People tell me their secrets.
It’s a heavy thing. I don’t ask for it. I’d prefer not to know the things I’ve been told, the rape passed off as “sex”, the uncles who touched, the mother’s who didn’t. The fear, the pain-I’ve found myself in the past, full up on these things. Not mine, but the borrowed suffering I would inhale and take the burden of. They’d come to me without question, and I would accept it. Pain shared is pain lessened.
Today a mother told me a story of her daughter, and grandchildren. Her grandchildren, her grand babies, hurt, bruised, scared, her daughter changed, a woman who sounded so completely different from the one I met not four months ago. The vibrant, loving young lady, well mannered and full of laughter, described now as hateful, deliberately mean, shutting down and out. Protective of the very man who kicks a baby in a face, leaves hand shaped bruises on a toddler’s face.
This is all second hand. But who would make it up?
She’s close to tears this mother, and my heart tears at itself, it’s hands wringing themselves. My chest tightens and I swallow my tears, imaging my girls, my daughters, the lights of my life, under the thumb of a man, suffering after two pregnancies in 2 years, almost exactly. My fists draw themselves in at the thought of anyone ever, EVER harming my children, or their children. When I joke about taking the fucker into the woods with a rifle, I’m not quite joking. We put rabid dogs down after all. I leave my face impassive and sympathetic as the story falls from her mouth, stumbles almost. She busies herself with lunch, her scarf, her timer, anything to keep the weeping in check.
Her eyes are normally soft and full of laughter. Today they are tight, dilute like a watery grave. She’s not a close friend, but someone I’d fiercely defend as a friend, her heart is this good. Salt of the earth some might call her. To me, she’s just one of the best and kindest people I’ve ever met. And her kind heart is torn.
I had a friend call Social Services. If I call, she’ll know, and it will be worse. As it is, I worry she’s gonna just take off after SS has been there, and I’ll never see the babies again. I’ll never know.
I remind her to focus on what she can control, and nothing more. To use her EAP and consult a lawyer about the situation. To talk to a counseller about what’s happening, her fears, her worry, before it eats her alive.
She yells at me and tells me that if I call them, all she has to do is say “Don’t give them to my Mom!” and they’ll go in the system and she’ll never see them again!
I tell her I don’t know about that, but regardless, if there is abuse, if her daughter is in thrall to this “man”, she needs to speak to someone about custody for their safety. She needs to take pictures of the bruises, especially the hand shaped ones that she’s seen, so she has documentation. She needs to form a plan.
She needs to see if there’s anyway to have her daughter evaluated. The woman I met was neat and clean and engaged, giggly, a joy to be around, like her other daughters. Then, she went on vacation. Her daughter was firmly set to leave this “man”, had seen what he was.
A week later, when her mother came home, the sun revolved around his starry eyes, and her daughter was bewitched. Her previously well behaved, tidy daughter now leaves filth around, clothing strewn thought the house, dishes left for months, spills uncleaned and growing mold.
I make all the relevant sympathetic noises, murmur about postpartum, psych evals. I saw the lost look in this mother’s eyes, the helplessness and felt her pain for moments. The elastic nature of not knowing, the fear of a phone call, of picking up a dazed or screaming child…the worry of loss.
I want to reach out, I want to lay my arms on hers and make it right. I want to find the answer. I want to be able to explain to her why a woman would allow a man to slap a 1.5 year old across the face. But I can’t. I don’t know. There’s no real answer is there?
I left her with nothing more than I started. Except a heavy heart.
Any advice, especially Canadians? She’s terrified, absolutely TERRIFIED about losing contact with these children and getting a pair of RCMP on her doorstep some night. And from what little she told me, I don’t wonder why.