Yesterday, Friday, we did school and then began to get ready for The Visit. I bathed the little two and, as they finished getting ready, I packed their bags, including the frog craft I’d helped D make for Dad. My precious 4 year old little girl began to cry. It was a hard, convulsing type of cry. The kind that comes from desperate panic and deep wounds. She said she didn’t want to spend the night. She wanted to come home at bedtime. Please, please, she begged. I could do nothing but hug her. I could say nothing but, “Ask your dad.”
At 3 o’clock I dropped the four children off at their paternal grandmother’s house. This is a woman who didn’t even know her grandchildren and had never seen the youngest three until a year after her son abandoned them. Now, she hosts The Visits by watching TV the entire duration of the kids’ stay.
When I came back three hours later to pick up our 16 year old son for the party, he shared with me that he’d told his dad he only comes because his little sister wants to visit and she wants him to be there. He explained that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t come. He was hoping his 12 year old brother would chime in, too, but E remained absolutely stone-like and silent.
The kids later shared that Dad had acted very, very strange, much like when he lived with us, as though he was no longer controlling his psychosis for his mother’s sake. He picked up our 6 1/2 year old son and held him like a baby, whispering constantly in his ear, sharing secrets with him and not letting the others be privy to this special information. E was scared to death of him. He was frightened and didn’t want to join his brother in telling him how they hated being there when his brother was about to leave him there alone with Dad.
R had not eaten when I picked him up. His dad had not fed the children and appeared to be making no attempt at starting a meal. I offered to buy my son a quick dinner, but he refused. His stomach was too upset, and he just wanted to hang out with his friends and play guitar, decompress.
It was after 9 before I dropped him back off to his dad. He ran in to check on the kids, and both of the little ones said they thought they could spend the night. I asked R to call when they went to bed, so that I could tell everyone goodnight, and I drove the ten miles home.
At 10 my phone rang. My daughter came on the line, whimpering and crying. She begged me to come get her. Again, all I could say was, “That’s up to Daddy.” Then, suddenly and without warning, she was gone, and my 6 year old was scream talking, much like my husband’s entire family. He’d eaten two candy canes, had watched the newest Batman movie, and was hyped. He yelled into my ear about all that he was getting to do while I nervously wondered what had happened to my little girl.
After I listened for a sufficient amount of time I asked to speak to his sister again. She was crying so hard I couldn’t make out her words. I asked her to repeat herself, and she said that she wanted to come home. I could hear her pleading with her dad, promising him that she would come back tomorrow. In the background he answered harshly, “No!” She sobbed. My heart broke. He sternly continued, “Mom is home, and I’m sure Mom doesn’t want to come get you now. You can just stay.” She was crying and begging. I thought to myself, ‘You SOB, you’re not going to pin this on me.’ I hollered this time. Trying to din out his cruelty and her sobs I yelled, “D, I will come get you if you want me to. But, Daddy has to say it’s okay.” She calmed a bit at that.
He took the phone from her and pretended to be nice the best he could. He said, “L, she doesn’t want to spend the night now. I guess you got her a new bed [said with a tone like he thought I’d got the bed to lure her home, not because she needed one. He seemed to think that I’d bought it, not realizing someone gave it to us]. She just wants to sleep in it. And, I don’t want staying with me to be a punishment.”
I answered, “Yes, all the kids got new beds. And, no, I don’t want that either. I want it to be something fun and exciting, something she looks forward to when she’s ready.” I tried to emphasize that last part.
He feigned concern that the roads would be icy, but I had just driven home on them and they were bone dry. He said that I didn’t need to bring her back too early because the roads would still be icy in the morning, too. Whatever. I assured him I was still dressed and ready to come at a moment’s notice because she had cried before we left. I knew it would be a problem once she got her pajamas on and realized what was happening. He said she didn’t even have her pajamas on yet; they’d never made it that far.
When I arrived she and my 12 year old came running to my car. If she was bailing ship, so was E. R was upset that J wanted to stay. He wasn’t about to leave a 6 year old though, especially since Dad seemed to be trying to lure J over to the dark side with some insidious, creepy, special little secret relationship. So, R planned to stay up all night to make sure that his dad didn’t molest or beat his little brother.
D and E slept sound and late here at home. I texted to let R know that they were unarousable and we’d be a bit late. He said Dad didn’t seem to care. He’d won. He had two of them overnight. Not a complete victory, but a victory nonetheless.
The kids later told me that he had drilled them about how often they see my one adult son, the one who has been in trouble with drugs and the law. He asked if they always get out of school at 3 because they used to come earlier on Fridays (only when they had court ordered counseling or during the summer). He wanted to know about the teachers who visit weekly. He asked if we were going to church this Sunday. However, he never asked about their friends, music, swimming lessons, or school work itself. He seemed completely disinterested in anything to do with them as individuals and only that information that might prove me to be a liar or negligent.
He did ask D if she’d slept in her new bed. She simply answered, “No.” E was feeling braver now that R was there and they only had three hours left. He offered, “She wanted to come home and sleep with mom because she’s afraid of you. That’s why she didn’t want to spend the night.”
In his sugar induced high, J had apparently accused Dad of breaking in our house and had asked him, “Did you want the gun so you can shoot Mom?” Dad responded sheepishly, “No, I can’t even have guns.” R reprimanded J for listening to Mom’s phone conversations and diverted J’s attention elsewhere. Dad commented on R’s wooden cross he wears around his neck, and R told him he was using it as a template for Christmas gifts but they were all stolen during one break in. His dad feigned surprise and, according to R, really needs acting lessons because it was obvious he knew.
The Visit is over. Who knows what he’ll take away from it and try to use against me. Who knows if he’ll take any of the kids’ rejection to heart. Who knows if he’ll retaliate for it. All I know is that the kids slept most of the afternoon and have eaten a hearty meal of homemade biscuits and lentil soup. Hopefully that will counter the steady diet of sugar they consumed for nearly 24 hours. Hopefully J will settle down and stop his ugly, rebellious behavior that is so unlike him. Hopefully D won’t be afraid to visit next time out of fear of being trapped overnight once she’s there.