Damaged & Cashed Out

Last week was another opportunity for me to walk back into the building that houses almost 30 years of memories for me, our local courthouse, in order to watch court proceedings for my son.  This date had been on my calendar for a few months, for this was the day for him to say out loud whether he was guilty of the two felony offenses he faces or that he was not guilty and wanted a trial.

As I walked into the courtroom, I scanned the back of the heads of the inmates that were in the first few rows in an attempt to locate him so that I could at least sit where he might turn around to see me.  Finally I saw him, sitting on the end of the bench, in that dreaded red outfit and it looked like … uh oh … stitches running down the side of his head.  What?!  I could feel my heart begin to pound a bit, wondering what he’d gotten himself into this time.

Thankfully he spotted me as I approached a bench to sit down on that was relatively close to him.  As I continued to look at the side of his head I began to wonder if they were stitches or … dear Lord please tell me no … a tattoo?!  He then turned around and made eye contact with me.  Being the mom I am, I asked (quietly) … are those stitches or a tattoo?  He smiled and told me it was a tattoo.  Again, what?!  As he talked to me I noticed something on his face right below his hair-line …. you have got to be kidding me … another dad-gummed tattoo.  One of the bailiffs that I’ve known for years was standing next to where I was sitting, so I asked him to slyly walk up to my “child” and see what words he had written on his face.  As he was attempting to do that for me, my son turned around again and I asked him what the tattoos said.  The one that runs down the side of his face next to his hair line said DAMAGED.  The one on his forehead under his hair line said CASHED OUT.  I guess my face showed my heart breaking because he smiled, and said mom, you act like I’m going to work in an office some day.  So there’s that.  How do I process that?

Thankfully his case was  one of the first ones called.  He shuffled up to the judge, in handcuffs and an ankle chain and respectfully admitted guilt to the two felonies he was charged with.  He was not real pleased with the 3 year sentence that had been recommended, but I know that after all of the cases he’d pretty much skated on, 3 years was a fair offer.  Plus, as I told him, it will give him more time to devise a plan for his future.  Once he was finished speaking to the judge, I exited the courthouse as quickly as possible.  I couldn’t process the fact that my son, this person I realize I don’t know any longer, would choose to permanently deface his FACE.  I often listen to K-LOVE radio but I couldn’t listen to it as I drove home from there.  I wanted to wail.  I wanted to shake him.  I wanted to hug him.  I wanted the past 10 years to have gone differently.  I wanted to understand why …

He called a few days later and thanked me for coming to court.  He appreciated the fact that I had been there.  I asked him why he chose to get those tattoos on his face and he said that it was probably not his best decision ever (you think?!) but it wasn’t that bad … after all, he already had a tear drop and a cross on his face and if he ever lets his hair grow out it won’t show.  I cried.  I didn’t mean to.  But I did.  When he asked me why I was so upset I just told him that there are a lot of things that I can deal with and process but for some reason the fact he feels DAMAGED and CASHED OUT and needed that to be on his face permanently breaks my heart as much, if not in some ways more, than all the other bad, bad things that I’ve had to process and deal with from my children.  He doesn’t understand that.  Mom’s overreacting, you know?

For Christmas he requested that I send him a book.  It’s a book that deals with conspiracy theories.  The perfect book for a jail cell I suppose.  I ordered that book but I also ordered Max Lucado’s book about facing your giants.  I even included the workbook for him.  He did tell me he’s been reading it and I hope he has.  For years, more than I can say, I have prayed that God send him a Godly man, a mentor that he can look up to that can show him how to live a different life, a life for God and I continue to pray that he finds that mentor … maybe while he’s serving this sentence.  To think that my child feels that way about himself is heart wrenching.  As a parent I have kicked myself and beat myself up about all of the times I failed as their parent … and I’ve been doing that an awful lot lately.  I know that these thoughts are not of God – I know that I have to seek Him continually to find that peace that passes understanding because some days I struggle finding that peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I know that God loves my son more than I do.  I know that He has great things in store for him should he choose that path.  I know that my son’s heart is damaged and broken and that only God can truly heal that.  I used to pray that he restored my children, but honestly what I want Him to do is make them new.

