by Elaine Miller
Mary started spending time overnight away from home. She had found a boyfriend in AA. Soon I noticed that she was going out and spending more and more time with this man. Archie had been sober for twelve or more years. He worked the program and seemed to be a good influence on Mary. I didnít meet him for several months. When I did, I could see that he was very opinionated, a know it all, loud and bossy. He wanted to be in control at all times. He told her what to do and she did it.
She told me that Archie wanted to be waited on hand and foot. I asked her if that was what she wanted. She said that she didnít mind and she was crazy about him. I was around him a little more and he reminded me exactly of her father. I understood her liking him and wanting to be around him. He was the type of man sheíd grown up with. He did not encourage her to put her child first. He wanted to be first. She told him things about how we had treated her. She told him that we picked on her all the time and that we had treated her terrible. She told him everyone always berated her. She told him I put her in dumb classes in high school. He believed every word she told him. I told him that was not really how it was and he told me that he believed her because she was the sweetest girl he had ever met. He didnít believe that she ever had nasty tantrums. He really felt that way. She spent more and more time with him and less and less with us or with her son. She did not take him with her to Archieís house.
Archie was renting a little house in a small town up the hill from East Peoria. It was set back from the street and bordered a ravine. It is fairly secluded in back and to the sides of the house. He has a wild life sanctuary. He is an avid bird watcher. Mary did what she always does with men. She buried herself in his ways and personality. It was debatable whether that was a learned behavior on her part or was a result of the car accident. It certainly was a trait of being raised in a dysfunctional family system. It was co-dependence, all the way. I had worried about her ever finding someone to love and to be loved by a mate. I realized that a man for her is not of my choosing. I wanted her to be happy.
His house only had one bedroom. There were times when he was out of work. She was giving her child support and all of her social security to him to help him out. I was not pleased with that. It was not that I had to have the money as we were perfectly able to provide for Sean without her money, but it was the principal of the thing. Archie had hurt his back and was finally on workmanísí comp for awhile. Time went on and they continued to see each other. My stores of groceries and paper goods started disappearing again. We fought about that. It didnít make any difference. She rationalized it by saying she was there a lot and she owed him. He came first before anyone else in the family.
The relationship had gone on for eight months. One day it snowed so badly that the roads were too packed for the buses to pick the kids up for school. I had to go to work and Mary was forced to stay home with her son. She was fuming. That day I worked for twelve hours. She called several times to see when I would be free, as she wanted to go to Archieís. Just before I got off, I got a call from Marie and she said that Mary had been on her high horse all day long. Mary had been calling Marie and accusing her of stealing her two cross necklaces that she herself had lost months before. Marie had tried to explain to her that she did not have them, but Mary was adamant. Mary would call Marieís house and if one of the girls answered the phone she accused them of being robbers. The girls were confused and didnít understand why she was talking to them that way. My son had called Mary and wanted to know if he could pick up Sean and take him to Marieís to play with the girls. Mary said no and if he came over she was going to hurt him.
My husband got home from work before I did and he called me and told me that Sean had come to him crying and said that his Mom had been ranting and raving all day. He was extremely upset. Something snapped in me. I had had it with her bad behaviors to that child.
Twice before she had spanked him really hard and bragged about it to his teachers at school and they had called the Department of Child and Family Services or DCFS. I had to talk to them both times. They had sent someone to the school to examine Sean and didn't see any marks on him. We even had to go to their office the second time and talk to them. Both times they told me that as long as he was under my roof and in our care that they would not do anything. She really didnít comprehend that they could have taken him away from all of us. He had enough monumental hurdles to deal with and I could not bear to think of him in the foster care system. There were real horror stories about the foster care system. I had thanked God that Sean and Mary lived with us at those times even though it was hard to live with her part of the time.
That day, before I came home from work, I called ERS and told them to meet me at the house. I told them I would be there in a half-hour and I was in no mood for her screaming and ranting after working all those hours. They agreed to meet me at the house.
We arrived at the same time. We came in and I sat her down and told her I was not going to put up with it again. I wanted her to get back on the low dose of medication she had been taking to keep her mood swings down. She said the psychiatrist had told her she didnít need it any more. She had been going to counseling on our side of the river, which is in a different county and didnít have the same doctor any more. It was understood that she needed to leave for awhile until she saw the doctor. I told her she could still come and visit and see her son.
