Saturday, February 23, 2013
I recently took my youngest daughter to visit her paternal grandmother, who is now residing in a nursing facility in
. A once vibrant woman, she is now quiet, and
offers sporadic random words…trailing off with her loss of memory. Conversation is bursts of news from us, or
making successful guesses at the few words she utters. Although her scant memory does not allow her
to contribute much, their time together will be treasured, and someday shared
with my daughter’s own children and grandchildren. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Reflecting on this made me think of my three oldest children and their grandparents. At the time of their birth, they had three living grandparents. My first born was their first grandchild. The news of my pregnancy was met with a joyful reaction from my mother, a hearty congratulations from my father-in-law, and a bland response from my mother-in-law, accompanied by a sour face. Abruptly, her weekly phone calls stopped, indicating her lack of interest in the pregnancy or her yet-to-be born grandchild. When my son was born, she declared her desire to be called by her first name instead of any pseudonym for Grandmother. It wasn’t until her daughter was expecting her first child that I witnessed any emotion. She squealed with manic delight when she told us the news, just pausing long enough to add that she wanted to be called, “Grammy”.
A year later when we visited her home in
Needham, she had replaced a photograph of my
son with a picture of her daughter’s son…in the frame we had given her. I didn’t understand why she could not buy
another frame and display pictures of both
her grandsons. It was not just a random oversight
because years later when there were five grandchildren, any image of my three children
were absent. Displayed on the
refrigerator and around the house were just the pictures of her daughter’s children. It seemed to be a confirmation for a brewing
thought that my husband (and his children) was not as important because he was
not her biological child. Although I did
not know it at the time, unreciprocated love toward a child plants the seeds of
This disorder grew within him, and developed into the need for control, and ultimately abusive behavior. Although my children had a biological grandmother who adored them, my husband’s quest for maintaining control along with severing supportive ties, he marred my children’s relationship by creating animosity and fear. He encouraged terror toward my mother’s dogs, who were barkers. He would warn that a barking dog was a prerequisite to a biting dog, enforcing a high level of alarm anytime a visit to her home was planned.
Upon our divorce, he forced a relationship with the parents of his girlfriend. My children soon replaced their affections on her parents instead of their own biological grandmother. Although my ex was no longer with the woman by the time her mother died, my children kindly attended her funeral. Yet a few months later they refused to attend their own grandmother’s funeral. My daughter, who was 20 at the time, sent me an e-mail on behalf of herself and her brothers stating they were not attending because she was not involved in their lives, the brief interaction was “not pleasant”, and she disliked her “lack of effort” to be a part of her life; either ignoring or not understanding her father prevented interaction, and encouraged hostility toward her grandmother.
Despite my daughter’s harsh words, I only felt sympathy that she had developed into such a cold, heartless young woman, without the ability to see past what she had been programmed to feel. I felt profound pity for her hateful words that bore no merit. Considering her father had banned me from most of her life, her intense anger can only be attributed to what he had instilled into her developing mind for so many years. His bitter revenge probably offered him satisfaction believing my children’s absence hurt me. However, I told my children about the funeral for their benefit to pay their last respects. I did not need their support.
My three older children have been denied all biological ties, except for their father. With so many adoptees seeking a relationship with their biological family, it is profoundly odd that my children limit their ties to one person. But, since their father is a narcissistic sociopath, his desire is not uncommon. He always craved utter equality, regardless if it was a boat, the size of a closet or the number of orgasms one should be allowed. Therefore, it is not strange for him to deny his children a relationship with his biological grandmother, or mother for that matter, as he never enjoyed that relationship. And that is just one manifestation seen in a narcissistic sociopathic individual.
My youngest daughter was fortunate as she had a relationship with her maternal grandmother since birth. Although her relationship with her paternal grandparents began late in life, I chose to foster that relationship so she could have some biological tie to her father, who died before she could meet him. The saying that it is better to give than receive does not just apply to a tangible gift; it is putting someone’s needs before your own. Doing so for your child demonstrates what it means to be a parent; undoubtedly a lesson handed down by a grandparent. These generational life lessons of decorum create the foundation of becoming a loving and gracious adult.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
After experiencing the injustices in family court since 1996, I hoped that someday I could make a change in what was happening within our legal system. At one point I was preparing to attend law school, anticipating position as an attorney would allow me to identify the continued abuse of the victims of domestic violence inside the courthouse. A change in my circumstances halted the funding of law school, where I’d have the luxury to pick and choose my cases. Staying on that career path would incur hefty academic loans, forcing me to accept every case in order to payback these loans in addition to supporting myself. I could not bear the thought of compromising my morals, values and ethics by possibly having to represent a batterer and destroy a family to satisfy my financial obligations. So, despite my careful planning, I walked away from the legal profession.