I often feel bad writing about my adult children and how broken-hearted they can cause me to feel, because I know that I am fortunate in that my children still dwell on this earth.  Therefore there is still hope that they will allow God to renew them and sustain them.  It’s a great quandary that loved ones find themselves in when they have people that they love to the moon and back that are for all intents and purposes completely  absent from our lives.  For me, as a parent of two adult addicts, it’s a chasm that sometimes has seemed as black and deep and wide as any could be imagined.  I’ve  wanted to desperately save them from themselves, their addictions, or whatever … but have come to realize over the years that it is not up to me to save them at all.  That was a rather hard bitter pill to swallow, but it’s one that has led to a lighter burden as the years have gone on.  Life with them absent becomes manageable, but make no mistake about it, the pain never lessens, you just learn how to absorb it.  Knowing they are still out there, somewhere in this world, means that I can and will continue to cling to the hope that one day God’s work will come to fruition in their lives.

2 Timothy 1:12 says:

…for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day

Therefore, I do know in whom I believe.  I am convinced without a shadow of a doubt He will guard those I have entrusted Him with.

I do believe.  God please forgive me and help me in those moments of unbelief.  You’ve got this.  You love them more than I do.  You know my son is not ordained to be DAMAGED and CASHED OUT but to be loved and fully known by You and for that I am  thankful.  Hope anchors my soul even when it seems foolish to those looking from the outside in.

 

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A Wise Little Man

 

I have a need to talk about our Dozer Man … or for me, my Chigger.  Because he is that, a little chigger that you can’t get off of you … you know how they hang around your ankles?!  Our little man will be celebrating his 6th birthday in a few weeks and he is pumped up about that to say the least.  Because so often focus is on his big sister, Dozer Man has learned how to fly under the radar.  That’s good for him, often it works in his favor, yet for us … and in the long-run for him … that may not be as good.

You see he practices stealth-mode.  He can do great damage with a pair of scissors – even the ones kindergartners use in school … he’s dangerous.  He is obsessed with knives.  He has a few that are his very own and expresses his personal affront often to me when he is not allowed to hold/touch/use any of the knives.  He also has an obsession with firearms.  I know … but he loves to study them, hold them, and learn exactly how they operate and how to take care of them.  For those who do not personally know us just know …. safety is our first and foremost priority therefore there is a lot of talk about safety; and, well, we  are comfortable around firearms and know how to use them.  We are also highly alert to where they are stored at all times and make sure the kids have no access.  Most evenings as the day winds down, he asks his Main Man if they can have “man time” back in our bedroom, because the main focus of that is alone time with PaPaw to talk about & look at the guns.  My best friend’s husband, loaned us a book that talks about the history of firearms and has wonderful illustrations, and he is obsessed.

In true Dozer fashion, as we learned during his heavy equipment phase and his still heavy dinosaur phase, the Dozer will study everything he can to learn about what he is interested in.  He can rattle off facts like nobody’s business and he loves to correct us when we state something wrong in relation to dinosaurs, guns or knives; while trying to be patient with me when I get it wrong.  But his obvious frustration with my lack of mental capacity to remember all of the details can be funny.  For me that is.  He sometimes just looks disgusted.  Like – is she for real?!

Dozer was 2 1/2 years old when he came to live with us, he really doesn’t have any memories of living with his mother and father, and he is now beginning to ask pointed questions.  Why is Mama Paige in jail?  Why did she do drugs?  Why did she sell drugs?  I try and answer these questions as honestly as I can.  He never asks questions about his biological father, and he does talk to him or see him on rare occasions.  I overheard he and the Bear this morning discussing the fact  that, according to Dozer, Mama Paige is NOT his mother.  Needless to say, that upset the Bear but I just let them work through it.  They, along with their younger brother, alone have experienced the loss of their parents, I have not.

Here’s the thing though about Dozer … as I’ve said before, he’s our snuggler.  He’s definitely a lover and not a fighter.  He has had a rough start to kindergarten this year and after some back and forth, we  made a decision that we hoped would help him be on a level playing field with his peers.  His school performance was suffering.  Although the change has helped him, he has been much more emotional.  Mercy.  I wasn’t prepared for  that.  Not from  him.  The Bear can write a book on drama but again, Dozer flies under the radar and knows how to disappear.  Seeing him lash out in anger or frustration or cry because someone hurt his feelings has been a bit troubling.  Thankfully, he seems better.  We are teaching him tools that he can use to help him in school, with friends,  etc.

