Mary E. Latela, @LatelaMary, mlatelablog.wordpress.com
November 4, 2015
When I was in that terribly abusive marriage, I was so afraid for the children. He attacked me, hurt me, and worse, but they were little kids. I had to keep them safe. When it became clear that there was no more marriage, I had to plan on a future without their father, and a way to get there.
No-fault divorce without complications could be completed within six months, but it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The divorce was final in March 1989, more than two years after the initial papers were filed. Primary custody was awarded to the father with weekly visits with me. You see, HUB had one focus during the proceedings: to prove that because of my depression, I should not be taking care of the children. Who, for goodness sake, had taken care of them 24/7 all the time, from birth to the present? I had! Who had changed the diapers, sat with a sick child, cleaned up vomit, pushed the stroller! I had. I loved them. I still love them.
The arrangement stated that the children would be with me one evening per week and every other weekend. In the summer, my youngest could be with me for a month. At first, they came on Saturdays … always late, so there was only a half hour of time together, or no time at all. I could not reach them, as they never answered the phone. My son stopped coming right away (he was fourteen.). People used to tell me, “They’ll some back. We know they’ll come back,” but they were wrong. They wanted to believe this, but wishing doesn’t make something happened. God is not a rescuer.
HUB wanted the children to forget about me. He wanted them to say I was “selfish and inconsiderate.” We wanted them to be afraid because sometimes I felt sad and sometimes worried. He wanted someone, but not a wife, someone who would adore him and submit to him and make him the center of attention, and be “available” all the time. Before long I realized he also needed an executive secretary to type new resumes every couple of years because he couldn’t hold a job very long.
I hired a lawyer to try to re-establish the visits, but it was uphill all the way. Every time we went to court, H took the children with him. We were in court at least once a month for nearly two years when it became clear that the children were terribly unhappy. One day after court I rushed to the library to say hello to my youngest, and her sad expression nearly broke my heart. Realizing that this charade would probably continue, I did the hardest thing I have had to do in the process: I formally vacated the request for visits. I decided that the children should not be put through this stress, and should come when they wanted to, which they could not do while their father did all their thinking for them. I felt very guilty for a while, but I needed to keep them safe, even from a distance.
So I went back to school, finished my degree, got a job which I loved, but I went alone. I came back East for a short summer vacation, leaving a message at their home saying I was staying with a friend and how they could reach me. The night before my departure, I was sitting on an old, comfortable sofa, feeling so sad, because I had slipped into that dark place where I thought I would never see the children again. The hollowness hurt, and I could not even cry.
Then the phone rang. It was my daughter, calling to say she’d left home, and could I help her. We met at our city hospital. After talking with social worker, doctors, and to each of us, it became clear. She would come back with me to California. On the final morning at 4:30AM, we started off for the airport. When we arrived at LAX, we stopped at sheriff’s office, showed him the divorce papers, and called the lawyer recommended by a friend. The next day, I went to court, and thanks to CA law about emergency transfer of custody, and her statements about being afraid, she came home with me.
She was seventeen, a complicated time to go home with Mom, and I was challenged in many ways to be her Mom again, and to help her build up her trust. Td here were ups and downs, and I was always afraid she’d go back. Eventually, after college graduation she moved in with girlfriends while taking more courses.
One crisp day in October of 2003, I picked up the phone and heard her voice. She was inviting me to her wedding, and wanted to know if I could go. Of course I could go! I asked why she was calling after all this time, and she said, “It’s the right thing to do.” So from that time, we have lived close to one another. Her husband is a good man, and their children are gems.
Christmas is coming. I will not see my son. I will not see my first daughter. But if all goes well, I will spend some time with C, her hubby, and the children. I have known this one fact all along: I am and will always be a mother, and though I ache to have all my children, now in their thirties and forties, near me, I can only wait. I believe this is the definition of endurance.