By that time my son was on the phone and he offered to take her to Archieís house. She called Archie and he said for her to come over. She packed some things and went over to stay with Archie. She made an appointment to see the doctor. I talked to her counselor and she said that that doctor was very stubborn and really didnít think she needed the medicine. Mary was furious with me, but I had had enough. Archie brought Mary back to the house and to the shop for her things. Each time he made a big deal out of it and called the police to be there as he said that we would cause trouble. They made two trips to the shop at different times and brought the police each time. Later Archie stood and made some remarks in front of customers. Don told him not to come down there again and told the police to tell him to shut-up. Archie enjoyed uproar. A home being in chaos and uproar all the time is a key system of the dysfunctional home.
Mary saw the doctor and called to tell me that the doctor had said that we were all to blame and that it was her environment that was causing her problem. I really didnít think a professional would say such a thing, but he would never see me. He would make an appointment and I would go and he would always be too busy and I would have no more time to wait and have to leave without seeing him. He just didnít care. I really didnít think much of him. I had talked to her counselor and told her I was done with Maryís terrible moods. I told her maybe that doctor would like to live with her. Many doctors are complacent and just see the patients and donít really care about the whole picture. They donít want to hear about the problems. They want to spend a few minutes and collect their money. I felt that her doctor now was that type. Being a nurse, I didnít think of doctors as being godly.
By that time Archie was in full swing and was calling me at work and telling me that he was going to "champion" her. He felt that she was picked on here and that this was a plot to keep her from her child. I would never do that to Sean. I never kept my children from seeing their paternal grandmother after the divorce, and I would never hurt her or her child by doing such a thing. He kept telling me that if I didnít do just what he wanted me to do he planned to take action. I didnít like being threatened and I didnít like him calling me two or three times each day at work. He thought he was all-powerful and I should quake and do his bidding. I tried to tell him that she could see her child for visits here under supervision. He decided that he wanted to win this match. He talked round and round in circles and I would just hang up on him. He got so he didnít make sense to me. I did tell him each time that he threatened me that he was biting off more than he could chew. He just didnít know with whom he was dealing.
The petition paper given to us after the temporary hearing from the circuit clerkís office named Mary, Don and I as co-guardians of Sean. The circuit clerk had misprinted it after the final decision, leaving Maryís name off the petition. I had not really paid attention to that and Mary had never gotten a copy. After my son Seth gave her a copy of the last one issued, all hell broke loose. She thought the lawyer, judge and court had plotted against her. I tried to tell her it was a simple mistake and in the court records that it was correctly stated, but her mind was set and Archie was egging her on.
Archie decided that they ought to sue us for visitation rights. I received a notice to appear in court. I took it right to my attorney. I explained that I never said she couldnít see him. We all went to court. Sean and I arrived first and we checked in with the bailiff and were about to sit down, when a sheriffís deputy came running over. Meanwhile Sean had seen his mother and Archie arrive and ran over to see her. Sean was eleven years old then. At that moment Don arrived and sat down next to me. The sheriff asked me if I was Maryís mother and I told him yes. He wanted to know if we were going in to court and I told him after my attorney arrived. He asked me who my attorney was and I told him. A look of relief crossed his face. He told me he just didnít want any trouble.
I couldnít understand the whole thing. I had seen Archie in the sheriffís office as we had come up the steps. Iíd been in court before and had never had a sheriff run up to me. I was not a person to go to court and cause trouble and neither was Don. The only thing that we could figure out was that Archie had told the sheriff to expect big trouble in that courtroom from us. The sheriff was relieved that one of us had hired a lawyer. I had talked quietly and professionally to the sheriff. Mary did not have an attorney. The sheriff told me some months later, when I had an occasion to talk to him that he had watched the whole proceedings from a closed caption TV in his office.
Archie was a sandy-haired man, with light blue eyes, fairly tall and somewhat on the heavy side. He was average looking. He came to court all dressed up in a brown suit, light shirt and tie. He was carrying a thick three-ringed notebook. He had decided to play "attorney." Don and I just stared in amazement. We could not believe it, nor were we impressed.
We all walked into the courtroom, Mary sat at one table and I sat at another with my attorney. We had all come casually dressed except for my attorney who wore a suit. The judge came in his robe and sat down. It was towards the end of the day and we were his last case. Sean and Don sat behind me and Archie sat several rows back behind them, but in view where Mary could make eye contact with him. The judge asked why we were all there. My attorney answered him. He told him that the plaintiff wanted visitation rights with her child and that was not a problem with us.
The judge turned to Mary and started asking her questions. Before she answered each question, she turned to look at Archie. I could not see him, but my attorney told me later that he would shake his head at her or mouth words. I could tell she was uncomfortable. She proceeded to tell the judge that I would not let her see her son. She said that I was trying to get him away from her. She said she wanted visitation privileges and wanted him there overnight for the weekends.