The  other thing I am learning about our Dozer is that  he is a negotiator.  He has the potential to be a master negotiator.  Here’s the scenario this morning:

Dozer:  MaMaw, do you like snakes?

Me:  No, I do not.

Dozer:  Well think about this.  You are home, you have only mice and rats in your home, do you want a snake or do you want to die?

Me:  Um, that’s kind of intense.  Why do I have to die?

Dozer:  Because the rats and the mice will get you.  So, do you  want to die or will you let the snake in your house?

Me:  Well, if those are my options, I guess I’ll let the snake in but I’ll leave and after the snake is done, he has to go.

Dozer:  Well think about this.  (Yes he said it again, earnestly) It’s winter, if you let the snake out it will die.  Do you really want to kill the snake?  Send it out in the cold to die?

Me:  Well, um, I guess not.  But I still don’t like snakes and if it’s winter  he’s supposed  to be hibernating.

Dozer:  He’s here during winter to save you and your house from the rats!

Me:  Okay, fine, but I still don’t like snakes.

Dozer:  (Shakes his head with sadness, like I’ve  thrown away his favorite toy) and then walks away.

Okay… what just happened here?  That’s just today.  Not long ago I got a lesson on the fact that he is almost 6 which means that he can then take his switchblade knife outside to cut things.  When I corrected his assumption, he didn’t take too kindly to it.  I was not understanding.  When he is 6 he will be OLD enough to handle his knife.  I need to accept that.  If I don’t, I will need to have 100 responses to his 100 questions as to why he is not allowed that privilege.  He does  not accept “because I said so” or “I don’t know” … he wants answers.  Detailed answers and explanations.  He makes my head hurt somedays!  I told him on the ride to school this morning he should join the debate team in high school.  After explaining to him what the debate team is, he agreed he could do that, but he probably shouldn’t debate when the teacher’s talking!  I agreed and he then asked if he will have carpet time in high school?  I told him no, that his “carpet time” would be hanging out in front of a locker figuring out which girl is the cutest.  When the Bear heard this comment she couldn’t take it, informed us that was not how he would be and he just sighed and leaned back in his seat and said, “yep, that’s what teenage boys do”.  He’s gonna steal someone’s heart one day.

As I’ve absorbed this negotiating characteristic that he is honing I applaud him (silently) for his diligence and his determination and, truthfully, his eloquence in convincing the other person to see his side of an issue.  I suspect that if he can learn how to harness the negotiating skills, there is absolutely nothing in life that will hinder him if he has his mind set on something.

I realize also that he is beginning to come into his own and with that will come more questions and conversations  about what led him to live with us.  When he asks questions he expects an answer.  You can’t appease him by giving him half-responses.  Although I know that it is vitally important that the kids know the truth about the events that led them to live with us, I believe that God will orchestrate the timing that is most beneficial for each of their  hearts to hear and give us the words that they need to hear.

I am overwhelmed some days at the sheer joy this little man has brought into our lives.  He is quite a gentleman (he told me the other day he knows he is) and worries about how others are feeling.  He is very attuned to the atmosphere that surrounds him and he is very good at knowing how to respond.  He’s funny, he’s got beautiful blue eyes, and he’s got the potential to simply be an amazing man one day.  I pray God helps us as he grows … that he always knows how loved he is and how proud we are of him.  I feel like he gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, yet he always knows how to bring brightness into a day.  My Chigger …I hope you always stand up and  fight for what you believe in.  I pray God’s amazing plan comes true in your life!

 

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My Word?

The end of the old and the ringing in of  the new is a process, as another year in this calendar of life rolls into a new one.  Promises of changes to be made and good things to come are shiny and new at this time of year.  I’m of an age where I learned a long time ago not to make New Years resolutions. That puts unnecessary stress on me. I don’t need to buy any extra stress if it can be prevented.  For me, it’s often a time of reflecting and thinking back over the past year to see what was written in my life and to maybe take the time to take a breath and think about the possibilities of the upcoming year.

As I type this, I am currently listening to our two grands argue while playing with their Nerf guns.  Good times.  I wishfully hope that they have no knowledge that this is New Years Eve so that they won’t ask to stay up late, but I know that’s unlikely.  Both of them are on medications for one reason or another right now, and after having spent a total of 3 hours waiting in a doctor’s office and then pharmacy yesterday with the two of them, I just want the night and the year to be over.  To quietly fade away as I hope for that “Joy comes in the morning” thing… as too frequently recently I’ve felt my joy slip away.

