Friday, July 2, 2010

What Divides Us, But Only If We Let it

*Thanks to the wonderful blog, How to Cope With Pain, for featuring another one of my blog posts on their Pain-Blog Carnival!  I cannot say enough about this very informative and well-written blog which deals with pain in all of its forms.  It is a fabulous resource for anyone who is living with chronic or temporary pain.  It is always listed on my side-bar if you ever need to access it.

Yesterday, I was going through some pictures from Angel Daughter Number Three's high school graduation which we celebrated last week.  It was a wonderful day and I am so very proud of her.  Congratulations, AD3!  I was preparing to write a blog post about the experience when I came across this photo of Angel Daughter Number One, my oldest Angel Niece, and Angel Daughter Number Four sitting on the fence line at graduation.  I was running around down on the huge football field taking pictures of the graduation(Being the only parent down on the field is another story) when I looked up and noticed my family.  I stood approximately one hundred feet away from them, so it was difficult for me to see their facial expressions as I struggled to focus against the sunlight.  I raised my hand to block the sun from my eyes but somehow instinctively, I raised my camera instead.

For the past two years, I have been engaged in a battle to keep my two young nieces in my family's life.  I have written bits and pieces about my fight for these two little girls.  My pain, my struggle, my innate need to stay connected to my deceased brother's children.  It is a feeling that I cannot fully describe, yet it draws me into the same realm as the "mothering instinct" does.  I am fiercely maternal.  This is not something that I say with undo pride or superiority.  It is a trait, such as having hazel eyes or being extraordinarily short in stature.  I just am.  And so, when I came across this photo, a rush of feelings began coursing through my body and my heart broke just a little bit more.  My own two Angel Daughters looking almost desperate to draw their cousin up to the surface.  And my niece. My niece.

I can and will only say enough here so that you will know, so that they will know.  I do this because nothing has been court-mandated.  An "agreement" has been reached.  Nothing binding or legal, but an agreement, none the less.  Meaning that if I am kept from my nieces, there is still the option of going before the family court judge.  And if there is one fear that I found out that my SIL has, it is having to stand before the judge.  Us, no problem.  Everything is on the table.  How much money we make per year, how much medication I take on a daily basis in order to control my chronic pain, and the fact that we own a dog; who was portrayed as a Pit-Bull; but who is nothing more than a lovable mutt.  There were depositions and accusations directed toward me.(Only me, never toward my SIL because that's not how we roll.)  There were demands to remove my husband from the case because he is not a "blood relative".(Um, yeah.  If he were a blood relative, that would mean that I married one of my family members and that would open up a whole new set of problems!)  And the cost for the attorneys was exorbitant.  On both sides.  But whose counting?  On the day that we were scheduled to go to trial, we sat in the courthouse cafeteria with our lawyers when my SIL's attorney began working on us.  And by the third hour and the final "offer", we reached an agreement.  Not everything that we wanted, but a beginning.  We have seen our nieces two times since the agreement was reached.  Once, at their dance recital(So cute!) and then again at AD3's graduation.  We will see them again at the end of this month, once in September, possibly in October and then beginning in November, we will be allowed to see them six times a year, for four hours each time, without their mother present.  This is part of what the battle was about, and this is what we were very reluctantly given.  The issue is that for the past two years, a lot has been said and done to damage the relationship that we had with the children.  And now, in order to repair the damage, we need to have access to the girls AND they need to feel comfortable spending time with us without worrying about the temperature of their mother's mood.  There is a bit more about Mark and I contributing financially to the girls college educations but that is something that we would have done before we were escorted out of our nieces lives for no sane reason.  The situation is still too tightly wound for my taste, but I am a very patient person.  I understand what my options are and I am not at all adverse to using the legal system in order to obtain justice for my nieces.  They deserve to have their daddy's family in their lives.  They deserve to be loved by extended family members.  They deserve our loyalty.

Not surprisingly, both girls were extremely apprehensive when they saw us for the first time, and started out the same way at the graduation.  But we are a difficult group to put off.  My girls especially exude the attitude of "love us, love us, love us", and Mark and I just proceeded lovingly but cautiously.  These two little girls have already had enough trauma in their lives and both Mark and I knew better than to just expect them to greet us the way that they had a year ago when we were last allowed to see them.  Time, pain, and unkind words burden the relationship that we once had with these two little angels.  We have no idea what they have been told.  Only that they were told too much and that they were obviously hurt and nervous and angry.

Looking at this photo of my oldest niece, I could feel everything that she must have gone through over the course of this past year.  I could see the missing in her eyes.  The missing of her daddy, the missing of us, the missing of her old life.  It pained me greatly to think about what she has been through.
But then, I thought about exactly how long it had taken her and my younger niece to begin smiling again once the initial trepidations began to subside.  I thought about the resiliency of children and their innate ability to somehow fight for their right to be happy.  I thought about all of the angles and ways in which what our family did to fight for these children could possibly be portrayed and I came to a fairly simple conclusion.  Somehow, some way, love wins.  And when you have love on your side as a motive, there is little that can argue with that.  Sanely, anyway...

Shortly after coming across the first photo, I came across the second one.  And there was the child who was trying her darnedest to ignore her cousins, her Uncle, and I only minutes before, staring down at me on the football field with something resembling a smile on her face.  A moment captured.  A feeling captured.  A heart mending back together bit by bit.  Hers, mine, ours.


Joanne said...

What a sad story, with a beautiful connection at the end. She's definitely "with" you in the photograph, kudos to you for reaching out.

Renee said...

I understand your determination to stay connected with your brother's children....your nieces...I often think of the people who brought stability, dependability, and healthy love into my own life and am forever grateful for that...You are doing that for those precious girls whether they know it yet or not...
I am heading over to the chronic pain nerve pain is off teh charts after a year of laying is never boring even from my sofa sanctuary!
Congrats on your angel's HS graduation!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your Angel daughter no. 3!!

Thanks, for the link I will go check that out.

What a wonderful ANGEL aunt you are. One day those young ladies will be so thankful to you for all you have gone through and done to keep them in your life. Good job sweet lady, good job! I know you will keep doing whatever you need to do to see them as much as you possibly can. Every child needs an aunt like you in their life.

Big hugs!

SabiSunshine said...

Hi Deb,

Congratulation once again !

it must be really awesome to go back and luk at he pic and u
I like doing blog too now moreoften because it reminds you how you were and how the life changed for you!

I am really happy that i have met you and learned lot from you.. and still young and can learn more from you!


SabiSunshine said...

Hey Deb,

I just wanted to apologies for loss of your comment on my blog. I changed my URL ID and i lost all the comments . I am so upset about that I want to apologies for that you comments are very valueable for me and I do respect for your comments.


Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Lovely post...and this situation always breaks my heart when I hear about it. It just makes no sense to me how someone can choose to cause so much grief in an-others life like this.
I wish my best to all of you and I hope it all resolves itself soon. It has just gone on far too long.
With deep respect and admiration, Beaux

Bluebird49 said...

What a terribly painful situation to have been placed in. It seems like all parties involved have been hurt so badly. I don't know how the human heart can be so cold and bitter, but I do know it can. Having to "pay" to show love to one's own relative is barbaric, isn't it?

Holding one's child hostage is something a mother should never try to do. The child will grow up and see what was done, but probably never understand it. Hopefully these girls will be able to forgive their mother when they see she puts a price on love.

One's heart is something that truly cannot be bought or sold.

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