“See you tomorrow, Momma.”
The last words she spoke to me. She didn’t like hugs or cuddling much anymore. She was too grown up at the ripe ol’ age of 13. But she leaned in sideways and rested her forehead against mine and whispered those words. She heard me whisper back, “See you tomorrow” and then she slung her backpack up over her shoulder and walked out the door.
Walked out the door fully expecting to walk back in it the next day. Walked out the door oblivious that the winds had shifted. Walked out the door without any idea our lives were about to drastically change.
I think about that day often. Replay it over and over in my head. What would I have done differently if I had known? What would I have said? Would I have begged her not to go? Would I have told her everything was going to be alright? Would I have whispered, “I love you” instead? Would I have reminded her that she had a voice and could fight for me? For us? Would I taken her face in my hands and memorized every single inch of her beautiful face? As if I already didn’t have it etched into my memory. But I didn’t know. And she didn’t know. And so with a “see you tomorrow”, I let my little girl walk out of my life.
I count the weeks. They tick by. I never would have guessed it would last so long. I knew he was evil in many ways. I knew he was cruel. I knew that he had promised he would destroy me if I ever left him. I knew he had openly claimed that she was his last card and he would play it if he felt forced to do so. But I had this hope that his daughter would mean more to him than that. Mean more to him than just a pawn in the game to destroy and hurt me. That he would see that it would hurt her far more. That he would know that our mother/daughter bond was loving and good and necessary. That taking a hormonal, teenager girl from her family was detrimental. But I should have known better. And now, now I do.
In the world I lived in that looked like a marriage on the outside but was a personal hell on the inside, I was given many false choices. Over the years, they were thrown at me with ease and regularity. Choices that made no sense. Choices I couldn’t wrap my head around. Choices that sometimes didn’t seem like much. Choices that could cost me everything. He would hold these false choices out to me as if they made complete and utter sense. He would keep me up for hours into the night ensnared in a circular conversation that would leave me agreeing to anything just to make it stop. And I would feel no choice but to make a choice. And another piece of me would be chipped away.
false choice — /fôls/ /CHois/ (also can be known as false dilemma)
1. an informal fallacy in which something is falsely claimed to be an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional option
My daughter was removed from my life suddenly, irrevocably as it seems, and without any remorse. My daughter was removed from my life because I no longer will acknowledge false choices. Because I have grown and learned what it means to stand up to my monster. And that scares the shit out of him.
My daughter was removed from my life because I was given a false choice. Either sacrifice a very important sanctuary for my sons or lose my daughter. Which one makes sense? Who wins? No one. No one ever wins in a false choice situation. Either my sons lose out on something they desperately need to become healthy and whole adults with the inevitability of losing them later or I lose my daughter now. Everyone loses. Everyone gets lost. Everyone hurts.
This false choice wasn’t written out this time. Not spoken aloud in so many words. But it was clear as day. He had fought me on this sanctuary for my sons for six months and in reality, much longer. There had been texts, emails, phone calls to doctors offices, police called, terrorized women and children at his hands, a restraining order filed, frightened secretaries, offices we were told never to return to, lawyers, and hatred spewed. It took me six months to find exactly what my boys needed where he couldn’t stop it. It took me six months of active calling, prayers, networking, waiting, worrying. It took me six months. And the day after he realized he had lost all power and the boys were getting what they needed was the day he decided to shift the winds and change our daughters story forever.
It has been 70 weeks since I have held my daughter in my arms. 70 weeks since I have received a text or a phone call. 70 weeks since she has confided in me, had me sign a note for school, talked to me about her favorite book, asked me to buy her yet another new accessory for her phone. 70 weeks since I have heard her laugh.
The hardest part isn’t that she had no choice. It is wondering how long it will last? It isn’t that he made her say it was her decision. It’s that he is too much of a coward to say it was his. That he took himself out of the equation so he wouldn’t have to carry the blame. It isn’t that he blocked my phone number, social media, and presence. It’s that he cut a child off, with no warning, from her entire family. Aunts, cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents, friends, loved ones. It isn’t that we don’t see her? It’s that she has no safe place anymore. No one to tell that she is being abused by him each and every single day. No one to be open with. No one that understands. It isn’t that she doesn’t thrive. It’s that she thrives despite. That I taught her so well how to survive in that home. That she is so intelligent that she keeps herself as safe as possible. It isn’t about will she survive. It’s about how will she ever heal from this?
It comes down to a man so afraid of his inner demons being exposed and so full of pride that he will stop at nothing to protect that. Not even for his children. The proof is in the actions. And don’t they speak so much louder than words?
It has been 70 weeks that I’ve been unable to truly reach her. 70 weeks of wondering if I gave her enough tools to survive not just high school but this world as whole. 70 weeks of wondering if she knows that Jesus truly does love her and is the only place she can seek refuge right now. 70 weeks of being frightened for her safety. Of worrying what’s become of her mind. Of knowing she is constantly operating on a survival level. 70 weeks of tears. 70 weeks of assuring my boys that their dad could not take them from me like he has taken their sister. 70 weeks of battling anger and hatred even more than before. 70 weeks of mourning the loss of someone who has not died but it feels like they have.
False choices and monsters suck. And I won’t stand for that.
So, it has also been 70 weeks of action. 70 weeks of sneaking notes to my precious girl. 70 weeks of seeking legal help to see if there is any sort of loophole to reach her. 70 weeks of prayer and love reigning down on her in anyway we can think possible. 70 weeks of showing up to her events even if she won’t acknowledge it because the fear grips her too tight and the punishments are too large. 70 weeks of educating those around her: teachers, counselors, her friends, parents of her friends, coaches, neighbors, and more. 70 weeks of keeping a bedroom ready for her and photos around the house and reminders that she was never forgotten. 70 weeks of a weekly letter to her father asking to establish her back in our world with no response. 70 weeks of anything I can think of so when one day she looks me straight in the eye and says, “What did you do to get to me, Mom?”, I can say “Everything”.
70 weeks could end tomorrow. 70 weeks could become 140. Or 280. Or 560. Or never. But I promise you this, my sweet little girl, that whenever that moment comes that you stand at my door looking up at me with those luminous brown eyes, my door will be wide open. My arms will be wide open. My love is wide open for you. I am with you. And we will heal together.