As I was surfing through blog posts of others, I ran across some that talk about picking your word for the new year.  My word?  Hmm.  I’m  not sure I know what my word would be.  Based on the past year, I have come to realize a few  things about myself.  During  this past year I’ve learned some truths about myself.  I’ve  learned  that every single time I’ve thought … I can’t do this … I’ve been able to “do it”.  I’ve  learned  that things that have come to light that could potentially devastate me have not – but maybe have made me stronger.  I’ve learned that there is absolutely no way that I can truly know another individual.  I’m learning that I can’t spend time finding fault with that in myself, for who of us truly knows another person’s heart or what’s in their closet?  I’ve learned that my heart can be broken into  a zillion pieces, yet God still has something worked out to make a beautiful mosaic of the tears that I won’t allow to fall in front of others.  I’ve learned I’m not as tough as I seem.  I’ve learned to reach out for help so that I can be stronger.  I’ve learned that through all of the truths I’ve been given glimpses  of this year – resilience is something that must be allowed to grow so that I can bend, but not  break.

I have also learned a few other things this  past year.  Our Bear has not one ounce of “wing it” in her bones.  None.  She  must know the plan from beginning to end.  If it varies, she may or may not be able to roll with it.  I’ve learned that Dozer is a smart little man.  He finds  that  one thing that he loves and he learns everything possible  about it.  He leaves no stone unturned.  He schools  me when I am incorrect.  He also  misses his Momma Paige, yet doesn’t really remember her.  I’ve learned  that the  Bear will have more trouble letting Dozer move  into independence than we will.  I’ve  learned that each of these children can teach me  more  about life than any other human on the planet.

Then there is my Zebra.  That sweetest boy – the one I always said was the sweetest  of the three.  The things  this  child has  taught me.  He has endured more challenges than anyone I know and through it all – he just loves.  He is that one person on this planet whose whole face lights up when he sees me.  I’m just MaMaw to him and what I wouldn’t give to be able to be that even more so.  I’ve learned  this year that he loves me with his whole heart regardless of how often I see him.  I cannot allow  myself to sit and ponder the challenges our Zebra is facing, but I will scream from the tallest mountain that God is the ultimate Healer and will heal our little man.  In the meantime, I relish his love and look forward to – although cautiously – the adventures we are in store for in a month or so with him.

My children?  I’ve learned this year that I will continue to diligently hold onto that anchor of hope for each of them and their hearts.  It is not my job to change their hearts, but it is my job to pray for them, encourage them and just love them.

There have been a lot of good things this year.  There have been a lot of very difficult times  this year.  I do not know what the next year will hold for myself or any of the people I hold dearly.  I’m thankful I do not know.  I’m thankful I don’t have to worry about it, because God has authored our stories.  I’m  thankful joy does come in the mornings.  I hope this year I can learn to trust more, to be prepared to face any more truths that may come to light, to remember where these tiny people have been and what my purpose is as it relates to them.  To give them stability, security, love, a foundation, a network of people who support them, and to maybe remember to give them movie nights, fort building and staying up late.

The older I get  the quicker  the years go by.  Somehow I have to learn to change how I react to adversity and resolve not to spend days caught up in my head, internalizing all of my feelings or working to escape them.  As Dozer told  me the other night, maybe I need to learn to cry in front of the people who love me.  Wisdom from a 5 year old.  Being resilient isn’t easy but it is certainly a requirement in my life.  Someone has to be  the tree with the deep roots …

RESILIENT:

  • (of an object or material) capable of regaining its original shape or position after bending, stretching, compression, or other deformation; elastic
  • (of a person) recovering easily and quickly from shock, illness, hardship, etc; irrepressible

Might be an appropriate word.

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It’s that time of year

Yes, it’s the Christmas season, but in my little world it is also the season I celebrate the birth of my daughter, my oldest child.  I was overjoyed to be pregnant with her.  I think I started showing the day after I found out I was pregnant.  I craved Sweet Tarts and cucumber slices in vinegar.  I have had two easy pregnancies.  I was lucky in that I had no morning sickness and really felt pretty good up until the end.  The day before my daughter was born my father and I embarked on our yearly tradition of Christmas shopping for my mom.  The memories of shopping with him every year are some that I will always treasure.  He pretended he hated to shop but he knew exactly what he wanted to get and didn’t spare the cost.   It was always entertaining to watch him describe mom’s body size to narrow down what size she might wear.  Mercy.  Those poor salesladies.

