When my mother and father's marriage fell apart, I think I was about four or five years old. It was an ugly falling-out, because they both have terrible tempers and they both tend to be somewhat spiteful when angered. My earliest memory is walking down the hallway in the house where I was born, and the living room was wrecked. My mother collected little china knick-knacks back in those days, and all the glass was broken out of her cabinet doors, the china inside smashed and broken. A few pieces survived ... I have them now. The furniture was ripped, misplaced, destroyed. Then the next thing I remember, we had moved and my mother was back to dating when she wasn't working. My older brother was basically raising me while my mom worked to support us and lived her life as a single woman when she wasn't working.
She had a couple of boyfriends that I remember. One of them was a blast for my brother ... Jim had a four-wheeler, and he'd take my brother for rides (at this point my brother was probably in the 10-12 range, I think). One day I begged until he took me too, but the ride went wrong. I sat in front so that I was protected from falling off, but we hit a rock and it bounced me forward so that my forehead collided sharply with the handlebars. I ended up with three stitches in my head that day, and I'm probably lucky to be alive after my mom freaked out the whole time she drove me to the emergency room, my head bleeding buckets all the way. Another was fun for both of us, and he wanted to marry my mom. Greg would play with me and brother, chase us through the house, wrestle and tickle us. We wanted him to stick around, but my mom eventually broke up with him. She thought he was too young to be saddled with two kids, no matter if he wanted us or not. So he disappeared.
I don't remember much about when she dated Rob. I remember visiting his mother's house once, and she had a horse. He took me riding, but that's the only good memory I have of him. He sat strong behind me, his arms around me while his hand held the reins of the powerful beast beneath us. I might have been frightened had I known what power the beast sitting behind me held within him. Eventually he and my mother married.
I remember the wedding, I remember the little dress I wore. It was a white lace dress that had a yellow slip-dress underneath. I remember that I had several slip colors so that they could be interchanged, but that day was yellow. I had a matching yellow sash around my waist, and my brother wore a yellow tie. I have never liked yellow ... perhaps this is why. We knew, my brother and I ... we knew even as children that something wasn't right. We didn't like Rob the way we'd liked Greg, but my mother didn't care, it wasn't up to us. And it wasn't long before he changed.
Rob beat my mother senseless so many times we lost count. I remember once when they were fighting over dinner. My mother always used to serve dinner in bowls and serving dishes on the table, and while they were fighting Rob suddenly stood up and grabbed a bowl from the table. When he threw it, french fries rained down and flew everywhere as the bowl sailed barely over my head. It crashed loudly in the hallway of the trailer we lived in, the paper towels that had been soaking up the grease from the fries inside it now lying empty over the shattered blue glass. This is the most mild memory I have of him other than the horse. Unless you count the time when I stood quietly on the porch, waiting and trying to disappear while Rob held his arm across my mother's throat, berating her for not putting enough mayonnaise on his sandwich. He slapped her with his sandwich, took a bite, and let her go as if nothing had happened.
There are worse memories, ones that I won't list here ... But I am heartbroken as I remember these things. I am heartbroken while I think of the reason that all these memories have come back to the forefront of my mind today. I have written before about my cousin and her troubles with her son. But today ... today I don't just feel sorry for a little boy who has lived a hard life all of his six years. Today I don't just feel sorry for a little boy who is shuffled back and forth from house to house, who is troubled and has been exposed to things he should never have been exposed to.
I AM ANGRY.
I am angry for a child who has been abused in almost every way imaginable, and still was allowed to fall through the cracks of our crooked justice system. This little boy has a mother who has struggled and fought to protect him, and for her efforts she has been threatened with legal action. The second or third time she called Child Protective Services to report bruises on her son and to offer the photographs she and the sheriffs department had taken, they threatened to file charges against her ... for harassing the child's father! The system failed this little boy in such a big way! And I am angry because I have been a failed child myself. I have had photographs taken of my bruises too, bruises that I received from Rob when I was just a little girl. And I didn't fall through the cracks, but "being rescued" wasn't exactly easy either because I was saved from one abusive step-parent only to be exposed to my father's second wife who was no better. Eventually I was moved to a group home for children. When Rob ended up in prison, my mother was allowed to come and get me ...
But what about this little boy who wasn't rescued until after he was beaten because no one would listen to his mother when she tried to advocate for him? He had bruises on his butt, that was all, and it was labeled "inappropriate punishment". But it didn't count as child abuse ... apparently there is a blurred line between using excessive force on a child and actually beating the hell out of him.
This morning when my cousin's son was delivered to school by his father's roommate, he was so beaten that school officials hid him inside the school and had officers posted outside the doors. His face is bruised, his lips are busted open and swollen ... and his butt is bruised also, of course. Because the boy refused to eat his tomatoes (he has never liked them, I suppose a real father would have known that) at dinner, he was hit so hard that he fell and when he hit the floor he was either kicked or stomped ... we aren't sure which, since the story is from the child who was currently on his bloody face on the floor.
And I am angry. Why wouldn't anyone listen to this mother who fought bravely and desperately for the sake of her son, who begged for someone to rescue him and was blown off because "social workers don't get paid enough these days". Now tell me this ... If the boy had fallen in such a way as to break his neck, do social workers get paid enough to save children from that? What if when his father stood over his small and helpless body (father is approximately six feet and 250 pounds, child approximately four feet and 60 pounds) to stomp on him ... what if it had ruptured vital organs, what if it had somehow severed the spinal cord? Do social workers get paid enough to save children from that?
Maybe not. But if I could, and if I had the kind of power that being a state employee could give me, you can bet your ass I'd have saved that kid regardless of my paycheck. Hell, I'd have saved him for free.
Instead, he has been robbed of his childhood, another child statistic who was left to fall through the cracks. And I am angry.