Thursday, March 01, 2007

forever ago, but just yesterday

Today is the 3rd anniversary of that knock at the door. That awful, terrible knock at the door. In some ways it seems like it was forever ago, and in some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday.

I can't help but think back to that day... there are so many things that stick out vividly in my memory. In the morning I was crabby because getting the kids to school was a monumental feat that I didn't feel I had the energy for at that time. My stepsons were living with us and they were on the high end of the maintenance scale. So we had not even been awake 10 minutes when there was some dramatic production that started with them. To tell the truth, I think I was really depessed at that time in my life. I loved my husband more than I could ever imagine loving another human besides my children, but there was something... off... about our relationship. We never fought, he encouraged me to have my own life, and overall he was good to me and I enjoyed being with him. But most nights I went to bed alone, and that bothered me. I was not enjoying my job very much. I worked part time as a teacher's aide at a preschool. I had loved it, but then we got a new teacher, and since I had been there the longest of the aides, I got to work with her. I began to hate it. I dreaded going there everyday, and dreading your job is not a good thing when you work with children. The other thing that was bothering me was how difficult my life was with my two stepsons. I loved them too, but I did not have the first clue on how to deal with them. The older one, at 12 years old, still messed his pants on a regular basis and would not behave in school. Yet he refused to go to counseling, and his father would not force the issue. I could see the child had serious issues, but what I could not see was how very much like his father he was. The younger one was much more easy going but still had a lot of difficulty in school. It bothered him when Sassy who was a year and 3 months younger learned things quicker and easier before he did. Of course, I had to deal with the competition between the two of them - whenever Sassy got the chance to boast about something, she took it, and I think that was partially because she knew my husband loved her stepbrother more. She would come in the bedroom without knocking and get yelled at. If the other child did that, it was "Come here man! How ya doing?" I saw it, I know she saw it, and when I pointed it out, it helped for a little while but that thing about a zebra and his stripes... So anyway, that day, it started off bad. I was crabby. I dropped the one child off at his school and then continued on to the younger kids school. I had to stop and get gas though between the two schools. As I was pumping my gas, this blue Buick Century pulled up at the pump behind me. A friendly looking white haired gentleman got out and began to get his gas. He looked up at my van, which had an Air1 Christian Radio sticker on the back. He said "Hey! I listen to Air1 too! I had to redeem myself somehow because my kids tell me this is an old folks' car. So I have to play cool music!" I laughed and thanked God for sending me something to smile about at that moment. I waved to the man and continued on my way, dropped the 4 middle kids off at school, and then went to the preschool with Snugglebutt, who had just turned 4. As I was preparing the tables for the art project for the day and laying out newspapers, an editorial opinion piece caught my eye. It was about yet another child who died at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. It seems to be all too common, and I could not understand for the life of me how that could happen. How could a mother not protect her child? How could a mother know that her boyfriend killed her child and then protect the boyfriend? I could not understand it, and I thought there was nothing I would not do to protect my child. I sincerely believe God sent that article to prepare me to protect my child. But then the teacher and the students demanded my attention and distracted me from those thoughts for a while. I prayed throughout the rest of the morning "Lord, if I shouldn't be doing this, give me a sign." So, I've joked that it's all my fault, because I prayed for a sign! I never went back to work at that preschool as a teacher's aide again after that day.