But I digress.  So dad and I went shopping and we walked all day.  I was exhausted – I had no ankles – and I was 5 days past my due date.  The next morning I awoke with my back hurting and knew today was the day.  I remember everything about that day as if it was yesterday.  I remember the looks on each of my parent’s faces as  they pretended to be brave and come back to see me while I was laboring.  Uh, they weren’t so brave.  The doctor finally told me that a C-section was necessary.  After being in labor all day, I was good with anything.  I stayed awake throughout the procedure and watched through the reflection of the overhead light the whole thing.  When he pulled that big ‘ole healthy baby girl out and she was handed to me, I was a goner.  28 years ago … in about 3 hours … she entered this world.

Birthdays have always made me rather reflective and introspective, especially as it relates to my kids.  Each year I try hard to breathe, to be happy she is alive, to have some type of relationship with her, to know God has plans for her and to hold on to that anchor of hope.  I miss her.  Parents of individuals who are drug addicts or are incarcerated know that pain of having someone who you love so deeply still on this Earth, maybe even close enough to touch, but there are obstacles preventing you from touching them.  From holding them tightly and just inhaling their very essence.  The memories I carry of rocking my infant daughter and of watching her grow fill me with such sweet thoughts, yet at the same time I feel my anxiety increase and my insides stifle a scream.  On days such as today I can’t allow Satan to ruin the cherished memories I have.  I have to remind myself that there is always hope for her future.  We parents grieve for the lives our loved ones have missed out on, and sometimes  fight anger because of the choices our loved ones have made.

My job today is to celebrate her when she calls.  Allow the children to celebrate her birthday, but tentatively … this is a hard  season for them.  Remember God has a plan for her life.  Remember she will always be my sweetest girl and the one who made me a mom.  All of our years have not been tough, but too many have.  I pray for my child.  I pray she seeks God as her refuge, her shield, and her strength.  I pray my heart, although it continues to gap at the still raw wounds sometimes, will heal a little bit more today, because I know we still have her.  In some fashion.  But I do miss her laughter and her sweet smile.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.  Psalm 27:14

My daughter has brought me many days of joy.  I anticipate that God has in store for us many more days of joy to share.  Happy Birthday Luce… I love you.  Always have.  Always will.

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Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  Hands-down this is my favorite holiday.  Growing up we spent every Thanksgiving with my maternal grandparent’s.  There are five siblings in my mom’s family which resulted in lots of kids and lots of noise!  Thankfully our grandparents lived on a farm and we had acres upon acres to play on and explore.  Sometimes I wish for that experience for our grands … what I wouldn’t give to see  them roaming those fields and hills and even what may be left of the old cemetery … but time passes and I know their memories of exploration will be on our small few acres.  That thought does bring a smile to my face and heart though because this small corner of land that God allowed us to have is where my paternal grandparents lived and as a child, we explored what they would allow … and ate so many apples each year out of their orchard that we were sick.  Or at least I was.  But dang they were good.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for those childhood memories and it causes me to cherish each holiday celebration that we get to share with these grands, as well as our loud, crazy, extended family.

But holidays are tough.  Especially for those who have loved ones that are not able to sit around the table with them.  For families with incarcerated loved ones it can be extremely difficult.  You vacillate between wondering what they are eating, are they feeling alone, should I be happy and laugh when they are incarcerated?  How do I eat a Thanksgiving bounty knowing my children (or other loved one) does not have the ability to enjoy as much as you can.  A person I love with my whole heart asked how I survived the first holidays without my children.  Honestly, I don’t remember exact details of that first holiday.  Sadly, I do not remember the last holiday or birthday I spent with either of my children, but I choose not to dwell on that.  I told this person that I was thankful my children were alive and I knew where  they were.  I said that I thanked God for allowing them to continue to have life, for that means there is hope.  I said that I prayed a zillion times, God I can’t handle this, please help me or take it.  Now not having my children around me at holidays or special occasions is the norm for me.  Some would find that devastating.  I have chosen to not allow it to be devastating.