Years later, I still find a great fascination with the law, specifically trials. In addition to reading about true life crime (I’m a huge Ann Rule fan); I have become an avid armchair court watcher. I barely missed a moment of the Casey Anthony trial, as well as the analytic programs in the evening. The outcome was heartbreaking, but the reasoning was logical. It was a chess game. It was strategic. It was not based on honesty…it was based on performances. This was something I had learned from my divorce trial. Sadly, the idealistic belief that our legal system is respected by all is not so.
When I heard that the Jodi Arias murder trial was going to begin, I was anticipating the start. Preferring that to local programming, I began watching. Jodi Arias is a 30 year old woman on trial for killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. She stabbed him 29 times, slit his throat and shot him in the face. After initial denials, Jodi admitted she killed Travis in self defense. Although she allegedly stole a gun belonging to her grandparents, dyed her hair during the 100 mile drive to Travis, borrowed gas cans to anonymously fill her tank during the long trip, rented a car (insisting on an “inconspicuous” color) and manipulated the license plates, she denied her actions were premeditated.
To date, Jodi is in the midst of her testimony where she described Travis Alexander as an abusive, hypocritical Mormon man, who had pedophile tendencies. There is not a shred of supporting evidence – no pictures, no journals, and no police reports. Her robotic revelations reek of discrepancies and incredulous statements, none of which could be an excuse to stab a man 29 times, slit his throat and shoot him in the face.
I am particularly interested in this case because I was a victim of domestic abuse. All I wanted was a traditional family lifestyle with my husband and our three children. My needs were simple, and focused on conventional values and my children’s happiness. But, I was married to a controlling abusive man who mocked religion and indulged the lifestyle of a single man. Our relationship was very different than Jodi and Travis who appeared to enjoy a great deal of cohesive couple time and shared ideas. Yet, Jodi’s accusation that Travis abused her, resulted in a vague description of an alleged strangulation evoking panicked thoughts of being unable to breathe.
Experiencing the trauma of hands tightening around your throat does not allow one to cognitively reflect on the effects of being strangled - I know, because it happened to me. When my husband was strangling me, I was unaware of anything, and was unable to move. When he stopped, I was numb. I barely remember getting off the ground and walking into our apartment. The shock of seeing the marks on my neck jolted me into the reality of documenting the event by taking a few self-portraits. One thing I remembered was later trying to pick out the gravel from our driveway that was embedded in the back of my scalp.
Because of the inability of the Norfolk County Probate Court to understand all the components of abuse, even with the pictures, the judge said he did not believe I was strangled. The unethical attorney representing my husband basically used the Jose Baez, a la Casey Anthony ploy. She threw enough shit out to deflect the judge from the truth of the case…that I had been severely abused in every way possible. Despite that, I was an exemplary mother; while my husband was a batterer and absentee father. Because of her lies, fabrications and ranting, she won custody of my children for their father….who has damaged them beyond repair.
If Jodi Arias is able to beat her crime using an abused woman defense, I would say that our system is brutally flawed. Jodi Arias could very well be given that “get out of jail free” card for her animalistic killing of Travis Alexander. The verdict is not in, but it makes me angry to hear some of the analysis after the testimony and the anticipation of the “experts” who will provide support in Jodi’s claim of being a victim of domestic abuse. This is making me feel that all the women I know who have been through similar situations and lost their children in the process have merely been swept under the rug because we did not stab our abusers 29 times, slit his throat and shoot him in the face.
Is that what needs to be done in order to have experts recognize the effects from years of domestic violence? Many women have avoided taking the law into their own hands because they are decent women who had a belief that our courts would recognize what they had endured, and make the appropriate recommendations instead of ripping their children away and giving them to their abuser. Because I am a survivor…and a strong one at that…I have taken my own path in this journey for justice. Although my children are destroyed, I have written a book as documentation with supporting evidence as to the gross mistakes made in Norfolk Probate Court. I can only hope that the changes I wanted to make as a prospective attorney will be recognized as errors in the system, so the real abusers will face their deserved punishment, instead of the victims.