Mary became irate when she was talking and started pointing her finger at me and accusing me of things. The judge demanded that she stop. He told her to quit looking at the man in the back every time he asked her a question. He also told Archie that he didnít want any more interference with him trying to lead her from the back of the courtroom. Things were heating up. I tried to sit and look calm and serene. I just hated this. None of us would have been there, if Archie wasnít into control and drama.
The judge had to ask her several times to only answer his questions and he had to threaten to have Archie removed from the courtroom. It reminded me of small claims courtroom drama on the TV. Finally the judge started to ask Archie to leave, but he jumped up and said that Mary had a right to have an advocate. The judge told him to get up front and sit with her then, as he was tired of the cross contact they had been doing.
Archie strode up to the front with his notebook in hand. He sat down and flipped it open. The judge got a disgusted and incredulous look on his face. I had to stifle a laugh. By that time the judge was looking very disgruntled. He opened up the questioning of Archie.
He said, "What is your relationship with this woman?"
Archie stated, "Sheís just a friend."
Judge, "What do you mean she is just a friend? Doesnít she live with you?"
He replied, "I was forced to take her in." He turned and gave me a scathing look.
Judge, "Do you mean to tell me she is just a friend and lives with you? Where does she sleep?" It had already been established that he had a small one-bedroom house.
Answer, "She sleeps on the couch! We are only friends." At that, I could not stifle a giggle any longer. I laughed and put my hand over my mouth. The judge glared at me and roared "quiet."
"You mean that you donít have a conjugal relationship?"
"I didnít say that."
"Do you have a conjugal relationship?"
He answered in a voice barely above a whisper. "Yes." The judge asked him to repeat the answer in a more audible tone. He did.
"Then donít sit there and tell me you are just friends when the relationship is more than that!" barked the judge.
This type of cat and mouse evasion went on throughout the questioning of Archie. Finally Archie told the judge that he had a notebook with extensive notes on how we had always treated Mary. I had already been questioned in regards to Maryís problems and had stated her emotional age would always remain fourteen. The judge told Archie "no, Iím not interested in your notes." Archie argued and persisted. The judge lost his temper and roared at him to shut-up. I had already agreed on every other weekend during the day for Sean to visit. They didnít have a place for him to sleep except three feet from their bed.
I could see that this was getting close to out of hand. I didnít know what the judge would do. I turned to my attorney and told him to ask the judge to take Sean aside and ask him where he wanted to live. They had by that time told the judge they wanted custody of him. They had told him about the petition not being made out properly. The judge had dismissed that as saying it was correct in the file he had, and that the circuit clerk had made a mistake and that was all. Mary and Archie were not satisfied with that answer and were trying to pursue the issue. She was pointing and ranting about how the attorney had cheated her and she had turned him into the state of Ill. She had requested that the judge forbid me to take Sean to play with his cousins or to let Marie baby-sit. She said that Marie was a bad influence on her son. I told the judge that they were trying to make it hard on me, because Marie was my baby-sitter. Sean had never stayed with anyone else but family.
Mary did write the state about the attorney and he had to later answer her complaint to the state. The attorney, by the second time we went to court, was really fed up with her. They had also turned in a complaint to the state about how the circuit clerk was against her too. She told me later that Archie even went down to the capital to try to lodge complaints against the circuit clerk and the judge for the way the case had been handled.
Archie led the judge to believe that he was still working when he was off on workmanís comp and fighting for a large settlement from the company he worked for. He said he had a back problem. He led the judge to assume that his finances were secure.
The judge thought talking to Sean was a good idea. He told all of us he planned to talk to the boy and no one had better ever question Sean about what was said in the judgeís chamber. He said if Sean chose to volunteer information, he could. Sean got up and trailed after the judge into his chamber. On the way the Judge picked up a jar of jellybeans and offered Sean a handful. Sean told me later that he told the judge that he wanted to live with us and that he liked playing with his cousins and liked his aunt and uncle. They had included him in numerous outings with them.
We waited about ten minutes and the door to the judgeís chamber opened and Sean came out laughing with the judge behind him. I almost burst out laughing, because the judge had opened his robe, undone his tie, opened his shirt and looked like someone had gone through his hair with an eggbeater. He looked harried and bedraggled. He put his hand up and said that he had reached a decision. He said that Sean would remain in our care and that he would go over to see his mother every other weekend from nine a.m. until eight at night. He said that Sean was not to be kept from Marie and the girls. Archie started to argue. The judge said he was through and had made his decision. He said we were to come back in a month to see how things were going. Archie jumped up as the judge was leaving the room and tried to thrust his one-inch thick notebook at the judge. He told him he wanted him to at least read it. The judge raised his voice and roared, "Enough, Iím not reading it under any circumstances and if you leave it here, I will throw it in the trash!" He turned on his heel and went back to his chambers shaking his head.