I have chosen to find joy – seek laughter – relish the craziness of our family when we are gathered together.  I will choose to break bread with the people I love the most, eat too much of said “bread”, and give thanks for all of the blessings I have in my life.  I will do so WITHOUT guilt.  That does not mean I won’t miss the faces of two of the people who dwell on this earth that I love more than life itself.  My heart always carries them heavily.  But I know I didn’t cause their decisions, I didn’t make their decisions, I can’t take their place in paying the consequences for their decisions.  Therefore, I cannot allow any of that to cause me to not absorb every special occasion that presents itself in my life.

So today – and everyday – I am thankful for:  God’s grace, love and mercy; Joseph; all of our children and grandchildren; our families; our  home; and, maybe especially that God says hope never fails.  I am thankful I can still hope that prayers will be answered.  Hearts will be changed.  Relationships will be restored.  Old wounds will be made whole.  Bodies will heal.  God will always be the Author and Perfecter of our stories, He is the Great Physician, He can restore all that is broken.

I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving.  I pray Thanksgiving, true Thanksgiving, overrides everything else in our lives on the other 364 days of the year as well.

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Neglect = You Don’t Exist

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I have two younger sisters.  As the oldest of the girls in our family, it has oftentimes been difficult for me to view my two sisters as grown women who may actually have some wisdom to impart.  Over the past several years, God has definitely been orchestrating changes in our relationships.  I now find myself seeking their advice when it comes to raising our grands.  Each of my sisters have biological children as well as children that were adopted.  Each of my sisters has walked the road of parenting children from “hard places” for much longer than I have.  We don’t often get together, as one sister lives six hours away now, and although my other sister lives only 30 minutes away, living a busy, no-holds barred kinda life with these little ones makes it seem like the distance is much greater sometimes, and I wrestle with guilt over that, for she has adopted my middle grandson.

Our middle sister has been certified to train others in TBRI (Trauma-Based Relational Intervention) which was developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross through Texas Christian University.  She had told me about the book The Connected Child a few years ago and I purchased that book and have read it twice.  Now, however, we are beginning lessons based on the curriculum Dr. Purvis and her team created that helps caregivers learn not only the basics of brain development, but the effects of neglect, abuse, and trauma that so many children have suffered and ways to mitigate those effects and actually change the way their brains work.  It has been informative, eye-opening and heartbreaking to work through all of the information.

My sister left with me videos to view featuring Dr. Purvis, as well as others, that goes in-depth about the issues of brain development, as well as ways in which to connect with these children from hard places in order to help them change the way their brain processes everyday life.  I will be honest and say that thus far I have only completed the first two videos.  The information can be overwhelming.

One statement that Dr. Purvis said resonated with me, however.  Her statement was:  “Child abuse means I don’t like you.  Neglect means you do not exist.”  She also talked about the fact that children who suffer neglect oftentimes have more damage to their brain and their ability to process change, or challenges, or just life than children who were physically abused.  What?!  I would have never thought that until those words begin echoing in my heart … Neglect means you do not exist.

That sentence haunts me.  Honestly, it was still swirling in my head when I traveled to see my daughter at the federal prison she is currently housed in.  I could remember being confronted with the neglect our Bear suffered as an infant.  We had temporary custody of her beginning when she was about 1 1/2 years old.  She lived with us until she was 3.  At that time, my daughter was drinking heavily and the Bear’s father was … well, living his hustle.  Later, when she was 5 1/2 years old she was found to have been subjected to neglect by her parents, this time with Dozer by her side, he was 2 1/2.

Although Dozer does not always exhibit behaviors that are indicative of neglect and/or abuse at that early age, there are some signs that his brain and body remember, although his heart may not.  Does that make sense?  He’s definitely a “freeze” kind of little man.  He does not look for confrontation.  He knows how to disappear when the heat is on, or as he puts it … drama, drama.  He has little tolerance for who he refers too quietly as “the drama queen” when she’s in full  meltdown mode.  Sometimes I am afraid he will get lost in the shuffle.   Sometimes I worry that we won’t catch the signs with him or we will lose sight of his unique needs in order to help him fully recover from the neglect/abuse.

