his lawyer were. Your mom is incredibly strong. A fine example. Really moving piece.

carrie said...

It was the hardest day when we had to leave. I remember my brothers sobbing in the car and how hard I fought not to cry as we pulled away from her house.

After every visit it was the same for a long time - my brothers crying - and I was trying my best not to.

Theres a lot more. My dad is brain injured. So there is a lot of issues there. Frustration, anger, just things that normal kids dont really have to deal with.

To my dad's credit I know he always felt he was doing the right thing...of course...you know what they say about the road to hell...lol

I love them both - flaws and all...maybe one day I will write alittle more. Expel the rest.

thanks for the comment :)