I picked the kids up from school, got them home, and was playing a computer game for a few minutes before it was time to start dinner. Everybody except Snugglebutt had homework to do, so that's what they were doing. About a half an hour later after we got home from school, there was a knock on the door. THE knock on the door. I assumed it was the older stepson's friends wanting to play. They were tenacious in their efforts to get him outside before he was allowed to go, so I wasn't about to get up and open the door. But the knock got louder and nobody else was answering it. I went to the door, and did not see prepubescent boys at my door. Instead I saw two ladies dressed in pinstripes, carrying briefcases. Ok, I don't want what they're selling, I thought as I opened the door. But then they called me by name, introduced themselves as being from the FBI, and said "do you have a daughter?" I thought of my oldest, who had just turned 18 and was living in Ohio. I wondered what kind of trouble she got herself into. They said they had to show me a picture and they wanted me to tell them if it was my daughter. When I looked at the picture, it was not Allison, but Sassy, who was 6. I was shocked and confused. How and why did they have a picture of my 6 year old? It was a picture I had taken myself at a park a few months before. Totally G rated, family snapshot picture. I even scanned it to share it with my friends who had access to email. But I didn't send it to the bad people who had it. Then the one FBI agent said "We have reason to believe your daughter is being molested, and we think it's someone in this house." I argued with them for about a half hour. Surely they were mistaken, because there's no way he'd ever do anything like that. He lectures our boys all the time on the value of people, including women, to God. He goes to church every Sunday. He teaches Sunday school on occasion! He smuggled B i b l e s into C h i n a for goodness sakes! Someone must have hacked our account. No, that's not possible they said. They showed me print outs of chat logs from when he would get on the internet and talk about the things he did. I did not want to believe he was capable of such a thing, but there were too many accurate details for what was on those logs to be from a stranger... such as she had lost her two front teeth in December. Finally they talked me into letting them have my computer. When I brought it out for them, the detective from the police department said "Oh, and you see those cars there? That's CPS. We're taking your kids to Child Help. You can stay here and protect him, or you can come with us and protect your daughter. The choice is yours. But we're taking the kids and there is nothing you can do about it." Yeah, he was a real charmer. But there was no choice to make. As I drove to Child Help, I told the FBI agent who was in my car "I don't want to believe it, but somehow in my gut, I know it's true." And I felt sick to my stomach. That feeling didn't go away for several weeks.

They separated me from the kids immediately and would not allow me to see them or talk to them. Child Help is an awesome place that you never want to have to go. It has everything in one place for children who are abused in anyway. It's not like going to police headquarters and giving a statement. They have rooms with stuffed animals and big comfy couches... the kids don't even know they're being video taped and recorded. They also have this humongous play room that is every child's dream. A library full of books to read, toys for every age level, computers, video games, TVs, a dressup closet that is fully stocked with any character or thing you could ever think or hope to dress up as. Murals on the wall, and a train that circles the room high up near the ceiling. For adults, it's not so fun. It seemed like hours before anybody ever came and said anything to me. They questioned me about him and her and if I thought anything was going on... there were little small signs that I should have paid closer attention to, but there was nothing that could not be dismissed as normal. Finally they told me that Sassy talked, and they needed me to call him on the phone to confront him with what I knew, and they would tape the call. They said I didn't have to, but it would help a lot. I wanted to throw up all over again, but I knew, for my baby and for me, I had to do it.

I wasn't aware of it, but he called when I was outside the house talking to the FBI and the police. My son told him that I was outside with our computer talking to some people in suits. So he had some idea he was in trouble before he got home. But he has told me since then that he was honestly not expecting what I said to him. I said "I've got the kids, and I've got the computer, now tell me what you've been doing to my daughter." My voice was firm and determined, but I was a mess inside. It took him forever to speak, at least it felt that way. I said "don't you have anything to say?" He could only choke out "I'm sorry." He answered my questions and verified only what I asked. He did not freely admit to anything he wasn't asked directly.

At this point I pretty much felt like someone stuck a straw in my ear and sucked out my brain. The anger, the confusion, the betrayal... I can't even put a name to all that I felt. It was back to waiting in the lobby without my kids after that call. And more questioning from Mr. Personality. At one point I asked him "Is there any chance he's going to get out of jail on bond?" This detective YELLED at me. "WHY WOULD YOU WANT HIM TO GET OUT?!? After what he did to your daughter?!?!" I was stunned. No, I asked because I didn't want him out and I wanted to make sure I wouldn't have to deal with that. I shouldn't be so hard on the guy, he's got an awful job. What he sees happening to children on a daily basis, well, I couldn't do it. But he was SO nasty to me so many times, throughout the whole court process until the day of sentencing, well, I'll be happy if I never see him again.

We got to Child Help at about 5pm. I made the call around 6:30. At 10:30, they finally let me see the kids again. Of course the kids wanted to know what was going on. How do you tell them that? The older stepson said jokingly "Is my daddy in jail?" I had to look at him and say "Yes, he is." It was so awful. I spent the previous 5 years pouring my heart into and out for those boys, and I knew that was all over. We could not go home that night because the police had to serve a search warrant and I could not be there. So we had to wait to leave there until the police victim's services representative could get a room for us at a hotel. They had to do it under an assumed name just in case he was able to bond out. It was midnight before we were in the room. So there I was, crammed in a hotel room with 6 kids, no pajamas for any of them, no clean clothes. The kids eventually fell asleep. I did not. I could not. Everytime I would doze off, I would think "at least I slept a little bit" and the clock would only show 5 minutes later than it did the last time I looked. I would try to close my eyes and relax, but my imagination kept drifting to images of things I knew Sassy endured, and I could not stand it.