Neglect means you do not exist.  Absorb that statement.  Although drug addiction doesn’t change the love a parent has for their child, it can certainly consume them so that their eyes are only focused on the next high.  Children suffer daily because they are not in the care of an adult who can meet their physical and emotional needs, because they can only focus on the need their body has for the next high.  The opioid crisis has certainly brought drug addiction out of the shadows in a lot of ways, but one thing our society should focus on is how to heal the minds and souls and hearts of the children who are the silent sufferers.  They carry a great weight on their shoulders.  Education for caregivers for these children should be as available as NA/AA meetings.

Our Bear still struggles with not being Dozer’s parent, or caregiver.  She struggles in “letting go” so that he can do things independently (the first day of school was difficult for her).   She still lives in survival mode entirely too often in my personal opinion, but I’m learning how to walk through the process to help her brain learn new techniques and coping skills.  Dozer still won’t sleep with the light off.  It’s not easy.  It’s frustrating.  Some days maddening.  Some days I question everything.  But every day I know we are doing the right thing by her and Dozer.  Every day, even amongst some “I hate you!’s” she’s been throwing out there lately, we get to hear, “I love you”.  They are learning to trust we aren’t going anywhere and neither are they.

They still miss their mom.  As do I.  But sometimes it’s hard for me to want to foster our relationship because I can’t process the neglect these children suffered, at her hands, or lack thereof, so to speak.  I love her.  More than life.  It’s not mine to forgive, so I have to let go of it.  But sometimes I still am angry at her.  The visit we had was positive and it was a step toward healing for both of our hearts.  I loved seeing her and I chose to set aside any anger I felt but I wish I could say that it’s entirely gone.  ‘Cause it’s not.  It simmers sometimes.  Especially on hard days.

I will end by saying the last several days have not been bad days.  Yes, there have been some bumps in the road.  The first days that I was back from my trip, the Bear was livid with me but wouldn’t say it out loud (the reason why), but she certainly let me know she was angry.  But things have simmered down again.  I am learning how to take 10 or 15 minutes each day to just check-in with her.  I hope that leads us forward together, stronger.  It’s sad that I have to remind myself to do that because you assume you spend a lot of time talking with your child, or your grand, but do you?  Or is it more about the agenda of the day, homework, supper, etc.?  I have to get better at focusing when it comes to each of these grands.  I have to slow down enough to remember at the end of the day, they won’t remember if the floor was swept, the counter cleaned off, or if I typed an extra document for a few extra dollars.  What they may, instead, remember is that I took the time to stop and talk to them.

Isaiah 49:15-16: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. 

God not only forgives us as far as the east is from the west, but He will NEVER forget us nor not know us.  Our names are written on the  palm of his hands.  My job is to remember that I am not the judge and jury for wrongs I believe have occurred, but it’s my job to make sure not only our grands but also my kids know their names are written on the Hand of God, therefore we are NEVER neglected and non-existent.  We were purposely and wonderfully created.

 

 

I Saw Her.

I finally gathered my thoughts, packed a small bag and went on a solo journey to see my daughter.  I had not seen her in about a year, it was a visit long overdue, yet dreaded.

My journey there wasn’t an easy one.  Jokingly I have said she needs to be at a facility a bit more interstate friendly.  There were no long stretches of interstate that would allow me to travel with my cruise control on, but on this journey I was afforded the opportunity to see landscape that I’ve never seen before and small towns I never  knew existed.  I began my journey in the evening so that I would not have too much traffic to maneuver around.  I also used this journey as an opportunity to make a detour in order to see my best friend, who lives a small distance from me, and although I was headed in the correct general direction, I still went about 1 1/2 hours out of my way to see her face.  But I’m glad I did.  We talked, we laughed, she and her husband fed me, and she spent the time being my personal cheerleader.  She knows the love I have for Paige, knows how much I needed to see Paige, but also is well aware of the fact that I dreaded it in a major way.  I needed my cheerleader.

The trip down was made after dark, and in some rain.  Along the dark backroads through the rural south I couldn’t help but think about the bus trip my daughter made, shackled, on a bus, metal seats, not knowing where she was heading, scared, alone.  It made me sad.  I can remember those days last year when I knew she was on the move but had no way of knowing to where.  I could only wait for a phone call.  I spent that drive not only listening to music as loud as I wanted 🙂 but also praying that God allowed both of our hearts to be open to the other one.  When you have a child who is incarcerated and conversations are reduced to the written word or brief phone calls, it is difficult to ascertain a person’s inflection or nuances when you can not look them in the eye.  I knew this visit could go one of two ways … and I prayed for both of us that it was good.  I was nervous.  Not gonna lie.  It wasn’t the fact I was walking into a federal prison, it was the fact that when I see my child’s face, who will be looking back through her eyes?  The child who desperately needs to see her mom or the woman who thinks I am attempting to take total control.  As a mom, you take the risk, because to be able to touch her and see her face for a moment is worth any wrath or venom that may arise out of the visit.