And what will happen to Jodi Arias? The case is not over. I am praying that she is not labeled as a victim of abuse, for if she is, it will denounce the real victim’s plight, and in fact, she will be getting away with murdering an innocent man, the same way my abusive ex got away with the freedom to continue his abusive ways on me and our innocent children. And if Jodi does walk, she will be leaving the memory of Travis as an abuser who was ultimately murdered because of his “behavior”. If so, shouldn’t other abusers share the same fate, instead of being given the right to continue to live and abuse their former wives and children as allowed within the halls of “justice”?
Thursday, February 7, 2013
I was married in 1987. We shared the important personal commonalities that would create the foundation of a successful relationship. Our lifestyle was energetic and fun. Overshadowing our happiness was his need to be the center of attention and be viewed as “unique” was often disclosed without blushing. The hints of troubles began on our honeymoon when he refused to pose for the typical “newlyweds” pictures, or sleep in the same bed. Instead of seeking a marital bond, he found a friend who he incorporated in our together time. I hated my honeymoon.
Our marriage started off with highs and lows which I attributed to adjustment. Instead of enjoying our time together, he prioritized his days in the company of his friends, and admitted he believed his own desires took precedence. Normalcy was putting your own wants first, was the mantra of the man I married, the words of a narcissistic sociopath.
In the fall, he ignored birth control and threw caution to the wind. By Christmas I was pregnant….and ecstatic. He reacted with moans of annoyance. He complained of the morning noise as I ate crackers to quell my nausea, grumbled about buying maternity clothes, and expressed irritation of purchasing baby furniture. His disinterest in the pregnancy was clear as he did not want to feel the baby kick, attend prenatal visits, and mocked our childbirth classes. During my three days of labor, he offered no support, encouragement, and incredulously left the hospital, returning hours later too stoned to be allowed in the operating room for my emergency C-section. The birth of our son did not elicit a kind word; only a gleeful whisper that I wouldn’t be “all stretched out”. Without experiencing the journey toward parenthood with my husband, I was now a mother.
Recently, I saw a gorgeous portrait of a woman on the beach. She was partly reclining, leaning into the man seated behind her, holding her in a protective embrace, their hands entwined and resting on her pregnant belly. The picture conveyed love, caring and the sharing of a beautiful moment that I missed. I only experienced blatant indifference during pregnancy #1 and #2, and a frightening demand to abort my third pregnancy. I fought for the life of my third child and was blessed with a beautiful daughter, who, at 21 years old, ironically puts her father on a pedestal, despite his order to terminate her life.
He claimed our children were interference to the life he wanted, and choose to pursue that rather than be a father. His appearances at home were rare, his knowledge of his own children were vague, having to often defer to my expertise. His limited times alone with the children were almost disastrous, and I maintained my role as sole caregiver. Nevertheless, when I filed for divorce, he decided to retaliate by demanding custody. His lawyer was the daughter of the attorney who represented him in the 1980’s for cocaine possession. Her unethical way of practicing law did not hinder her conscience to present him as the perfect father, business owner and securely living in the house belonging to the woman he had been dating during his marriage.
Money talks in many ways. It spells success, regardless if it’s obtained legitimately or criminally. Money buys what you seeking in the family courts. It erases any former drug records, photographs of physical abuse, and infidelity during a marriage. In the courtrooms of justice and family, the more money you have, automatically makes you the better parent.
It makes no sense that the probate courts are also called “family” courts. The word family evokes a picture of two parents happily enjoying life with their children. It does not conger up a picture of a man strangling his wife, ignored the cries of his children, reveling in his reputation of dealing marijuana, and or beating his children. Logic would immediately dismiss such a man as a custodial parent, until they peak in his pocket. Some mothers have who lost custody due to illnesses, or temporarily relinquishing custody, or a prior past of substance abuse. My past was not marred by anything. I was a stay at home mom who provided meticulous care, love, and a variety of activities for my children, despite having no income and no access to money. I wore maternity clothes throughout my marriage while my husband spent his money on boats, cars, a wine collection, other women, and his designer wardrobe. Despite that, I was a survivor for my children, yet…without money, I was an easy target for the probate courts to steal my children and give them to a drug dealer, batterer, liar, philanderer, and thief.
I will never see a portrait of myself being protected by a partner. I have realized that it is not something I need. And it’s a trade-off as any picture of me demonstrates personal strength, independence, and the will to reveal in my ability to sustain sanity, and share my story. And as to my qualifications of being a mother…one only needs to see my youngest daughter (from my 2nd deceased husband) to confirm how I have excelled there as well….on my own.