We filed out of the courtroom with Mary making nasty remarks to me with Archie yelling at her to, " shut-up." Our attorney said that the whole hearing should have taken fifteen minutes at the most and we had been in there for an hour and a half. Iíll bet the judge was in a foul mood when he arrived home. He was a robust gray-haired man and was a no nonsense type of person. He probably had never had an experience quite like that one before.
Sean was upset that he was to be made to go over to Archieís whether he wanted to or not. He had felt that he should be able to decide when he wanted to visit. I told him that he was considered a minor and that we all had to abide by the law. I really felt sad over the whole turn of events. Everything had gotten blown out of proportion and Sean was right in the middle of it. I hated it with all my heart. I still loved Mary and could see the influence that Archie was having on her. I wanted a relationship with her and I wanted her to have a good one with Sean. I still felt that what I had done in regards to her staying away until she took her medicine again was a correct decision. If she wasnít going to have the medicine any more, then I thought supervised visits were warranted. Archie had seen to it that everything remained in chaos. It would not have had to be that way. If we had had a chance with her, we might have been able to work things out. I didnít lose hope, however, as I felt that in time things would work out agreeably for everyone concerned.
We proceeded with the visits. They came and got Sean and brought him home. One Sunday when I was working, Sean had dilly-dallied around and was not ready when they pulled up and laid on the horn. She came to the door for him. Don told her to wait a minute and he was after Sean to get going. He should have had his treatment bag ready and the games he wanted to take over to play with her. They liked to play chess. He also took his game-boy, because Archie controlled the TV and forbid Mary or Sean to touch the remote control. He liked to sit and watch ball games. We would give Sean seven or eight dollars so that he and his Mom could walk up to the fast food restaurant to get something to eat. They would go to the gas station to buy soda. He liked to treat his Mom. His mother loved soda. We really were trying to make it nice for the two of them.
That Sunday while Sean was gathering up his things, Archie ran up onto the porch and screamed at Sean that he should have been ready when he pulled up and from now on heíd better be ready. He told him to get out there right now. Mary had backed off the porch. Don saw red. He was just furious. He told Archie he had better never talk to Sean that way again or ever threaten him again. He said no one was coming onto his property and screaming at anyone here. He said he would not put up with it and he could just wait a minute. From that day on Archie would not pull onto the driveway, but would sit blocking one lane in front of the house and honk.
Archie ran off the porch, got into the car, and zoomed away throwing gravel as he went. Mary had already gotten into the car beforehand. Don and Sean waited for fifteen or twenty minutes and they did not come back. Don called me at work and wanted to know what I thought he should do. He said he wanted to go to the discount store and sitting around kept him from doing his gardening. I told him to just take Sean with him and forget about it.
Don was driving down the road and when he got even with the grade school, he saw the two of them parked there. He pulled in and asked them if they wanted to take Sean. Before he even had time to speak, Archie said, "youíre in big trouble now! The police are on their way to haul you off to jail and youíll be doing some time!" Don laughed. He knew the police could not do that. This was a civil matter. He had not broken the law. Sean was upset. He didnít want Dad taken away. I was furious when I heard about it, because Archie didnít care what effect he was having on the child.
Don asked them again if they wanted to take Sean now. At that moment a police car pulled up and parked. The officer got out and Archie was yelling for him to arrest Don. The officer finally told Archie to shut-up and quietly proceeded to talk to Don. The officer asked Archie if they were going to take Sean with them for the day or not. They said yes and so Sean got out of the car and into the back seat of Archieís car. The officer told them it was a civil matter and that he was not arresting Don for anything. In the first place he had not broken any law. The officer told Don to try to have Sean ready the next time they came. They left with Sean for the day and brought him back on time that evening.
By this time Sean had told me that he did not like Archie. He said that he sometimes yelled at his mother. He didnít think it was fair that he could never touch the TV even when Archie was not watching and had gone outside to work in the yard. I had to explain to him that Archie was that type of person. I told him that he had never raised a child, so really didnít know how to deal with Sean. I tried to gloss things over. I found myself trying to be a peacemaker all the time between both Sean and his mother and Archie.