Obviously, our lives have never been the same since. There was no bond offered, and he was eventually charged with 19 different counts for a total of 330 years possible. Yes, it was that bad. But it still could have been worse. He plead guilty to 3 for 30 years and lifetime probation. I am so thankful Sassy never had to testify. I have not seen him since the day he was sentenced, February 11th, 2005

I called my stepsons' mother after we got home and let her know. She came and got them later that evening and they never spent another night with us again. I still took them to school and took care of them after school for a while, but she eventually moved them out of state. I hear from them occasionally. I loved them and did my best for them, but I can't say I'm sad that I'm not responsible for them anymore.

3 years later, I want so much to put it all into a box, categorize and catalogue everything about the whole ordeal; who we both were at the time, what was wrong with us that caused this to happen, and the end result. And then I want to put that box away and never open it again. But life doesn't work that way. Just when I think I've got something figured out, and filed away in my neat little box, life reminds me just how messy it is. My box falls down off the shelf and everything spills out again. So I'll keep trusting God, because even if I can't figure it out, He can.


Jessica said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us, I've never told you and never talked about it on my blog since it's a sore subject in our family and family members read my blog, but I too was a victim of the awful "M" word by my grandfather. It has made me into a much stronger person today. I wish I never went through the things I did but the jerk is probably one of the lonelest people in the world and he has no one to blame but himself.

aka_Meritt said...

I'm not sure what to say after reading this. Wow.

I only recently found your blog and started to read so I had no idea of any of this in your past - I barely keep the kids names and ages right. But to have this put in front of me gives me another insight into what you are going through.

I have to wonder... do you think the boys were harmed in any way? I only ask because a 12 year old that messes his pants is rather screwed up.

This was amazing to read. Thank you for sharing it.

Connie said...

There's SO much more to the story, but I'm afraid it's rather boring for anybody but me :) Or too depressing. Either way :)

When my stepsons lived with us, I urged my husband to take the child to the doctor, or to a counselor, or something because it absolutely was not normal for a child to be doing that. He said he has taken him to the doctor, they were pretty sure it was a physical problem, and the solutions the doctor offered they didn't want to do. For the whole time I lived with them I begged my husband to let me take him again, to let me help, but my help was refused. I know the kid had a ton of anger issues over his parents' divorce, and he felt abandoned and rejected by his mom. The first time I met the kid, he gave me this little plastic heart he made by putting beads together and melting them. He said "I made this for my mom, but she didn't want it. Do you want it?" I was heartbroken for him! I honestly don't believe he was molested, and the experts didn't either because EVERYONE of those 6 kids were interviewed at length to see if they had been harmed. Sassy was the only one, we're sure of that.

Thank you, I was a little nervous posting this, so thanks for reading and commenting and supporting.

Rebekah said...

Your story is so powerful and sad. May God bless you and use you to help someone else who may not be as strong as you.

Janean said...

I don't know what to say except I feel your hurt. I will email you later. My stomach hurts too much right now.
You are so precious to me and you are in my prayers.

Julie Julie Bo Boolie said...

What an amazing story Connie and a true testament to your love and strength as a mother. I'm awed and proud to know you. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle said...

You've touched my soul. I am so grateful you did the right thing and protected your baby! Thank you for sharing! So easily it would have been to just say - no, not possible - but evil ensnares even the seemingly good. When I was about 8 a fellow at church, AT CHURCH, took inappropriat attention to me. My mother and family stepped in right away, before it got real ugly, but to this day I feel "glitched" like I always need to deal with this even when I think it is well behind me. *sigh* It can make me so angry sometimes.
Blessings on you.
Blessings on your daughter.

Judy said...

{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}} I know it must have been hard to open up and share what you and your family went through. I'm so sorry your trust was betrayed in such a horrible way. Blessings on you and your daughter.

3carnations said...

I'm so sorry your daughter and you went through this. I wish she had never gone through it at all, but it is certainly a blessing that he was "found out" and you can all work through the healing process together.