I arrived at the prison pretty much according to my schedule.  As I made it through security, my heart began to beat a bit quicker and I could feel the anxiety kick it.  It wasn’t that I was anxious or worried, it was more that I was excited.  I was truly going to get to see her.  The room was not as big as I had pictured and the staff were all kind.  I did however have to be told that per protocol I could not sit facing the center of the room, I had to sit with my back to the exit.  Hmm, that’s not who I am.  If nothing else over the years, I’ve learned to sit where I can see the people around me.  Of course, I had to comply, but the correctional officers understood and agreed with my thought process.  Then I heard the lock click – then I looked toward the door – then I saw her smiling face!

Oh mercy, the joy that my heart felt in that very second I saw her face and noticed that not only was she smiling, but her eyes were smiling  at me!  Rolling in through the backroads, in the dark, in the rain, only a few hours prior to this reunion all washed away from my mind.  It was worth every second.  I had asked one of the correctional officers earlier if I could hug her and he said of course.  I then asked if I could rock her, and he wasn’t sure he understood my question.  I repeated it, and he laughed out loud and said he was sorry but I could not.  I tried.  But I got to touch her.  Hold her.  Kiss her face.  Look into her beautiful big brown eyes and see healthy looking back.  Granted, a reunion in the visiting room of a federal prison isn’t idyllic, but in that moment it was pretty perfect.

We talked.  A lot.  Even my mom said, “what did you talk about for that long?!”.  We talked about nothing and everything.  I wanted to know about her routine, her friends, what she does every day.  I told her about the kids, her grandparents, her cousins, her siblings, and every other thing I could think of.  It was several hours into our reunion that we talked about the pink elephant in the room.  We’ve talked about moving forward with the children, although we have permanent custody.  We want to give them, especially the Bear, more permanency and our last name.  When this was first mentioned to her it became a vile, venomous exchange.  How could it not?  This time, though, we could look at each other’s faces.  We could maybe begin to understand one another’s hearts.  She heard things that were painful.  However, she has yet to really hear it all.  As I told her, I still work to protect her and her feelings.  I have no explanation why, other than I am still her mother.  I will be until the day I die.  Although she needs to hear hard truths, it can be done in increments.  We have to learn to trust one another.  I think we can, one day, but it’s going to be a long road for us.

The time truly went quickly.  We were even able to have some pictures made and we are both excited to see them.  I got to meet one of her good friends, who took our photos, and we had a lot of laughs with her.

The trip home was long.  I purposely planned so that I would have a place to go and collect my thoughts, update loved ones, and prepare for the journey home.  I fell apart a few times on the drive back, particularly when certain songs came on.  My thoughts were consumed with memories of her as a baby, toddler, child … all through her life really, while realizing that she now sits in a prison.  It’s heartbreaking.  But I felt good about things.  I realized that God does keep us bound together.  I don’t often  know what to pray anymore and I am so thankful that my words don’t matter as much as what my soul tells God.

Because although the visit was soul healing and much needed, I know that there are many struggles ahead for us.  I will not back down on our moving forward with the children, I pray that God prepares her heart and that she allow it, and that God prepare our hearts for the bumps we will inevitably encounter on this journey.  I know we are headed where we are supposed to go.  I pray that at the end of the day, all of the fragments in our family are still glued together.

The first few days after my trip the Bear has expressed a lot of anger.  She has told me she’s mad at me because I went.  I know that she still has so much healing to do and that we must keep telling her nothing has changed, and that she is safe and will remain here with us safe.  Her healing is a process I am only beginning to comprehend.  She is one of the toughest, bravest humans I’ve ever known.  But there is a lot of work to do to help her work through what she was subjected to.  So, although my joy is tremendous for seeing my daughter, somewhere down deep, I still want to lash out for the pain that her and their father’s actions have caused.  I have to continually remind myself to simply love both our Bear and Paige.  God will work out the hearts.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8