One week when it was in the nineties outside, Sean was having trouble with his asthma. It always bothered Sean when it was really hot. I had to get out the nebulizer machine and finally took him to see the specialist. The doctor had to put him on oral steroids for a few days. While he was sick it was time to go and see his Mom. They didnít have any air-conditioning and being an asthmatic it was hard for him. When she called I told her he had to stay home because he was sick and he needed to stay in where it was cool. She became irate. I told her she could see him the next weekend. She reluctantly relented, but told me I had to sign a paper stating she could have him the following weekend. I told her he could not stand the high heat. I told her all along that she could come here to visit. She refused. Archie had had his phone number changed and it was unlisted. He didnít want her to have anything to do with her family. I was really nervous to have Sean over there, when he was sick and I couldnít keep track of him. Sometimes she would sneak a call if Archie left but I wanted to be able to check on Sean often.
The next weekend Sean was still wheezing and still using the machine. I told her he could not come, because they didnít have any air conditioning. She said that we better have him ready. I talked to my attorney and he said that the soonest that we could get a hearing with the judge pertaining to this matter was the first of the week. He told us the police could not come and take him out of the house. I had to work and Don needed to spend some time at the shop. We took Sean and his machine down to Marieís. Her house was air-conditioned. We got a faxed paper from the doctor saying that he had to be kept in air-conditioning and could not be out if the heat index was above eighty-five. Iím sure they came to the house for Sean but there was no one here. They finally went out to see Maryís father and he bought them an air conditioner.
We had already been back to court for the second time and the judge had made it final that Sean would remain living here and go to school down the road with his school mates. I had to get a signed statement from the principal stating he did indeed go there and had been in that school district throughout grade school. That was no problem. We once again went to court. I told the judge that I wanted to have him home when he was sick. I explained that I was an RN and that Sean had had a close call and been in intensive care with his asthma several years ago, and I didnít want a repeat performance. He asked if Mary knew how to care for him and I told him that it had always been under my guidance. I gave him the paper from the doctor regarding the air-conditioning. I made it perfectly clear that she could come and visit him here at any time. I also told him it was nonsense that I didnít have a phone number for her. This time he said Sean was to stay home when he was sick, and she was to give me the phone number. Archie jumped up and said that he had a right to privacy. She agreed, of course. The judge got real mad and told her she either gave me the phone number or else she didnít see her son. The judge was adamant. My heart sank. I really didnít want it that way. Even my most simple request caused monumental problems. She would call Sean every day crying that I would not let her see him. I would tell him every time to tell her to come here for a few hours and see him. After that is when they started harassing the school.
When I had refused to let Mary have Sean for the two weekends he was ill, before we had gone to court for the third time, Mary had called the sheriff to arrest us for not abiding by the decree. The sheriff called me and we had quite a conversation about Mary and Archie. I informed him of Maryís head injury and the after affects. He understood her better after that. He had known that there was something different, but of course, had not been informed of her condition. He was supportive of us and offered to help us if we needed him to. He was hoping that everything would be resolved between all of us in time.
I really hated to air my dirty linen to the school, but in this case I had to. Soon I found out that Archie and Mary had gone to his school demanding to see Sean during school hours. We had already established that they were never to take him from the school and that she was not to interfere with his schooling.
The principal was really patient with them for a few times, then she reached her limit and told me that Archie was obnoxious and she threw him out and told him that if he came in there again she would call the police. She finally had to tell Mary she could not come back there either. It irritated me that Archie kept Mary so stirred up all the time.
I really wanted a better relationship with Mary. We couldnít even talk. I had hired someone else to clean for me. I had also called the public aide office to get them to send me his medical card instead of to her. She would not give it to me until after the card had expired. The public aide office called, and was very suspicious. They wanted to know with whom Sean lived. I told them he had always lived with me. There was dead silence. I asked them if she had told them he lived with her. They said yes. They wanted to know when she moved out. I could not bear to see her in terrible trouble, so I told them only a couple weeks beforehand. The caseworker told me I had to prove that I was her mother. I needed to give him a copy of the court decree. I hunted up my marriage license to my former husband, her birth certificate and with court papers in hand went for my appointment.
The public aide office already had copies of Maryís birth certificate and Seanís. They told me that I deserved the $97 a month for him from the state. I told them I had not asked for that, because I thought we made too much money. They told me that I was grandma and it didnít matter how much money I had. They offered me the application for food stamps. I declined. The very important service I needed was the medical card. I could not get him covered by my insurance because of his health problems. I paid for his schoolbooks, fees, and lunches. I got everything squared away. I was secretly happy that I had beat Archie out of $97 a month. I didnít tell them that I was going to get the money, either. I wanted it to come as a big surprise. They had cost me lots of money in attorney fees.