The Proposal

5 01 2010

I sit here trying to define a relationship – put into words what it is.  On the simplest of terms it is any two people who know one another; beyond that though, in the terms of love and affection in a relationship, what is a relationship?  What should be standard in one?  What should not be permissible in one?  I would like to think that stipulations and ground rules should be understood and unmentioned in a relationship, if even necessary.  Why have a relationship if you have to place restrictions around one another in order to have the relationship?  Isn’t it about acceptance of one another at face value too?  And that may all be well and fine for chosen relationships, when you pick your partner and your love interests, when you select your friends and companions.  But when it comes to those selected for you by fate or chance, your relatives – those standards just don’t work as well.

After my father’s death my mother very willingly accepted my attempts to restore our relationship.  It was more than restoring it, it really was a new relationship.  We had at best a very strained relationship for eight years until his passing.  Suddenly, whatever fears and angst she had with him subsided and I welcomed the opportunity to once more have a mother in my life, to have my mother in my life.  She wrote, called, visited and she introduced herself to my children in such a loving manner.  And for the next few years she would pop up unexpectedly, but she was trying.  She seemed to be trying to be the mother she forgot to be to me by being a grandmother to my kids.

Then she asked if she could have them for a summer.

When I was a child my parents sent me home to visit each of my grandparents for a few weeks each, leaving me gone for the whole summer.  And those were some of my most treasured experiences too.  I certainly never was scarred by it and my parents never seemed to be emotionally pained by my absense.  But I am not my parents, my children have endured more than I did in some aspects and my parents didn’t have to fight near as hard as I to keep me safe as I have for mine.  So I had hesitations.  Reservations.  Qualms.

After three months of talking and persuading though, I decided to let the girls spend the summer with her.  It would be four weeks.  The day arrived for her to get the girls and she and her boyfriend gave me every possible phone number for contact as I exchanged every possible detail they could need to know.  They promised to call each night so I could talk to the girls and then we waved goodbye.

That first night, hours went by slowly and as the hour passed for when they should have been home, my phone was silent.  I began calling my mom’s home.  No answer.  Her boyfriend’s cell.  No answer.  For a few hours I frantically called each number, growing more fearful with each unanswered ring.  When he finally answered his phone he was aghast that I had called so much, so often and for it punished me by refusing to let me speak to the girls.  Yes, they had arrived and they were sleeping.  Call tomorrow instead.  The next day I did call and I was told I could call again in the evening instead.  So I did.  I was permitted to speak to them for five minutes each.  It just wasn’t long enough, but the girls sounded happy so I tried to relax.  But the agreement of nightly calls was changed; I could now only speak to them every other night.  His rules.

I remember thinking back and remembering that when I was a kid I only spoke to my parents once a week while I was on summer vacation – but this wasn’t my parents, this was me.

I called the next night anyhow and he broke the news to me.  They were thinking about keeping the girls there.  In Florida.  I lived in North Carolina.  I wasn’t financially fit as a mother.  I worked at a low income job earning only fifteen dollars an hour.  I rented an apartment.  I didn’t even have health insurance.  I didn’t get child support.  They could provide for the girls better than I and when I could prove I was financially stable, I could start having visitation with them and work towards getting them back.

That was it.  No talk to the kids, just the proposal.

The next day I called again and my mom answered.  He wasn’t home yet.  Yes, she would let me speak to the kids, even though that wasn’t part of the agreement.  I spoke to my oldest daughter first.  She cried.  They were making her wear diapers; she was 9.  They took the two girls shopping but only bought gifts for her baby sister, the good child.  But my oldest couldn’t figure out what she had done wrong.  My mom’s boyfriend had called her a spoiled brat.  He had also spanked her for playing with her sister’s toys.  She wanted to come home.  Then I spoke to my youngest daughter.  She was scared, why were they so mean to her sister?  Why did they keep telling her I was a bad mommy?  I promised to do whatever I could to get them back and then the phone went dead.

I assumed he was home.

The next few days are a blur to my memory.  I remember losing my job because I stopped going in and after the third day they terminated me.  I remember nearing the week mark and he telling me that I would not be getting them back.  I remember very clearly though that conversation.  I said I would drive down to get them and he told me he would have his buddies on the police force put drugs in my car.  I remember laughing a cocky laugh as I told him I had never done drugs and that anyone who knows me would never believe I had drugs in my car; countered by him bragging about his friends and the convictions he had friends do for him as favours in the past.  The threats kept ramping up.  He would hire a vagrant and pay his way to where I lived and tell him to have his way with me.  He would hire a mercenary to take me out.  Or he would simply move my mom and my kids out of the country.  Or file so many lawsuits against me I would never see them again.

I don’t know how I didn’t cry with his every threat, but I stayed strong.  I was calling from a friend’s house and she sat with me the whole time; which helped a lot.  In more ways than I knew.

My friend then called her aunt who worked for the DA in Florida.  Until the four weeks were up, which is what I had signed the guardianship papers through, there was nothing I could do.  I had given my permission for them to have my children for four weeks and no matter what they said about doing beyond that point, until they failed to bring my kids back after four weeks, I was out of luck.  Not only that, I needed to continue to maintain creating phone records of my calls or else they could claim I abandoned my kids.  But at my house I didn’t have long distance, I used calling cards.  Those would not do.  As for what he had threatened to do to me – there was no law against it in Florida.

So we started researching North Carolina laws.

I found statutes that made it illegal to make threats against the livelihood of a person over the phone.  I noted all of the statutes and called my mom the next day.  I told her I was pressing charges against him for what he had said and I quoted the laws.  The alternative would be they bring my kids home immediately.

The next day, they brought them back to me.

The things I heard from my girls still haunts me.  They tried to tell the girls that I was abusive to them – didn’t they remember me beating them and bruising them?  They told the kids that I worked as a prostitute – didn’t they remember all of the strange men I brought into the house all of the time?  They told the girls if they would just decide not to want to come back home to me, they could have anything they wanted from any store.

I stopped contacting my mom then.  I mailed the birthday and Christmas presents she would send right back to her.  I finally moved.  And moved on.

And now as I try to contemplate reforging that relationship, I want him away from it.  That’s my ground rule.  My stipulation.  She isn’t very agreeable to that.  She says he has changed, he has mellowed out.  And maybe he has.  I don’t really give a shit though.  Until he is six feet under, I don’t trust him.  And I will never forget what he said.  Ever.

I had planned this weekend to see her.  Made the hotel reservations and mapped out the plans.  And then I called her.  To see if she was free.  She’d check with him.  No.  That won’t work.  Not for her, but for me.  I don’t want him involved.  At all.  I finally just said nevermind and canceled my reservations.

And it got me wondering.  What right do I have to place restrictions around our relationship?  Do I have that right?  I believe I do, based on the past.  Based on the fact it impacts my children.  If it was not a relative I could simply accept them and their friend or not and move on.  This is not a situation like that though.  Or is it?  Couldn’t I simply say well I don’t like him and she does, so oh well?  I could.  Yes.  But it’s my mom.

Much like I have given her the unspoken ultimatum of choosing to see her grandkids or continuing the relationship with him; I have to decide to accept her and her relationships as they are or move on.

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